Monday, October 26, 2015

Fuji's 90mm f/2 lens for controlling focus in lifestyle photography

Once upon a time in the old days of film the 135mm (full frame) focal length lens was a mainstay telephoto lens of every photographer. It was a little on the short side for a long reach for sports and wildlife, but came in handy for adding a telephoto effect to closer subjects. This was especially true if the lens had a fast aperture, but few of them did.

I like using a fast aperture 135mm lens for lifestyle photography for achieving a pin point focus on the subject that is separated from a heavily out-of-focus background or foreground. This is especially important where I want to leave a substantial neutral area in which art directors can work when they use my images for their ads.

In a recent shoot with a hand model, I used the Fuji 90mm almost exclusively because of its ability to focus in really tight and deliver very soft abstract patterns in the out of focus background. 
One of my favorite lenses was -- and still is -- the Nikon 135mm f/2 DC, where the "DC" stands for defocus control. This control could be used to adjust the amount of out-of-focus in front or in back of the focused point. It did work, but was quite a mild change. I never found it to be too useful. I did, however, really love the lens. It was very sharp and gave a pleasing bokeh. But this lens was made in 1990, and, although still in the Nikon lineup, is definitely due for an update to improve its performance with today's high res digital sensors.

I had pretty much given up on using this focal length until Fuji introduced its 90mm f/2 lens. This lens quickly became a game-changer, and, once again, I found myself back in love with the 135mm focal length. To make matters even better, the Fuji lens performs beautifully even wide open at f/2, which is where I use it most of the time.

The lens is exceptionally sharp wide open at f/2, which enables me to let the front and back of a scene to completely blur out.
One other feature of the Fuji 90mm lens that really expanded its usefulness, was its ability to focus in very close. It gets in to 1.97' (60cm) for a magnification of .2x. That's good enough to come in quite tight on a subject.

When I pull back a little and keep the aperture set to f/2 I can use an out-of-focus foreground to give a sense a depth to the scene. 

Integrating out-of-focus props such as this iv placed in front of the doctor, allows me to tell the story without much interference from the object.

I even like using the Fuji 90mm for some still life photography because of the pleasing bokeh effects. 

All of the samples above were taken at an aperture of f/2 to juxtapose the sharp subjects with a softer, story-telling scene. I am not a wedding photographer, but I would think this lens would be a perfect accompaniment to a wedding photographer's lens kit. It is quickly becoming one of my favorites for shooting lifestyle.

On a recent shoot outdoors, where I generally use a 70-200mm lens on a Nikon, I picked up the Fuji X-T1 with the 90mm on it just to see how it would perform in a severely backlit situation with the sun. The difference between the 90mm and the Nikon 70-200 was startling-- way more than I would even expect.

The Fuji 90mm f/2 lens is definitely one of the best optical performers in a Fuji lineup that includes some very heavy competition for that title.


  1. thank you, now you're tempting me. you said the diff between the 90 and the nikon 70-200 was startling... how? the 90 was better?

  2. What I found when I used both a Canon 70-200 and a 100mm prime in the studio was that the significantly higher contrast of the prime dramatically reduced veiling haze in my high key images.
    I suspect that is also true here.