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Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R Lens Review

Fujifilm's ultra-bright prime is a killer portrait lens, but is it worth $1,000?

Credit: Reviewed.com / Kyle Looney
May 21, 2015
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

Since the mirrorless revolution got underway in 2008, it's been fascinating to watch manufacturers like Olympus, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Samsung, and Sony build out entirely new lens lineups. Each brand has taken a slightly different approach, some going after beginners and others targeting committed photography enthusiasts.

The latter group have made a smart decision by opting to craft high-quality prime lenses in lieu of more beginner-friendly zooms. While many are designed to be as small and affordable as possible, a few excel in the pursuit of pure photographic performance.

Lenses like the Carl Zeiss 24mm f/1.4 for Sony E-mount and Panasonic 42.5mm f/1.2 Nocticron for Micro Four Thirds stand out for their exceptional sharpness and beautiful bokeh. While typically quite expensive, these lenses serve as "halo" products, showcasing what each manufacturer's system is capable of.

Fujifilm's halo lens is undoubtedly the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R (MSRP $999.99). This ultra-bright prime lens features a classic portrait focal length and one of the widest apertures you can get in an autofocus lens. It proved its mettle in our labs, but with a $1,000 asking price, is it worth the cost?

Who's It For?

The Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 R is a wide-aperture, medium telephoto prime lens that's designed primarily for portrait photography. Designed for the APS-C sensors used in Fuji's X-series cameras, it has a full-frame equivalent focal length of 84mm to go with its f/1.2 max aperture—a classic combo.

This kind of focal length helps to isolate your subject, effectively compressing the background while blurring it away with shallow depth of field. It's the best way to make your subject pop, ensuring all eyes are

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Chris Thomas
Sharpness is good from the get-go, and improves to excellent levels as you stop down.

For its part, the XF 56mm stands out by offering an f/1.2 maximum aperture and autofocus. While f/1.2 on an APS-C sensor doesn’t yield quite as shallow a depth of field as it would on full-frame, it’s not far off. Anyway, precious few lenses achieve this kind of max aperture, regardless of sensor format.

While f/1.2 on an APS-C sensor doesn’t yield quite as shallow a depth of field as it would on full-frame, it’s not far off. Tweet It

As you'd expect given the specs, the bokeh is the star of the show. In a word, it's superb. But if it's somehow not quite good enough, you can opt for the “APD” version of this lens. It’s virtually identical, but for an extra $500 you get slightly softer bokeh—especially when you have lots of points of light in the background.

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Look and Feel

Like most Fujifilm X-series lenses, the XF 56mm f/1.2 R features an all-metal build with a large focus ring and a physical aperture ring.

The aperture ring feels decidedly old-school with its proper click-stops, but it's not mechanically coupled. Instead, it controls the aperture electronically, telling the camera what setting you want to use. Most shooters will probably just set the dial to “A” and use the camera command dials to adjust aperture, but old-school shooters will appreciate being able to go full manual.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Chris Thomas
Like most other Fujifilm XF lenses, the 56mm f/1.2 provides a large, well-damped focus ring and a physical aperture dial.

The focus is also by wire, meaning the ring doesn't actually move the lens assembly. Still, it's quick and accurate, and has plenty of throw—even if it's virtual. The focus ring offers a pleasant level of resistance, but there are no hard stops at either end of the focus range. Still, thanks to Fuji's considerable focus aids—peaking, magnification, etc.—manually focusing is a breeze.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Chris Thomas
Big but out outlandishly so, the XF 56mm f/1.2 is a natural fit for the larger X-system bodies.

That’s important, because on even APS-C it can be a pain in the neck to nail perfect focus with an f/1.2 lens. The autofocus system works well, but if your camera gives you the choice between contrast and phase detect AF, we recommend contrast whenever possible to ensure the most accurate results.

Image Quality

The Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R is a classic fast portrait prime. What does that actually mean? For one thing, it renders out-of-focus areas as beautiful blurs, isolating your subject wonderfully. It's especially good at this at f/1.2, where you get very narrow depth of field with a very naturally, aeshetically pleasing falloff.

It's that f/1.2 max aperture that sets this lens apart from its peers, promising excellent low light image quality, even when shooting handheld. Unfortunately our lab tests revealed that the lens didn't pick up fine details very well at f/1.2 or f/1.4. The center is acceptable, but the corners are blurry even when they should be in focus.

Once you move down to f/2, however, this lens really begins to prove its worth. The center from this point on is downright excellent. By f/2.8 the rest of the frame begins to catch up, and by f/4 this lens is truly pin sharp from corner to corner.

Perhaps more impressive was the XF 56mm f/1.2 R's correction for both chromatic aberration (color fringing) and geometric distortion. Photos from this lens will require very little work straight out of the camera—simple exposure and contrast adjustments should be all you need.

Ultimately, this lens can be used in two modes: At f/1.2, where it's soft but produces world-class bokeh, and from f/4 to f/8, where it's remarkably sharp from corner to corner and ideal for landscapes and street photography. While we'd like to see sharper performance at f/1.2, this is truly a pro-quality piece of kit.

Below you can see sample photos taken with the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R mounted on a Fujifilm X-T1. Click the link below each photo to download the full-resolution image.

Conclusion

If you enjoy shooting with fast prime lenses, the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 is an absolute blast. It provides exceptional bokeh and superb sharpness (under the right circumstances), and the control necessary to get the most out of that combo.

The classic fast portrait lens is one of my personal favorites, so this lens was right up my alley. From the handling, to the build quality, to the extras like the physical aperture ring, this is a lens that will speak to true photo enthusiasts. It doesn't have weather-sealing, but neither does most of Fuji's cameras.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Chris Thomas
The ultra-wide f/1.2 aperture creates some amazing bokeh.

Just about the only competition this lens has in Fuji's system is its own APD variant. You can find samples from this lens online, but the major difference is that it produces even softer, better-rounded bokeh. On the downside, it doesn’t work with phase-detect autofocus and costs $500 more. On top of the $1,000 you’ll pay for the “vanilla” version, that's a pretty tall order.

Of course, if you don't need razor-thin depth of field you can also consider the super-sharp XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro, which also doubles as an excellent portrait lens and costs just $550 at major retailers. The major drawback is slow autofocus, but if you're shooting someone sitting for a portrait, that's basically a non-issue.

In the end, the Fujinon 56mm f/1.2 R is one of the best examples of a classic portrait lens that you’ll find for any mirrorless system. There are sharper lenses wide open, and there are definitely cheaper ones, but this is a superb all-around performer that Fuji can be very proud of.

The only Fuji owners who won’t have this lens at the very top of their wishlists will be people who already own it.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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