Saturday, December 28, 2013

FujiFilm 10-24mm f/4.0 lens, a reason to switch camps?

There are occasions where I need wide angle photography and given that I'm using Four-Thirds and micro Four-Thirds at the moment,  wide angle photography is limited to 14mm at the moment with native lenses.  Something more might be achieved with one of the wider-faster adapters, but it seems that it would be less of a compromise to just buy into a new system.

The widest native lenses are the Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4.0 or the Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0 but I'm not sure if I want to dig deeper into micro Four-Thirds.  There are the Olympus 9-18mm lenses but I'm not really sure about the optics and f/4.0-5.6 tends to be darker quickly.  The Olympus 7-14mm is the only one that really fits, as I can use it on my Four-Thirds bodies as well as micro Four-Thirds bodies and it is weather-sealed, but then, maybe I don't really need such a feature.

This new FujiFilm 10-24mm f/4.0 lens seems appealing, especially with the X-E2 (or X-T1) body.  (The X-Pro1 could use an update, don't you think?)

FujiFilm 10-24mm f/4.0

If the image quality is a match for the sensor, it should be a potent combination, more than a match for a dSLR using a same-sized sensor.  How big does a 135 format lens have to be to cover 15-36mm at a constant f/4.0?  Will a filter size of 67mm cover it?  It's not likely.

The FujiFilm lens has to be slightly larger than the Panasonic 7-14mm and it's definitely heavier at 410 grams over the 300 grams for the Panasonic lens.  I wanted to compare by filter size but the Panasonic lens, like the Olympus lens has a convex front element and therefore, doesn't allow filters.  The filter size of the 10-24mm lens is 72mm, which seems large for an f/4.0 lens, but it really is (ultra-)wide at 10mm.  The Olympus lens is substantially heavier at 780 grams but the image quality is what you'd expect for a premium, weather-sealed lens.  Strangely, the Olympus lens seems to have been removed from the company's web site.

Olympus ZD 7-14mm f/4.0
Panasonic 7-14mm f/4.0
The built-in lens hood is both brilliant and frustrating because the whole front of both lenses precludes the use of filters, and there is no rear drop-in slot.  Why Panasonic chose to duplicate the lens in such detail is beyond me, except that at 7mm, you need to take rather extreme measures to counteract distortion.  Unfortunately, they duplicated the lens without the weather-sealing.  The lack of weather-seals would also be a problem for me with the FujiFilm lens.  I might do better to buy a cheaper dSLR and wide angle lens for as little as I might use it.

FujiFilm, with their great sensor are breaking boundaries again.  I liked what they were doing when they were still doing dSLRs in Nikon bodies.  However, at those speeds, the dSLRs were better in the studio than out in the world where speed would be an issue.  They seem to be finding themselves right now, as Olympus and Panasonic did with their first few generations of mirror-less system cameras.  Once FujiFilm finds their way, I suspect that Samsung and Sony won't have a chance in the APS-C market.  If FujiFilm would put together a dSLR-shaped model, it would likely boost sales and cut into Panasonic's market, also, except for video.

In any case, the 10-24mm f/4.0 isn't due until March and I doubt we'll see any previews until just before it's ready, so it will be difficult to judge the image quality.  I'm looking forward to it.

Update 2014.01.06: FujiFilm's 56mm f/1.2 lens has been announced with a price of US$999.99 and that's also compelling, if the lens is great.  The company seems to be building a great reason to switch, and in a short time, is ahead of Sony, Samsung, Nikon, Canon, and Pentax in mirror-less offerings.

Update 2014.01.15: The company has brought out some new grips and DPReview has taken a look at them here.  They look a bit ridiculous, as they don't fit into the design smoothly, but I'm sure they do the job, as well as take a chunk from your wallet.

Update 2014.01.31 Happy Chinese (Lunar) New Year! I've been looking at the X-T1 and, while it's rather small, I think I could live with the X-T1 and three lenses, for quite a while:

18-135mm, 16-55mm f/2.8, and 50-140mm f/2.8

  • XF 16-55mm f/2.8 OIS
  • XF 50-140mm f/2.8 OIS
  • XF 10-24mm f/4.0 OIS

(I couldn't care less about the 18-135mm in the photo.  It's over 4x zoom and that's more than I will use.  Why?  Image quality will suffer.)

Of course, these are rather expensive and in sports photography, the 50-140mm f/2.8 is the only one that will bring me money.  My serious question is: Will FujiFilm continue or will it be as it was with Olympus?  Olympus was brilliant in 2003 with the E-1 and the great lenses were coming quickly.  There was quite a following, and then, Nikon and Canon became good with digital photography and Olympus slowed.  Ten years later, I'm thinking about options, even though the equipment works quite well still.

I suppose I could eliminate the 16-55mm f/2.8 lens at first and continue to use my current equipment (especially the Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8) for a normal view.  Still, I don't believe any of these lenses are available until later in the year, so it's not a real concern yet--just thinking.

Update 2014.02.12: I just saw something about Olympus producing a micro Four-Thirds 7-14mm f/2.8 lens, expected in 2015.  That has a lot of possibilities, and it's certainly a low light opportunist, compared to the current f/4.0 lenses, including the 10-24mm f/4.0 from FujiFilm.  If it will be priced at US$999.99 (the Four-Thirds f/4.0 lens is US$1799.99, a bargain of sorts), it will make me more indecisive about where I'm going.  Having a 135 format effective 14mm available at f/2.8 (over 15mm at f/4.0) says a lot about getting the shot, even in dim lighting.  We still have to take into account how well each sensor and processor handle the image quality at higher sensitivities.  Minimizing electronic and electrical noise from the image path is most important to ensure a clean image.  Obviously, the X-Trans II sensor has the edge, but Olympus has achieved quite a lot of success, despite the hurdles of the sensor size.  I wonder how different the image quality would be if the FujiFilm sensor had 24.x MP, so that the pixel density would be roughly equal.

Update 2014.03.03: I've really been thinking about the X-T1 body quite a bit, mainly because of the 16-55mm f/2.8 and 50-140mm f/2.8 weather-sealed lenses.  I held the X-T1 body and found it to be sturdy but a little small, similar to the Olympus E-M1.  Of course, the X-T1 has no need to mount huge lenses, as the E-M1 may, since there is no Four-Thirds equivalent, and the Pentax K-mount lenses for the Fujica AZ-1 from the late 1970s are likely in short supply, though there is no official adapter anyway.

The drawbacks of the X-T1 for someone like me, photographing sports, may be too much.  Since the initial announcements, Olympus and Panasonic have really given me too many solutions.  The GH4 has doubled the GH3's burst rate to 12 frames per second and 7.2 frames per second in tracking mode.  If a familiar, comfortable Panasonic body is much better, why not stick with it, especially when Olympus is bringing great lenses, even without image stabilization?

Update 2014.03.05: I was looking at this article about photos of the real FujiFilm weather-sealed lenses.  I could see that the 16-55mm f/2.8 lens seems to have a 77mm filter size and the 50-140mm f/2.8 seems to have a 67mm filter size.   I'm surprised that the 50-140mm isn't bigger round the barrel.  Both my 14-35mm f/2.0 and my 35-100mm f/2.0 have the 77mm filter size and, while they're heavy, they're manageable on a dSLR the size of the Nikon D7100, the E-5.  I wonder what sort of balance (or imbalance) will be there with these lenses and the X-T1 since it's more the size of the E-M1.  I found it a bit too small, similar to how I feel about the E-M1.

Update 2014.03.31: Reviews have been very positive for the 10-24mm lens.  I'm not surprised.  I still wish that it was weather-sealed, since you could be photographing a landscape and it might start to rain.  Use an umbrella?  What's that?  I've never, ever used an umbrella for photography, especially since I don't have three hands.

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