Introduction

Back in July, Fujifilm formerly announced their much anticipated 200mm f/2 telephoto lens. I’m very grateful to the lovely people at Fujifilm UK for giving me a chance to use a pre-production model of this lens and present my basic findings and opinions just before it leaves the retailer’s shelves.

In the days after this lens was announced I read a lot of negativity about it being discussed as a wildlife photography lens. I blogged about my thoughts on this criticism which you can read here.

Today (Sunday), I have been running one of my regular Northumberland Birds of Prey photography workshops. I took the 200mm f/2 lens along with me and in between working with our great group of photographers, I managed to get a few shots of my own.

Great Grey Owl

Great Grey Owl in flight, Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujinon 200mm f/2. Note, pre-production model.

Before I continue I need to make it clear that this is a pre-production model of the lens and it may not be exactly the same as those models which will be on the retailer’s shelves very soon. Also, I don’t label my Northumberland Birds of Prey photography workshop as wildlife photography, these are captive born and bred birds and it’s about teaching the techniques and camera settings associated with wildlife photography. Nonetheless, it presented as the ideal opportunity to give this lens a workout, so let’s go!

The Specs

These are available in detail elsewhere on the internet so for this review I’ve only included the key points. For more detailed information, the specifications are available on the Fujifilm website.

Overview:
Full designation Fujifilm XF200mm F2 R LM OIS WR
Format APS-C
Mount Fujifilm X
Stabilisation Yes, Five Stops
Weight 2265g
Diameter 122mm
Length 206mm
Material Magnesium Alloy
Sealing Yes
Filter size 105mm
Tripod Collar Yes, Arca Swiss
Aperture:
Maximum Aperture f/2
Minimum Aperture f/22
Diaphragm 9 Blades
Aperture Ring Yes
Focusing:
Minimum Focus Distance 1.8m
Internal Focus Yes
Limiter Full and 5m to infinity
Optics:
Elements 19 Elements in 14 groups
Coatings 1 Super ED and 2 ED with flourine coating/td>

Image Quality

Now, let’s just cut to the chase… Outstanding!

African Elephant, Masai Mara, Kenya

Long-eared Owl, Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujinon 200mm f/2, Note, pre-production model.

Back in August and September, Fujifilm UK very kindly arranged for me to lend a GFX50s and GF250mm f/4 for one of our wildlife photography safaris in Kenya’s Masai Mara. I’ll be blogging about this in the near future, but the reason I mention this is that the sharpness of this 200mm f/2 lens is right up there with this incredible medium-format combination. That is some claim! It is absolutely amazing, check out the 100% crop of the feather detail of this female Kestrel below the full photograph. The definition and sharpness of each of the individual hairs and the veins and barbs of the feathers within the depth of field is nothing short of incredible…

African Elephant, Masai Mara, Kenya

Kestrel, Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujinon 200mm f/2, Note, pre-production model.

African Elephant, Masai Mara, Kenya

Kestrel, 100% crop feather detail, Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujinon 200mm f/2, Note, pre-production model.

For a wildlife photographer, an important lens quality is how smooth out of focus elements are rendered, we often hear this referred to as ‘bokeh’. When photographing wildlife portraits we often use a shallow depth to put the key focal point on the subject. A lens which produces a harsh or very contrasty ‘bokeh’ may be distracting and it isn’t usually a desirable characteristic. A picture is worth a thousand words and as you can see, the ‘bokeh’ the 200mm f/2 produces is absolutely beautiful and smooth…

African Elephant, Masai Mara, Kenya

Tawny Owl, Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujinon 200mm f/2, Note, pre-production model.

Teleconverter

The Fujinon 200mm f/2 will be sold along with a new teleconverter, the XF1.4X TC F2 WR. Used together, this gives us a lens with an effective focal length on an APS-C sized sensor of 420mm. The original XF1.4X TC WR teleconverter will not work with lenses with a greater aperture than f/2.8.

The combination maintains incredible sharpness while giving us a very useful extended and versatile focal length. I’d have absolutely no hesitation in using the teleconverter for extra reach when the situation called for it. It is the same size and weight of the original telconverter, 130g, 58mm diameter and adds just 15mm when attached between the camera body and lens.

African Elephant, Masai Mara, Kenya

Great Grey Owl, Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujinon 200mm f/2 & 1.4x TC F2, Note, pre-production models.

African Elephant, Masai Mara, Kenya

Little Owl, Fujifilm X-H1 and Fujinon 200mm f/2 & 1.4x TC F2, Note, pre-production models.

Build & Handling

The most obvious feature I noticed was the all metal magnesium alloy body. In the absence of a hammer I am sure you could use this lens to bang some nails into something! It feels reassuringly solid yet not excessively heavy. Coupled with the X-H1 and VPB-XH1 Vertical Power Booster Grip which I used for these photographs, it’s a well-balanced and ergonomic pairing.

I’m a big fan of Fujifilm’s resurgence of the lens based aperture ring. System wide it feels so intuitive and on the 200mm f/2 it give us a reassuring level of resistance and confidence when adjusting the aperture. It’s also great to see focus buttons at the front of the lens. These buttons can be customised to activate autofocus as you would by the traditional half-squeeze on the shutter button, or to lock focus while in continuous autofocus, or to recall a stored focus distance preset. I used to use these features a lot with my Nikon equipment and it is something I have missed on my Fujinon 100-400mm lens.

As we would expect with a telephoto lens, we also have a focus limiting switch to provide optimum AF performance. We can limit the distances the AF will work from the full range of 1.8m to infinity, to 5m to infinity.

A very useful feature is the arca-swiss compatible tripod mount attached to the tripod collar. It saves having to carry and attach an adaptor when using a monopod or tripod. When a lens isn’t on my Black Rapid strap, I usually carry it by the tripod mount. The 200mm f/2 mount is a lot more substantial for my hands and therefore easier to carry this way than the smaller tripod mount on the 100-400mm.

Final Words

It’s probably obvious how I’m going to conclude my initial thoughs! This is an incredible lens in every regard. The sharpness is right up there with the very best of lenses I have ever used and the out of focus ‘bokeh’ is so smooth and really compliments wildlife portrait photography. The big wide f/2 aperture is an absolute ‘light-hoover’, not only is it great in low light but it also helps improve AF speed to reach lightning quick responsiveness.

Will I buy one? I would love to, but we’ll have to see how 2019’s photography holidays and workshops sell first! That said, I’d love to have this lens in my kit bag the next time I head to photograph Africa’s wildlife.

Hopefully I’ll be able to get out a little bit more over the next week or so and use the lens as much as I can until Fujifilm ask for it back. I’ll be adding any more thoughts and photographs to this blog. As always, thank you to my friends Andy and Nita for their infinite patience while facilitating our birds of prey photography days and also, thank you to Fujifilm for kindly arranging the loan of the lens for me.