The XF50 and the XF56: Part One – The Non-Comparison

Following on from the series where we compared the two XF23 lenses, and as a companion to the yet unwritten series where we’ll be comparing the two XF35 lenses, today we’re going to talk about the XF50 and the XF56.

Let’s say up front: that of the three pairs, the 50 and 56 are the least comparable.

The two 23s share a focal length (well they do on the spec sheet, but the 23/F2 lens is actually wider than the F1.4 variant) but one is significantly bigger, heavier and more expensive.

The two 35s also share a focal length, but are a lot closer on price and size (compared to the two 23s)

This in my mind places these pairs in direct competition with each other. Each has pros and cons compared to its sibling and you’ll need to decide which it is that you want to own

But I don’t think we can say the same for the 50/56 pairing.

For starters – they don’t share a focal length!

The 56 may only be 6mm longer, but much as when you compare the 56 to the 60, those few extra millimetres between the 50/56 equate to a noticeable difference of what’s in the frame.

The internet debate around the 23/35 pairings often features the words but it’s only a stop

But the aperture difference and focal length differences (as a general rule of thumb: the longer the lens the more shallow the DOF that is obtainable) between the 50/56 equate to a different ability to render things in and out of focus.

The 50mm opens to F2, the 56 opens to F1.2.

That’s quite a lot folks! With all other exposure values being constant, that’s the difference between ISO 1600 on the 56 and ISO 4800 on the 50 (usually at this point one of you writes in to tell me I’ve got the maths wrong  🙂 )

One area, where I’m very confident of getting the maths right, is the frankly colossal size and price differences between each lens

The cover shot hints at the size differences, but believe  me, in the hand the 56 is a hefty piece of glass.

In the UK, the 56 is retailing at £768.00 and the 50 is £449.00

The 35 F2 and the 50 F2 combined are currently £100 more than the solitary 56, so you can nearly (nearly) have two lenses in more versatile focal lengths for the price of a single 56. You need to invest a sizable chunk of change, and a sizable chunk of desire to take home the sizable 56!

Fujifilm quote 405grams for the 56 and 200grams for the 50.

To put that into real life terms for you, when you first unboxed your X-Pro2, and first held the camera in your hand, free from a battery, strap and SD card – you were holding 445grams of camera.

I weighed my X-Pro2, with battery/strap/SD cards/OEM accessory grip/thumb grip/XF56 and the metal hood* from 23 and that came in at around 1200grams

(* yes it fits, yes it looks great, yes it makes a slight vignette)

If you want to read the full Fujifilm supplied specifications of each lens, you can do that by clicking the following links:  XF56 ¦  XF50

There’s nothing small (apart from the DOF!) about the 56, it’s heavy in the hand, heavy on the camera and heavy on the wallet.

By contrast the 50 is a superb companion to the X-Pro range, as per the other WR F2 lenses, it’s lightweight, has a divine tactile feel to the aperture ring and in great light awesome AF speed.

The 50mm comes up as a 76mm equivalent in FF (dare I call Full Frame ‘old money’ in this modern world of M43 professional lenses, APSC being taken seriously by both Fujifilm and Leica and the new MF cameras from Fujifilm and Hasselblad) and the 56 comes up as a 85mm FF equivalent.

This places the 56 as a competitor to the incumbent and de rigueur FF portrait lenses, giving Fujifilm APSC users a direct competitor to their FF shooting brethren.

There’s a few FF users out there you’ve had their but APSC can’t do shallow DOF like FF can perspective, well let’s broadened  🙂 by the XF56

So what of the 50? The poor tog’s 56?

Well 50mm (76 FF eqv) may just be be one of the most underrated focal lengths in the business (IMO/YMMV)

It’s just a great length to do mid length photography with.

You won’t find yourself nearly walking backwards off of boats and piers or into busy roads trying to get everything in the shot like you can with a 90 (FF eqv)

You don’t have to stop 50mm down to light crushing apertures in order to get a broad DOF.

For my opinion, the XF50 is a mid length general purpose tele, that can turn its hand to portraiture, while the XF56 is a portrait lens that can turn its hand to being a general purpose tele.

It’s a subtle yet very tangible difference.

To me, they’re not so much direct competitors (unlike the 23/35 pairings) as they are aimed at different usage cases and are different focal lengths. They’re not so much sisters or brothers as they are cousins!

But this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take a closer look at the strengths of each lens to see if you should favour one over the other, or perhaps take both!

Join me next week when we’ll take a closer look.

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