Home Reviews Fuji X-Pro2 and X100T: Toy lens comparisons

Fuji X-Pro2 and X100T: Toy lens comparisons

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 Fuji X-Pro2 and toy lens, X100T with the better lens. No coffee stains on screens.
Fuji X-Pro2 and toy lens, X100T with the better lens. No coffee stains on screens.

While we wait for the announcement of the XF35mm f/2 WR from Messrs. Fuji, what to do if you want the occasional burst of 35mm-equivalent Fuji X goodness? In effect at the moment you have three viable options: a) The excellent but enormous 23mm f1.4, b) The X100T (and it’s predecessors), or c) The X-Mount Filter Lens…

I have written of this last one before and, unless you live either in Japan or have read that previous article, you may be forgiven for a degree of confusion at this point. To recap (pun intended) the optic to which I refer is a Japanese-market only, body-cap/toy lens that offers a field of view of 24mm and a fixed aperture of f/8. The XM-FL is made of plastic, has no means of focusing and is really not meant to be taken too seriously.

Thing is, when you are travelling and space is at a premium the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R is a monster to lug about for the odd mildly wide shot if, like me, you are predominantly a 50mm field of view photographer. There’s a clear case for packing an X100 as backup as I did on a recent trip, but only if you have one and are willing to lug an additional body. The X100/S/T delivers other significant benefits, of course, such as that silent leaf shutter, but it’s not the answer if you really want to travel light.

Odd couple

So all things being equal, only a fool would expect the cheap option to hold a candle to the 23mm 1.4 lens or, even, the fixed 23mm on an X100. But the big question is whether that little bodycap lens mounted in front of the larger 24mp sensor on the X-Pro2 closes that image quality gap sufficiently to be taken seriously and to allow the Fuji X traveller to leave the more costly and weighty alternatives at home.

I took the “odd couple” out for a stroll on my recent trip to the beautiful Madeiran city of Funchal. If you have never been, go—just go—it’s worth the long flight, even on British Airways (I have almost restored circulation below the knees but I am still suffering sleepless nights over the catering).

To make it a relatively fair fight, I set the aperture on the X100T to f/8. All other settings between my two cameras are “standardised” as a matter of course for consistency of handling. I therefore metered in spot mode with auto ISO and framed the same each time, using the EVF on both cameras. The X100T focused itself and the 24mm is fixed focus anyway. I did set the X-Pro2 to “shoot without lens”.

Shortcomings

Using the EVF highlighted (quite literally) one of the first shortcomings of the little bodycap lens. With a fixed aperture of f/8 it simply delivers less light to the sensor at all times so the image on the screen was appreciably more dim and muddy than we are used to. It’s still visible but in lower light it becomes harder and harder to see the more subtle detail.

In use the first thing that surprised me was that the X100T consistently chose a lower shutter speed and higher ISO. Why this should be I’m not sure, since the aperture and ambient light were constants, as were the camera auto ISO settings.  Perhaps there is a bias towards faster shutter speeds in the XPro2?  The XPro2 tended to deliver a darker exposure overall, with a bit of blocking in the shadow detail.  

So does a toy lens on a bigger sensor beat an excellent lens on a smaller sensor?  Has David slain Goliath? 

Um. No.

Toy story in mono, Funchal

This particular contest went with form, and was pretty well over from the first shutter press. The X100T with that sharp and tasty 23mm f2 optic trounced the X-Mount Filter lens comprehensively in pretty well every way. I’ve produced a number of photos for comparison purposes, each with a 100% crop to show the level of detail, so you can see for yourself. The toy lens delivers results that are about as crisp as a day old digestive, with massive loss of detail at close, mid and long distances. There is no point at which it shows any chance of catching up to the X100T. In optical terms, putting the bodycap lens on the XPro2 is a bit like putting milk-bottle spectacles on an eagle and expect it not to fly into a mountain.

Snapshot lens

So it’s useless rubbish then?

Far from it. Bear in mind this little thing retails for well under a hundred quid (if you import it from Japan). For the money you get a “snapshot” lens that really isn’t a speed or sharpness demon but still has its charms. It really is a neat “street” lens due to it’s fixed focus and fixed aperture; no messing about here. Let the shutter and ISO sort themselves and it turns the XPro2 into a highly effective (albeit expensive) point and shoot for quick and quiet street use. The last four shots I show here play to the strengths of the X-Mount Filter lens; it’s good for street, it’s good for mono. The results it delivers are grungy and grubby but they have a particular charm. It weighs nothing and it attracts about as much attention as a McDonalds wrapper on the street. I love it for this type of use—but that is it’s niche and it is unfair to ask it to punch above it’s weight as a general-purpose lens for travel.

If there’s a moral to this story it’s this: There really is no substitute for decent optics. All the megapixels in the world won’t close the gap between a sharp lens matched with a decent sensor and a bigger and better sensor if it’s hamstrung by a cheap lens. This is an extreme example, but a prime(!) illustration of the fact that false economy is a fool’s game.

I’ll end this mini-review with a plea on behalf of Fuji X travel photographers everywhere. Mr.Fuji, the money is in the bank and there’s a corner of the gadget bag that’s ready and waiting—please put us out of our misery and deliver that 23mm f/2. You know it makes sense.

  • You can find more from Bill Palmer at Lightmancer
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6 COMMENTS

  1. How would this http://www.fujifilm.com/products/quicksnap/lineup/marine/ compare to the XPro2 with the Toy lens at ten metres Bill…?

    I think we should be told. 🙂

    I loved the pictures from my X100s, sort of regret giving it away now, but I could never get the hang of all the stuff in the menus, so I just used to use it as a P&S.

    Note that rumour has it that Leica are introducing their own "toy" lens… the 28 Summaron, I bet it won’t be under 100 smackeroonies though!

    rgds Stephen.

  2. Dear Jacques Cousteau

    Welcome back from the dead. I had the pleasure of handling one of your cameras on Tuesday in a fellow collector’s house:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calypso_(camera)

    It looks like a toy but, in fact, it was better built than any Leica I have ever held, including the mighty M3. It had its original box and set of instructions in French. In time Nikon took over the production and it became the Nikonos, one of the most successful underwater cameras of all time.

    Your closing point reminds of a thought I had about using the little f5.6 Summaron on the X-Pro 2 via two adaptors. This should reduce the vignetting but it would then be a 42mm lens. It is definitely not a toy lens, though.

    William

    • And I am going to try it on the Olympus PEN-F with two adapters….. A nifty 56 no less. Should be interesting. I agree with you, though, this is no toy lens. And the new one, if it exists, will be a cracker.

  3. Dear Bill,
    the braided leather camera straps which are seen on different of your photos are very nice. Please could you tell me where I can buy these straps?
    Thanks in advance
    Thomas

    • Hello Thomas, thanks for asking. The best I have is the brown one; it was actually made for me by a saddler friend in Canada…! It is well worn in now, but the real advantage of it is that the edges are "raw", or slightly rough. This means that it stays on your shoulder, and also that it "binds" to itself when doubled around the wrist. My black leather one is made by a company called "Cam-in" who I think are in China, although there are UK stockists. The important thing to me is that similarly to my bespoke original, it is flat in cross-section, not rounded like the Annie Barton or Artisan and Artist ones which are hence more prone to tangling and are somewhat less good at spreading the load.

      The best wrist straps I have found are by "cordweaver" – they are a small UK outfit and the products are amazingly good value and very robust – made of paracord. One lives on my X100T as shown.

  4. Dear Bill,
    thanks for your answer.
    So I will try to find a saddler who can make one or two for me too.
    The information about the raw edges is very helpful.
    I will also look for Cam-in and cordweaver.

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