Fujifilm landscape lenses

Fujifilm already offers quite a few lenses for their X system that can be used for landscape photography. The exact selection is a matter of personal preferences and style, but I will try to make some generic recommendations based on my usage in the past few years. In particular, I try to consider the lighter and more compact options that are better suited for longer backpacking, but preferably without compromising image quality. After all, lighter gear is one of the most important reasons why people use mirrorless systems.


Wideangle lenses

There’s a good reason why wideangle lenses are very popular for landscape photography. They allow compositions that cover both close foreground and remote background, which results in photographs having a lot of depth. A good composition is usually more challenging than for longer focal lengths, since even a small difference in camera position or orientation make a big difference in the resulting photograph.

Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4 OIS

This is by far my most used lens for landscapes. It covers a nice range from really wide 10mm up to rather normal 24mm, so if I had to take just one lens for a trip, this would be my first choice. At 410g it is rather heavy, but given its quality, the weight is very well acceptable for an ultrawide lens.

The included Optical Image Stabilization doesn’t add any value for a tripod based work, but it can help in some cases when tripod isn’t a good option. I appreciate both the internal zoom and focusing, since it limits dust getting into the lens and also simplifies work with filters. Sunstars have rather pleasant rendering with 14 rays.

Is there anything more to ask for? Well, I hope that there will be weather resistance added in some future re-make. Image quality probably can’t be improved much, at least not while maintaining reasonable weight, but a bit better sharpness at 24mm and in corners in general would definitely be appreciated. And the aperture ring — why lens with a fixed maximum aperture doesn’t feature a marked aperture ring is a mystery to me.

 

Rokinon/SAMYANG 12mm/F2.0

While I prefer zooms over primes for landscape work, there is a field where a good prime really shines — night photography. Due to a larger maximum aperture it’s possible to use shorter times and lower ISO, which is great for night shot of stars, Milky Way or Aurora Borealis (a.k.a. Northern Lights).

Rokinon (branded as Samyang in Europe) really delivers a fine package. It’s cheap, small,  light (260g) and image quality is very good. For photos of starry sky it’s also important that the chromatic and other types of aberration are pretty low and so stars in corners look good even at the widest aperture.

Although I purchased this lens exclusively for night photography, it works very well just for anything and saved me when my 10-24 was being repaired and I needed something wide enough. I noticed though, while I needed multiple exposures for focus stacking, that the lens exhibits some focus breathing, i.e. the focal length changes slightly with changes of focus. It isn’t anything serious, but something to keep in mind.

Probably the only disadvantage is that this Rokinon is manual focus only. However, it’s actually an advantage in some cases — unlike the Fujinon lenses it’s easy to set focus to infinity even in complete darkness, which makes focusing to stars trivial. Since there isn’t a hard infinity, it’s just necessary to confirm the infinity position beforehand. For my copy it’s located exactly at the marked position.

 


Normal lenses

Normal or standard zoom lenses give a bit of everything, because they usually cover quite wide and also beginning of telephoto focal lengths. Some people might be happy with just such zooms, even though a dedicated wide or tele lens offer quite a bit more flexibility.

FujiNON XC 16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS

This is the smallest zoom lens in Fujifilm’s range, looks almost like a toy due to its small size, all plastic construction and 195g weight. Its performance is rather impressive given the dimensions. It’s pretty sharp when stopped down to f/8 or more, which is most often the case in landscape photography.

Since it’s an XC lens, not only it’s plastic, but it also doesn’t have an aperture ring or OIS switch. Not that it’s a big inconvenience, but it might be a little surprising when switching different lenses, when some have and other don’t have these features.

Even though I made quite a few favorite photographs with this lens, I don’t use it much anymore. Not that the quality isn’t good enough, but the all-plastic construction, including bayonet, makes the lens too flimsy when working with filters.

 

Fujinon XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS

Another ‘kit’ lens with excellent image quality. Compared to the XC 16-50 it’s slightly bigger in all dimensions and weights 310g. While it doesn’t exceed its smaller partner in sharpness when stopped down (at least not much), it has much more solid construction, a dedicated OIS switch and an aperture ring — even though it’s unmarked.

This is currently my most used normal lens for landscapes since it’s pretty small with very good image quality. It’s very good for other things as well, can be used wide open and together with OIS it’s very flexible for almost any situation.

What’s not so great about lens? Added weather resistance,  possibly internal zooming and slightly wider wide end (16 vs 18mm) are features that would make this lens excellent, but even the current state is still very good.

 

Fujinon XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR

This is the top of standard lenses Fujifilm currently offers. It’s very good optically, very well built, including weather resistance and pretty fast at 2.8 maximum aperture. There is one reason I don’t own or use this one for landscapes — it’s just too heavy. At 655g it’s rather in the full-frame DSLR lenses territory than in a mirrorless system.

While it’s definitely a great choice for many cases, I’m currently not ready to invest in this one for my landscape photography. Hopefully Fujifilm will sometimes release f/4.0 version that will be lighter, smaller, but optically still great for landscapes. Internal zooming would also be a great improvement for usage with filter holder systems.

 

Fujinon XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS WR

This one offers a lot of flexibility due to its 7.5x zoom range. Together with weather resistance and image stabilization, its a very feature packed lens and so even its weight at 490g doesn’t look like too much.

Optical quality is a bit mixed. While it seems to be quite usable when stopped down on its wide end, anything closer to the maximum 135mm isn’t on par with quality of other lenses.

I don’t own this one, as it doesn’t fit well into my lens set, but I wonder whether it wouldn’t make a quite nice combo with 100-400mm for anyone who needs longer reach and doesn’t want two lenses to cover the 18-100 range.

 

Fujinon XF 23mm F/1.4

The primary usage of this lens definitely isn’t landscape photography — I use it mainly to photograph my kids. That said, since it’s a very fast prime lens, while still being quite wide, it can be useful for some night photography.

While wider lenses are usually preferred for nightscapes, for example the Rokinon/Samyang 12mm is great, this one can work very well in some cases, when something less wide is needed. At 300g it’s quite light, but I carry it only when I expect more night shooting and conditions right for this lens.

 


Telephoto lenses

Long lenses help to isolate a part of possibly complex scene and flatten perspective. This results in completely different compositions from more common landscapes photographed through wide angle lenses. It can be refreshing to change the focal length in order to achieve something different!

Fujinon XC 50-230mm F/4.5-6.7

At 375g this is quite a light telephoto lens with a good image quality, particularly for such a rather small and light package. It certainly comes with some cons though: no aperture ring, no OIS switch and all plastic body, including lens mount. My mount even degraded over time to such a degree that it isn’t reliable anymore and many lens operations, like zooming, result in a loss of contact between camera body and lens, blanking the screen temporarily.

It’s a good option when weight and volume are of a particular concern, like long backpacking trips. For anything else, other Fujifilm telephoto lenses offer better image quality and better build quality.

 

Other TElephoto Lenses

The most obvious upgrade is Fujinon XF 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 OIS, which offers better image quality,  no compromise in build and its 580g weight is still reasonable. This is currently my choice, even though I take 50-230 instead, when I don’t expect much telephoto action.

In order to achieve even better image quality, one can also choose Fujinon XF 50-140mm f/2.8 OIS WR. However, there’s a price to pay — not only money, but a limited focal range and also 995g to carry. The focal range can be improved by Fujinon Teleconverter XF2X, which doesn’t decrease image quality much while it increases the range up to 280mm and adds only 170g to your bag. I haven’t tested this combo yet, but since I might want to buy the 50-140 in the future for sports and other occasions, I’d probably want to try it for landscapes as well.

Sometimes even longer reach can be useful and then there’s Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OIS WR. I wouldn’t like to carry its 1375g for a week, but I’d definitely appreciate the 400mm for some landscapes. Note that it can be extended to 560 or even 800mm by Fuji teleconverters. Anyway, I don’t have any experience with this one yet.


Primes vs. Zooms

Primes are great for many purposes, but I consider zooms more suitable for landscape photography. While it’s certainly true that you can zoom by walking closer, it isn’t always an option and also various focal lengths offer different perspective, resulting in quite different possible compositions. With a couple of zoom lenses it’s possible to cover various focal lengths, while it isn’t needed to switch lenses too often — which is better to avoid particularly in dusty environment in order to preserve a clean sensor. And last but not least, good zooms usually offer image quality at least very similar to primes, particularly when stopped down, which is most often the case in landscape photography in order to achieve deeper depth of field.

Recommended sets

Very light, yet flexible and very good image quality offers this set, which I also carry most often:

For ultimate image quality, but also heavier backpack, the set can be modified as follows:

Note that the second set is about 1kg heavier, bulkier and certainly also more expensive.

As an addition, mostly for nightscapes, I can’t recommend enough Rokinon/Samyang 12mm f/2.0 (US, UKGermany).

Summary

Fujifilm’s lens line up offers quite a few lenses for landscape photography, even though it only started few years ago in 2012. It isn’t perfect yet, some updates should be released in order to add weather resistance to some older lenses and other lenses are just too bulky and heavy for a mirrorless system. That said, it’s still a lot of fun to use, particularly to go out and take some pictures, no matter which lens you choose!

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