The XF56 F1.2R APD: Part3

Continuing the tale of my experience with the XF56 APD lens… I think it’s high time that we saw some images 🙂

Last time (click here if you missed it) I spoke about borrowing the 56 APD lens from Fujifilm, and what makes it different to pretty much every other lens available.

But different for the sake of being different isn’t an end in itself.

Also, everyone said that the AF performance on the 56 APD was woeful (because the APD filter blocks the PDAF pixels from working, coupled with some claims that APD filter also reduced the effectiveness of the CDAF pixels as well)

I typically use manual focus, with back button focus, so AF was not a huge concern to me, but still… AF can be very useful and if the IQ wasn’t as much as I was hoping, then then truncated AF performance is a big price to pay.

The 56 lenses (both versions) are most frequently cited as ‘portrait lenses’ and yes of course they make superb portrait glass.

But… I wanted to see if the APD could add anything to the types of images that I (personally) prefer to take (not that I don’t take the odd portrait here and there, in fact I took about 1500 of them on a job last week!!)

No, I wanted to see if the APD could add anything to my more usual photographical subjects. Which meant street, on location, busy scenes, and grabbing shots when and where I could.

So…

Do recall my diagram of how I was hoping that the APD rendered images?

In case you forgot:

I wanted a contrast relationship between foreground, background and subject that draws the eye to the subject.

Such things are subjective… Here are some test shots.

Ultimately… It’s not for me to say if the lens does what YOU want, it’s only for me to say whether or not it works how I want.


So here’s one of the very first test shots. Personally I’m seeing what I hoped… the contrast to the subject builds then falls off organically.

I had a debate with a photographer (that I know well) about this and we spoke about using software to add this affect. Yes of course it can be done, but one would have to pay attention to ensure the net result was organic. It’s not the same to go from sharp to blurred in one step… and besides.. masking hair and fiddly shapes can be tiresome 🙂

Here’s another shot, again I feel this is lovely smooth transition from in-focus to out of focus areas. If you look at the paving on the ground, it just melts away… the “bokeh” (sic) isn’t too busy and unpleasant.. yes the yellow of the passing bus jars the eye (this isn’t a portfolio shot folks 🙂 ) but the shapes, the leaves in the tree etc haven’t become a mass of spikey shapes.

Of course the regular 56 has a reputation of being razor sharp, even wide open.

How does the APD fare?

Well it’s quite tricky to use such a fast lens (true of the regular 56 too), the fact is very little is in focus at close ranges.


If we look at this shot of a cat (yes, cat shots – I know, I know…) nearly all of it looks soft.


But if we zoom in, we can see that the face is sharp.

One thing I was keen to test the 56 APD with, was low light use. After all, the APD filter is costing us a stop (more or less) of light wide open, compared to the regular 56, and whereas ISO 200 to 400 is hardly any sort of sacrifice, 6400 to 12800 can be.


I really enjoyed the 56 APD at night – it did often push the ISO up more than I was expecting, but then again despite the large front element, it’s still a big amount of lens to fill with light.

In my opinion, the night shots I took had a certain charm to them they gave a night scenes a pleasing look.

Of course the night time, was the time I most noticed the AF performance. This isn’t a 56 APD thing per se most (if not all) mirrorless cameras slow down in the dark.


Back in the sunlight and I was very happy with how the 56 APD performed. Sure it’s no XF35 F2 in terms of bright light AF performance, but with those ‘huge’ focusing elements inside it was never going to be.

I enjoyed the rendering of the images very much. The APD certainly seemed to provide the smooth transitions of contrast that I’d hoped…

…But equally it was big, heavy (in context of my other XF primes); and hard to nail focus with anything that was moving and also commands quite a cost premium over it’s non-APD equipped stablemate.

Next time out, I’ll share some of my personal favourite images (from the ones taken with the 56 APD) and give my overall conclusion.

See you then! (continued here)

July 2017 Since writing this I’ve had a chance to compare the 56 APD to the regular 56R.
You can read this addendum on the following links: Part One ¦ Part Two ¦ Part Three

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