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Fujinon XC 50-230mm zoom. Personal mini-review PART ONE


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#1 royuk

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 02:51 PM

First of all, a disclaimer. This is nothing more than a first-impressions personal evaluation of my new lens. I've never bothered to review anything before in my life and I've no idea how to attach photos to this post  . . . so it's gonna be a bumpy ride. Please take what follows with the healthy dose of scepticism it deserves.


I suspect there are quite a few members of this forum who are unsure as to which of the two Fuji long telezooms they should be shelling out for. The 55-200 XF has been well received, and is no mean performer, but for some, it's weight and size are perhaps a bit out of sync with the 'small is beautiful' Fuji ethos . . . and it's not exactly cheap either.


Then along comes a substantially less expensive XC option that, although hardly in the same build league - and missing out on aperture too - might just be worth checking out.


Well, £379 lighter, I've now gone for bust and jumped into the 'junk' end of the Fuji X pool to see if their 50-230 XC effort floats my boat . . . or maybe just sinks like a brick.


First impressions are that the build seems to be better than I'd expected. This is much better put together than the lower end stuff that Canon and Nikon turn out.  In fact it's really rather classy. The zoom ring shares a similar rubber-coated feel with that on the XF 55-200 and while the focus ring at the front may miss out on the all-metal cachet of the XF lens, it certainly doesn't feel cheap or nasty in the least. It's also perfectly positioned for manual focus tweaking.


But what about the aperture ring at the back? Well, there isn't one! Nor is there any sign of the optical stabiliser switch or manual/auto aperture control you'll find on the standard and tele XF zooms. In fact the back 30mm or so of the lens barrel is a bit of a wilderness area with nothing to fiddle around with at all.


Could cutting corners like this be why it's so much cheaper than its big brother? A compromise too far perhaps? Well, once I'd realised that the aperture was now to be set using the rotary controller on the back of he camera, I stopped panicking.  My X-E1 version 2 firmware alread had this feature enable for this lens and within minutes it all seemed to make sense. After all, retaining the control ring around the lens on variable aperture zooms was never really all that clever in the first place.


I certainly wouldn't want to be without the aperture rings on my primes, but let's face it; the reason for their existence depended almost entirely on us being able to see the actual aperture on the ring itself. Once it became a mere fly-by-wire controller, then you had to check aperture in the viewfinder anyway. Our over-worked left hand has plenty on it's plate handling zoom and manual focus as well as supporting the camera, so it seems that Fuji's decision to hand over aperture control to our under-used right thumb might not be such a bad idea after all.


As for the Optical Image Stabiliser switch: well that's tucked away at the bottom of option 4 in the shooting menu. This allows you to specify how the OIS functions; either on 'continuously' – which may irritate and drain battery rather sooner than you'd like - or on 'only when shooting'. When using the camera on a tripod, I couldn't spot any difference in the image quality between on or off, so leaving it active is probably no big deal.


Odd though it may seem, I reckon that Fuji's decision to trim the fat at the back end of the lens mount, not only saves money and weight, it also seems to contribute to the smooth handling of the lens as a whole. As far as my largish mitts are concerned, handling really couldn't be better. Size-wise the lens is about 7mm less than the XF at the wide end and more or less the same 176mm at full stretch.


Remember though that this lens, starting off at 50mm is not only wider than the XF, it also goes on longer as well - all the way to 230mm which is equal to 345mm on full-frame. It's a good 200 grams lighter than the XF (and mine was also about £200 cheaper from UKDigital) and it takes the same 58mm filter size as the standard zoom rather than the 62mm you'd need for the XF tele zoom.


The extending lens tube (as on the XF lens) is made of a particularly smooth and solid plastic (probably polycarbonate) and there's very little wobble when fully extended. Near focus gets down to 110cm at all focal lengths and although the manual suggests there's some sort of focus-limiting 'macro mode' from 1.1m to 3m, there isn't. At least, there's none that I could find in the X-E1 menu with Body Version 2 and Lens Version 1 firmware. Maybe XC camera menus will allow this to be activated and toggled.      



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Edited by royuk, 24 November 2013 - 02:54 PM.

#2 royuk

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 03:13 PM

My Mini-Review PART TWO


Of course it's about now that we need to take a reality check. So far, there have been way too many positives. So what about the inevitable downsides? Well, there's no escaping the fact that this is a modestly-apertured lens. At the short end it's a mere f/4.5 and at full stretch that shrinks to a meagre f/6.7. If this was built to bayonet onto the front of a DSLR then it would quite rightly be regarded as a disastrously compromised effort, but, thanks to the excellent EVF system adopted by Fuji and the remarkable ISO capability of their X series cameras, most users can confidently swat away this irritating fly of a compromise long before it gets anywhere near to the ointment. The viewfinder stays wonderfully bright – and (I assume) stutter-free on the X-E2 - and if you need faster shutter speeds, then you've got them simply by pushing the ISO.


So if it's not the modest aperture we need to worry about, then it must be the image quality eh? A bit of a bottle bottom is it?  Well, not by a long mile it isn't. I've only had a very short time to check out my new Fujinon but I can tell you that it soon became obvious that this is a lens that punches well above it's weight.


Largely because I'm a bit of a lazy so-and-so, the way I check my lenses is to turn 90 degrees to the left of where I'm sitting right now and point the camera at the groaning bookshelf that holds my old copies of the BBC Music Magazine. OK, while you weren't looking, I also managed to rig a tripod, switched my X-E1 to base ISO and set the in-camera sharpening at '0'. Then, for each of the five marked focal lengths on the lens barrel, I made Aperture Priority exposures at one stop intervals from wide open down to f/16 and minimized camera shake by using the 2 second self timer. I equalised the histograms of the Out Of Camera JPEGS but no other adjustments were applied. As a guide to what what we're dealing with, I like to compare JPEG file sizes for each shot at a given focal length. For most lenses, classic performance suggests that as the lens is stopped down, the file size will increase as more detail becomes resolved. Depending on the lens type and design, this usually happens over two to four stops before diffraction softening sets in and the file size begins to drop in sympathy.


This is as rough and ready a way of evaluating lens performance as you're ever likely to encounter, but I've certainly found it instructive – supplemented by a bit of pixel peeping of course - and in the case of my new 50-230mm XC Fujinon, I was most surprised at just how similar the file-sizes were within each focal length group. (But see note about bogus EXIF data at the end of this mini-review). Subsequent checks of the images themselves confirmed my suspicion that this is a lens that can be used with confidence at virtually any focal length or aperture. The expected full-aperture edge softness was mild and soon cleared up one or two stops down, and a few shots in the garden confirmed that bokeh is perfectly decent, especially at longer focal lengths. I've not checked for distortion or vignetting because I assume that both will have been corrected in camera.


The biggest surprise of all though, was to do with that little feature buried at the bottom of the fourth option in the camera's shooting menu: the OIS. When first playing with the lens at about 2 am in my dimly lit den, I fired off a couple of hand-helds at 230mm, wide open at f/6.7 and ISO 3200. The subject was a section of my map collection about 3 metres away on the bookshelf lit by a paltry little LED desk lamp. See attached result below. Check out the map in the middle and be as surprised as I was. Not bad for a rickety old pensioner eh? This is an OIS that really rocks!!!        

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So, do I like this lens? You bet I do! I reckon it's a lot better than I'd any right to expect. It gets my firm recommendation as a decent, lightweight and good-value addition to the long end of the Fujinon lens line-up.


NOTE for EXIF excavators: (you know who you are and you really should get out more) Take no notice of anything attached to the images uploaded with this mini-review. I've managed to mangle the EXIF data while labelling the test shots in CS5 so all of them share the same data as the 50mm f/4.5 image and (again, because of the labels added) the file sizes are also completely different to those of the originals.

Edited by royuk, 24 November 2013 - 03:18 PM.

#3 David H Dennis

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 03:49 PM

Excellent review; thanks for all the hard work that went into it!


Intriguingly enough, the 55-200 now has a $200 rebate on it with a new camera body, which means the price difference between the cheaper and more expensive lens is now minimal.  So 55-200 is $499 and the 50-230 is still $399 since there is no rebate on it.  That makes the decision a little harder, since the price difference is insignificant to me, and yet it would be nice to have the extra 30mm in focal length as long as the image quality is there - and it certainly seems to be.


The wider f/stop is probably going to sell me on the 55-200 because I always shoot in extremely dark venues.  But I'm sure your review will be of considerable value to many who are thinking about this lens.



#4 royuk

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 04:09 PM

Thanks David


Good point about rebates.  They certainly muddy the waters and of course often depend upon 'needing' yet another camera body. Not always though.  I'm waiting for my £100 rebate on a 60mm macro I bought recently  :)


What intrigues me most though is just how close the dollar price and pound price are . . . provided you only take notice of the numbers  <_<


I know I'm not the only one who feels that when it comes to forking out for all these lovely, bright, shiny techno-baubles, us Brits are getting right-royally taken to the cleaners  :angry: and yes, other pithier and certainly less polite phrases do spring to mind  :rolleyes:


Well, that's my quota of smilies out of the way for November.



#5 Robotron3000

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 04:10 PM

Thanks a lot! I have been wondering about how the 2 long tele zooms compare, and you have done a great job describing the XC - now Someone!

Send this gentleman the XF for a quick comparison! :-)

#6 royuk

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 04:13 PM

They won't get it back.  


It'll be on eBay as soon as I post the results.  HaHa

#7 chiralangel

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Posted 24 November 2013 - 06:05 PM

Thank you so much for this review; it's just what I've been waiting for. I'm new to the X-series as of last week, and so far have only the 18-55mm lens. Amazon just dropped the price of the 55-200mm to $499 as of today [Sunday, Nov. 24]: no rebates, no need to buy the lens with a camera body. That may be a daily special, so I'm not sure it will last. The $200 drop in price is tempting, especially since it's a faster, high-end lens. But it's the lighter weight and more compact size of the XC 50-230mm that appeal to me, despite the fact that it's much slower than its big brother. So your review is timed perfectly and much appreciated. You may have convinced me to dive into the "junk end" of the pool.

#8 royuk

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Posted 25 November 2013 - 04:23 AM

Maybe the XF 55-200 was a bit overpriced initially because it had no real competition.


Now it looks as though it has - albeit from the same source!


I get the impression that either would be a valid choice.


In my case (I like to explore mountainous areas) the lighter, smaller package was what I was looking for.


I think I've found it.

#9 Red G8R

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Posted 24 December 2013 - 01:50 PM

I'm looking at the 50-230mm because it's $200 off when bought with the X-A1 or X-M1 kit which also has a $100 discount. For a mini travel kit, I don't think that can be beat.

#10 absolutic

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 11:29 PM

Thanks for your review!.  I've also looked at this lens.  To me the price difference is not a significant factor.     To me a a weight and convenience are factors.   Thus, 55-200 is a no go.   It is too large and heavy for Fuji X system and F/4.5 is rather pedestrian aperture on a crop into itself.  So those who think well it is a stop wider than 50-230.... lets just say, we are not comparing a F/2.8 constant zoom like 70-200 equivalent.   It is more of two consumer zooms.   To me personally F/4.5 is already too narrow of an aperture, so at that point, F/4.5, F/5.6, F/6.7.....it is all for daytime vacation type photography.   What I like spec-wise about 50-230 is it is only 375 grams, so it should be manageable on my X-E2.   My only question then, is it sharp at the tele end in the center.   

#11 royuk

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Posted 05 January 2014 - 04:23 AM

Yep - seems to be :)

#12 daveswat

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Posted 15 January 2014 - 10:27 AM

Hi. After reading your review I purchased this lens. I must say I’m impressed with the quality of the photos it produces. I have only used it a short time but in comparing it to the output of several 200mm lenses I have used in the past it certainly fares well. I think I’m going to be very happy with this lens. Thanks for your review. Dave S.

#13 Aperturepriority

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 07:41 AM

A really helpful review. Even with the discount on the 55-200, I think I will go with the lighter, longer lens.  ;) Thanks.

#14 royuk

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 08:20 AM

A really helpful review. Even with the discount on the 55-200, I think I will go with the lighter, longer lens.  ;) Thanks.


Glad I could help  :)


I've now teamed my XC50-230 with the equally impressive XC16-50 which I bought with the X-M1.


It's now my favourite kit and is the one I grab whenever I want to travel light.


In fact I'm seriously considering adding another X-M1 body and, more or less permanently, dedicating a zoom to each.


Some may think of this as toy-town stuff but I reckon it's seriously capable gear, more than up to giving my other - heavier and much more expensive - Fuji equipment a real run for it's money.


Roy  ;)

Edited by royuk, 21 March 2014 - 08:36 AM.

#15 Scubapro

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Posted 21 March 2014 - 08:30 AM

Great review, many thanks for the time and effort taken. I have now ordered the 50-230mm myself

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