Just In! Fujinon GF 50mm f/3.5R LM WR

We recently received our first shipment of Fujinon GF 50mm f/3.5 lenses for Fujifilm’s medium format GFX camera system. This compact lens, equivalent to a 40mm lens on a 35mm full-frame camera, could almost be considered a “pancake” lens in medium format terms (that is, if you like your pancakes really thick!) since it is a fair bit slimmer than any of Fujifilm’s other GF lenses. It is also the least expensive lens you can buy for the GFX system since it retails for a mere $1,399, an absolute bargain for a modern, medium format, high quality autofocus lens. As with all the other GF lenses, the WR designation means it is a weather-resistant design too. As you can see, we also got our demo lens, so feel free to drop by any time to check it out.

Similar to some compact lenses from other manufacturers, it also has quite a small, somewhat unusual lens hood design with both a larger lens-cap (not shown in the below photo) that fits on the lens’ 62mm threads when you are not using the supplied hood, and a second much smaller 43mm cap that fits inside the front of the lens-hood’s opening…

Here is a shot of the lens with its hood screwed on…

Having a small, low-profile hood like that certainly keeps the lens very compact and it pairs up beautifully with a GFX 50R, making a well balanced and “near coat-pocketable” package, although make no mistake, your coat would need fairly large pockets to accommodate this! Unlike Fujifilm’s XF 27mm pancake lens for their compact X-system, the GF 50mm thankfully retains its aperture ring, meaning consistent operation when compared to all the other GF lenses you might already own. The focusing ring and aperture ring feel fantastic, and the lens feels as solid and well-made in the hand as all the other GF lenses…

You might be wondering how it performs optically and whether or not the relatively low cost and/or compact design mean optical compromises? While I haven’t shot anything worth sharing (just boring photos in front of the store), I am actually surprised at how good it seems to be. Two compromises I’ve seen with pancake-style lenses, significant linear distortion and/or field curvature, fortunately seem almost totally absent. Even with software lens corrections switched off, there is only very minimal native barrel distortion, quite a bit less, in fact, than the GF 45mm f/2.8 which is otherwise an excellent lens. Examining the corners of the frame on more distant subjects reveals surprisingly good detail sharpness too, even at wide apertures, with no significantly obvious field curvature causing a dramatic loss of sharpness. Once you are at f/8, extreme corners are razor sharp and even wide open, the center is razor sharp. I did not have a chance to test it for flare performance as yet, shooting into the sun for example.

As far as issues, there is a slight loss of contrast or haziness at the extreme corners of the frame at the widest apertures, almost a low contrast glow of sorts since details still retain good sharpness. I have not had a chance to do any wide-open night cityscapes, which would be very telling as far as image quality near the edges and corners at wide apertures, so I can’t be sure how acceptable corner sharpness might be in scenarios like that? I should also note that bokeh can be rather nervous, with some obvious outlining, and there is some loss of roundness of out-of-focus highlights near the corners too (mechanical vignetting at wide apertures), but considering how small the front element is, it was actually less than I had expected. There is also a bit of colour fringing along extreme contrast edges when wide open and there is some overall vignetting in the  corners as well, but not as much as I thought there’d be. I would suggest that the GF 45mm lens is the slightly better optic when considering those negatives, but then it is larger and costs over $700 more. Also, I should note that none of the above issues are serious; the lens is actually an extremely good performer and only compared to some of the other incredible GF lenses does it fall a little short. Lastly, since we are still waiting on our demo GFX 100, I cannot say how well it performs there since I’ve only tested it on a 50MP GFX body. My gut feeling is that stopped down, it will be more than up to the task though.

If it were my money, I am quite certain that I would choose the 50mm over the 45mm actually. When doing night shots, I’d likely be using a tripod and stopping the lens down, and stopped down, it is razor sharp corner to corner. If I were using it for a wide aperture portrait, as long as the background is further away and significantly out of focus, the bokeh is actually decent, not distracting, and it’s only when you have specular highlights that are just slightly away from the plane of focus, do you get obvious outlining of the blur circles.

A great, simple kit for me would be the 23mm, this 50mm and the 110mm, although I would honestly be happier personally with something like a compact 85mm or 90mm f/2.8 or even f/3.5. The large 23mm is just too fantastic a prime ultra-wide lens not to own, since I do love ultra-wide shots, but I would prefer keeping my other lenses as small and light as possible for my (hypothetical) GFX 50R kit. Don’t get me wrong though: the 110mm f/2 is a spectacular lens, and I would be hard pressed not to buy one if I had a GFX system, but it would just make the whole kit a little larger than I’d personally like, so I’d also want something like a slower and more compact 85mm for general carry. In any case, overall I am impressed with the new GF 50mm; yet another fine optic for Fujifilm’s GFX system!

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