Fuji XF100-400 Review - The Overrated Photographer

Fuji XF100-400F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Review

Introduction

There isn't a lot of choice when it comes to long lenses from Fujifilm. There is Fuji XF100-400 or the...ummm...nope, that's it. You could potentially look at the XF50-140 with a tele converter, but it doesn't really play in the same range as the XF100-400 which is a 150-600 by full frame standards, and my experience with 2x converters is frankly pretty dismal from a loss of IQ perspective.

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 1000, Focal length 60mm,  Aperture f/2.8, Shutter 1/125

Pricing

For some, the XF100-400 is an elusive lens largely because of the unpalatable price, for others, it may just be elusive because Fujifilm picked the longest name in history, and people can't remember what it is when they go to camera stores. R LM OIS WR? Was all that necessary? It's not like you have a non R LM version of this lens!

Name aside, realistically from a market perspective, it's not actually that expensive when you compare it to similar options like a Tamron, Sigma or a Nikon equivalents, which are relatively common in DSLR land. Buy during Fujifilm’s cash back period and you’ll save yourself a couple of hundred which could put the pricing under the A$2,000 mark.

Fuji X-T2 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, ISO 250, Focal length 243mm, Aperture f/5.0, Shutter 1/1250

Packaging and construction

The XF100-400mm comes packaged in the usual Fujifilm boxes. It's like the up-scaled the XF50-140mm, no surprises there. Big lenses come in big boxes. It comes with the usual assortment, lens, hood, lens cloth/pouch made of a soft material. The packaging is good, clean and tasteful. Whilst Fujifilm only provide a soft pouch, when you're spending upwards of $2000 for a lens, I honestly think a good soft case would have been a better option, something similar to the soft case offered on the Nikon 70-200. This is after all, a fairly expensive lens and currently the most expensive in the Fujifilm X series range.

Construction is in line with the rest of the Fuji XF red table lens, good solid metal construction with waterproofing all around. Fuji seems to have addressed one of my major gripes with this lens. I can't believe I'm saying this but the hood is good. Yes, it may seem impossible but Fujifilm have supplied a good stock hood with a lens, and it’s one that doesn't need to be replaced. I was ready to throw the book at Fujifilm in this section for another crapy hood and then Fujifilm go and pull this on us. Seriously Fujifilm, this is what a real hood looks like. It goes on easily, it has a little button to lock it in place, and it has decent construction. It's good. Whoever designed this needs to be promoted along with firing the people who designed the other crappy hoods like the one on the XF50-140.

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 400, Focal length 60mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/125

The foot on the lens is removable although I thought Fujifilm could have done a lot better. I’m not sure why manufacturers continue to produce lens feet that don’t incorporate an Arca Swiss mount. It would cost them virtually nothing to add this to the lens foot and would save their customers a bit of money in the process. Yes, I understand that some customers may use Manfroto mounts, but adding arca with a tripod mount would at least solve the problem for 70% of their customers.

Weight is heavy, as you'd expect from a lens of this size although surprising enough, the size without the lens extended is smaller than I expected. It’s not a great deal bigger than the XF50-140. Mounted on the X-T2, this thing is a still monster compared to any prime you are used to, add the battery grip and it becomes balanced. Put it on a smaller body and it looks like you have a disposable camera attached. Even with the X-E3 grip attached, I suspect this will look awkward although it's still usable because your support will always be on the lens, not the body.

Fuji X-T2 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, ISO 500, Focal length 400mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/1000

Features and Handling

Handling with the XF100-400 is surprisingly good. I say surprisingly because I had read a lot about the weight of the XF100-400 prior to buying it, and let’s be honest, it is a heavy lens by Fujifilm standards, but it’s also quite reasonable from a weight perspective. Handholding for an extended period of time can get a little heavy and I would recommend buying a shoulder strap like the Blackrapid of RRS to allow you to give your arms a break every once and a while. Neck straps attached to the camera are obviously not recommended for the lens of this size.

The lens handled impeccably with the exception of strong side winds where the length of cause the lens to be blown sideways. This is not unique to the 100-400 and is likely to apply to any long lens. This is easily solved with a monopod but one of the challenges is the movement of the rider can limit the option to use monopods as it isn’t easy to keep the rider in frame with a monopod so I guess it’s a case of compromises.

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 400, Focal length 60mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/125

The XF100-400 offers OIS rated to about 5 stops. The nice thing with the 100-400 focal length is that it becomes easy to see where the OIS impacts the image because switching it on or off changes the view through the viewfinder from a nervous shakey view to a stable image. If you’re ever a little unsure about OIS on the lens, try some video with it on and off and you should have your answer on how well it works.

I tested the lens with the Blue Blood Moon that occured and at 1/4 on a monopod, the photos were surprisingly clear. Typically you don't want to go below about 1/60 for moon shots but the OIS seemed to do a good job of keeping it fairly clear. Happy to be corrected if this isn't possible.

Fuji X-T2 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, ISO 1250, Focal length 400mm, Aperture f/5.6 Shutter 1/4

The XF100-400 uses an odd approach with a freeflowing aperture ring and an auto aperture button. I prefer the more rigid ring with clicks offered on the XF50-140, I found it a little easy to adjust the aperture unintentionally. I’m not sure why they used this approach with this lens. There is a focus limiter to improve the AF speed by limiting focal length from 5m - ~ which is great but you have to remember to take it off when you move to shorter ranges. I do like the lock which can be enabled to keep the lens in it’s compact form.

Fuji X-T2 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, ISO 320, Focal length 400mm, Aperture f/5.6 Shutter 1/1250

Autofocus

To test the AF, I decided to take it out for some kitesurfing. Kitesurfing falls into the mid tier as far as AF challenges go. Depending on where you are, the AF system on most cameras can be thrown off by the a variety of items like the water spray, the waves etc although there may be less problems when the kiteboader is in the air against a clean background. The autofocus in this case is very good. It isn’t as good as the XF50-140 but that’s hardly surprisingly. I suspect most people are going to have more challenges keeping the lens on the subject at the longer end than the AF system not keeping up.

Where it did suffer was low light. I noticed a considerable difference with the AF when you started to get to low light conditions that forced the ISO up around the 6400 or 12800 mark where the AF seemed like it simply wasn't working. AF-S seems to work better in these areas, but obviously doesn't work for moving subjects.

Fuji X-T2 with XF60mmF2.4 R Macro, ISO 400, Focal length 60mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/125

Image quality and sharpness

I had heard mixed reports about the image quality of the XF100-400 with a lot of reference on the technique. I personally haven’t had any issues with the image quality on the lens, to me it’s impeccable and I don’t consider my technique to be particular sound or special. It might come down to the shutter speeds I’m shooting at, the majority of which are upwards of 1/1000.

It’s not as sharp as the XF50-140 but it’s still very good as the images here show, and it’s important to note that it is covering a broad zoom range. With the combination of crop and f4.5-f5-6 aperture, the DOF is acceptable but can’t match the primes and in some cases, the bokeh may look a little messy. I’m interested to see how the 200f2 compares with and without the extenders as I suspect that may resolve this issue, at a considerably higher price obviously.

Fuji X-T2 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, ISO 320, Focal length 196mm, Aperture f/5.6, Shutter 1/1250

Conclusion

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the XF100-400. Its not perfect by any respect, there are small niggles that spoil an otherwise perfect lens, but it’s still very good and more than acceptable for the price range on offer. It may not make the grade for dedicated sports photographers that demand the level of sharpness provided by a prime lens, but at a $2000 price point, I don’t think it should be expected to excel to that level and that’s where the 200f2 will fill the gap. Until that time, it is the only long lens available and it’s still exceptional. If you are Fujifilm user in the market for a long lens and don’t have a $5000+ budget and the time to wait for the 200f2, I’d highly recommend this.

Fuji X-T2 with XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, ISO 640, Focal length 400mm, Aperture f/6.4, Shutter 1/2000

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