I like the Fuji camera system. I purchased an X-Pro1 when it first became available with three lenses. Over time I have increased my lens arsenal quite a bit as well as adding an XT-1 and XT-1 Chrome and, most recently, the X-Pro 2. I also have a Fuji X100-T. The 100T is secured in my car so that I always have a camera close at hand when I am out.
A great perk (or curse) of my job is that I own many cameras and lenses. At this time, I no longer own, any mirror box cameras. For the kind of photography that I do, mirrorless was the way to go and based on many reports, it’s the way many photographers are going these days. We have said it here on Luminous-Landscape numerous times that mirrorless is the future of where cameras are headed.
However, there is still a place for DSLR cameras. Certain photographers still prefer them for high-speed shooting such as sports events and wildlife. We’ll go into more depth about this in future articles.
Over the years, what has impressed me about Fuji is their willingness to commit to a road map and make that road map available. This gave photographers reassurance that they were buying into a system that was growing and had a future. Also, Fuji became very well-known for their firmware updates and support for some of their older cameras. Each firmware release added new features and extended the life of cameras as far as their feature set. Some releases were so good that it was like getting a new camera.
Fujinon glass has also been exceedingly good, even going beyond my expectations. My glass line up at this point is 18-55mm, 16-50mm, 56mm, 60mm, 10-14mm, 55-200mm, 50-140mm, 35mm, 16mm and the 100-400mm with a 1.4 and 2x Tele-converter. I also have a set of extension tubes for serious close-up work. The quality of the glass is exceptional and today we are going to focus on the new 100-400mm 4.5-5.6 zoom lens.
I purchased the 100-400mm lens with the Fuji X-Pro 2 camera about two months ago. Since then I have been using both extensively. I’ll have a have a hands-on review of the Fuji X-Pro 2 soon. All images shown in this review were made using the X-Pro 2 and 100-400mm lens. Images were processed in Capture One 9.2.
The 100-400mm Specs
• 21 Elements 14 groups including five extra low dispersion elements and one super extra low dispersion element
• Focal length of 100-400mm (APS-C) or 152-609mm 35mm Full Frame Equivalent
• Angle of view 16.2 – 4.1 degrees
• Max Aperture of F4.5 wide to F5.6 Telephoto
• Minimum Aperture F22
• Aperture Control 9 Blades rounded diaphragm opening – Step size 1/3 EV in 19 steps
• Focus range 1.75mm to Infinity
• Size at wide is 210.5mm (8.29 inches) and 270mm (10.63 inches) at telephoto
• Weight of 1,375 grams or 3.03 pounds
• Filter size 77mm
• Five-stop image stabilization (so Fuji claims). A clever approach to image stabilization with this lens is that if it determines a panning motion, it automatically switches camera shake correction to the vertical plane only.
• An Auto Focus limiter for 5 meters to infinity and full focus range. AF speed increases at the 5m – infinity range.
• Weather and dust resistance are achieved with 13 dust resistant seals at 12 points. You can use this lens in harsh outdoor environments with confidence. The front element of the lens has a fluorine coating that is water repellent, which makes it easy to clean and less susceptible to smudging.
Price is $1,899.95 USD
One of the reasons I chose to go mirrorless a few years ago was because of the size and weight of these camera systems. I have invested in Sony, Olympus and Fuji, and I continually find myself reaching for the Fuji gear. I believe the reason I like Fuji is that it is reminiscent of the good ol’ days. Most Fuji lenses have f/stop rings. There is a top mounted shutter speed dial on the X-Pro 2 like we used to have in the film days.
Setting digital mode features is different yet pretty intuitive. While I will go into more detail on this with the upcoming Fuji X-Pro 2 review, you set it by choosing an F/stop, shutter speed and ISO. Each of these settings has an “A: for auto setting. If you want to work in Aperture Priority mode, you select an aperture on the lens and then set the shutter speed to “A”. You can also set the ISO to “A” or whatever you choose. You can set the minimum shutter speed for Auto ISO. For those of you that are “P” shooters you simply set all the dials to “A” and that will equal the same as “P” your typical digital camera.
My preferred method of shooting is Aperture Priority with Auto ISO. I have also come to rely on the Auto ISO feature when shooting at longer focal lengths. Typically if I were shooting handheld at long lens settings of 400mm I’d set the aperture to say f/8 and then the shutter speed to 1000th of sec and leave ISO on Auto. This makes it very easy to get the best shutter speed to avoid camera shake. The ISO performance of the Fuji is very good. A friend of mine who shoots with Canon and a 600mm lens was quite impressed with high ISO performance and the lens sharpness compared to his 1Ds III.
I love to use long lenses, and this new lens gives me the extra reach I was missing prior to having this lens. I took this lens and camera to the Palouse and, most recently, to Iceland. I also did some serious test shots in various other situations. This report has numerous image examples.
The 100-400mm lens seems heavy when you pick it up the first time but when compared to the 600mm Canon lens or other full frame equivalents it is quite light. It feels well balanced when used on the camera, especially once you get the feel for how to place your hands while holding it.
On the left side of the lens are three slide switches. The upper switch is the focus limiter switch. You can choose FULL which allows the lens to focus the full range of the lens focus capabilities. The other choice is 5m to infinity. This narrows the focus range to that typically used for long lens work. It also allows for a more rapid Auto-focus.
The second switch is the f/stop selector. Your choices for this switch is “A” for auto or manual for selecting the desired f/stop. If you wanted to use the equivalent of shutter priority, you would set this switch to auto and then set the shutter speed dial to the desired shutter speed. With this combination, the f/stop will be selected to make the proper exposure for the desired shutter speed and ISO.
The next switch is for turning the Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on or off. Typically you would turn OIS off when you place your camera on a tripod. Leave it on for all handheld shooting. While I say more about OIS below I found the OIS of this lens is excellent. And, while I have no test gear to measure exactly how many f/stops the OIS gives I would certainly be comfortable saying that at least 4 – f/stops can be achieved based on my shooting experience.
There is also a lock switch on the zoom ring to lock it down and prevent drifting when not in use or being transported.
I did an experiment while in Iceland. While we are typically taught to turn OIS off when the camera is mounted on a tripod I couldn’t help notice the lens vibrating even when on a tripod due to heavy winds. Who hasn’t experienced that when shooting in the field? Seeing the lens moving as I did, I turned OIS back on and could immediately see the image stabilize in the viewfinder. So, my recommendation is that when in high winds, or when seeing the camera and lens vibrate, turn on OIS and try doing exposures both ways.
This lens is a breeze to use. It balances nicely and is intuitive with the f/stop ring and the zoom ring. There is no awkward twisting of the hand to zoom to any focal length. The tripod mount collar is somewhat different. On some lenses, the whole collar comes off. On this lens, you remove two thumbscrews and remove the mount. This makes this lens very comfortable in your hands especially if you are going to do a lot of images where a tripod is not needed. A thoughtful design by Fuji is the two thumbscrews holding the tripod plate to the collar are screws that don’t come all the way out so you won’t have to worry about losing them. I did have to purchase a Really Right Stuff L84 plate to attach to the tripod plate so I could use it on my tripod.
Most of the time I used this lens on Auto-Focus mode. It’s not the fastest AF lens I have used but it did find its mark every time. The X-Pro 2 has a joystick that allows you to easily move the AF select area easily around the scene in the viewfinder. Since most of what I shoot is landscapes I could easily choose where I wanted the focus point to be, and select it. Pushing the shutter-release halfway gave me a focus confirmation.
For most cases, I used the Zone selection in Auto-Focus single mode. When shooting birds, as you will see in some images below, I switched to continuous – AF with Wide Tracking selected. The camera did OK but nothing to write home about. The X-Pro 2 is not a sports camera although it did OK for some scenes I tried with movement. I am hoping that nirvana may be achieved with the upcoming XT-2 that should be announced by the time you are reading this.
In manual focus mode, I use the focus peaking setting with Red (high) selected. As soon as you are in MF mode and turn the focus ring, the image in the viewfinder zooms in and peaking turns on to help confirm when focus is achieved. I found this worked quite nicely when I had scenes with good contrast. I wish the magnification would go even higher for some real precision focus capability.
While in Iceland shooting with this lens I had some dark low contrast scenes and the AF struggled a bit to pull these scenes into focus. I found I was using the focus joystick to maneuver around the frame until I found an area where AF would kick in. Sometimes I just resorted to manual focus. Frankly, I think any camera would have had a problem with some scenes we were shooting like icebergs, glacier fields and distant mountains where a lot of haze was present. Other shooters with DSLRs and different mirrorless cameras mentioned the same challenge.
I tried out the Face Detect option in the AF mode and as you can see with the images of the model below, the lens had no issues locking onto and confirming face focus. The face detect feature works well with this lens, and I used it at a farmers’ market shooting people at relatively long distances. The focus seemed fast and very accurate. This is not the lens for shooting people in street scenes since it is way too big and very noticeable. Fuji makes a 55-200mm lens, which is compact and ideal for that type of photography.
The lens hood is a giant piece of plastic. For all the money this lens costs, a nice metal lens hood would have been nicer. Many large hoods these days have rubber on the outside edge to soften bangs and nicks. That would have been a great addition. Sometimes it’s the small things that really stand out. The hood has a small sliding trap door that allows easy access to a filter if one is attached and would be used primarily to adjust a polarizer if one was present.
The image stabilization is quite good on this lens, one of the best I have seen outside an in-body stabilization system. Fuji claims five stops of use with IS on. I can honestly say I was shooting at 400mm (600mm full frame equivalent) at a 1/60th of a second numerous times with tack sharp images.
Something strange I noticed—and it had me scratching my head for a while—was that when it was on a tripod, the image seemed to drift. I would mount the lens on a tripod, compose the image and lock down my RSS 55 Ball Head. After that, I watched the image on the rear screen sink a bit in the frame. For a while, I thought the ball head was malfunctioning as I had just had it serviced. I tried tightening the ball tension and it still happened. What I found was that IS of the lens was causing the movement. As soon as I turned the IS off, I found my image stayed right where I wanted it. Beware of this in case you see the same thing. It’s also a good reminder to remember to turn IS off when on a tripod.
Over the last few months, I have used this lens in many environments, for shooting many subjects. This lens is built well and works great. I used it in light rain, and the lens weather sealing worked as advertised. The mechanics of the lens is smooth without any play or drifting. The lens lock works well. This is a lens that expands as you increase focal length. A lens lock locks the lens at the smallest size.
Where this lens really shines is the quality of the image it delivers. I have found the image quality of the lens to be excellent. It continues to surprise me with the images it delivers. Sharpness is surprisingly great from 100-300mm range and is very good at 400mm. I have used the lens at all f/stops and even at f/22 have found no real big difference or refraction. I have photographed landscapes, birds and people with it and I could not be happier with the results. A friend of mine shooting with Canon glass (600mm) reviewed my images with me in Iceland and was blown away by what he saw. It’s hard to believe a small compact lens like this one delivers, and possibly, exceeds the quality from the big and very expensive Canon glass.
What is great about working with a zoom lens in this range is the ability to adjust quickly if your subjects move closer or farther away. With a fixed prime lens, you either have to get it in the frame, post crop if the subject is far away or frame out part of the subject if too close.
While there is great debate about RAW processors for the Fuji system I favor Capture One. I find that Capture One does a great job with the Fuji files and handles color well. At the time of this writing, Phase One has not released corrections for the lenses, but I am hopeful that this will soon be in one of the next releases. Adobe does a good job also with Fuji files. I suggest that you try both to see where you find the results that suit your needs.
I have decided to share a lot of images with this article so that you can see the results that this lens delivers. All images are clearly marked with exposure and focal length. I have also shown examples of one scene using different focal lengths. In evaluating the images, I have found center sharpness to be excellent and only in some cases do I see softness at the edges. I was very surprised at the quality of images produced by the 100-400mm zoom and was not expecting to see such great results.
Fuji also has released a 1.4 teleconverter as well as a 2.0 converter. I show examples for these lenses below. The 1.4 converter makes a lens focal length of 560mm at full zoom or the 35mm full frame equivalent of 840mm. The 2x makes 800mm for the lens or a 35mm full frame equivalent of 1200mm. The images may be somewhat softer at maximum reach but no different than using converters with say Nikon or Canon. I think you’ll agree when you view some of the images below. I was able to apply some sharpening with good results. What is nice is that you can hand hold a 1200mm full frame equivalent lens and get great images.
The Images I Made With This Lens
The images below are ones I made in my own backyard. On all images, I have watermarked the lens settings. I really enjoyed exploring the birds and other animals on my property with this lens.
Below are a few examples showing the same subject at different focal lengths. Black and white images were made using the ACROS Film Simulation.
While this is a large lens and possibly not best suited for portraits, I wanted to shoot a model and show the various focal length effects. The first set is with the lens at the settings shown on the image. The second set was made with the 1.4 teleconverter.
With the Teleconverter 1.4x
A couple of observations. This lens with a teleconverter did a lot better than I expected. It’s not tack sharp at the longest length but usable for sure. I do like the background blur of the lens even when shot at f/8.
I played a bit with this lens from the top of my hotel in Toronto. Used the 1.4x converter to shoot workers below. I was very impressed by that and then did some lens variable focal lengths images of the clock tower.
My first test for the X-Pro 2 and 100-400mm was in the Palouse doing landscapes. I love shooting landscapes in the 70-200mm (full frame DSLR) range and the 100-400mm Fuji lens let me stretch it even further. The Palouse proved to be a great place to test this lens and I love the results. Good color, contrast and especially sharpness. This lens deleivered excellent iamges under these conditions.
I was fully prepared to take my Sony gear to Iceland but after such a successful time in the Palouse, I opted to take my Fuji-X-Pro 2 system with a variety of lenses. Partly because I wanted to really test the camera body but I also knew there would be some good opportunities to use the 100-400mm lens. The images I came back with are excellent and you’ll see them in the upcoming X-Pro 2 review. But more than anything else I had a lot of fun shooting. The 100-400mm lens as you will see offered a lot of ways to see things differently and I was really surprised how well it performed photographing Puffins.
The Bottom Line
This is a beautiful and exceptionally useful lens that delivers surprisingly great image quality at all focal lengths. It quickly became a ‘go-to’ lens for me over the last few months as I explored the Palouse and then Iceland. This lens may seem expensive, but one must compare what a lens of this quality and range would cost on competing systems. Fuji has done a remarkable job delivering a very useful piece of glass that is weather sealed and with well thought out handling. It would have been great to have a better lens shade, but I am probably nit picking since there isn’t much of anything else to gripe about with this lens.
I am excited to see how this lens works with the new XT-2 camera. With a faster EVF refresh rate as well as more frames per second, we may finally have a camera lens combination that will swing the last holdovers to mirrorless.
This lens is built well and stood up well to the rainy conditions & tough weather that I experienced. Except for the longest length setting, the lens delivered excellent images. At the full focal length it softens up just a bit but nothing that is unusable. The use of the Teleconverters allows for even more versatility. It’s really nice to have such a long reach wth such a compact lens. The optical stabilization worked really well and the more I used it the more I became confident of hand holding this lens for many of my images.
The new Fuji X-T2 was just announced and we will have a review of the X-Pro2 soon. If you are already committed to the Fuji X camera line, then save your pennies and get this lens. If you are dragging your feet in a move to Fuji, this may be the lens that makes you switch along with the NEW X-T2. I am very excited to try out the X-T2 features with this lens.
Well done Fuji. This was a long overdue lens and it fills in a large gap. Well worth the price considering the images I was able to take and the fun I had taking them.