Gear review by Jason DiMichele
In the past few years, many manufacturers have introduced super telephoto zoom lenses that provide great options for sports and wildlife photographers. Fujifilm’s offering is their recently released Fujinon XF 100-400mm and compatible XF 1.4X and XF 2X teleconverters. I frequently shoot with long lenses and looked forward to the opportunity of putting this lens through its paces!
Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R L OIS WR ($2,300) is one of their premium lenses. The optical design includes 21 lens elements in 14 groups, including 5 ED lenses and a Super ED lens, allowing for very well controlled chromatic aberration (colour fringing in high-contrast scenes). The lens weighs approximately 1.4 kg/three pounds, contains two linear motors for fast and silent auto focus, five stops of image stabilization, an unmarked aperture ring, water and dust resistance with a Fluorine coating (to repel water and ease cleaning), a nine-blade aperture and removable tripod collar. It’s important to upgrade your camera firmware to the latest version as some cameras won’t work properly with this lens until you perform the firmware upgrade.
The Fujifilm APS-C mirrorless sensor has a crop factor of approximately 1.5x, giving this lens the 35mm equivalent of about 150-600mm f/4.5-5.6. Using the 1.4X or 2X teleconverters (TC) makes this lens equivalent to a 210-840mm f/6.3-8 and a 300-1200mm f/9-11 respectively. Auto focus worked very well using the 1.4X TC on the Fujifilm X-Pro2. Note that if you use the 2X TC, the maximum aperture becomes f/9-11, so you’ll want plenty of light for the best results.
The build quality and control layout is very nice, feeling smooth and sturdy. The focus and zoom rings are easily operated and spaced well, and the unmarked aperture ring and barrel switches are in logical and ergonomically intelligent locations. Fujifilm uses unmarked aperture rings (no F-stop markings) on their variable aperture XF zoom lenses to avoid potential confusion. Lens hoods are often a manufacturer afterthought, but Fujifilm did a great job here. Not only does the lens hood lock into place securely with a button, but it also has a sliding door that allows easy access to a polarizing or variable neutral density filter (77mm). It’s often subtle features like these that enhance the user experience. The switches on the lens barrel include image stabilization control, focus distance limiting, 100mm zoom lock and aperture control (manual or automatic).
The only thing I found slightly inconvenient was the zoom creep that happened when pointing the lens up or down at steep angles. The types of situations where this could affect you are if you’re shooting birds in flight or airplanes, or closer ground subjects such as frogs or flowers. I recommend holding the zoom ring when shooting in these situations.
The lens is extremely sharp and produces lovely images with pleasing contrast. I achieved fast and accurate focus at all focal lengths and obtained beautiful results with and without the 1.4X TC. Due to the nine-bladed aperture, the bokeh (appearance of out of focus areas) is lovely. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 1.75 metres, which allows for decent close-up work. You can use extension tubes to allow for even closer focus. Super telephoto lenses are not just for distant subjects!
The optical image stabilization (OIS) works very well. I wasn’t in a situation that needed five stops of stabilization, but can say that I achieved successful results at about four stops. Based on my testing, I do recommend turning OIS off when using a tripod. A useful feature of the OIS system is that it detects if you’re panning the camera and switches the stabilization to only up and down movements.
Fujifilm has been making very high-quality lenses for decades, beginning in the film days. Since entering the mirrorless camera market some years ago, they have continued to produce some of the best lenses available. The XF 100-400mm is no exception and is a joy to use with its fast and accurate focusing and beautiful image quality.
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