Some Reach

February 24, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I was looking forward to extending the reach of my Fuji X system in the hope of making it truly useful for air show and wildlife shooting, so I went on the pre-order list for the new Fuji 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 super telephoto zoom lens.  There was an offer including the 1.4x TC for £100 extra (normally £325), which I thought was a good deal for when it is needed and it also fits the stunning 50-140mm f2.8 lens too.  I really wanted it before the air show season kicks off and I could imagine it being back ordered for a while.

 

I have just received the lens but have only had time for a brief evaluation.  It is big for a compact system camera lens, but very manageable for anyone who has shot with any full frame super telephoto lenses.  I would have no issue shooting an air show hand-held all day with this lens on an X-T1 body...around 2 kilos is very good for such a reach.  It balances well and does not feel very nose heavy.  It is a sensible enough size that I would take it with me on holiday if I thought there would be chances to photograph wildlife.  It's a similar size and weight to a full frame 70-200 f2.8, like my Nikon example.

 

Overall construction, appearance and ergonomics seems to be pretty much par for the course compared with other XF lenses, with a nice finish, tight tolerances and smooth actions.  Much of the weight feels like it is in the glass.  I hesitate to state that it is a step down in build quality from the best XF lenses, but there are definitely more plastics in the barrel components here than on some other lenses (notably the 50-140), most probably to keep weight down to sensible levels, but these plastics are of nice quality.  The aperture ring has firm clicks although it is not marked due to the variable aperture.

 

Some of the below images show the lens mounted on my X-T1.

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The teleconverter is really diddy!

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The large hood adds considerably to the length but should stop flare effectively and clicks on nicely with a proper release button.  It is a step up in design from many of the other XF hoods.

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I have not done any serious evaluation of the lens yet in an effort to see if I have a decent copy, but a few test shots indicate that it has the potential for good performance throughout the range and should be very usable wide open.  Stopping down to f8 at the long end does make a slight but visible sharpness and contrast improvement.  Colours and contrast are usual XF quality and continue the family rendering style.

 

Two features seem rather outstanding...firstly the OIS, which Fuji claims is 5-stops.  In practice it is easy to shoot hand held at well below the normal safe shutter speed and I certainly shot at 1/125 @ 400mm (600mm FF equiv) for many shots, all of which were sharp.

 

Secondly, in almost all shots the fall into blur and quality of defocused areas seems excellent and much better than the fussy, ugly bokeh of other slower tele lenses I have used.

 

For a simple and fun experiment, I popped the teleconverter on and went outside to shoot the almost full moon at maximum reach of 560mm (853mm FF equiv).  The first image shows the actual size of the moon in the frame.

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Wide open at f8 (the teleconverter means a loss of 1 stop) IQ is decent enough as shown below in the first image , but stopping down 1 stop to f11, in the second image, definitely makes a difference when viewed at 100%, as you would expect.  Both images cropped to 2500 pixels and processed identically from RAW files.

1/200, f8, ISO 200

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1/200, f11, ISO 400

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