The Fujinon XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR is a super-telephoto lens designed for Fujifilm’s range of X-mount mirrorless cameras.
It was announced in January 2016 and to date, it is the longest focal length lens in the Fujifilm lens range. It produces a field of view of approximately 150-600mm on the APS-C sensor of the X-series cameras.
The lens retails in the United Kingdom at around £1,500 or with the 1.4x teleconverter (XF 1.4x TC WR) included, £1609.
Please see notes at the end of this review regarding retail prices and links.
What’s in a Name?
The XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR – The ‘R’ designation means the lens has a dedicated aperture ring. ‘LM’ means the lens is equipped with fast and near-silent lens focusing motors. ‘OIS’ is the Fujifilm term for optical stabilisation and ‘WR’ tells us the lens is fitted with weather resistant sealing.
|Full designation||FUJINON XF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR|
|Maximum Aperture||f/4.5 – f/5.6|
|Minimum Focus Distance||1.75m|
|Limiter||Full and 5m to infinity|
|Elements||21 Elements in 14 groups|
Build Quality and Ergonomics
Let’s start at the mount and move forward. As we would expect, we have a metal mount and visible weather sealing gasket. Throughout the lens are a total of 13 water and dust resistant seals in 12 locations.
I’ve used this lens many times in the dusty environments of Kenya’s Masai Mara and South Africa’s Greater Kruger and I’m yet to notice any ingress.
Lens operation buttons for focus limiting, aperture control and OIS are easily accessible and changeable in their position on the left hand side (as we operate the camera and lens).
The overall weight of the lens is minimised by a plastic barrel construction. Don’t be put off by this, it’s very tough and such is the durability and quality, for a while I believed it to be metal.
The aperture ring gives us a reassuring, positive and precise tactile feel as we make adjustments in 1/3 stop increments. Given that this is a variable aperture lens which is dependent on focal length, there are no aperture markings like we would see on a constant aperture zoom or prime lens. You can, of course, choose to operate the aperture from the camera body instead if you wish.
The metal tripod ring allows the lens to be easily rotated between landscape and portrait orientation when mounted on a tripod or monopod. The foot is easily detachable with knurled thumb screws. I often detach this tripod mount when travelling for ease of packing.
The tripod mount foot feels a little bit too small. I often like to carry a telephoto by the tripod mount so I would personally prefer something a little more substantial to grip. Maybe in future versions of this lens we may also see a moulded Arca Swiss plate like the more recent Fujinon 200mm f/2. Although Arca-Swiss compatible plates are abundant in availability and choice, it would be a nice touch to have this as standard.
Focal length markings are at 100mm, 135mm, 200mm, 300mm and 400mm. A zoom lock switch prevents any creeping when carrying the lens retracted at 100mm. I also use this lock when the lens is packed to prevent it extending when retrieving it from my bag.
A large zoom ring takes about quarter of a turn to go through the full focal range of 100 to 400mm. This prevents zooming when hand held becoming a chore, unlike some other zoom lenses I have used. The zoom ring is well positioned in conjunction with the aperture ring. When hand holding, I can rest the barrel in the palm of my hand while alternating operation of the the zoom and aperture ring with my thumb.
The manual focus ring is rather small. Personally, I don’t routinely manual focus with a telephoto lens like this, nor do I think many others do. So, I don’t find the thin size an issue. Giving the majority of available space to the zoom ring is far more favourable for ergonomic handling.
Focussing is internal so the front element does not rotate, faciltating simple use of polarisers and neutral density graduated filters.
The front element has a fluorine coating to help repel contaminants. It does feel rather heavy and a little unbalanced towards the front, so I prefer to use this lens with the additional Vertical Power Booster Grips on both my X-T2 and X-H1 to achieve more overall balance. I also feel the enhanced grip on the X-H1 to be more beneficial in this regard.
The lens hood is also made of tough plastic. It locks into place with a very reassuring tactile click and requires unlocking to remove. There is a sliding opening portal to allow access to adjust a polariser filter. When not in use, the hood is easily and quickly stored in a reversed position.
The twin linear AF system is barely audible and when used with a modern camera body which is set up appropriately for optimum AF performance, it is also very quick and responsive.
The inclusion of a focus limiter switch is a crucial benefit. Most AF systems ‘hunt’ for focus more when they are looking for closer subjects. If we can tell the lens not to focus on close subjects, we can speed up AF and increase accuracy significantly. We have two options, ‘Full’ and ‘5m to infinity’. If we know our subject is not going to come within 5m of our position, by setting the limiter to 5m to infinity we exclude the AF hunting between the minimum focus distance of 1.75m and 5m.
I do miss programmable AF memory presets which I used a lot with my Nikon 200-400 f/4. When alternating between two subjects, or perhaps waiting for a subject you expect will imminently appear at a certain distance, like a perched bird for example, it was useful to be able to program the AF setting and quickly select it by means of the memory recall button.
These have been included in the more recent 200mm f/2 so maybe it is something we may also see in a future version of the 100-400mm.
I’ve blogged about the variable aperture of the 100-400mm lens previously, here.
The total difference is between f/4.5 at 100mm and f/5.6 at 400mm. Here we can see where the aperture closes down as we move from 100mm to 400mm:
I’m not going to reproduce MTF charts, they’re available elsewhere and I prefer to judge photographs.
Let’s get straight to the point! The overall sharpness of the 100-400mm is very impressive. If we wind the clock back a couple of years, it was the sharpness of this lens which made my decision to convert from Nikon to Fujifilm. You can read more about my thoughts during the transition between Nikon and Fujifilm here.
This photograph to the right of a captive Common Buzzard is a great example. It was taken on one of my wildlife photography techniques birds of Prey workshops. As I took the shot (at 400mm), the bird closed its nictitating membrane (third eyelid). When I reviewed the photograph I was absolutely astonished at the detail rendered in the membrane. When magnified at 400%, we can easily see the tiny blood-filled capillaries and leading edge of the membrane which have been rendered with incredible detail.
At 100mm to 200mm the sharpness is outstanding through f/4.5 to f/16 where it begins to drop off towards f/22.
From 200mm towards 300mm the sharpness is excellent, wide open and peaks around f/8-f/11 after which it drops very slightly through to f/22 but does remain very good.
From 350mm onwards towards 400mm the central sharpness is excellent but it does drop slightly towards the edges. At 400mm between f/5.6 and f/8 it remains excellent but drop off is a little more noticeable towards the edges. This isn’t a surprise for a telephoto zoom and much of the time these areas will be rendered in a shallow depth of field anyway.
Consistent success with sharpness using any big telephoto requires good support or absolutely faultless hand-holding technique. The Fujifilm 100-400mm is no different but crucially, the underlying lens quality is present so success is certainly achievable.
Colour, Contrast and Distortion
The lens is constructed of 21 lens elements in 14 groups. Five of these are ED (extra-low dispersion) and one is Super ED. Together with some rather clever lens profiling this increases contrast, boosts colour to Fujifilm glory and controls chromatic aberrations very well.
Image distortion is negligible if existent at all. It should be mentioned that just like chromatic aberration, I don’t know how much of this is lens quality and how much is profiling. Either way, I don’t really care because the end results are fantastic!
The 100-400mm boasts five stops of Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) which can also detect panning and compensate appropriately towards correcting unwanted vertical motion.
I don’t often use slower shutter speeds as subject movement usually requires me to keep my shutter speed faster than speeds where we could enthuse about getting sharp shots at 1/25 etc.
That said, I do find OIS a huge benefit in negating camera shake when hand-holding the 100-400mm lens for a long period, perhaps when awaiting some interesting subject behaviour or tracking birds in flight, for example.
I mostly use the 100-400mm lens coupled with the X-H1 camera which also has in-body image stabilisation (IBIS). When used together, the camera employs an intelligent approach to provide optimum stability. A lens like 100-400mm is more likely to require IBIS on vertical movement. As the lens OIS is optimised for this characteristic, the X-H1 will intelligently allow the lens OIS to stabilise movement on this axis. Very clever!
When I purchased the 100-400mm I opted for the package which included the 1.4x teleconverter. The performance of the 1.4x converter was also a key factor in deciding to change from Nikon to Fujifilm. More about that here.
The 100-400mm is also compatible with the 2x converter but I have no experience of using these together.
With the 1.4x attached we have a focal length of 140-560mm and an APS-C effective field of view of 210-840mm. We lose one stop on the aperture, so the lens becomes f/6.4-f/8. Communication of metering, autofocus, and image stabilisation is maintained although as we would expect, AF responsiveness does drop which is noticeable with moving subjects. However, overall sharpness remains very good. Unlike using my Nikon 200-400mm f/4 with a 1.4x converter which was noticeably soft, even visibley so on the rear monitor, I have absolutely no qualms about using the 100-400mm with the 1.4x converter if the situation calls for it.
It should also be noted that a lens firmware update is available to make the recent 1.4x f/2 converter (provided with the 200mm f/2 lens) compatible with the 100-400mm lens.
(Almost) Final Words
The Fujinon 100-400mm has become my ‘workhorse’ lens. I was so impressed with this lens the first time I used it, its qualities became a key part of my decision to convert my equipment to the Fujifilm-X system.
That was around two years ago now, and I’m happy to say I have no regrets. Do I miss the f/4 aperture of my 200-400mm lens? Yes, but only very occasionally. But I absolutely do not miss the weight! It always feels much more liberating to be able to walk around with the X-H1 and 100-400mm using a Black Rapid shoulder strap and hand holding rather than lugging the Nikon 200-400 f/4 around with a tripod and gimbal head.
The 100-400mm is Fujifilm’s only super telephoto lens. There are no other choices beyond 280mm. The 50-140mm f/2.8 with the 2x converter or the 200mm f/2 with the 1.4x f/2 converter both max out at 280mm. I haven’t used the 50-140mm f/2.8 with a 2x converter but it is an incredible lens and I often use it for closer wildlife photography or for more ‘habitat’ or ‘wildlife in the landscape’ work. The 200mm f/2 with and without the f/2 1.4x converter is simply outstanding and I’ve enjoyed using this immensely in Kenya’s Masai Mara courtesy of Fujifilm, many thanks!
However, I am always pleased to have my 100-400mm at my side on either my X-T2 or X-H1 for its versatility and quality. For me, the 100-400mm lens made a camera system ethos I became enamoured with an absolutely viable practical and top-quality proposition for my wildlife photography. I’ve even used it to photograph the dramatic landscapes on the Isle of Skye!
If the 100-400mm lens is updated by Fujifilm, I’d love to see a few additional features considered. For example…
- A larger tripod foot which can be used for more comfortable and reassuring carrying;
- An Arca-Swiss compatible tripod foot like the 200mm f/2;
- Programmable focus memory recall buttons at the end of the lens, again like the 200mm f/2;
- Lastly, and as a bit of a ‘wild-card’, perhaps looking at the possibilty of adding an internal 1.4x converter option like the recent versions of the Canon 200-400 f/4 and Nikon 180-400 f/4;
Please note, I do not receive any affiliate benefits for these links. I choose to link to London Camera Exchange as they are also my local camera store in Newcastle upon Tyne where I purchase my own equipment and I believe in the benefits of their fantastic knowledge and service. Long live the high street camera store!
Prices correct at time of publishing, not including any periodical offers.
Fujifilm 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 on the UK Fujifilm website.