(This post is part of a series of posts reviewing the Fuji 50mm f/1.0 lens.)
Every December gear reviewers Chris and Jordan at DPReview TV put out a video naming the year’s best and worst in cameras and lenses. They make it a trivia game and not only pick winners and losers but they drink, and they drink a lot, shooting shots with each wrong answer. Sometimes they shoot shots with correct answers and sometimes they just seem to shoot shots. I wasn’t clear on the rules.
Their videos are sometimes fun (and informative) to watch, although this year it was all about other YouTubers, people I don’t know and don’t follow and don’t really care about, so it all seemed very “clubby”. But they did drink a drink called a B-52 which, once upon a time, was my favorite. For some reason bartenders in the Washington, DC area didn’t seem to know it and I often had to explain how the beverage was made (basically Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, and Grand Marnier). Once, they curdled the cream in the Bailey’s and I didn’t catch it until I started drinking it. That was lovely. Maybe B-52s are a regional thing and I was in the wrong region?
As Chris and Jordon played their game and drank their drinks they eventually—towards the end when they were not quite sober—came to the worst lens of 2020 and I was surprised to see they chose the Fuji 50mm f/1.0, the lens I recently reviewed here. If this is the worst lens of the year then this must have been an extraordinary year of extraordinary lenses but, no, they didn’t like it because it was soft, by which they meant that it was soft wide open at f/1.0.
On all lenses you expect a smidgen of softness wide open and with fast lenses you tolerate a little more softness to gain that speed and with ultra-fast lenses you just get what you get. This is why you see so few ultra-fast lenses. Their performance wide open is intolerable.
When the Fuji 50mm f/1.0 came out I bought a copy—not something sent by Fuji—and I made a few images and shared them here. It’s true that with a RAW file (that is to say, unsharpened) there is a slight fuzziness when you zoom in to 100% on your screen. But this clears up nicely with sharpening raised to only a moderate degree. Is this the sharpest lens I’ve ever seen? Well, no, but it is sharp and sharp enough.
Using an f/1.0 lens can be a little tricky. A slight misfocus and you are in trouble because the depth of field is so thin. When you are a little off it shows. And, unfortunately, due to Fuji’s unusual sensor chip technology, not all processing software brings out the good things in the Fuji file. Adobe products, no so good. Capture One, the winner.
I went back and had a look at the images I shot with the Fuji 50mm f/1.0 for the review and I made crops of them so you can better see for yourself if the lens is sharp or unsharp wide open. The first two images are from a RAW file, the rest from JPEGs at the X-T3’s standard settings. I applied sharpening to all using Capture One’s “Soft image sharpening 1” to get them in the ballpark of how they would actually look if processed. Note that you can probably apply additional sharpening to the RAWs without any problems and also note that by applying sharpening to the JPEGs that they have thus been sharpened twice—once due to the camera’s JPEG setting and then again in post. This can all be fine-tuned to the subject’s needs and the photographer’s taste but this will you a good idea of what the lens can do. Other than the sharpening and perhaps a slight levels adjustment these images have not been processed.
Crop of the image on the left, full image on the right for reference. Click to enlarge (and to avoid fuzziness caused by the web display software). Once you are in “gallery mode” you’ll see a link to view a full-sized image.
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I totally agree on the whole sharpness fetish thing. In fact, I bought an older Noctilux f/1 precisely for the dreamy feel vs. the newer, more clinical (and expensive) f/0.95 version. Lately I’ve been fooling around with an Aero Ektar on a Speed Graphic for the same reason.
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