Thursday, March 10, 2016

Fuji 100-400mm lens -- a hands-on review

One question that often pops up when other photographers see me using a Fuji X camera system is "Why would I recommend Fuji"? Aside from the fact that it is a really good camera, the most important component of the Fuji system is the available optics. A camera system is only as good as the glass it mounts on the front of the body, and I am convinced from my many tests and extensive use of the Fuji X that its optical system is one of the best in the world, ranking right up there with Leitz, Zeiss, and maybe even nudging out Nikon. This comes as no surprise, as Fuji has been making exceptional pro-quality lenses for many years.

When it came time to test the new Fuji 100-400mm zoom, I went into the project expecting the very positive results I always see with Fuji optics. It didn't disappoint. I have tested this focal length zoom type from a number of quality lens manufactures, and can confidently say, this is as good as it gets.

On location with the Fuji 100-400mm zoom on an X-T1. 

My impression upon picking up this lens for the first time was how small and comfortable it is for a lens of this genre. Super-tele lenses, while practical to use, can be a bulky addition to any camera system. This one balances well on any of the Fuji X camera bodies, and is even comfortable to carry and use hand-held, something that extends its usage range.

This photo of the setting sun was taken with the Fuji 100-400mm zoom lens plus 1.4x teleconverter delivering a total focal length of 560mm (840mm equivalent). This is a very powerful telephoto lens, and when the new Fuji 2.0x teleconverter comes out will further extend the zoom range to and 800mm, for a mind-boggling 1200mm full-frame equivalency.  I can't wait to shoot sunsets with that!

This full frame view of the moon show what can be achieved with a 560mm (860mm equivalent) focal length of the lens plus the 1.4x teleconverter. 

Fuji's recently introduced 1.4x teleconverter is made to fit both the XF50-140mm f/2.8 zoom and this 100-400mm. My tests show that use of the teleconverter did not noticeably impair lens sharpness, but did significantly  increase the range of both zooms significantly. At full extension the of 400mm with the 1.4x attached the focal length is an impressive 560mm, a full-frame equivalenttv of 840mm. That is impressive, especially considering the accompanying sharpness of the combo.

While the lens is exceptionally sharp with any of the Fuji X cameras, it really gets to show off its stuff when combined with the 24mp sensor of the new X-Pro2. This is one of the main reasons I waited to write this review. I wanted to see how it would perform with the new sensor.

Other features of the FUJINON XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens:

-  It is weather-sealed with 13 water and dust seals in 12 places.
-  The optical elements contain 5 extra-low dispersion elements and 1 super extra low dispersion element making this lens almost impervious to unnecessary flare and achromatic distortion.
-  The aperture is a 9-blade rounded
-  A nicety of the lens hood is the sliding window it has for easy access to a polarizing filter without having to remove the hood.
-  The flouring coatings are water-repellent fluorine coating
-  It has an optional lens plate (MLP-75XF) with an Arca Swiss type mount.

One of the prime uses of a lens like this is in wildlife photography, where the zoom aspect provides a more spontaneous change in composition for rapidly changing subjects situations.  Download a high res version of the file here

The auto-focus is everything you would want, fast, responsive, and accurate. Combining this with the new joystick focus point movement control makes this an ideal lens for fast moving subjects, like animals, and sports. The XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lends itself to handheld shooting with a 5.0-stop image stabilization system and twin linear motors.

One of the main draws for me of long telephoto lenses is the squashed perspective look they impart to distant scenes, compressing everything onto a single plane. Download a high res version of the file here

There are several downloadable sample images here to see the sharpness range for yourself. It is sharp at all apertures even into the corners, but shines especially in the center. The photo shown here of the moon placed in the center of the frame is the sharpest image I have ever achieved of this subject.

The Fuji 100-400mm zoom on an X-Pro2, and a 1.4x teleconverter off to the side. This is a perfect super-tele kit. The larger X-Pro2 body makes this a more comfortable package.

Photograph of the top of the Chrysler Building at 400mm extension and f/9.   Download a high res version of this file here. 

This is a shot that will demonstrate both the center and edge sharpness of the lens. Download a high res version of the file here

The excellent OIS system of this lens makes it convenient to use even hand-held, as it was here.  Download a high res version of this file here. 

An example of the space compressing characteristics of such a long lens where the bridge in the background is over ten miles away, and the near building facade on the right is only a few blocks from where I took this photo. This is the sort of composition characteristic I love about super-tele lenses.


If it's a comfortable to use super-tele zoom with a high degree of image sharpness you are looking for, there is no need to look any further than the Fuji 100-400mm lens. It is very well made with low to no distortion and delivers a corner-to-corner sharpness that is hard to beat. Images are especially crisp with the improved 24mp sensor of the X-Pro2, and the OIS system makes it a dream to use even hand-held.    

Missing still from the Fuji lens lineup are some fast-aperture teles. In the interim, the 100-400mm zoom fills the super-tele gap with a convenient package with no trade-off in image quality.

It fills an important gap in the Fuji lens lineup moving the Fuji X system one step further to dominating the APS mirrorless camera choice. A camera is only as good as the optical system it supports, Currently, Fuji lenses are second to none making the Fuji X cameras the number one choice for professional use among APS-sized camera options.

The FUJINON XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR will be available in February 2016 for USD $1,899.00 and can be ordered now from:  BH Photo   Adorama   Amazon

It can also be ordered as a specially priced kit along with the 1.4x teleconverter for $1999.00 from:
BH Photo     Amazon


  1. Nice, comprehensive review, Tom. Thank you.

    I wonder, it appears you have the vertical grip attached to your X-Pro2. How do you find it, overall? I'm guessing it's near essential with the 100-400 attached.

    1. I love the vertical grip, mosty because it incorporates an Arca Swiss tripod mount, but also because it helps balance the rig when a long is attached, as you point out.

  2. Hey Tom, great site you have. Might want to check some of the numbers in the above article 400 x 1.5 x 1.4 = 840mm

  3. Fuji's recently introduced 1.4x teleconverter is made to fit both the 55-200mm f/2.8 zoom and this 100-400mm.
    ..incorrect, it's the XF50-140 and 100-400 (and I think the future XF120..?)