Addendum: The XF56 APD Vs The XF56R Part Three

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Continuing the blog serialisation of my popular X-Pro Series lust/hate/love story:

Part 75: Addendum: The XF56 APD Vs The XF56R Part Three

Continuing on from last week’s post (click here if you missed it) I promised to show you the two 56 lenses and how they rendered side-by-side

I wanted to take a look at:

Focusing speed
And the claim that there’s no actual DOF difference between the two lenses

But bore we get to that, let’s have a quick recap:

Fujifilm lent me a XF56APD and I wrote a 4 part review of this lens which you can read by clicking on these links:

Part One ¦ Part Two ¦ Part Three ¦ Part Four

Recently due to a bit of mix up, Fujifilm ended up re-lending me the APD (it was supposed to be the 50 F2 WR)

Last time I showed test shots featuring Minnie Mouse (who long term readers might remember from previous articles 🙂 ) Well as promised here’s some more

The shot above is from the APD, the 56R is below

As with Minnie – let’s see come crops:

The APD, the 56R is below

These shots were taken further back from the subject than Minnie was. For me, this is the shot that has the least amount of differences in the “bokeh” (sic) the background is fairly uniform in the crop and quite far away, so the APD is smoothing blur.

But here I’m really starting to wonder if I was a little bit hasty to state that the APD offers no difference in DOF than the 56R. I mean clearly there is… the 56R is demonstrating less in-focus areas than the APD. I’ve read that this is because the physical APD filter acts like an aperture and perhaps it does… It might also be a combination of the darker nature of the APD shots combined with a shaving off of the rough edges of the OOF areas (compared to the 56R), giving the impression of greater depth. Whatever, it’s there though…. (Note to self: don’t make sweeping statements any more)

So the (apparent or otherwise) differences in DOF become more noticeable when we’re further back from the subject.

So let’s get further back!

APD above (Again!), 56R below

And now the crops (APD is the top image)

The 56R shot

Now here things less ambiguous, we’re quite far away from the focus point (which is the first old oil drum, not pictured in the crop) and clearly the DOF of the APD is greater than that of the 56R. You can make out the foliage on the other side of the fence, the grey barrel and the blue thing next to it are blatantly sharper, and this perceived acuity (be it actually sharpness / APD ‘simulated’ aperture ring DOF / a darker image or a combination of all three) is plain to see.

So which is better – well that clearly has no correct answer, I guess you could stop the 56R down a smidge to get a deeper DOF, or take the edges off the OOF areas to smooth then out in post, but the APD is offering these things au naturel

The biggest bearing on this question – is of course you. I doubt anyone buys a XF56 to live by the maxim of F8 and be there so if you wanted the mid length tele with the most shallow DOF, then the 56R will be the one.

So which one should I have bought?

Well I’m trying to not like the APD… I already have the 56R and Fujifilm are lovely in lending me stuff, but they have a nasty habit of asking for it back. So it’s best I don’t get too attached

The actual differences are very small…. The regular 56 produces the impression or the reality of less DOF (so true bokeh connoisseurs are better served by the APD, because the out of focus specular highlights are rounder, but shallow DOF junkies will get higher from the 56R)

The APD can be quite painful to focus… if something is moving, or if the light is low then you’ll need your best Donnie Brasco ‘Fuhgeddaboudit‘ impression

In summary, at normal viewing sizes and distances the 56R provides a very similar image to the APD and offers you the chance to get that image faster, in a wider range of lighting conditions, often whilst using less ISO or more SS to do so. The price of this versatility is the biggest difference between them, the 56R is significantly less money.

So to be 100% clear on that – the 56R is less coin, to shoot in a wider envelope with a faster operational speed.

It ought to be a no brainer = the 56R all day long, you can shoot more stuff, in more places, whilst spending less cash to do so, whilst getting images that are ‘broadly speaking’ the same

But for some shots – you get the APD pointed at the right subject, at the right distance, with the right background and it really is a little gem, well actually a rather bespoke gem, but a gem nevertheless!

To my eye, the best of APD images (I don’t mean mine per se) have that little magical (sic) quality that we like to argue about on photography forums, a 3D pop and feel that’s not QUITE the same as the 56R, the (admittedly slight) smoother edges to OOF areas and the greater DOF (apparent or other wise) inform the eye of all in the frame, whilst leaving the viewer in no doubt what the subject is. It’s not about the shape of the highlight balls, it’s not about what is or is not in focus, there’s just a beautiful creamy transition throughout the shot, from front to rear and when the camera is pointed at the right thing, I find it very, very pleasing.

So no brainer it may be (get the 56R) but as a no hearter well…. My heart flutters a little to the capabilities of the APD…. But you’ll have to listen to your own cardiologist on that one

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