Fujinon XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens
It's been about a month since Fujifilm has launched the XF80mm Macro lens and I've gotten a production copy to work with for this review. For comparison purposes (for myself mostly) I'm including a mix of images from the Pre-Production lens as well. I can definitely see some refinement in the output of the production lens and it would be interesting if you might be able to spot the same.
One major change I've made isn't gear related. I've stopped sharpening Fujifilm RAW files in Adobe Lightroom CC. Although there are operational improvements to the application I'm still leaving a lot of "image quality" on the table in the sharpening area. My previous workflow got me close (globally) but at pixel peeping distance I still see a bit of smearing/waxing/squiggly worms. I'm convinced that this is limited to the way Lightroom sharpens. However, I didn't stray too far. Sharpening now takes place in Adobe Photoshop CC and you should definitely try this method:
You can then review the image to see that it's to your satisfaction and maybe even mask it so that you can selectively apply the sharpening to the image. After years of trying different work-arounds to Lightroom this seems to be the best (for now).
For those who don't like to read long articles I'll give you a spoiler alert.
This lens is amazing and I thought as much when the pre-production copy was in my possession. The focusing is fast and smooth..and very accurate. The colour and contrast is spot on and the output images whether RAW or JPEG are sharp and full of detail. If you are shooting JPEG in camera you have lot's of flexibility for making edits to the image and of course the imaging system will take care of vignetting, chromatic aberration etc. I have no complaints with the JPEG output. If you are shooting RAW, Adobe Lightroom CC also takes care of the previously mentioned items as the lens profile data is built in. Shooting RAW of course just gives you more editing options without making permanent changes to the file itself.
The image stabilisation works as advertised..really well. I've pulled off shots at 1/5 seconds (with practice) handheld and it seems to work well enough even on a tripod without turning it off. The water resistance definitely works. As I write this the rain is pouring down in my part of Canada cutting short my hike in cottage country but not before I got soaked to the skin. The lens...and camera are fine but my new Kanati-Print camo outfit is hanging over the heater.
And here is what you are waiting for...it's sharp. Sharper than the pre-production copy. That may be a placebo effect messing with me but I do like the new images..there is more "bite" to the in-focus areas. Also the out of focus areas are definitely smoother. I'm not sure yet just how much of that is due to my new sharpening method but the pre-production copy could be a little busy in some shots.
OOF shot of the city lights off my balcony at F2.8
Compared to the XF60mm F2.4 Macro...this is literally night and day. Faster focusing, Sharper to my eyes with improvements to the colour and contrast. I'm also seeing a big difference in the micro-contrast..fine hairs and textures are definitely being rendered better. The OOF areas are much smoother...the XF60mm Macro is busier. I'm keeping the XF60mm though. It's still a very nice lens in that focal length.
XF60mm F2.4 R Macro | F4, 1/220, ISO200
Compared to the GF120 F4 MF Macro..wow. Almost identical in every way except the XF80mm focuses faster. After-all, there is less glass to move. The sharpness and organic image rendering of the medium format lens is right there in the XF80mm. Big praise because that GF120 lens sold me on the new system format. The colours aren't "hyper" or loud...very natural feel.
GF120mm F4 R LM OIS WR | F4, 1/60, ISO100
Now for the rest of you...
Portraits are a big part of my work and I've been using macro lenses (telephoto) for that for years now. I just love the way a good macro lens renders skin texture and hair. Even stopped down with every wrinkle or other flaw revealed my clients prefer those images to ones shot with a regular telephoto lens. It's just an extra step to dumb unwanted texture down in editing but I prefer to start with a nice crisp image. It's very hard to create good details from a muddy image.
F5.6, 1/80, ISO 800
The image above was shot in natural light at a higher ISO than I prefer for close-up shots but it works. The hair is well defined and her skin detail is amazing. I retouch most of my portraits but it was light in this case for a few blemishes. I didn't bother with the noise reduction at all.
My Balcony View of The City | F8, 30 sec, ISO 200
I usually don't use a macro lens for shooting long distances. Most are designed for close-up work but the XF80mm does a fine job. This was a long exposure so a tripod was used in concert with the built-in timer of my X-T2. The image is a near zero-adjustment RAW file which I first chose the PROVIA colour profile and sharpened in Adobe Photoshop.
Lorenzo Marida Spitfire Pipe | F2.8, 1/60 sec, ISO200
In the image of my Spitfire pipe the focus at F2.8 was on the logo. I purposefully places some items around it to demonstrate how smooth the out of focus areas are on this production copy. This is another near zero-adjustment RAW file...just a little tweaking and sharpening.
F8, 1/50 sec, ISO200
I love watches and clocks...though I don't wear or carry one. I keep a box of old ratty ones in my closet to test lenses with. If I can feel the grit while looking at an image, the lens is a success. This particular shot is handheld at a shutter speed I wouldn't normally attempt with a macro lens without image stabilisation. Keep in mind...this is a 120mm effective lens. I've done other shots with this same setup but with addition of a tripod and they aren't any sharper at the point of focus. Super stable for handheld work.
Cropped | F5.6, 1/320 sec, ISO400
The dragonfly is an aggressively cropped image that I initially rejected. I just couldn't get close enough to the critter to fill the viewfinder and I hate cropping on macros (even though it's a fact of life). However when I took another look at 100% the fine details just jumped out at me. I cropped in to see if they would hold up on an 8X10 print...guess what, perfect print and I'm sure I can go larger.
F2.8, 1/100 sec, ISO200
F3.6, 1/200 sec, ISO200
F8, 1/160 sec, ISO200
The above three (3) images were shot at low shutter speeds for moving subjects and at various apertures. The last image was actually shot, employing a tripod and stopped down to F8...all sharp. You can get away with a lot by combining a little patience with the built-in image stabilisation system. I should also mention that they are from the pre-production copy...I think the production unit is even better.
Forget about the promise of small, light lenses that the mirrorless revolution offered. Just about every single premium glass I've seen in the past three (3) years has been pretty hefty and the XF80mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR is no different. That much exotic glass, plus the linear motors and stabilisation system adds up to a lot of tech that you can only miniaturize so much. I feel it in my gear bags..not gonna lie. It's nowhere near as heavy as my old DSLR kit but I thought we would be further along 5 years later.
That said, it's worth every penny for the sharpest lens in the Fujifilm lineup that does double duty for macro, portraits...etc. The OIS system has come a far way and it just works. Most of the time I don't even take notice of it even in low light. The build quality is definitely top-shelf. Nothing wiggles, nothing makes odd sounds while carrying it and the finish material feels great in hand. I'm a big fan of the wide focus ring which has just the right amount of dampening. The included lens shade is a nice touch.
The decision to buy this lens is really user driven. If you only do portraits then there are other (less expensive) lenses in similar focal lengths (XF90mm F2) which may suit you better. If like me you need the "extra"...close focusing, image stabilisation etc. this lens is now the only way to go.