My Fujifilm X Camera Lens Recommendations, Part 2: Third Party

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Part 1: Fujinon

I listed my recommended Fujinon lenses for Fujifilm X cameras in Part 1. In this second segment I will give my recommendations for third party lenses. Like in the previous article, I will be focusing on what I’ve actually used, because I prefer to talk about what I have experience with. My opinions are based off of my own use of these different lenses.

Let’s jump right in!

Rokinon/Samyang 12mm f/2 NCS CS

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Salt & Stars – Bonneville Salt Flats, UT – Fujifilm X-E1 & Rokinon 12mm

The 12mm f/2 NCS CS ultra-wide-angle lens, which is sold under both the Rokinon and Samyang brands (it’s the exact same lens), is a great manual focus lens. It’s sharp with surprisingly little distortion and few flaws. Since it is so cheap, it’s a great budget-friendly alternative to the Fujinon 16mm f/1.4, or even a companion to it. Not everyone needs a lens as wide-angle as this one, but it’s a fantastic option for those who do. If you need something ultra-wide for astrophotography or dramatic landscapes, this is a must-have lens!

Meike 35mm f/1.7

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Securely In Father’s Arms – Mount Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

The Meike 35mm f/1.7 is a “nifty-fifty” standard prime lens on Fujifilm X cameras, and if you don’t mind an all-manual lens, this is a great budget-friendly option. In fact, it’s probably the best $80 you’ll ever spend on new camera gear! It’s not without flaws, though. You can read my review of the lens here. For the cheap price, I wouldn’t be afraid to try the Meike 28mm f/2.8 or the Meike 50mm f/2, either. In fact, you could buy all three for less than the cost of one Fujinon lens! The 7Artisans 25mm f/1.8 is a good alternative, which I reviewed here. I’ve never tried the 7artisans 35mm f/1.2, which is an intriguing option but a little more expensive.

There are, of course, plenty of other third-party lenses, of which I’ve tried zero. I know that the Mitakon 35mm f/0.95 II is highly regarded, yet it’s also on the expensive side of things. The Rokinon 50mm f/1.2 and Rokinon 100mm f/2.8 are two lenses that I’ve seen highly recommended by others, and, based on my experience with their 12mm lens, I’d definitely believe it. However, I don’t want to spend much time on lenses that I have no experience with. Instead, let me offer one other alternative: vintage lenses.

You can typically buy old film lenses for very little money. Since most people don’t shoot film any longer, these lenses are cheap, yet many of them are exceptionally good in quality. You will need an adapter to mount them to your Fujifilm X camera, since they’ll have a different mount. Just make sure you know which mount the lens is so that you buy the right adapter. Thankfully most adapters are pretty inexpensive. Below is a video that I made on this topic.

My Fujifilm X Camera Lens Recommendations, Part 1: Fujinon

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Perhaps you got a new Fujifilm X camera for Christmas, or maybe you’ve had one for awhile now, and you are considering the purchase of a new lens. What options do you have? Which ones are good? What should you buy? You probably have a lot of questions, and you’re hoping to find some sound advice. Well, my goal is to give you sound advice! I’m hoping that this article will be helpful for those who are in the market for a new lens for their Fujifilm X camera.

There are tons of great lens options, most of which I’ve never owned. You could spend a small fortune collecting camera lenses. I certainly don’t have that kind of money lying around, so I’ve only owned a handful of different Fujinon lenses. I’m not going to talk much about the camera lenses that I’ve yet to use, and concentrate on the ones that I have firsthand experience with. I want you to know that the lenses listed below are ones that I have owned and used, and my opinions are based on my experience of capturing photographs with them.

Just so that you are aware, I am providing links to Amazon where you can purchase these lenses if you want to. If you do, I will receive a small kickback from Amazon for referring you, which helps to support this website. Nobody pays me to write these articles. If you happen to decide that you want to purchase a certain lens that I have linked to, and if Amazon is the seller you would normally use, it would be great if you used my links to do so. I certainly appreciate it!

Now let’s talk about lenses!

Zooms

Zoom lenses are popular because you can cover a large range of focal-lengths without carrying three, four or five different prime lenses. It simplifies things and allows you to have a smaller and lighter camera bag. It might make your camera kit more affordable, too. Zoom lenses are versatile, but there’s always a trade-off, which might be sharpness, distortion or maximum aperture. While I prefer prime lenses instead of zooms, Fujifilm offers many compelling zoom choices that are worth considering.

Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS

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Mirrored Mountain – Mirror Lake, UT – Fujifilm X-E1 & 18-55mm

The first lens that I want to talk about is the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS, which is one of Fujifilm’s best zooms, available at Amazon for about $700. If you have the cheap kit zoom that came with your camera, this lens is similar but better–definitely an upgrade! It has a larger maximum aperture and produces results more in line with what you’d expect from a fixed-focal-length lens. There are some professional photographers who use this as their primary lens because of its size, quality and versatility. If you want something better than your cheap kit zoom lens but still want the convenience of the standard zoom, this is a very good option that you should strongly consider. Alternatively, the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens is even better, but will cost you several hundred dollars more.

Fujinon XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS II

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Clouds Around Timpanogos – Heber City, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 50-230mm

If you have a standard zoom lens but would like an option with more telephoto reach, the Fujinon XC 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 OIS II is a good lens that won’t break the bank, and it’s available at Amazon for about $400. This lens is surprisingly lightweight for its size and surprisingly sharp for the price. If you are a wildlife or sports photographer, you might not find this lens to be sufficient for your needs, but for those who only need a longer lens occasionally, this is your best bet because of its excellent value. Alternatively, the Fujinon 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 R LM OIS is a better lens for a few hundred dollars more, or for about $1,600, which is a steep price, the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR is the best quality option.

Primes

I prefer prime lenses over zooms. Since the focal-length is fixed, the optics can be more precisely engineered, often resulting in sharper glass with fewer flaws. Often prime lenses have a larger maximum aperture than zooms. The disadvantage is that you will likely need three, four or five different prime lenses, which can cost a lot of money and add significant bulk to your bag, while one or two zoom lenses might cover all your focal-length needs. There are pluses and minuses to both routes. Still, I’d rather have several prime lenses than one or two zooms, but that’s just my personal preference.

Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR

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Night Sky Over Needles Highway – Hill City, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 16mm

The Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR, which is available at Amazon for about $1,000, is an excellent wide-angle prime lens. It is sharp and fast and quite wide, which makes it particularly great for dramatic points of view and astrophotography. Not everyone needs a lens that’s as wide-angle as this one, but for those who do, this is a superb choice. Alternatively, the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 R, which doesn’t have as large of a maximum aperture as the 16mm, is slightly wider and cheaper, and overall an excellent option.

Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR

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Starry Nights – Park City, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 23mm

Everyone should have a walk-around prime lens, and the Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR, which is available at Amazon for about $450, is a great choice for that role. This lens is superb, small and lightweight, and the focal-length is good for everyday shooting. If you’ve never owned a prime lens before, this is an excellent one to start with. There are several good alternatives, including the more expensive Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R, the more wide-angle Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R, the more telephoto Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R and the more compact Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8, all of which are quality lenses that are worth having. Pick one, as you should definitely own one.

Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro

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From Dust To Dust – Great Sand Dunes NP, CO – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 60mm

One of my favorite lenses is the Fujinon XF 60mm f/2.4 R Macro, which is available at Amazon for about $650. This lens is a short telephoto (in other words, telephoto but not too telephoto), which gives you a little more reach than the kit zoom, and is great for portraits or landscapes. It’s a macro lens, if just barely, which allows you to focus closer to the subject than many other lenses. I find it to be quite versatile. The quality is exceptional, and it’s pretty small and lightweight for what it is. If there is one complaint it’s that autofocus is a tad slow, which is typical of macro lenses, but it’s not that big of a deal. Alternatively, the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R, which some consider to be the very best Fujinon lens, is a similar focal length, but it’s about $1,000, and the Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro, which also gets brought up in the “best Fujinon” conversations, might be a better macro lens, but it costs about $1,200.

Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR

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Great Salt Lake Evening – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T20 & 90mm

A great portrait lens, which is also a great landscape lens when you are a distance from the subject, is the Fujinon XF 90mm f/2 R LM WR. It’s available at Amazon for about $950.  This lens is a bit big and heavy, but it’s super sharp and captures lovely images. Because of its focal-length, it can be tough to use at times, but in those situations where you can use it, the lens delivers stunning results! As far as image quality is concerned, this is my favorite Fujinon lens. Alternatively, the Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro, which is more expensive and not quite as telephoto, is really your only other option (outside of a telephoto zoom lens), but it’s also an excellent choice.

The list of Fujinon lenses above, plus the alternatives mentioned, are only some of the lenses available for your Fujifilm X camera. There are other great Fujinon options, plus third-party lenses, that you might also consider. These lenses have worked well for me and my photography, and I believe that they will do well for others, as well. If you do go with my suggestions, know that I am sincere in my recommendations, but that doesn’t mean that those lenses are necessarily the right ones for you and your photography, because I don’t know what your exact needs are. These are definitely generalized suggestions, and it’s a good idea to consider what would be the best options for what you will be capturing. Anytime you see someone recommend a certain camera or lens or other gear, it’s smart to do your own research to better understand what your needs are and how to best meet those needs. I hope that this article has been helpful to you in some way in your search for a new lens for your Fujifilm camera!

Part 2 – Third Party Lenses For Fujifilm X

Lens Review: 7artisans 25mm F/1.8 for Fujifilm


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Fujifilm X-Pro2 with 7Artisans 25mm f/1.8 lens

There are a number of inexpensive prime lenses coming out of China. After purchasing the Meike 35mm f/1.7 and, for the most part, really liking it, I thought I’d try the even cheaper 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 for my Fujifilm X-Pro2. Can a low-end lens be any good?

7artisans was founded by seven photographers who wanted to make lenses, so they did. They have several different offerings, all of which are very inexpensive yet intriguing. The 25mm lens for Fujifilm has an equivalent focal length of 37.5mm, which is slightly less wide-angle than the X100F, but a similar focal-length.

Despite the fact that they are two different companies, there are a lot of similarities between the Meike and 7artisans lenses that I own. They both have solid build quality, they are both manual-focus only, they both have click-less apertures, they both are super sharp in the middle, they both are super soft in the corners wide-open, they both have significant vignetting wide-open, they both have noticeable pincushion distortion, they both produce nice bokeh, and they both are at peak performance between f/2.8 and f/8. It’s almost as if the same people designed both lenses, although, supposedly, that’s not the case.

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7artisans 25mm f/1.8

One difference that I found is Meike controls lens flare better, which is not necessarily saying much. If you like flare, both of these lenses are for you. The 7artisans lens produces lots of flare whenever there is a bright light source nearby. It’s almost a bit over-the-top, and if you don’t like lens flare, be sure to buy a hood for this lens (something that I did after a couple weeks of use). I like lens flare sometimes, but it was much too much with this 7artisans lens.

What you get with the 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 is a new lens that looks and feels vintage (maybe early-1980’s-ish), and produces results that have a vintage quality. It’s not precision engineered like most modern glass, so it has flaws, and those flaws give your photographs character, something that’s missing from most modern lenses. Whether or not that character is something you want for your photographs is for you to decide. I personally appreciate it. I also appreciate manual-focus, and those not used to it might not care for it.

I like the Meike 35mm f/1.7 slightly more than the 7artisans 25mm f/1.8, but it also costs a little more, too. At just $70, the 7artisans offering is $20 cheaper, and for that price, it’s pretty darn fantastic. It’s possibly the least expensive lens option for your Fujifilm X camera, as I don’t know of any that are cheaper; however, this is a lens that you could capture some great pictures with because it has very sharp glass. It does have some faults and quirks, but, considering how little it goes for, it’s easy to overlook those issues, and perhaps even embrace them. If you have a limited budget but would like to add some quality glass to your collection, the 7artisans 25mm f/1.8 is a good option that you should consider.

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Succulent Abstract – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 &  7artisans 25mm

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Succulent Monochrome – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Vase On A Dark Table – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Window Reflection Sunset – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Red Shed & Lens Flare – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Evening In The Urban Garden – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Rainbow Over The Green Mountain – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Drops of Water Lily – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Yellow Tipped Peddle Bloom – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Picked Flowers In The Window – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 7artisans 25mm

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Lens Review: Meike 35mm f/1.7 for Fujifilm


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Meike 35mm f/1.7

I had a birthday a few weeks ago. I also had an Amazon gift card. So I browsed Amazon for something to buy myself in celebration of becoming older. I was looking through Fujifilm accessories when I stumbled across a cheap $90 prime lens, the Meike 35mm f/1.7. A prime lens for less than $100? I added it to the cart, proceeded to the checkout and submitted the order.

And I immediately regretted it.

I mean, I’m older and supposedly wiser. What kind of piece-of-junk lens am I going to get for so little money? It will, most assuredly, be poorly made with subpar optics and I’ll never use it. I had wasted my money, no doubt about it, I thought. I should have purchased something else. Oh, well. The order had already been placed.

A couple of days later a package arrived at my door. Inside was a box that contained the Meike 35mm f/1.7 lens that I had ordered. I opened it up with low expectations. It felt plenty hefty, though, and not lightweight like something made from cheap plastic. I removed the lens from the box and it looked and felt solidly built, mostly made of metal. My senses were telling me that I had ordered a vintage lens from the film era, perhaps the 1960’s, and not a brand-new lens made for digital cameras.

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Meike 35mm on Fujifilm X-Pro2

The Meike 35mm f/1.7 lens looked good and seemed like a quality item, but what about the optics? Was it going to perform well? Why was it so darn cheap?

I attached it to my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and immediately noticed a quirk. The aperture ring is smooth and doesn’t click at the different f-stops. That’s a little odd. I have a Helios 44-2 lens that has two aperture rings, one that clicks and one that’s smooth, and so it’s not a new concept, but it is an unusual choice.

Another quirk is that the spaces in-between the f-stops, marked by numbers on the lens, are far apart when the aperture is large and close together when the aperture is small. For example, it takes quite a turn to get from f/1.7 to f/2 but going from f/8 all the way to f/22 is a tiny turn, and trying to stop on f/11 or f/16 is a tough task.

This is a manual focus lens and the focus ring is smooth. It seems to have the right amount of give, not too firm and not too loose. There is a focus distance scale on the lens, something that is too often missing today. The front element doesn’t rotate and it has 49mm threads.

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Meike 35mm on Fujifilm X-Pro2 with coffee

I was shocked when I reviewed some frames that I had captured with the Meike 35mm lens on my X-Pro2 and saw how crisp they were. It’s sharp. Very sharp, in fact! I would expect this sharpness out of a lens that costs much more, but not out of budget glass. From the perspective of creating crisp images, this lens is right up there with the best. And it looks good attached to the X-Pro2.

I was then shocked by the amount of vignetting and the soft corners when using a large aperture. This is why the lens is so cheap. When wide open the Meike 35mm is almost unusable. I say almost because you could use the flaws as an artistic tool to give your images character. Things noticeably improve at f/2, but it’s still pronounced. By f/2.8 I would say that the vignetting and soft corners are minimal enough that you could live with them, but they don’t fully go away until f/8. Apertures smaller than f/8 suffer from diffraction. There is a small amount of chromatic aberrations that can be found when the aperture is f/4 and larger, but overall it’s well controlled. There’s a fairly pronounced pincushion distortion, which you’ll notice if you photograph a brick wall.

Bokeh, which is the quality of the out-of-focus area of an image, looks very good with this lens. When wide open there is a slight swirly effect, similar to the Helios 44-2 but less pronounced. When the aperture is large the subject separates nicely from the background.

The Meike 35mm f/1.7 is an excellent budget standard prime lens option for your Fujifilm camera. It’s all manual, which I like but some people might not. It has lots of character, something that’s often missing from modern lenses. It certainly has plenty of flaws and there is a reason why it’s cheap, but overall it performs much better than the price point would indicate. Even if the MSRP was $150 (instead of $90) it would still be an intriguing option. If you don’t already own a standard prime lens for your Fujifilm camera, this is one that you should consider, and, because it’s very inexpensive, it should fit into everyone’s budget.

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Securely In Father’s Arms – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Conoco – Edgemont, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & 35mm

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Sinclair – Edgemont, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Big Cookie, Little Girl – Custer, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Camping Face – Custer, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Campfire – Custer, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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White Flower Blossoms – Bountiful, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Green Hills Under Grey Sky – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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State & Federal Symbols – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Monumental – Mt. Rushmore, SD – X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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George – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Mount Rushmore Monochrome – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Ominous – Custer, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Flowers & Rail – Edgemont, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

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Getting Ranger Badges – Mt. Rushmore, SD – Fujifilm X-Pro2 & Meike 35mm

See also: Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II lens review

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Lens Review: Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II


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I purchased a used Fujifilm X-A3 camera for $400 a few months ago with the intentions of using vintage lenses on it. The camera, which, by the way, is a great bargain, producing image quality that fits somewhere in-between X-Trans II and X-Trans III, came with the cheap kit 16-50mm lens attached. I was planning to sell this lens to bring the cost of the camera to somewhere near $275-$250 (figuring that I could get around $125-$150 for the lens). I had no intentions of keeping the kit zoom, but after capturing a few images with it, I decided not to sell it after all.

The lens, official called Fujinon Super EBC XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II, is Fujifilm’s bottom end zoom lens that usually comes paired with their cheaper cameras. In fact, starting with the X-A5, it’s actually been replaced by a new kit zoom. By all means this lens should be garbage. It’s meant for beginners. It’s meant for amateurs. It’s meant for cheapskates. It’s not meant for serious photography. Or is it?

There are some reasons why the lens is cheap. It’s mostly made of plastic and feels like it wouldn’t take a whole lot to break it. On the flip side of that coin, it’s very lightweight, which is a significant plus. The lens lacks an aperture ring like most other Fujinon lenses. The largest aperture, available only at the widest focal length, is f/3.5, which isn’t particularly fast. At the telephoto end the largest aperture is f/5.6, and there’s nothing impressive about that.

To make matters worse, there’s some significant corner softness at f/3.5, and it doesn’t completely go away until f/8. Diffraction begins at f/11, although it’s not really a problem until f/16, so the range where this lens is at peak sharpness is quite narrow. Thankfully, vignetting and chromatic aberrations are very minimal and there’s only a tiny amount of distortion, even at 16mm.

So what is there about this lens that convinced me to keep it? Three things: focal length, close focusing and sharpness.

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The focal length of 16-50mm, which, because this is an APS-C lens, is equivalent to 24-75mm in full-frame terms, is just about perfect for an everyday walk-around lens. Almost-but-not-quite ultra-wide angle at one end, and portrait-length short-telephoto at the other end. It’s a very versatile range of focal lengths. Even though it seems like there’s no real difference between 18mm (the typical kit zoom wide-angle focal length) and 16mm (the wide-angle focal length of this lens), it’s actually quite significant, and 16mm is noticeably more dramatic.

I was surprised at the close focus distance of the 16-50mm lens. At the wide-angle end, the closest focus distance is a little less than 6″. At the telephoto end, the closest focus distance is a little less than 14″. What this means is that it’s not quite a macro lens, but it is not far from it, and it is possible, with a little cropping, to do some borderline macro photography. It also means that if you place the subject as close as possible to the end of the lens (but where you can still focus on it), it’s possible to achieve a narrow depth-of-field and separation from a blurry background. And the bokeh on this lens is actually pleasant.

The biggest surprise for me with this lens is the sharpness. I was shocked, really. When in the sweet spot, which is roughly f/6.4 to f/10, the lens is crisp edge-to-edge, with sharpness that’s on par with a lesser prime or higher-end zoom. It’s definitely sharper than one would expect for an inexpensive zoom! At f/5.6 center sharpness is still very good, but the corners are just a tad soft; however, it’s still an excellent aperture. As you open up the aperture from there (which become increasingly available as you zoom out) the corners become softer, as does the center, and by f/3.5 you get mediocre (but still usable) results. Diffraction begins at f/11 but it isn’t really noticeable until f/16, and even then it’s not a huge deal.

The Fujinon XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS II lens has an MSRP of $400 brand new, and I would never pay that amount for it. You can find the lens used pretty easily for under $200, and I’ve seen them as cheap as $100. I was planning to sell mine for somewhere around $150-$125, and for that price it’s well worth having, even if you only use it occasionally. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, has a great focal length range, can focus close and is quite sharp when in a narrow range of apertures. It has some flaws, but they can be worked around. It’s certainly possible to capture great photographs using this cheap zoom. While Fujifilm made this lens cheap, they didn’t sacrifice on the optics, and it becomes obvious in use that this is indeed a Fujinon lens.

Example photos:

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45 MPH Road – Wendoever, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/10

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Kids At The Salt Flats – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/11

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Welcome – Lake Point, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/4.5

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Dry Brush – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 50mm f/5.6

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Red Tree Berries – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 50mm f/5.6

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Sky’s The Limit – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/10

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Stark Salt – Wendover, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 16mm f/9

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Pyramid – Antelope Is. SP, UT – Fuji X-A3 & 16-50mm @ f/10

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Ivy Leaves – Ogden, UT – Fuji X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 50mm f/8

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Penned Horse – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & 16-50mm @ 50mm f/5.6

Fujifilm X100F Review Blog

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Fujifilm X-A3 & Soviet Lenses, Part 3: Industar 61

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Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61 – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Part 1 – Helios 44-2  Part 2 – Jupiter 21M

The Industar 61 is another vintage Soviet Union lens that I’ve paired with my Fujifilm X-A3. This lens came attached to a FED 5c 35mm rangefinder that I purchased for $40 a decade ago. I really appreciate the photographs that I’ve captured with it on the film camera. I used to also pair it frequently with an X-E1 that I once owned. It’s an excellent lens with plenty of character.

My Industar 61 was made in 1983. It has an M39 screw mount (some were made with a M42 screw mount) and a focal length of 55mm (some versions have slightly different focal lengths). Because of the crop factor, it has an equivalent focal length of about 82mm on the X-A3. Even though it was intended as a “standard” lens it’s more of a “portrait” lens on the Fujifilm camera. The maximum aperture is f/2.8.

This lens is a German knockoff. It’s basically a modified Leitz Elmar 50mm f/2.8. It is very sharp but with some significant pincushion distortion. It’s known for “soap bubble” bokeh, which is highly sought after by some photographers. There is a radioactive coating on the lens, and that might frighten some people, but it’s safe to be around, since only a tiny amount of Lanthanum was used in the production. I find that it delivers a slightly warmer tone than other lenses, even on digital cameras.

What’s great about pairing the Industar 61 with the X-A3 is that it’s a small and lightweight setup. The lens is smaller than the kit lens that came with the camera. It sticks out about as far as the X100F lens does with a lens hood. It can fit into a large pocket. I’ve carried the X100F in one jacket pocket and the X-A3 with the Industar 61 in the other. It’s great for travel or street photography.

You can find Industar 61 lenses for next to nothing (and the adapters are usually about $10), and for very little money you can add a quality manual-focus prime lens to your camera. No doubt about it, I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of this lens and then some. While the Industar 61 isn’t my favorite lens to attach to my X-A3, it’s still a good lens that certainly has its place.

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Patio Lights – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Red Knobs – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Be Careful – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Industrial Patriots – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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Coffee & Paper – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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To Go Cup – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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– Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

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SP & UP Railroad – Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Industar 61

Fujifilm X-A3 & Soviet Lenses, Part 2: Jupiter 21M

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Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F

Part 1 – Helios 44-2

The Jupiter 21M is the lens that I bought the Fujifilm X-A3 for. Yes, I purchased the camera with this specific lens in mind. I wanted a quality yet inexpensive long telephoto option, and I was hoping that this lens/camera combination would provide me just that. I was excited to put them to use and see what I could capture.

The first Jupiter 21 was introduced in 1959 in the Soviet Union. Over the years some modifications and improvements were made to the lens. The Jupiter 21M, which is one of the latest models, was manufactured beginning in 1973. My copy was made in 1983. I’ve heard that manufacturing of the Jupiter 21M continued well into the 2000’s, but I haven’t been able to verify this.

The Soviet Union acquired Carl Zeiss lens designs (and even some parts) at the end of World War II, and they made some direct copies of Zeiss lenses. The Jupiter 21 isn’t a direct copy of any particular German lens, but a Soviet “original” based on the Zeiss Sonnar design. The 21M model has an automatic aperture option, which allows the aperture to remain wide open for focusing but close down automatically whenever the shutter release is pressed. It’s not a particularly useful feature on the X-A3, but thankfully the lens has a switch to turn it off.

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Bottled Blossoms – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

There aren’t many flaws found on the Jupiter 21M, which is an f/4 200mm M42-mount manual-focus telephoto lens (that’s a mouthful). It’s very sharp corner-to-corner. There’s very little vignetting. Bokeh is quite nice. Chromatic aberrations are a small issue but only when wide open. It does have some pronounced hazy lens flare, which could be considered good or bad, depending on one’s tastes. The maximum aperture of f/4 is not particularly large but certainly sufficient. The lens is fantastic from an optical quality point of view.

The one big flaw with the Jupiter 21M is that it’s a tank. It’s big and heavy! It weighs a little over two pounds, so it’s not something you want to walk around with. This is a lens to use for specific photos, and then put away otherwise.

I also have a Kohbeptep K-1 2x teleconverter lens that I sometimes pair with the Jupiter 21M. It turns the 200mm focal length into 400mm. Because of the APS-C crop factor, it’s equivalent to having a 600mm lens on a full-frame camera. The Kohbeptep K-1 is another Soviet product, and it’s actually pretty darn good when using an aperture that is f/8 or smaller. There is a tiny loss in overall sharpness, but not much. When the aperture is wide open there’s noticeable corner softness and chromatic aberrations, but stop down a little and it goes away. The K-1 can be found for pretty cheap, mine came with a camera that was a gift.

I paid less than $100 for my Jupiter 21M lens, and I’ve heard of people finding them for under $50. As with all vintage Russian camera gear, there’s a chance you might get a dud because their quality control was particularly poor. Mine works perfectly fine, and it’s especially nice with my Fujifilm X-A3. I’m very satisfied with it. I look forward to capturing even more images with it.

Example photos, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs:

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Winter Shrub – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Three Bottles – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Monochrome Flower – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Tired Boy – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Things I Don’t Understand – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Red Shed – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Winter Wasatch – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Last Light Wasatch – Riverdale, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

Jupiter 21M with Kohbeptep K-1 2x teleconverter:

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Winter Ridge – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Mountain Evergreens – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Train In Winter – South Ogden, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Rising Heat – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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White – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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White Ridges – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Rocky Hillside – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

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Snowy Slope – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Jupiter 21M

Part 3 – Industar 61

Fujifilm X-A3 & Soviet Lenses, Part 1: Helios 44-2

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Helios 44-2 & Zenit-E – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-E1

I love pairing old Soviet Union lenses to Fujifilm cameras because it’s a great combination. It’s tons of fun and the results can be magical. I’m just thrilled to do this, and I hope that you appreciate the posts and pictures, even though they are off-topic slightly.

Why Soviet Union lenses? They’re cheap yet great. They often have exceptional image quality with unique characteristics. You can pick up a bunch of different ones for not much money. Really, there’s not much to dislike about them.

The history of Soviet lenses goes back to World War II. It actually goes back further than that, but the good part begins as the war ends. You might remember that the Russians were part of the Allies, united against Germany. As part of the spoils of being on the winning side, the Soviets acquired blueprints and designs for Leica and Zeiss cameras and lenses. They took this home and began making cameras and lenses nearly identical to the famed German brands.

None of this was well-known because the Russians were communists, and they were secluded from the western world. They exported very little. It wasn’t until the end of the Cold War that people began to realize that Russia was full of Leica and Zeiss clones. And these products could be had for a fraction of the price of the real thing.

There are a few reasons why Russian camera gear is so cheap. First, they developed very little of the technology they used, as they had inherited most of it from Germany. Next, they used cheap labor, including sometimes child labor, to build the cameras and lenses. Also, most Russians were quite poor, and very few could afford anything that wasn’t cheap. Finally, being communists, they didn’t have a profit model, so things were sold at a price point that was near the cost to manufacture.

The are a couple of downsides to this. One is that quality control was a major issue. There were many defective products made, and it’s not uncommon to find them still floating around. Similarly, there were discrepancies in the quality of the same product, with obvious deviations to the standards. Another downside is that they did very little to advance the technology. Even deep into the 1990’s the Russians were basically using 1950’s camera technology, with a couple 1960’s and 1970’s innovations sprinkled in. As far as camera gear goes, they were way behind the times.

Still, at the core of the gear were designs by some of the greatest engineers in the camera business. At the heart of Soviet Union cameras and lenses are found the handiwork of brilliant German minds. While inexpensive, Soviet camera gear is often marvelous, just as long as you can put up with the occasional dud.

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Tricycle In The Woods – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios 44-2

My favorite Russian lens is the 58mm f/2 Helios 44-2. The lens is a clone of the 58mm f/2 Zeiss Jena Biotar, which was manufactured throughout the 1940’s and 1950’s, and is known for its swirly bokeh and fantastic image quality. The Helios 44-2 was manufactured until 1992 (with some limited runs of the lens after that). Because of the crop factor, the lens has an equivalent focal-length of 87mm when attached to my Fujifilm X-A3.

The Helios 44-2 is an M42 screw-mount lens. Mine came attached to a Zenit-E 35mm SLR. I use a cheap M42-to-Fuji-X adapter to mount it to my X-A3. The lens is manual focus and manual aperture. If you’ve only used auto features before then it might seem foreign to use manual functions, but with practice it shouldn’t be too hard to master. I grew up using manual-only cameras, so it’s no big deal for me to use.

An interesting Helios 44-2 feature is that it has two aperture rings, one with clicks and one that’s smooth. This makes sense when using it on a camera like the Zenit-E, because you want to open up the aperture for a bright viewfinder, which assists in accurate focusing, and the duel rings make it simple to do so. On a digital camera it doesn’t do a whole lot for you. It’s a quirk of using the lens, and takes a little practice to get used to.

The Helios 44-2 is always tack sharp in the center. Wide open there’s significant softness in the corners, but by f/5.6 it’s sharp all across the frame. There’s also some minor vignetting when wide open and I’ve noticed some purple fringing. Close the aperture a little and those issues are gone. Barrel distortion is very minor.

The Helios 44-2 has some design flaws, but these are actually assets. With the right conditions it’s possible to achieve a swirly bokeh effect. The lens is prone to some unusual lens flare that can be quite beautiful. An example of both of these can be seen in Tricycle In The Woods. The flaws are what give the lens its unique character, something that’s missing in today’s precisely-engineered modern lenses.

My Helios 44-2 was a gift, and it came attached to a Zenit-E camera. You can typically find it for less than $50 online. An adapter can usually found for about $10. That’s a small investment for a fantastic prime telephoto lens!

Below are photographs that I’ve captured with my X-A3 & Helios 44-2, all straight-out-of-camera JPEGs. I love how this combination renders photographs! There is a quality that’s seemingly magical. Enjoy!

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First Light Over Ridge – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Strawberry Peak Morning – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Clouds Over Strawberry Peak – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Wasatch Ridge View – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Wasatch Drama – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Last Leaf – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Morning Stripes – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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f/4 – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Escalate – Draper, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Patio Lights – Draper, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Bolsey & Ektachrome – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Flower Bird – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Shopping For Something New – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Eating Lunch – SLC, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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Flower In Glass – S. Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

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A Short Tale – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-A3 & Helios 44-2

Part 2 – Jupiter 21M  Part 3 – Industar 61

Fujifilm X100F & Lens Flare

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Lens flare is something you either love or hate. People who love it seek it out and purposefully include it in their images. People who hate it use a lens hood. Lens flare occurs when there is a light source in front of the lens that is much brighter than the rest of the scene (such as the sun).

The lens on the X100F is “Super EBC” (Electron Beam Coating), which is a fancy way to say that Fuji uses a crazy-looking machine that has a vacuum chamber and electron gun to apply 11 layers of coating onto the lens. This coating is supposed to minimize lens flare.

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Looking At The Sun – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X100F – ghosting flare

Modern lenses are precision engineered to maximize sharpness and minimize flaws. The less distortion the better. Lenses today are superior to older lenses if pure image quality is the goal.

I loved pairing my old Fujifilm X-E1 with vintage glass. Modern lenses are great, but in their precision they lack character. It’s the flaws that make a lens unique, that give your pictures that extra something that new glass simply cannot.

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Orange Leaves – Lehi, UT – Fujifilm X100F – veiling flare

Modern lenses will give you the greatest pure image quality, but in a cold and clinical way. Think of music. A digital song lacks flaws, but it also lacks the warmth found on analog vinyl. Using a vintage lens is like listening to a song spun on a record.

One complaint that I had read about the X100F prior to purchasing it is lens flare. There are some people who think it flares too much and that it’s kind of weird looking (not the typical lens flare that one would expect). An easy fix is a lens hood, but that makes the camera much less pocket-sized.

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Tricycle In The Woods – South Weber, UT – Fujifilm X-E1 & Helios 44-2 – veiling flare

I don’t want to get too technical here, but there are different types of lens flare (and different lenses will render the same type of flare differently). What I find most prevalent on the X100F is called “veiling flare” which is more of a hazy flare. The lens controls what is known as “ghosting flare” (which is probably what most people picture when they think of lens flare) really well, but it can still be found if you point the lens towards the sun. There is also a little bit of “sensor flare” which is caused by the light reflecting off the sensor and back onto the lens (a side effect of the lens element being so close to the sensor), but it’s also controlled well.

I can definitely see why people might not like how the X100F handles lens flare, but I actually appreciate it. It reminds me a lot of how the Russian-made Helios 44-2 renders lens flare. It’s a flaw, no doubt, but it gives photographs character. It’s an unexpected uniqueness. It’s not so cold and clinical and precise. It’s almost as if Fujifilm attached a vintage lens to the front of the camera (except they didn’t). So I like it. You might not, and that’s OK.