Portrait Photography with the Fujifilm XF 50mm f/2
Updated: Jan 26
The bottom line is, the Fuji 50mm f2 is truly an underrated lens for portrait photography. It's often compared to the larger and faster Fuji 56mm f1.2 but once you try the f2 version you will be pleasantly surprised. The effective field of view is 76mm which shouldn't throw you off just because its not 85mm. If you're use to a 24-70 on full frame you're already familiar with it. F2 is more than enough for blurred backgrounds and low light photography. Go get one.
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If you're anything like me I've tried a lot of cameras and lenses over the years. After this level of trial and error you start to realize what's important to you. The small size of Fujifilm F2 lenses were appealing to me. It all started with the 27mm F2.8 and 18mm F2.
I'm a photographer firmly in between a professional and an enthusiast. I use to have separate cameras and lenses for each but quickly realized this creates problems with having unused cameras and lenses. Now that I have exclusively moved to Fuji I streamlined my setups to be flexible in both regards.
F2 is fast enough
I did have F1.4 lenses for pro work but I never actually shot at that aperture. I would always start at F2 and if I was in a darker situation for events I always used a flash and started at F4.
Why have two separate redundant lenses then? For instance, I would have the F1.4 for pro work and F2 for personal work. Ultimately I realized that F2 is fast enough and "paying" for 1.2 to never use it is a waste of resources for my case. Another thing I asked myself is when did F2 become a "slow" aperture? It's not, and is plenty fast or any system especially for Fuji who optimizes their lenses for their crop sensors.
I think there may be a feeling that the F2 lenses from Fujifilm are for enthusiasts rather than professionals. Perhaps the size has something to do with it or the obsession with 1.8 and 1.4 lenses. I can say I fell I for that but the point of mirrorless was to have a smaller lighter system.
Somehow we feel that our clients will see us as less professional but no one has ever asked me about my camera or lenses unless they were a photographer themselves. Clients ask for photos and nothing more.
Fujifilm 50mm F2
This lens is the least talked about among the F2 lenses dubbed the "Fujicrons" by some in the Fuji community. As I previously mentioned it has plenty of competition at this focal length. However, I will boldly say this is the one most people should get. Why?
Most street photographers will want effective focal lengths that are either, 24, 28, 35, or 50. Anything past that becomes hard to use as a primary focal length. However the size and performance of the 50mm F2 makes it easy to have as a tag along lenses. Doesn't take up much room in your bag. Now you're able to get two different looks. You can also get portraits while you're out and about.
My preferred way of shooting is having two cameras, two primes (wide and telephoto), and two flashes for event work. The Fujifilm 23mm and 50mm as a pair are perfect for that. If you don't use flash than you can argue using F1.4 lenses but my style requires the use of flash to emphasize the subject. At that point I'm cranking the ISO up a little, going to F4, and turning on the flash.
If you shoot in a documentary style than being non-obtrusive with a smaller camera and lens can aide in getting candid shots which can't be duplicated.
F2 might sound scary for APS-C but Fujifilm has great high ISO performance. I can regularly shoot at 3200 and 6400 without a problem. And with flash work I lock in at 1600. We live in a world where ISO values have gone up to 51,200 like anyone would ever shoot that high.
We need to bring back common sense and understand that photography is about shaping/painting with light. And if you don't have light you need to bring light to the situation to feed to your camera.
In the studio I shoot portraits at F5.6 with umbrellas and flashes. I never need F2 or faster for that. Outdoors I shoot at 2.8 because I want subjects whole face in focus and at 76mm effective focal length you have enough compression to achieve the bokeh (blurry background) I require.
The Fujifilm 50mm F2 is routinely ignored in favor of the 56mm F1.2. Now that lens is a classic and deserves its praise but Fuji did take the time to engineer a lens to improve upon the terrible autofocus of that lens. The F2 version was not meant to replace it but meant to give the F2 suite of lenses a medium telephoto option.
I've personally used this lens for portrait work and I thought the results were fantastic. The 76mm equivalent should be familiar to most who use a standard zoom so you're not missing out because its 85mm. Take a few steps forward and the framing is similar. You will not be disappointed.