Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 - A Long Term Review
I’ve owned the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 now for just over two years and so I thought that it was finally time to review what is heralded as one of Fujifilm’s best lenses. As with all of my gear reviews, I like to be as honest as possible and give you it straight. I know when I’ve toyed with the idea of a new lens, I need to know as much as possible; not about the specs but what it’s really like in the real world.
Not only am I writing this for the benefit of others considering purchasing this lens but also for myself. As you will see below, I’m not 100% convinced on this lens and I’m not sure it’s ever really clicked with me or whether I’ve really clicked with it. I am probably like every other camera user in that I am still, and probably always will be, on the quest for the perfect setup on a budget. Of course, if I could, I’d love to own every single Fujifilm lens and camera so that I could pick and choose what is best on any given day but that’s not how us normal people live unfortunately.
MY REVIEW OF THE FUJIFILM 56MM F/1.2
MY STYLE OF PHOTOGRAPHY
For those that haven’t followed my blog since the early days or don’t follow me on Instagram, I’d say that I’m a guy who loves a walkabout lens and, the clue is in the name, I love travel photography. Travel encompasses a wide range of photography styles; you have to have lenses perfect for architecture, street and portraits. Fast focus, weather resistance, size and image quality are always top of my list.
The most obvious question is then, why on earth did I buy the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2. I can tell you now, that I didn’t primarily purchase this lens for my travel photography. After spending 10 months travelling and having a break from a career in law, I came back to the UK with ambitions of turning photography into more than just a hobby. I quickly received bookings for weddings and so the research began as to the perfect portrait lens.
IS THE FUJIFILM 56MM F/1.2 THE PERFECT PORTRAIT LENS?
I’ll come out and say it now that I’d probably go as far to say that this is the perfect portrait lens for the Fujifilm X Series. 56mm (85mm on full frame) is a brilliant focal length for full length portraits as well as headshots. Combine that with a super fast aperture of f/1.2 and you have an incredibly dreamy lens. The wedding photographer’s lenses of choice seem to be the 23mm and 56mm on two separate bodies and, from the few weddings I’ve shot, that has worked brilliantly for me.
The photographs that this lens produces are beautiful there is no doubt about it and I am sure that it will be and should be a staple in so many photographer’s bags. However, whilst I do really appreciate what this lens can do, I am starting to wonder whether I really need it. I have a very stable and enjoyable job back in law and my main style of photography is geared around travel rather than weddings or portraits. For the weddings that I do have booked in, I wonder whether there are other suitable lenses that would do the job just as well. Do the drawbacks below outweigh the image quality?
Bearing in mind that I have two X-T2s, quite an old camera body, I find that in real world scenarios the autofocus is very slow especially in low light. In some situations, especially when motion is involved, I find it close to unusable. It may just be me but it’s just far too slow for reliable autofocus. This isn’t really a problem with portraits in a sense but with documentary style photography you may come unstuck. I have however heard that on Fujifilm’s newer cameras the autofocus is much quicker so, hopefully, this will be a great improvement. If I was coming to buy the lens again, I would definitely try it first and thankfully Fujifilm offer a free 48 hour rental.
Let’s talk about f/1.2. This is a huge selling point for this lens and, when you nail focus, you can see why. You buy a lens like this to shoot wide open obviously but don’t forget that the focal plane is so narrow you may, more often than you think, miss focus.
Finally, I’ve noticed that when shooting in colour, the images are much cooler than from other lenses in similar situations. I always found that I had to warm up the images in the editing process even after shooting JPEG.
THE FUJIFILM 56MM F/1.2 & TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY
I’m not sure this lens was ever designed to be a must-have lens for a travel photographer. I wanted to see whether I could bring the high quality portrait images and combine that with a walk around mid-telephoto lens. I tried my hardest but unfortunately, for me, it hasn’t worked out.
I do have some great images from Edinburgh and Florida with this lens (I mean some of the images of the American muscle cars are insane) but when Fujifilm offer the 50mm f/2; a lens that is much smaller, lighter, cheaper, is weather resistant and has fast auto-focus, my mind is telling me to go with the 50mm!
My favourite lenses at the moment are the 16mm f/1.4 on one X-T2 and the 35mm f/1.4 on another. For me, that is the perfect travel photography setup and, with the 35mm, you can still get absolutely beautiful portraits. I’ve seriously been considering whether the 56mm f/1.2 has a place in my bag at all and, certainly for travel photography, that 50mm is calling my name.
Conclusion - Do I Keep Or Sell The Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2
I’m quite glad I’ve found the time to write this post as personally it’s made my decision that little bit easier. I am not a professional photographer and the majority of my images are based around travelling. I love a prime lens that I can stick on the camera and it will cover a wide range of situations.
Whilst the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 is an absolute dream lens, it does come with it’s drawbacks and you have to be aware of those. In the original version of this post, I wrote that it would pain me to give up this lens but there were, practically speaking, better options available for me. However, almost immediately after writing this post, I booked in a few more weddings so I found it impossible to sell the 56mm; it remains with me to this day and I promise that I’ll try shoot with it more on a day to day basis.
I did review the 90mm f/2 but ultimately decided that it’s not a lens that I need to buy, hello cost of living crisis 2022, but I can definitely see a place for the 50mm f/2 lens perhaps alongside the powerhouse 56mm. The weddings I shot recently have reminded me that once you have the 56mm f/1.2, it is not a lens that you could ever sell. It is beautiful.
I make a promise to you, the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2, that I will use you much more regularly and keep persevering with you in terms of my travel photography!