Fujinon XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM WR W/ 1.4X TC
NOTE: Part I of this review can be read [HERE]
Disclaimer...I love this lens but it's not part of my regular kit. My professional work is primarily portraiture, weddings and products. However, I love being outdoors and this lens goes with me like butter on toast. A part 2 review is absolutely necessary because a lens like this needs time to grow on you even if you work with similar focal lengths regularly. This time though, I throw in the 1.4X Teleconverter to make things interesting.
Fujifilm XF1.4 TC WR
The last time I worked with the XF100-400MM was on a trip to Bonaire. If ever there was a place to bring a lens like this, Bonaire would be it. Take your pick, reptiles, birds...sporty people and it's got you covered. While I loved the images I came back with, I've had this nagging feeling in the back of my throat every time I look at them. I finally put my finger on it a few weeks ago. It's the sharpening phase of my workflow. Adobe Lightroom just doesn't do it for me, particularly when it comes to the subjects to which this lens gravitates. For me it lives at the "very" long end of 400mm (600mm in 35mm format) and the sharpness when shooting JPEGS processed by the camera itself is very nice. Try to match it with a RAW files had me pulling out fingernails. With Adobe Lightroom I'm just leaving too much of what it's glass is capable of rendering on the table.
Bonaire | Sea Bird captured at F8, 280mm and 1/55 ss
For several months now I've been doing all my sharpening in Adobe Photoshop and it's worked so well that I've pulled images out of my archives to display along with more recent shots. I'm happy to say this workaround...works.
Bonaire | Iguana captured at F5.6, 400mm and 1/750 ss
There are some things you want to be sure of before buying this lens. I don't see any one thing as an advantage or disadvantage but a little education helps to manage expectations.
This is a Telephoto ZOOM lens and at the wide focal range of 100 to 400mm (150 to 600mm in 35mm format) your going to have a variable aperture. Depending on the kind of lighting you shoot in this might be an issue. With the 1.4X TC the long end at F5.6 becomes F8 which needs considerable amounts of light to keep up a fast shutter speed. The lens has the Fujifilm Optical Image Stabilisation which works very well but it won't help you with fast moving subjects. So you will have to solve that issue one of two ways...raise your ISO sensitivity or add artificial lighting to freeze motion. Lighting wasn't an issue in Bonaire. That island is like a big sunny lightbulb but back in Canada and USA in the Fall/Winter, I had to accept some compromise. Add the XF1.4X TC which sucks a stop of light and you have to plan your shots with intent.
Duck captured at F8, 560mm (XF1.4 TC 840mm) ISO 800 and 1/500 ss
Size...and weight. It's big and heavy but there just isn't a workaround for physics. The massive glass in the lens can only be made "so" small. The auto-focus system makes fast work with it though. I don't think I've used another comparable lens that locked focus this fast. That's owing to the LM (Linear Motor) that keeps those lenses moving quickly and quietly. Wildlife rarely stay in one place long enough for the unprepared.
F5.6, 400mm (600mm) and 1/280 ss
Finally, get a sturdy tripod, not a lightweight travel model...something SOLID. While not as heavy compared to a DSLR setup it still has some heft. The system (X-T2 W/Lens) balances well if you use the collar tripod mount which also takes the stress off the camera mount. Having said that, every single image in this review was done hand-held. My technique is more about holding the lens and less about holding the camera due to the very large weight difference between the two. I almost always bring along a tripod/monopod but sometimes they just limit my reaction time too much.
And now the Part II notes...
In my opinion there are three ways to improve this lens....but you can only choose one.
For me, the only real option is #3. Enter the XF1.4X TC WR (Teleconverter) ( Weather Resistant).
In use I've found the image quality suffers a little, but only a little and the cause has nothing to do with the lens' excellent optics. In certain shots on the extreme telephoto end I can see some atmospheric distortion. The additional weight is negligible...if you are attaching it to the XF100-400mm lens then I'll assume that weight isn't something you are worried about. It will jiggle slightly if you handle the lens/camera combo exclusively by holding the camera alone. Hold the setup by the lens or mount it with the tripod collar and that concern goes away...and now you have a 150-600mm X crop factor lens which is super helpful for the smallest or most distant subjects.
Sparrow | Near but very small subject | F8 at 560mm (840mm), ISO800, 1/250 ss
Hawk | Larger but very far away | F8, 560mm (840mm), ISO800, 1/1250 ss
So my technique and post-processing technique aside the XF1.4X TC WR is the most economical (and easy) way to to add an extra 240mm if you need the range. The trade-offs are few and in most shooting conditions you won't notice them very much.
Crane | F6.4 400mm (600mm) ISO400 and 1/80 ss
In the image of the crane above I'm actually handholding a 600mm lens at 1/80 ss !!
The general rule is that you need a shutter speed roughly double that of the focal length. In this case without the Optical Image Stabiliser I would need a shutter speed of 1/1200 ss just to compensate for the exaggerated motion (mine).However with some patience, timing and a little knowledge of my subject, that OIS negates the low shutter speed for increased image quality.
Parrot | F5.6 226mm (340mm) ISO1250 and 1/30 ss
The parrot above was shot at 1/30 ss...I had to take somewhere north of 20 frames before I got a sharp capture. These birds will move, especially when humans are in close proximity. By the way, if you want to know how good a lens is take it out and make some images of birds. A good lens will show lot's of detail in the feathers. You should be able to see most of them individually, nice and sharp while maintaining good color and contrast reproduction. A bad lens will render feathers very muddy almost as if they are a solid surface. You may not notice at WEB sizes but for large printing or close up inspection it will become clear.
Snow Monkeys | F5.6 359mm (539mm) ISO200 and 1/500 ss
Ditto for furry animals...I love seeing how a good lens sharply renders the hair/texture. It just raises the production value for me and opens up options for large displays of the images.
Snow Monkey | F5.6 400mm (600mm) ISO200 and 1/750 ss
At 600mm it's pretty easy to isolate a subject like the lone Snow Monkey above. I appreciate the out of focus areas with this lens even more now that i've sorted out the sharpening issue. It looks exactly as it's supposed to...smooth with objects in the background rendered as indistinct patterns.
Red Panda | F5.6 400mm (600mm) ISO200 and 1/750 ss
I do need to practice more though...my usual subjects stay still for me. Animals who I tend to like working with much better are in constant motion. This little Red Panda gave me a real workout following him around his enclosure. I definitely should have brought a monopod with me at least.
Red Panda | F5.6 400mm (600mm) ISO640 and 1/200 ss
So to wrap up Part II, I really like this lens and the XF1.4X TC WR extends it's usefulness quite a lot. Stay tuned for more on this, I have a review of it with my new Xf80mm macro lens coming up...when I get some time after the holidays. Customize it a little by adding a nice camo-sleeve to hide it from wildlife and it's good to go for nature photographers. I don't shoot sporting events except in passing but I imagine it's equally useful there too. Like my other Fujinon lenses it's well made and very solid. I sure it will stand up to years of constant use.