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