Beach Bokeh Boo! The Fuji 50mm f/1.0 compared to the 56mm f/1.2
There is far more to a lens than bokeh—the character of the out-of-focus areas—but with an f/1 lens set wide open the out-of-focus areas of the image are a major factor in the nature of the image. Blur, in this case, is a key compositional tool.
With Fuji’s new high-speed lens we have blur galore but Fuji already had a lens nearly as fast and almost the same focal length. There’s a difference between f/1.0 and f/1.2 and we will see that difference just as there’s a difference between 50mm and 56mm and we will see that difference, too.
The question isn’t is there a difference—there is, we know that without looking. The question also isn’t can you see the difference. Of course you’ll be able to see the difference. The real question is does the difference matter. The f/1.0 lens is much larger than the f/1.2 lens and it is more expensive as well.
The f/1.0 lens may simply be superior to the f/1.2, or even the other way around. It is also possible that each will offer interesting characteristics different from the other and can play separate roles in a photographer’s kit. We will see.
To help clarify the differences between the lenses I took both to the beach here on the California coast. I shot the images handheld and made, in most cases, an attempt to step back a bit with the 56mm to reduce the effect of the change in focal length on the composition. Sometimes, due to the rocky, undulating rock I was working on, stepping back was not an option.
There is no click for f/1.2 on the 50mm so I shot two images, one at f/1.0 and another at f/1.3. The 56mm I shot at f/1.2. The focus point on each image was the same, although the framing varies a bit, notably after I changed lenses. The camera was otherwise set to auto, though I used exposure compensation when facing the sun—my shutter speed was on the edge of being maxed out and on backlit shots it was all too much. I did have two 4x NDs with me, one for each lens, but I was worried about introducing another glass surface in those shots.
Later, after dark, I walked down the block from my house and made a few more images of two neighborhood Halloween yard displays that seemed ready-made for studying the bokeh of each lens. I added a few more of the lights on my deck, with the focus point placed near, far, and in the middle.
The photographs are below, unedited except for applying “Pre sharpening 2” in Capture One before exporting to JPEG.
Today I discovered that Capture One has a useful facility to add exposure data as a text “watermark” to your exported images, so I have done that here, placing the aperture and shutter speed of the image in the bottom right corner of the image area.
A few usage notes. Taking the same two lenses on and off again revealed a few industrial design issues with the lenses. In both cases but especially on the 50mm the aperture ring is too easy to move. I repeatedly bumped the f/1.0 to f/1.1 and had to check and re-check the setting. The 56mm was especially problematic as it does not provide a ready surface with which to grasp the lens to turn it to lock into the mount or to unlock and remove it. You are forced to hold onto the focus and aperture rings to rotate the lens—but both rings rotate as well, not only making the lens difficult to spin but changing your aperture setting willy nilly in the process. Finally, the hoods do not properly lock—a long-time annoyance for me—and I found on the 56mm the hood position needed to be checked and reset often as I was sometimes utilizing it to aid in rotating the lens.
Also, I had trouble—more than usual—with autofocusing with the 56mm with repeated mis-focuses which was frustrating, more so than I was used to with this particular lens. However, last night Fuji published a firmware update for my camera, the X-T3, which gives it the excellent focusing amity of the newer X-T4, and in my brief tests with the 56mm the focusing speed and accuracy are greatly improved.
Comparison photographs, California Coast, 50mm at f/1 and f/1.3, 56mm at f/1.2.
Comparison photographs, Halloween, 50mm at f/1 and f/1.3, 56mm at f/1.2.
Comparison photographs, Deck Lights, 50mm at f/1 and f/1.3, 56mm at f/1.2, near, mid, and far focus points.