1) How I came to this purchase (if you want to skip my boring and sleep inducing chatter, please scroll down to nr. 3) :
The story starts with making a very important decision, which is to put my entire Pentax gear up for sale and switch completely to Fujifilm. That decision came after the purchase of the Fujifilm X-H1, the camera that has revived my photographic heart. However, this had consequences for the lenses I needed to continue my photographic interests, since my Pentax lens arsenal was very extensive.
My adventure with Fujifilm had started earlier with the X-E1, because I was looking for a camera that could work well with manual vintage lenses (mainly Olympus OM Zuiko) and had a dedicated shutter dial. Over time I had put together a collection lenses from 21mm to 300mm. The X-E1 had started something in me and soon other Fujifilm cameras joined the ranks, the X-T10, X-T20 and the beautiful X-T1, a camera I quickly fell in love with. As a result, I also invested further in modern manual lenses, including the 7artisans 7.5mm, the Samyang 12mm, 7Artisans 25mm and the Meike 35mm, and because I also wanted to shoot auto focus with my Fujifilm cameras, I also got the XC 15- 45mm, the XC 16-50 and the XC 50-230mm, so a reasonable range – but not water resistant as my X-T1 was.
Were the Japanese Photo Gods already lining me up for a big change ? I don’t know, but by chance I came across a great opportunity : the XF 18-135mm WR, and so I got my first WR lens for my Fujifilm X-T1. This happend shortly before purchasing the X-H1. You can read the story about that here.
2) Which lens for wildlife (mainly birds) and other far-off objects:
And that’s how we arrived here, the XF 18-135mm WR is the perfect water resistant all round lens, in my case suitable for macro, nature, landscape, architecture, street and portrait. What I still was missing was the telephoto range above 135mm and also WR. There were two options for this:
- Fujinon XF 70-300mm f4-5.6 R LM OIS WR
- 132,5mm min. (XF18-135 = 98mm)
- 205,5mm max. (XF18-135 = 158mm)
- range 830mm – infinity (XF18-135 = 450/600mm – infinity)
- max. magnification 0.33x (XF18-135 = 0.27x)
- 580gr (XF18-135 = 490gr)
- filter diameter 67mm (same as XF 18-135mm)
- suitable for tele converter XF 1.4x TC WR
- Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR
- 210,5mm min.
- 270mm max.
- range 1750mm – infinity
- max. magnification 0.19x
- filter diameter 77mm
- suitable for tele converter XF 1.4x TC WR
I currently have a Sigma 150-500 in my Pentax lens collection, although it is larger and heavier, but together with the specifications above it gave me an idea of what to expect from the XF 100-400 mm compared to the XF 70-300mm in terms of size and weight. However, these are two completely different lenses, you have to realize that for a bird/wildlife photographer every millimetre in focal length counts. A 300mm is sufficient for photographing animals in the zoo, however, in the wild and for example for birds, a 300mm has insufficient range. The combination with a tele converter 1.4x would help (with TC = 420mm), but is it any good ?
The consideration I made was therefore not directly related to the price, because I think that in the longer term I would like the XF 100-400 mm for shooting birds – however, for the dimensions weight and usability the XF 70-300mm is a much better choice to start with. With a diameter of 75mm, 133mm long and 580gr. it can almost be called pocket-size. It can easily be combined with the X-H1 and the XF 18-135mm (dia 76mm x 98mm long and 490gr.) in an average messenger bag. (see photos below). With one camera and these two lenses you have a total range of 27mm to 450mm in 35mm equivalent, add a 1.4 teleconverter to that and that becomes 420mm or 630mm in 35mm equivalent, and that is quite impressive ! So, the decision was easy, I bought the XF 70-300mm. Now I need to figure out if I really need the XF’s 100-400mm fire power, because it’s not only expensive, but big and very heavy !
3) The Fujifilm Fujinon XF 70-300mm f4-5.6 R LM OIS WR and Tele Converter XF 1.4x TC WR First Impression :
The first time I tested this lens was in the garden and at a pond at the edge of a nature reserve where were many dragonflies – I tested the lens without tele converter – my first impression was: jaw dropping ! so small – so light – so fast and … so amazingly sharp! the first pictures downloaded on my computer confirmed that – almost all razor sharp, almost no misses.
The second day was on the same pool but with tele converter 1.4 – my second impression was : Amazing ! the tele converter has almost no influence on size and weight, and … virtually no difference in speed and sharpness ! The pictures again confirmed my impression – even slightly better, now that I had gotten used to the lens and had set the camera slightly differently.
For my Pentax camera I had the similar HD Pentax-DA 55-300mm F4-5.8 ED WR https://www.pentaxforums.com/lensreviews/hd-pentax-da-55-300mm-f4-5.8-ed-wr.html – which got good results on the Pentax forums, except on autofocus (6.9/10), I was also reasonable satisfied with the sharpness of the Pentax lens, but the auto focus was very slow and regularly missed. I can’t say that about this Fujinon lens, it is much faster and I would certainly dare to say also sharper. The only complaint is that the lens had problems finding focus very occasionally at maximum tele (300mm) – hard to tell if this was due to the distance – lighting conditions – subject or background contrast ? I will look into that further when i’am using the lens more later. I did not find any other negative points.
- small and light
- switch manual/automatic aperture
- the lens has a snapping unmarked aperture ring – which is actually as good as a normal aperture ring – especially on the X-H1 because you see the aperture setting on the top display
- virtually silent auto focus motor
- fast auto focus
- switch for normal focus or focus from 5m to infinity – personally I didn’t find this necessary, I just set my camera to pre-focus, and then it was always immediately in focus at any distance
- sturdy, well-protecting lens hood
- switch against extending the lens – not used and did not suffer from a sliding lens
- weather resistant – a big plus !
Points some people listed as negative :
- no AF/Manual switch – that’s correct, also, the X-S10 and X-E4 no longer have a switch on the camera, but for the X-H1 and many other Fujifilm cameras , you can just turn it off on the camera.
- no Stabilizer on/off switch – that’s correct – I can’t really say much about this, would there be a reason to turn it off ?
- there is no tripod connection – correct – that’s what the OIS is for – and with the X-H1, X-S10 and X-T4 you definitely won’t need a tripod.
The teleconverter : first and foremost, this one is pricey ! (about half the cost of the XF 70-300) – but the quality is tremendous, I don’t see loss of sharpness, only little loss of light. It’s dimensions are also so small that you hardly notice it. The focal length is considerably extended, you go from 300mm to a whopping 420mm ! My intention in the coming months is to consider whether the purchase of the much larger and heavier XF 100-400 mm lens is still necessary, or whether the XF 70-300 mm with 1.4x converter is sufficient or acceptable for my needs.
While I was writing this review (which took a while) I came up with alternatives to the expensive and heavy XF 100-400mm, and I found them.
I can already say that at least one new review is coming up about an alternative lens, the brand new Tokina SZX Super Tele 400mm for Fujifilm X, super tiny : 74x77mm @ 355gr. with the same 67mm filter thread as the 18-135mm and 70-300mm (should still fit in the same bag with the rest).
An old man with a sleigh and reindeer, who has to earn some extra money at this time of year, is on his way and should arrive in Belgium at the end of next week, yes, reindeer are slow, aren’t they 🙂 So please be patient for delivery, testing and writing !
So you can expect a long-term review of this lens in time. Below are some test shots – I don’t have many pictures here (yet), but the pictures I took were pretty much all in the same place and subject, so 10 or 100 pictures of the same wouldn’t give a better impression. I was very impressed with the lens and the results, especially for a first time, I hope the few photos here reflect that result.
For photographers who’s interest in photographing birds and other wildlife takes a much bigger part than shooting other subjects, I would recommend buying the XF 100-400mm XF 1.4x TC WR Teleconverter Kit, the total cost of this kit is almost the same as the lens only, so you can save yourself a good €350 – so its definitely worth thinking about it! – because you are going to buy the converter, i’am shure !
Product shots of the XF 70-300mm, XF 100-400mm and XF 1.4x TC WR copyright and courtesy of https://www.fujifilm.com/