While Fujifilm likely hopes that everyone will be using an XH2S (my review of the X-H2S is here) or have pre-ordered the 40 Megapixels X-H2, there will always be enthusiasts like us still using the previous generation models.
*update (24 Sept 2022) part II of the review is up and here.
As such, after a few requests, I will be doing the review of the XF56mm ƒ1.2R WR on my most loved camera in Fujifilm, the X-Pro3, the same camera which I did a review with the 2014 released XF56mm ƒ1.2R back in 2019.
*For clarity, the 2022 version is officially named the XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR, and the 2014 released predecessor the XF56mm ƒ1.2 R.
*Links to relevant reviews will open in a new tab.
This review will be in two parts, and the same wonderful model (Nicole) who was in my 2019 X-Pro3 review and in the shot above will be working with me again for Part 2 of the review of the XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR, which I hope will be up by the end of September.
The 85mm equivalent focal length with a maximum aperture of ƒ1.2 has already seen the 2014 XF56mm ƒ1.2 R becoming a must-have lens for serious portraiture photographers before the APD version and the mighty XF50mm ƒ1.0 (my review here) was released, and now today we will look deeper at my hands-on review of the XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR lens and what has changed.
2014’s XF56mm versus 2022’s XF56mm – beyond skin deep
So what are the differences between the 2014 XF56mm ƒ1.2R and the 2022 XF56mm ƒ1.2R WR other than weather resistance if we read the name at face value?
Instead of the typical expectations that refreshed versions of lenses do get more compact (that’s called progress, right?), this time round, the XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR has instead grown in size and weight.
Of course, Fujifilm engineers must have considered and decided that this was inevitable to bring the optical quality they wish to in a lens refresh that was 8 years in the making. Build-wise, the lens still feels sturdy with nil flex and of course, the inclusion of weather resistance is a very welcome improvement.
The included plastic hood still looks the same and works the same way, clicking snugly into place. Deep inside I have always wished for Fujifilm to include more well-designed or better quality hoods like how they did with the XF18mm ƒ2 or the XF35mm ƒ1.4 back then but I guess we have to wait for that.
*Some reviewers use the word more ‘muscular’ and ‘beefier’ for a positive spin on the increase in size and weight, but I will simply say it as it is.And FYI, a doughnut weighs more than 40 grams!
Against listing a few hundred words of specs anyone can google online, I will only highlight the key ones that we users will wish to know about, and it might be important to know that buried in Fujifilm’s press release is that:
XF56mm F/1.2 R WR is the first Fujifilm X-Mount lens to use 11 diaphragm blades to achieve a near-perfect circle in the aperture, even at F4 or F5.6. (that’s how important they take ‘bokeh’)Fujifilm Press Release : 8 Sept 2022
Table of Technical specifications
Key differences between the 2022 XF56mm f1.2 R WR and 2014 XF56mm f1.2R
|Main Specifications||XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR (2022)||XF56mm ƒ1.2 R (2014)|
|physical dimensions||φ79.4 x 76 mm at 445 grams||φ73.2 x 69.7 mm at 405 grams|
|filter size||67 mm||62 mm|
|minimum focusing distance||50 cm||70 cm|
|optical design||13 elements in 8 groups||11 elements in 8 groups|
In my opinion, a significant improvement is that the minimum focus distance has been shortened to 50cm (19.685″), allowing the capture of even more intimate portraits. This allows much more room for creativity and alone a good reason to upgrade for some photographers. (This is the difference between having to back up or not having to when photographing food on the table).
I.M.O, the gain in size, weight is balanced off by the gain in optical quality and performance improvements in the 2022’s XF56mm version.and any decent photographer shouldn’t be whining about 40 grams.
Of course, the ‘R‘ in the name means the aperture ring is still present. In the 2022’s version, there is an additional ‘A‘ for automatic settings should you want to use Program exposure or to set the aperture with the camera’s thumbwheel.
Camera body choice Rationale:
I had chosen to use the X-Pro3 for this review as I realize that there are still many X-T4, X-T3, and even X-T2 users, including many professionals. And so, instead of using the newest available body, I decided to use the 2019 released X-Pro3, which has received nil significant performance updates since then, to give an idea of the output these users may see on their current setups.
Performance and handling
In the XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR, there is a definite improvement in overall contrast and sharpness (details rendition). I am pretty sure on the 40-megapixels X-H2 sensor, this will even be more apparent. This observation is similar to when comparing the XF35mm ƒ1.4 versus the XF33mm ƒ1.4 or the XF23mm ƒ1.4 R WR versus the XF23mm ƒ1.4R.
The XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR though not small, is not huge till one finds it bulky. On the X-Pro3 the balance is still decent but adding a hand-grip definitely makes a positive difference. Seldom mentioned and not important to the non-X-Pro series users, there is slight optical viewfinder blockage on the X-Pro series if you are into using the optical viewfinder like I do.
Colors render vibrant with a good amount of contrast on the 2022 XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR, giving output punchier than the 2014 version.
The sample photo below as an example provides me a satisfied smile seeing how detailed and sharp the smallest details reproduced were.
Autofocus-wise, the 2022 56mm ƒ1.2 R WR is speedier and significantly more reliable than the previous version, and bounds and leaps ahead of the APD version. It does bewilder me why Fujifilm did not put in a linear motor for the autofocus system. Still, maybe it was to put a cap on the weight or cost of this piece of optics, just like years ago when they decided to not include lens stabilization (OIS) in the XF16-55mm ƒ2.8.
Moreover, minimal chromatic aberration, while still present if you look hard enough, is greatly improved over its predecessor.
‘Bokeh’-wise, it is a topic I seldom discuss due to how it is more an art than science; I can at least say that ‘onion-rings’ that could be seen in the predecessor version are now no longer observed on the 2022’s version and that due to the 11 blades rounded-aperture design, we are looking at more circular bokeh balls, which is something i.m.o more pleasing versus the hexagonal-shaped bokeh balls in the 2014 version.
The XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR is as the engineers intended, designed to be shot wide-open where possible, performing well wide-open giving optimum sharpness and of course, works excellent with the electronic shutter of Fujifilm X-mount, allowing one to get by mostly without the need of an ND filter, unlike the XF50mm ƒf1.0 which holds the largest possible aperture size in native X-mount lenses which I do need an ND filter when shooting wide open in good light.
Even when it was just mentioned, the idea of a refresh of one of the most used and loved Fujifilm X-mounts lenses was enough to get people excited. With the 2022 XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR’s release and the overall improvements in optical and autofocus performance-wise, there is little reason to consider the 2014 XF56mm ƒ1.2 unless a tighter budget is the priority.
This is not to say the 2014 XF56mm ƒ1.2 R is a bad lens, but then almost everything that matters to the photographer has been improved in this 2022 version. And I am sure some will be like me, still preferring the classic version to the modern version (like how I kept the XF35mm ƒ1.4 over the XF33mm ƒ1.4) and there is frankly nothing to judge but instead to celebrate that we are blessed with the option to choose.
Of course, some might still keep the APD version for the quality of its bokeh, and we always have the XF50mm ƒ1.0 for those who will only accept the epitome of Fujifilm’s X-mount. In my tests, I do feel that the XF50mmƒ1.0 focuses slower than the XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR if that is a factor for consideration.
I always get asked: “Should I buy this new release?” My answer is consistent in that I will only guide with the pros and cons, while the person should respectfully decide himself/herself. I am not a salesman who will gain anything from what people choose to spend on and only hope to see people putting what they buy to good creative, beautiful use.
*This is a reason why you do not see any advertised or sponsored links in my reviews, I prefer to keep it this way to maintain neutrality which is getting rarer and rarer nowadays.
This time around, however, I will end with an answer that has not appeared in more than 10% of the close to 100 reviews I have done, which is:
“I’m definitely getting this XF56mmƒ1.2 R WR”.don’t buy the incorrect version hor, the two letters ‘WR’ means a lot of differences in this case
Thank you for reading.
- The XF56mm ƒ1.2 R WR is a pre-production set loaned with the generosity of Fujifilm Asia Pacific, Singapore, while the X-Pro3 is my personal set. Both were running the most current firmware at the time of the review.
- All images were photographed by me and edited in Lightroom Classic CC to my preferences.
- I always appreciate people who kindly share my reviews with other prospective readers and will appreciate it if credits are duly given.
- I look forward to receiving my personal copy of this lens at the end of September 2022.
- Look forward to Part II of this review where I will use the lens with a model shoot with Nicole coming by end of September.