Macro photography is important for everything from wedding details to food and beverage advertisements; so is Fujifilm’s new 80mm F2.8 the new go-to option for X-Series macro enthusiasts?
Macro photography is one of those interesting niches of photography that can sort of bleed over into almost every other niche. You have wedding photographers needing macro detail shots of the wedding rings and reception details. You have food and beverage photographers needing 1:1 images of the items they are shooting. Heck, you also have true macro enthusiasts shooting insane shots of insects and other tiny objects.
But for all of these things, one needs a specialized macro lens. You’ve got a lot of lenses these days sell themselves as almost macro lenses with 1:2 reproduction and a very close focusing distance. This is good enough for many photographers. But for anyone needing true macro capabilities those quasi-macro lenses will not suffice, and a dedicated macro lens with a least 1:1 reproduction is a necessity.
Fujifilm’s [amazon_textlink asin=’B0759GMLVP’ text=’80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’80ee3657-0569-11e8-9fc1-1fa780b63615′] lens promises to be such a lens for Fujifilm photographers. It’s relatively fast aperture, image stabilization and Fujifilm-level image quality for sure make it an enticing option. Given it’s 80mm focal length, this can also potentially double as a portrait lens of sorts. But does the Fujifilm 80mm F2.8 live up to its promises? Is this the macro lens for X-Series photographers? Today we are here to answer that question, so let’s get into it.
Pros and Cons
As always, before we get into the meat of the review, let’s get the pros and cons of the [amazon_textlink asin=’B0759GMLVP’ text=’Fujifilm 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’89dc215f-0569-11e8-92bb-696a356b0e20′] out of the way for those of you in the TL;DR crowd.
- Image Stabilization is good
- Weather Resistant
- Really Sharp
- Convenient focal length for macro and portrait work
- The lens is loud (honestly sounds like a late 90’s mechanical hard drive at times)
- It’s huge compared to most other XF lenses
During this review, we utilized the 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro along with the Fujifilm X-Pro2.
The following specs were taken directly from Fujifilm’s website, here.
|Type||XF80mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro|
|Lens configuration||16 elements 12 groups (includes 1 aspherical, 3 ED elements, 1 Super ED element）|
|Focal length||f=80mm (122mm)|
|Angle of view||20.1°|
|Focus range||25cm – ∞|
|External dimensions : Diameter x Length* (approx.)
* distance from camera lens mount flange
|ø80mm x 130mm|
*excluding caps and hoods
The [amazon_textlink asin=’B0759GMLVP’ text=’Fujifilm 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’929b830f-0569-11e8-9abb-7965f77c5b9c’] is a large lens – larger than most Fujifilm lenses that you are likely accustomed to. The design sort of reminds me of a barrel within a barrel and I am not it’s biggest fan. However, this is subjective: you could totally love the look of the lens. The front of the lens features a Fluorine coated front element with a 62mm filter thread.
Towards the middle of the lens, you will find the focusing ring, and it is a huge one at that. It is nice and grippy and provides an easy point of contact for your hand. Following the focusing ring, the XF 80mm F2.8 is the aperture ring, which like all Fujifilm lenses has the various aperture settings and an ‘A’ setting for what is essentially aperture priority mode.
Finally, before we get to the lens mount itself, we have a couple of more switches. A focus limiter, which for those unaware allows you to set how much of the lens’s focusing range you are utilizing. Next to the focus limiter, you will find the image stabilization toggle, which will allow you to turn the OIS of this lens off and on.
The XF 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro is built exactly as you would expect it to be if you are familiar with the rest of the XF lens lineup. The body feels incredibly solid, and the focusing ring is probably one of the best focus-by-wire systems that I have ever used. There is, however, one piece to this puzzle that really gives me pause with the 80mm F2.8 – and that is its floating focusing element.
The floating element is exactly what it sounds like, it is the focusing element in the lens suspended in order to make focusing a quicker experience. However, what they don’t tell you on the box, is that when the lens is off this floating element is literally just hanging out in there. If you move the lens you can hear it ‘banging around’ inside. I assume that the Fujifilm design team fleshed this idea out and decided it’s not a problem. However, it’s still unsettling to hear things banging around inside the lens like that.
What’s more, the floating focusing element is also the source of most of my issues with this lens. The loudness of the lens is actually caused by the mechanism that is floating the element. I am not joking, it honestly sounds like a freaking mechanical hard drive from 1995. It is also very powerful: when you turn your camera on after attaching this lens you can feel (and hear) the floating element *click* into place. There is a very clear ‘jerk’ of momentum you feel when this system engages.
Just because it does this does not mean it is built poorly, but I found it annoying at the least, and a potential point of failure that most lenses that don’t use a system like this don’t have. So to be clear, I am not saying this is built bad or poorly, just that I wish it didn’t do these things that sort of made me feel like it was.
That sound, however, may be an issue in certain places.
Ease of Use
In terms of how easy this lens is to use, it really all depends on your familiarity with the Fujifilm X-Series and how lenses interact with cameras in this system. I, for one, had no issues throwing this lens on the camera and getting the results I was looking for. The OIS on the lens works really, really well and turning it off is a simple as flipping a switch.
The manual focusing experience here was honestly one of the best I have experienced on a Fujifilm lens. If I didn’t know any better I would not have a clue that it was focus by wire at all, and that is a testament to Fujifilm’s implementation of the floating focusing element (despite my annoyances with it, above).
The focus limiter was admittedly only used a few times, but in my experience I found it to be helpful and as easy as the flip of the switch would make you think it is. However it would be nice if there was some sort of camera indicator that lets you know if the limiter was active so you aren’t trying to focus on something outside of the limiter’s limits and you can’t figure out why the lens won’t focus – only to discover a moment later that you were a bonehead and forgot to reset the limiter after the last time you used the lens.
As is a common issue with macro lenses in general, the XF 80mm F2.8 has a tendency to be on the slower side – especially for a Fujifilm prime lens. This is because the lens has such a long focus throw, to allow for tiny focus adjustments in macro situations, that getting the focusing element from one extreme of the focus throw to the other takes longer than you are likely used to.
The AF is accurate, and if you use the focus limiter to your advantage then the lens can even focus relatively quickly depending on what it is you are trying to capture. I will say, however, that I really wouldn’t recommend this lens if you are going to be attempting any action photography where you will need the lens to track your subject in a significant way. This lens will struggle with that, and you will end up disappointed.
That said, for its intended purpose as a macro photography lens, the AF here is more than sufficient, and for more standard portrait situations where the lens won’t have to track anything this lens works well.
Overall the image quality of the [amazon_textlink asin=’B0759GMLVP’ text=’Fujifilm 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’9ee012d8-0569-11e8-9a88-f1b4045acbb2′] Macro is outstanding, truly. The lens is sharp, even wide open from edge to edge. Distortion, CA and other abnormalities are well controlled for the most part. I don’t have a bad thing to say about the Image Quality you can expect out of this lens. But you aren’t here to read me blabber on about the images, you want to see them. Here are some samples…
The Bokeh that you get out of the [amazon_textlink asin=’B0759GMLVP’ text=’Fujifilm XF 80mm F2.8′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’thephobl-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’a6a1da18-0569-11e8-ba26-771bc1d720ab’] will be disappointing to you if you are hoping for that beautiful portrait bokeh look. The out of focus areas with this lens is soft and creamy and generally look pleasing to the eye. But those bokeh balls are not what you are looking for if you are a portrait bokeh fanatic.
Subjective statements about the bokeh aside, at worst the bokeh performance here is a solid ‘meh’. So don’t get the idea that it is bad at all, because it isn’t. I just wasn’t impressed with it.
We all know Fujifilm is known for their colors, and what many people fail to understand is that the ability to capture those colors starts with the lens. The look and color rendition here that I was able to get out of the XF 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro is consistent with what we have seen from other Fujifilm lenses. So, no surprises here.
CA is very well controlled with this lens. We did not notice any, actually. We also didn’t specifically shoot trying to force CA to happen either, so take that as you will. But in our experience, the lens performed outstandingly well in this regard.
As noted in the image quality section above, this lens is sharp – like really sharp. It is almost in the territory where I might not want to use it for portraits (despite it being an ideal focal length for that).
Extra Image Samples
Ok, so now for some overall thoughts on the Fujifilm 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro lens. Let me just say that I wasn’t sure what to expect with this lens, macro photography and telephoto lenses are not something that I use a lot in my photographic endeavors the last several years. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this lens. I will say however, I really do only recommend this if you are needing a macro lens. I wouldn’t suggest getting this for portraits, as I noted in the sharpness section, it’s just too sharp at times for that use case and I for one would find it annoying to have to soften up my images in post-production all the time.
However, if you are a wedding photographer who needs a dual purpose lens, you could certainly pick this lens up for that use case and you will probably be really pleased with it. In its intended use case as a macro lens, the XF 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS Macro really shines. The OIS makes hand holding the lens and getting a sharp, close up macro image a reality – it works really well.
I will also say that the issues/annoyances I have with the floating element are just that – annoyances. They don’t diminish the capabilities of the lens, nor the usability, nor the performance. So in reality, chances are you would likely get over it and get used to it after a while. In my case, since I had the lens for a limited time before having to return it to Fujifilm, I didn’t have the time to become accustomed to the lens in that way.
So, do I recommend the Fujifilm XF 80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro? Yes – a resounding yes if you are a dedicated macro photographer or have a need for a dedicated macro lens with some range on it. As noted above, a dual-use scenario, like a wedding photographer also makes sense. But for just a regular portrait photographer, sports photographer, or others – there are better options for you on the market for this kind of money, so I would suggest going with those.