15 months with the Fujinon XF 55-200mm lens

[7th May 2018]

This article was originally published on my old website ‘Electric Lemonade Photography’ in January 2016 and is an account of my ‘real world’ experiences with the Fuji 55-200 lens rather than a review.

During the 15 or so years I shot motorsport professionally I always used fast aperture telephoto lenses including a 70-200mm f2.8, 300mm f2.8, 600mm f4 etc.

I had never considered a 75-300mm lens in the past due to the slow maximum aperture, cheap construction and compromised image quality but when I was building my FujiFilm X-series outfit the Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS telephoto zoom lens made perfect sense. The Fujinon XF18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS is my workhorse lens for landscapes but the 55-200mm (84-305mm full frame/35mm format equivalent) is ideal when I need a longer reach and also the 4.5 stop image stabilisation, plus the reasonably compact size and weight (580g), make it an excellent option for hand held shots as well.

A metal main lens barrel and optical construction of 14 elements in 10 groups, including 2 extra low dispersion (ED) glass elements and 1 Super ED glass element mean this is far more than a standard kit lens. Autofocus is almost silent and was vastly improved by the firmware update Ver.4.00 to the X-T1 in June 2015. The plastic front lens tube with it’s 62mm filter thread does not rotate due to the internal focusing system but the lens does grow in a ‘pleased to see you’ manner by nearly 60mm (2.3″) when zoomed from 55-200mm. The unmarked aperture control ring features clicks at 1/3rd stop intervals throughout the f3.5 – f22 range and the large rubber grip on the zoom ring makes changing focal length really easy even when wearing gloves. The small straight knurled manual focus ring sits right at the end of the lens and works a treat in conjunction with the FujiFilm X-series camera’s electronic viewfinder distance and depth of field scale.

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland. (Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS at 116mm, 1/180 f16, ISO200) A stitch of 6 vertical frames.

Warkworth Castle, Northumberland. (Fujifilm X-T1, Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS at 116mm, 1/180 f16, ISO200) A stitch of 6 vertical frames.

The Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS telephoto zoom lens feels much better balanced on the FujiFilm X-T1 and X-T10 models rather than the X-Pro 1 & 2, X-E1 & 2 because the lens protrudes below the bottom plate of those rangefinder style cameras, also the zoom range exceeds the optical viewfinder framing lines of the X-Pro 1 & 2.

I have found the 55-200mm lens excellent for tree, forest and bluebell images where elements of the scene can be isolated more than with a wider lens. It is also great for more spontaneous ‘grab’ shots while making a long exposure image with another camera on the tripod and is the lens I take out the most if going for a walk or scouting a location. JPEGs straight from the camera are excellent with the camera taking care of auto-corrections to distortion (a small mount of pincushion from around 90mm upwards), chromatic aberration (hardly any) and vignetting (most evident at large apertures). Sharpness is excellent, even wide open, peaking around f5.6. I leave the Lens Modulation Optimizer (LMO) selected on the cameras all the time and this takes care of diffraction, the loss of sharpness when stopping down to small apertures such as f16 and f22 which are often necessary for images that need to be sharp from front to back. Bokeh, how the out of focus areas are rendered, is nice and smooth as long as the main subject is placed some distance from the background.  Most of the time I prefer the look of a JPEG from the 55-200mm lens to an edited RAW file.

Care has to be taken when using this lens on a tripod as there is no option for a threaded collar as featured on the XF50-140mmF2.8 R LM OIS WR and the new XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lenses. The full weight of all that glass hangs on the tripod bush of the camera and even the slightest breeze can cause a lot of movement especially at the ‘pleased to see you’ 200mm end of the zoom range. Many people have commented on the stiffness of the zoom ring, I actually prefer this as it does not ‘creep’ when walking around and also I tend to use this as a combination of prime focal lengths (55, 70, 85, 100, 135 and 200mm) rather than a ‘zoom in/zoom out’ action lens. The large plastic hood does an excellent job of shielding the sun and also offering protection to the front of the lens but it can be easy to catch on branches and brambles when carrying the camera and lens over the shoulder in woodlands.

This is by no means an exhaustive technical test or pixel peeping review, there are plenty of those elsewhere on the web, just a basic insight into my experiences with this lens over the last 15 months.

Here is a small selection of images I have made with the Fujinon XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS telephoto zoom lens;

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