Fujifilm 56mm 1.2 - A Great Lens You Might Want To Skip
The Fujifilm 56mm lens is THE portrait lens for the Fujifilm system. It is the fastest aperture lens Fujifilm currently makes and it is in a standard portraiture focal length equivalent of 85mm. It’s widely reviewed and regarded as incredibly sharp, relatively fast to focus, with excellent color rendition. Nearly everyone who has reviewed this lens has loved it.
I couldn’t stand it. Let me explain.
The Fujifilm 56mm is kind of like a jewelers hammer. Its perfect for one particular job, but it sucks for just about everything else. That is exactly how I feel about the Fujifilm 56mm. It’s perfect for one job, but just about useless for everything else.
Why I bought it
First off, I got a great deal on this lens. I bought it used during one of fujifilm’s lens discount sales for around $600.00. Secondly, I love prime lenses. They are my favorite kind of lenses. A fast aperture prime lens is like catnip for me. The Fujifilm 56mm, with an aperture of f1.2, should have been perfect. I love taking portraits and love shallow depth of field. This lens should have ticked all the boxes.
But it didn’t.
Why I didn’t like it
So, I’m going to preface everything I’m about to write with the following statement: “I’ve never owned a fast portraiture lens like this before” I say this because a lot of my problems with this lens probably have less to do with this specific lens and more to do with this type of lens. The ultrafast portrait lens.
My first problem was with the depth of field. It was so shallow that any, and I do mean any, movement of your subject will cause your image to be blurry. At 1.2 there is no room for error. Your shot must be perfect or you won’t get your shot.
Now I need to describe my photography to help put my thoughts in perspective. I don’t usually have the luxury of going out solely for the purpose of taking pictures. My photography is ancillary to my life rather than the other way around. I usually take pictures whole I’m doing other things. Candid photography and environmental portraiture is a lot of what I like to do.
I shoot my kids a lot, just like any other proud papa. Trying to get a toddler to hold still while you dial in the perfect focus simply isn’t going to happen. You can always stop the lens down, but then why have a lens with an aperture of 1.2?
That alone wouldn’t have made me sell the lens, to be honest. It was a combination of things. The next reason for me selling the lens is because of the close focusing distance; it ain’t that close. I like to be able to get close in to my subjects, and this lens simply doesn’t allow for it. It’s hard to describe, but I constantly felt like I was simultaneously too far away and too close. This leads to awkward framing and missed shots due to the inability to focus closely.
Keep in mind, I’m not saying that you can’t get close with this lens. I’m saying that it just wasn’t right for the distances I typically shoot at.
Lastly, this lens is heavy. I really like a chunky piece of glass and this lens looks absolutely amazing on the front of a Fujifilm x-pro or x-e series camera. However, the whole point of mirrorless cameras is to shed weight and size. What good is a svelte camera body when you screw a gigantic lens on the front. This isn’t the biggest lens in the world and if it weren’t for the other faults I certainly could have lived with it.
All in all, I ended up selling the lens for a profit. I’m glad I bought it and tried it, but it simply wasn’t for me. It’s a great lens, but it’s not for me.
Whos this lens for?
This lens is for a very specific kind of portrait photographer. You need to take pictures predominantly of subjects that can remain still. I would recommend this lens to photographers who shoot in the studio under controlled circumstances. However, even shooting at the lowest iso on the fastest shutter speed, the aperture of f1.2 can be tough to work with in natural light without an nd filter.
I shot portraits of my friends in my home studio with strobes and an nd filter and absolutely loved it. However, this type of photography is rare for me, but it excelled at it. This was the only time I really started to understand what this lens is for.
I also think that wedding photographers will love this lens. I’ve photographed weddings and it certainly helps to have some longer fast primes to help fill the frame when you can’t get that close. Additionally, at weddings you kind of know your marks and people generally don’t move much or erratically.
These two types of photographers will probably love this lens, but everyone else would probably be better off with the 60mm 2.4. It’s right around the same focal length, it’s fast enough (though nowhere near as fast as the 56mm), and much more useful (being a macro lens as well). Additionally, you can buy about 3 of the 60mm for the same cost as the 56mm. Also, the slow autofocus of the 60mm has been overblown and it focuses almost as fast as the 56mm. If you’re really worried about the autofocus and the slower aperture, then take a look at my favorite lens of all time, the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4.
I'm really surprised that I didn't end up loving this lens. It ended up being a good thing because I was able to sell it for a gain and I already had the 60mm. I had always dreamed of the day I would be able to get an ultrafast portrait lens. I expected this lens to be the 35mm 1.4 on steroids and it turns out they are completely different lenses entirely, and the 56mm was a lens I didn’t really have a use for.
The reason I wrote this review is that I’m sure there are a ton of people out there who are just like me. They are drooling over this lens and counting their pennies until the day they can get it. The point of this review is that, unless you are one of the two kinds of photographers listed above, you might want to skip it.