Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2: Wildly Unscientific, One Shot, Limited Scope Portrait Lens Comparison

There is a new mount in the house, the Fujifilm X mount. Got a prime and a zoom to replace lenses traded with my previous crop body. Everything is fine right? Don’t need anything else. But then I rented a Fujifilm’s portrait darling, the 56mm f/1.2. Why?

What happened was this. I have a portrait lens. It’s a perfectly good portrait lens for another system I have been obsessed withe since my youth… really like . The K Mount Mitakon “The Dream” 85mm f/1.2. Not the sharpest wide open, manual focus, weighs like a Buick, costs about $200 for every 0.1 of aperture over manual alternatives, but that bokeh though!

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So I am covered… But I wanted to give the Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2 a try after reading such glowing reviews and seeing such wonderful portraits taken with it. Southeastern was more than happy to oblige at a reasonable weekend rate. Thoughts one day in? Worth every bit of the praise heaped upon it.

 

But at the end of the weekend I believe I will be able to resist it’s allure. Will I still want it? Heck yes. But a rare thing has happened. Logic has prevailed. How?

  • I have a full frame brute with the portrait blunt instrument mentioned above already. Otherwise I would be all over this lens.
  • I am quite smitten with the much more affordable new to me 35mm f/1.4 which at a normal equivalent focal length is not quite as ideal for portraits, but does not distort that badly and is bright enough to provide very nice separation.
  • If I was to pick up another piece of Fujifilm gear at or near the cost of this (admittedly very reasonably priced) portrait lens it would be something more pra… {cough} practi.. {hack} practical. There I said it. I am so enamored with the X-Pro1 even knowing it lacks many advances added to the models since (So much so I have made an honest camera of it with a Peak Design strap.) so I would likely add another body. Right now the son of XT2 aka XT20 is looking very good. I am pretty well covered lens wise on my other system so it would be nice to add a Fujifilm camera with a larger EVF and the latest tech (4K, more MP, advanced focusing, etc.). Plus it is priced below the 56mm at release body only. A no brainer that offers phenomenal value in my book. If I were starting a standalone system from scratch I would not hesitate to get an XT2 however. Also a 55-200mm Fujifilm lens is great bang for buck and may find it’s way in to my bag before then.
  • I have quite a few very good portrait lens options not mentioned, so this was ultimately a definite want, not a need.
  • Not only lenses for another system. With a $20 M42 lens adapter I also gained access to some of my legacy glass. While not f/1.2 and lacking AF my M42 full frame normal-ish lenses make for passable portrait lenses in a pinch when the crop multiplier comes in to play. They work out to roughly 75mm (Takumar 50mm f/1.4), 82.5mm (Takumar 55mm f/1.8), and 87mm (my favorite of the three, the Helios 44-2 58mm f/2.0). While not nearly as crisp as the Fujifilm they are not bad.

What am I on about on that last bullet? Well below are some quick sample shots I took today to compare sharpness, bokeh, and the nature of fall off. I converted them all in to black and white in Lightroom so colors were not a distraction and all could be tweaked to my taste. As much as I could I stood in the same place and took the pictures within a couple of minutes from start to finish. I also used live view and focused all manually so AF would be neither help nor hindrance.

 

The contenders:

  • Fujifilm 56mm f/1.2
    • The reason we are gathered here today.
    • The crispest out of camera of the pics taken with X-Pro1 for certain. But hitting the rest with the Lightroom stick brought them in line as well.

 

  • Helios 44-2 58mm f/2.0 M42 screwmount
    • Great back story for a lens and dirt cheap. The famous swirly bokeh may be diminished on a crop sensor, but sharpness has not.

 

  • Takumar 55mm f/1.8
    • Also representing the closely spec’d Takumar 50mm f/1.4
    • A beautiful lens capable of beautiful photos.

 

I also added 2 lenses. One other very humble Fuji and the big one.

  • Fujifilm 18-55mm Kit Lens
    • Purchased this lens at the same time as the X-Pro1. With f/4.0 available at 55mm (not bad for a kit lens) I figured why not tale a look at what it could do. Not bad.

 

  • Mitakon 85mm f/1.2 on Pentax K-1
    • Bokeh! Ahem. Could have stopped it down a pinch to f/1.8 to sharpen it up a bit which would have been near the full frame equivalent of f/1.2 on the crop sensor spec’d 56mm, but what fun is that?

 

Sum up? No surprise. The top winners to me were Fujifilm 56mm and the Mitakon.

 

But, taking in to consideration cost and availability I would be happy with any of these lenses. I must admit however that with a level playing field the Fujifilm was best overall.

 

No, it could not match the ridiculous bokeh of the Mitakon (not many lenses can, especially for $699), but it was not far off, had AF, was much lighter, and required almost no post production work in Lightroom unlike the rest.

But even I must be grown up every once in a while. Please note that if I was starting from scratch and going all in on Fujifilm (who knows what the future holds) this lens would be on my short list. Until then I have a K Mount adapter on the way so I can see what the X-Pro1 can do with the Mitakon and other K mount lenses I have.

Below are some samples I took out and about including a quick trip to my gear test bed aka Duke Gardens and here is an album I am putting together before this lens has to go back. Happy shooting.

-ELW

 

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