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

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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!

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.

Fujifilm X-Pro1

  • 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.

Helios 44-2 58mm f/2

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

Zun Lee at WSSU Digg's Gallery

I also added 1 lens.

  • 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?

Mitakon Speedmaster 85mm f/1.2

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.


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