Damien Demolder tests Fujifilm’s new wide-aperture portrait lens for the X series – a lens with a focal length that emulates the legendary 85mm
Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R review – Image quality
Image: By f/4 we get good sharpness and still-shallow focus, but out-of-focus highlights are less rounded
Lenses with wide apertures tend to produce a lot of corner shading, and I fully expected to be talking at length on the subject in this test. While the XF 56mm does indeed exhibit evidence that its illumination is less than uniform across the frame, the effect is only really visible in images of flat, evenly lit areas. For most natural subjects, the fact that a dark doughnut expands from the middle outwards as the aperture shifts from f/1.2 to f/2.8 will go unnoticed.
Sharpness and detail are good, even when the lens is used wide open. The resolution of the captured image obviously increases as we close down, and I detected a peak between f/4 and f/5.6, and then a decline to an obviously poorer f/16. These comments are based on quite close focus, of the type you might encounter shooting a waist-up portrait. I found, though, that as the subject distance increases, sharpness and detail decrease, and by the time I was fitting full-length humans in the frame, my images were looking decidedly soft. Closer inspection of JPEG files suggests that the softness may be a result of fringing and a subsequent de-fringing exercise in-camera, or slightly missed focus at wide apertures.
The quality of out-of-focus highlights is a big deal to wide-aperture shooters, and I’m pleased to report that those produced by this lens are mostly pleasant. They tend to shift from round to elliptical as we head towards the frame edges, and from f/2 they are decidedly more heptagonal than circular, resulting in a less ‘creamy’ look.
Image: f/2 is perfectly usable, and delivers depth of field that lifts a subject from its background
Our MTF tests describe a lens that has high contrast, but an inability to define high frequency detail at wide apertures. Sharpness is best between f/4 and f/5.6, and edge and centre resolution only marry once the centre softens towards f/11.
Lab tests show visible levels of corner shading at the widest aperture, but that soon disappears with more or less even coverage by f/2.8. Even at its worse, vignetting from the lens is tolerable for most applications – and often actually of benefit in portraiture.
If you are going to have curvilinear distortion in a portrait lens, it is better to have the slimming effects of pincushion than to have the pounds piled on by barrelling. Although pincushion is present here, it isn’t really significant, and won’t be obviously noticeable where natural subjects are concerned.