All things considered, is there a more desirable lens line on the planet right now than Fuji XF? In fact, mid-2014 also seems to be smack-dab in the middle of Fujifilm's moment. It's just on one great big roll right now. Everything coming up sevens.
In just a few years, Fuji has created a coherent, consistent line of all-new lenses that essentially have it all when you consider all the factors that impinge on desirability—size, weight, performance, handling, specs, and consumer cost. Expensive but attainable, fast but not too big, sensational image quality—nothing clearly beats it for general non-specialist photography even now, and users have faith that the vaporware on the lens roadmap will show up when Fuji says it will. The company's track record has been excellent. All that is priceless.
That's why I was amused/appalled to come across two conflicting headlines on Fujirumors:
April 2014: "New Source: X-PRO2 will feature a Full Frame sensor. Initially 3 to 5 FF lenses!"
May 2014: "X-PRO2 will feature an APS-C sensor! (trusted source)"
Well, one of those might turn out to be right.
Evolving perfection: The sensible yet spectacular XF lineup. Due soon: the pro normal zoom, a fast constant-aperture 16–55mm that will be weatherproof and have image stabilization. Ideal for the X-T1.
Profit is like heroin to companies. Fuji camera division executives are probably looking at Sony raking in the bucks with the A7 series and it's gnawing at their intestines like a hungry hyena. However, they'd be shooting themselves in the foot to make an interchangeable-lens camera with a 24x36mm sensor now. No, scratch that: they'd be shooting themselves in the head*.
We've all heard that Sony wants to break the Canikon duopoly and become a major cameramaker. Sadly, it will fail at that goal.
Its Achilles' heel will do it in. Brief recap on Achilles: he was the mighty Greek hero of the siege of Troy. To make him invincible, his mother dipped him in the River Styx as a baby, the magic waters of which reached every part of him but the place where she gripped him by the heel. Later, he was killed by a poison arrow which hit him—lucky shot—on the heel. The ancient Greeks loved to explain things with confabulated stories that involved completely implausible back-formations—they'd all be considered mad as hatters in the modern world—reading Homer just makes me want to slap people—but never mind: the point is that the story gave us a nice expression. An "Achilles' heel" means a weakness which will fatally undermine fundamental stength.
Fundamental strength: a coherent, comprehensive lens line that consumers feel safe investing in and are confident will continue.
All you have to do to know why a full-frame X-Pro2 would be a miserable idea is to imagine yourself as an owner of an X-Pro1 and three lenses. How would you feel?
Alternately, you could just imagine yourself owning any Sony interchangeable-lens camera now**.
About that last, a quick question: If you're a Sony owner, and you frequent any forums whatesoever, have you ever written that you'd really like for Sony to release an X lens for Y camera? Of course you have. A Sony camera owner who is completely satisfied with the lens options for his or her camera is the owner of a fixed-lens Sony camera.
Well, there are certainly other options for lenses. Photographers have never had more or better lenses to choose from that right this historical minute. Canikon have extensive lines for the flippin'-mirror 35mm-legacy cameras that people are beginning to not buy; Pentax has stuck with APS-C and makes many sweet lenses that have no counterparts in other lines; Micro 4/3 has a delightful motley of all kinds of lenses from a variety of makers—anyone who cannot window-shop an appealing Micro 4/3 lens arsenal isn't trying very hard.
But there is something exquisitely special about the XF lineup.
And lens lineups are what ensure long-term health. Even if you have to start over from scratch once in a while***. Sony is doing it all wrong, all wrong. Fuji is doing all right. So far.
*Pardon the metaphor density of that paragraph. We'll speak to the writer.
**Lest the teenagers out on the forums dismiss me as a h8er, I'm a Sony fan and a Sony owner. I have two.
Original contents copyright 2014 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Gordon Lewis: "I agree. For the sake of elaboration, Sony has three separate lens lines: one for its DSLRs, one for APS mirrorless, and a third for full-frame mirrorless. Cross-compatability between lens lines is limited and requires bulky adapters. Many of their lenses are already relatively bulky to begin with. No one, including Sony, seems to know what lenses they will introduce next or when or for which line. I suspect for reason for this state of affairs is that Sony views lenses more as 'accessories' than as the raison d'être for a camera line."
Hugh Smith: "Fuji ( I seem to recall) back in the '70s attempted their beautiful STX but it never took off. This time around, they are killin' it and show no signs of stopping. I for one, love my X series. My two pesos."
SeanG: "Indeed. Had an A7 briefly. The all-too-familiar angst I had with the A700 and NEX-5 returned. The X-Pro1 (with 18mm ƒ/2 and 35mm ƒ/1.4) are quite satisfying. Cheers!"
Aaron: "Fuji's lens lineup is exactly why I owned a X-E1 and now have a X-T1. Not only do they get it, they're the only company that gets it. Even the basic kit lens is terrific: useful range, small, sturdy and a full stop faster than all the other kit lenses out there. I've yet to be disappointed with any of the Fuji-X lenses I've purchased."
Steven Scharf: "I don't think there is 'a more desirable lens line on the planet right now than Fuji XF.' The X-Pro1 was my introduction to Fuji's interchangeable lenses, and its lens lineup at that time was far more limited at that time that it is now, but the Fuji lenses have proven, in my experience, to be the most pleasant surprise and the real jewel in the crown of the Fujifilm X-system. There's several X-bodies that provide superb images, including the X-Pro1, X-T1, etc., and even the completely overlooked little X-A1, but it's the lenses that really define this system as becoming one of the finest on the market. I've been so impressed, in fact, that I've now come to the conclusion that they are amongst the finest lenses I've ever used. The 18–55mm 'kit zoom' is as good as any Canon L standard zoom I've shot with, and the Fujifilm XF 14mm ƒ/2.8 and XF 23mm ƒ/1.4 primes are truly spectacular. I'm really waiting for that constant-aperture ƒ/2.8 16–55 'pro zoom.' Yowza."
Eric Onore (partial comment): "I believe the lack of Sony lenses for the E mount at least is overstated. Here is a partial list... [See the Comments Section for Eric's list —Ed.] I will also note that Fuji rolled out the X-Pro1 with three lenses and no zooms. Sony rolled out the A7 and A7r with two primes and two zooms. The primes are of particularly good quality based on testing websites (I don't own either system). It remains to be seen if Sony will support full frame as well as Fuji has supported its system, but it is too early to declare that Sony doesn't get it."
Michael Steinbach (partial comment): "Fujifilm should get an award for understanding what enthusiasts want."
Eddie Davis: "It appears that the majority of people are linking their passion and degree of success to a particular camera maker being based on what that camera maker has done in regards to their lens lineup. Applying that logic to many other camera brands is probably an honest way of knowing whether that company stands behind its camera. However, applying it to the Sony A7, and you are no longer comparing apples to apples, as it is a model of camera that is not dependent on its own lens lineup. The new Sony FE Mount is something altogether different. As far as I am aware there is not another camera manafacturer that has done anything similar in producing a body that can use pretty much almost any lens in existence."
Robert Roaldi: "I remember reading in Road & Track magazine years ago that the problem with GM (at that time) was that nobody in their senior management actually drove cars. They were all finance corporate types who were chauffeured everywhere. I wonder if the people at Fuji responsible for this array of products spend their weekends taking pictures. If I won a lottery, I'd buy everything they make just to reward them."
Mike replies: ...In the same way that NBC News covers commercial aviation every night because Brian Williams flies all the time and thinks everybody else does too.
And funny you should mention GM, because Ford has one big problem starting this very day: Alan Mulally retired today. He was a car guy who started from a love of cars and knew what car people liked. He knew that the company's success started from a vision of one customer buying one car. Ford is going to wish they could clone that guy. A clear thinker.
Paulo Bizarro: "I think Sony make more interesting cameras than Fuji, but Fuji make more interesting lenses than Sony.
"Given the nature of the companies (electronics giant versus smaller company), Fuji have to stay more focused, and that is what they are doing. I have used a small Fuji X system for a while, wonderful lenses indeed, but fidgety cameras. Never used Sony, because I place lenses before cameras. In the end, I have settled with Olympus OM-D E-M1, a system that provides wonderful lenses and cameras."
Mike replies: My head is leading me in the same direction. My heart is more fickle.... :-)
Fabio Riccardi (partial comment): "I bought both the Sony A7 and the Fuji X-T1, both of them with a reasonable set of lenses for a 'complete' system.
"After a couple of months of usage, I decided to keep the Sony and sell the Fuji. Quite frankly the quality of the images I was getting out of the A7 is unbeatable. Even though the X-T1 is a really cute and fun to use camera—and yes, it has lots of lenses to choose from—I found myself gravitating towards the A7 way more than the X-T1.
"The Sony's sensor is in a completely different league than the Fuji's, and pretty much so is the rest of the camera. The 55mm Sony/'Zeiss' lens is one of the most amazing pieces of glass I've ever seen, breathtaking. The 35mm is pretty good, though a bit to expensive, and the 24–70mm is 'OK.'
"Theoretically, the Fuji's 18–55mm is a better lens than the Sony/'Zeiss' 24–70mm. But in practice, when I compare pictures taken with both camera systems side by side, the A7+24–70mm runs circles around the the X-T1+18–55mm, under any possible circumstance. That's it."
Jim Woodard: "I own two Sonys, NEX-6 and A7, and two Fujis, X-E1 and X-T1. The Sonys are much easier (IMHO) to shoot my old OM, Nikkor, and Leica mount lenses with than the Fujis. When I bought the Sonys (A7 as a backup for my D700), I planned to use mostly those legacy lenses. Then I bought the Fujis, with the same plan, and wasn't as pleased with their ease of use with the older lenses.
"But!! I did get hooked by the Fuji lenses, totally! Except for that same aperture ring issue you brought up. Hooked enough that I haven't been shooting with much but the Fujis for the past few months."