Up until recently I was proud to call myself a 'prime shooter'. My camera bag was full of sharp, fast, Fuji prime lenses. The first two lenses I purchased when buying my X-T1 were the 14mm f2.8 and the 35mm f1.4 After a few weeks, I returned to my camera store to pick up the 23mm f1.4 and 56mm f1.2, my set of 'primes' was complete.
These four lenses, along with my trusty Fuji x100s served me well for over a year while living in Cambodia. They were small, light and sharp and suited my style of photography. They allowed me to get up close to and interact with my subjects in a 'non-threatening' manner due to their discrete size when matched with the X-T1.
Since returning to Australia I've continued to shoot portraits, however Buddhist monks have been replaced with Brisbane families and rice farmers with fashion bloggers. In this new environment I've found myself shooting most of my portrait sessions primarily with the Fuji 56mm f1.2
My need to stay discrete had been replaced by the need for 'extra reach' and an ability to isolate my subject from an undesirable background.
Enter the FujiFilm XF 50-140 f2.8
Weighing in at just over 1kg the XF 50-140 is by far Fuji's biggest (and most expensive) lens. It features weather sealed construction, in lens image stabilisation and constant f2.8 aperture through the focal range.
The first chance I had to shoot this lens was at a sunset, family portrait session, firmware 4.0 had yet to be released. The session started well, the conditions were bright and the images on the back of my screen appeared to be sharp. However as the sun began to drop towards the horizon, so did my faith in this new lens. I was struggling to focus. One missed shot, two missed shots... come on. I was attempting to shoot some silhouettes with the setting sun directly behind my subjects and I could not grab focus. It was time to bring out the 56mm and finish the session with a familiar combination.
I was pretty disappointed after my first experience with the lens. This was not the Canon and Nikon 70-200 killer I was expecting. Having said that, the images that were in focus were fantastic. The bokhe was smooth and creamy and my subjects were tac-sharp. I wanted to love this lens, like I did my other Fuji lenses. I just couldn't trust it to perform when I needed it to.
The 50-140 went back in my bag, to be brought out a few weeks later for another family portrait session. Again the shoot started mid-afternoon and the lens performed well. In good light, focus was not an issue, as the light dropped, disappointment set in and again I switched to my primes.
Was this lens a fair-weather lens only? I couldn't justify the investment in a lens that only worked in perfect conditions.
Firmware 4.0 was just around the corner, and on the advice I was given by Warwick from FuijFilm Australia, I decided to wait for the update and give the lens a second chance.
I'm glad I did.
After completing the firmware update, the 50-140 was the first of my lenses I tested. The difference was like day and night - a night that I was now able to focus quickly and accurately in. It was as if I had a completely different lens attached to my camera. My confidence had been restored. My love of Fuji glass was to continue. So much so that I knew I could no longer claim to be a 'prime shooter'.
If you're a wedding, portrait or fashion photographer shooting on the X-T1 this lens is for you.
Very quickly the 50-140 has become my lens of choice for portrait work. Its already gotten me out of a few tricky situations in which I've had very limited options in terms of backgrounds. Given the space, I'm able to shoot at 140mm and f2.8 allowing me to isolate my subjects, no matter how distracting the background.
At the end of the year I'll be heading back to Cambodia to lead a photography tour and to spend some time working on other projects. I've already made a permanent space in my bag to take the 50-140. While it won't be coming out every day for my travel photography, there are some photographs I have in mind that I'm already looking forward to making with this lens.