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Fuji 56mm f/1.2

Fuji 56mm lens

One of the very first Fuji 56mm f/1.2 lenses in North America found its way into my hands a few months ago and I’ve been shooting with it ever since as it has become my go-to portrait lens for the Fuji X-Mount system.  The Fuji 56mm f/1.2 is both sharp where it needs to be and has a pleasing, smooth bokeh in the out of focus areas helping to nicely isolate your subject from the background.


James A Martin

Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 1/600
Aperture: f/1.2
Focal Length: 56mm
ISO: 200

So, how does the lens perform?  This portrait was an informal shot made in available light in the middle of a lunchroom of James A. Martin, during a visit to Janelia Farm back in March.  The lens grabbed his attention and he came over to introduce himself and to see the camera (Fuji X-T1 and this lens).  You can see the razor thin focal plane of this lens when opened wide up at f/1.2, but you can also see how sharp it is within the plane of focus as well as the beautiful out of focus quality or bokeh.  Like I said, its the new go-to lens for portraits.


Bryan William Jones self portrait_

Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 1/480
Aperture: f/1.2
Focal Length: 56mm
ISO: 1,600

If you pair the 56mm Fuji lens with the X-T1, you get remote control which can be rather convenient for making your own passport photos… or mugshots.  Seriously though, unless you pick up an older Nikon, Canon, Leica or other lens and then adapt it, you will not get the shallow depth of field you can get with the Fuji 56mm lens, and I’d argue that modern coatings and optical design will get you much better performance.  I have been a fan of the fast lens for some time and was considering purchasing a Canon FD or Nikon NIKKOR 50mm f/1.2 lens and then an adapter for the lens to get the kind of subject isolation and the transition from in focus to out of focus that I wanted until I heard Fuji was coming out with this lens.  You would not think that f/1.2 to f1.4 could make that big of a difference, but it does, particularly when in environments you may not have a lot of control over.  Again, that portrait of James Martin above?  Made in a busy lunch room with 200 other people around us.  The self portrait of me above? Made in a cramped hotel bathroom with well placed, but dim light and the camera braced on a towel.  Yeah, I love f/1.2.  Could you go bigger? Perhaps… There is the Leica Noctilux f/0.95 that I shot with once and man, it is gorgeous… But it is also a $10,000 lens… with no autofocus… and I’d need to buy an adapter or a $7000 Leica to go with it.  Nice gear if you can afford it, but on this scientists salary…



Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 1/850
Aperture: f/2.0
Focal Length: 56mm
ISO: 100

I have also been impressed with how well corrected the Fuji X-mount lenses are across the board.  I’d argue that the optical performance of this lens in terms of orthorectification is better than my Canon 85mm f/1.2 as you can see from the above image.  The Canon 85mm f/1.2 has a minor barrel distortion in it when I’ve shot images like the one above, but I don’t see the same distortion with the Fuji 56mm lens.  It could be that they are doing some in camera correction for optical performance, but I simply don’t see any substantiative distortion in the images coming out of it.



Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 1/220
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 56mm
ISO: 200

There is an ever so slight vignetting wide open that essentially disappears by f/2.8.  Out of focus highlights are perhaps not quite as round as they are on the Canon 85mm f/1.2, but all told, I am most happy with this lens performance.



Camera: Fuji X-T1
Exposure: 1/1700
Aperture: f/1.2
Focal Length: 56mm
ISO: 200

Color fidelity through this lens is also pretty impressive.

Because of the APS-C size sensor this lens has an 85mm equivalent on a full frame sensor.  My context for comparison as mentioned above, therefore has been the excellent Canon 85mm f/1.2 lens, which has been a mainstay for portrait imagery.  However, a look at some numbers comparing the two lenses should start to explain why the Fuji lens is replacing the Canon lens for portrait work in my bag.

This is one of Fuji’s premium lenses and at ~$1000, is a chunk of change.  As you might expect for a high end lens, you get a fantastically well made lens that feels good in the hand and on the camera.  You get sharpness, no chromatic aberration and no distortion to speak of (though some is corrected within camera).  Its a great optical lens, no doubt.  However, while I’m not going to focus on technical aspects like the number of lens elements, there are some numbers that really do matter.  Size, weight, volume and price.

Canon 85mm f/1.2: 3.6 x 3.3″ (9.14 x 8.38 cm) Volume: 123.21 cubic inches
Fuji 56mm f/1.2: 2.88 x 2.74″ (7.32 x 6.97 cm) Volume: 67.96 cubic inches

Even if image quality were absolutely equal between the Canon 85mm f/1.2 and the Fuji 56mm f/1.2, this size and volume (Fuji lens is ~55% of the volume of the Canon) argument alone is a compelling reason to pick the Fuji lens.  For any traveling photographer, weight and volume are your enemy and the smaller your gear, the fewer hard decisions you have to make regarding gear to take with you, particularly when flying.

Canon 85mm f/1.2: 36.16 oz (1025 g)
Fuji 56mm f/1.2: 14.29 oz (405 g)

If you’ve read my post on the weight of SLRs vs the new mirrorless cameras, you know how I feel about weight.  The Fuji 56mm lens is less than half the weight of the Canon lens.  In fact, it is essentially 40% of the weight of the Canon lens which is a mighty impressive feat.

Canon 85mm f/1.2: $2,200
Fuji 56mm f/1.2: $1,000

So, in the Fuji 56mm f/1.2 we have a lens that arguably performs as good, if not better than the Canon 85mm f/1.2, is almost half the volume, less than half the weight and less than half the price.  What is not to love about that?

Do I have any gripes? Sure, I wish that there were a manual override for focusing like what Canon has done.  That approach is the best in the industry and it would be nice to see Fuji adopt it.  Other than that… Sold!











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9 Responses

  1. I have the oportunity to purchase a secondhand Canon FD 55mm f1.2. It is unfortunately not the aspherical 55 but it’s 1/4 of the price of the Fuji 56. Do you have any experience with it?

    David WhittleyAugust 3, 2014 @ 4:45 pmReply
    • Hey David,

      Yeah, I used to own that lens (great lens!) but sold it back when I was an undergrad along with all my film cameras to pay for tuition (selling the Leica M6 hurt). So, unfortunately I don’t have access to it for direct comparison. That said, all my images from back then look softer to me compared with current imagery, leading me to suspect that modern lens design and lens coatings probably have something to do with it.

  2. Looks like a very nice lens that is also nicely priced. Based on the portrait of James it looks like the lens would be very flattering to a woman when doing a portrait. His face seems to have a very soft almost creamy appearance. I think women would really appreciate the look.

    I recently noticed a lens from Ibelux for mirror less cameras that is a 40mm f 0.85 but I don’t know anything more about it. I think Bower is distributing it for about $2,000.

    I still have a Canon 55mm f 1.2 lens somewhere with my old film gear. I don’t know how well it would adapt to Nikon digital but I may have to check into the possibility.

    Bill McClymondsAugust 5, 2014 @ 4:52 amReply
    • Yeah, that Ibelux lens did grab my attention, but I’ve heard from a couple of folks that there were some issues with it. I think they could have made it smaller and gone for say, f/0.95 to make it more handy. If you use that Canon lens and the Metabones Speed Booster, you could get down to f/1.1 or something close which may be quite fun.

  3. Please don’t compare the 1.2 Canon FF-Lense with an Apsc-Lens regarding the size. Full-Frame needs more light and thus a bigger front-element to capture it. If you already say, 56mm is 85mm in FF, then also point out, that the aperture would be a F1.8 compared to a Full format. And the FF-Lenses with 85mm F1.8 are similar in size and weight. Or use the 85mm 1.2 from canon with a speedbooster on the fujifilm and you have got a real 1.2 Aperture, (or get a F. 0.8 for the apsc) not a cropped one.

    Please don’t forget to add the crop-factor to the aperture too. Companies do it to fool people, but they do it on purpose.

    Tobias K.August 17, 2014 @ 8:49 amReply
    • Why not? If it is about the apparent frame size, the 56mm is a pretty good match for the 85mm lens. I also appreciate that the focal length is not quite the same, but they *are* pretty close matches given the full frame vs the APS-C As for companies fooling people on purpose, look, even Canon does this with its EF and EF-S lenses, and Nikon does the same, but I dont think it is about deceiving people. Its more about simplifying the product message. Oh, and if you are doing one of those full frame snobbery things, I’ve got my share of full frame cameras and I’m telling you, this Fuji lens is a pretty close match for the Canon 85mm.

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