Michael Schnabl works worldwide for several leading companies specialised in commercial, illustrative and fashion photography. His editorials and pictures have been published in numerous magazines such as ELEGANT, ELEGANT INK, FUJILOVE, VOGUE Italia (online), Die Grazerin, Colorfoto, Amateur Photographers UK, Fotoforum and more. Musicians like his style for CD covers and band photos. Since 2016 he is an official Fujifilm X-Photographer and also works for Fujifilm School. Michael Schnabl also regularly writes articles in photo magazines, mainly about portrait photography.
In the last few years he has won numerous awards at major international photo competitions. Amongst others, 2 Gold Medals at the Trierenberg Super Circuit (2012, 2015) – the largest photo-saloon in the world – and 10 Awards at the European Professional Photographer of the Year Award from 2011 to 2016. On his workshops throughout Europe he teaches portrait and artistic portrait photography with passion.
Review FUJINON XF50mmF1.0 R WR
The rumour about a lens for the X series with F1.0 has been circulating in the forums for years. Originally it was said to be an XF33mmF1.0, but now it has become an XF50mmF1.0, which is exactly the right focal length for me as a portrait photographer, because with the crop factor of 1.5, the focal length of 75mm (equivalent on a 35mm format) is very useful for portraits. When I got the news that I could be one of the first people to test the new XF50mmF1.0 before the official product launch, I was obviously very excited and thrilled. Of course, a premium lens of this kind raises very high expectations. FUJIFILM has long had an excellent portrait lens in its product line with the XF56mmF1.2, and that set the bar very high for this new lens. To get the best possible idea, I decided to do a portrait shoot on location and also a shoot in the studio. I wanted to shoot with the available light and of course with flash.
My biggest fear in the run-up was that the lens might be too big and too heavy. A speed of F1.0 can’t be achieved in a compact lens, that much was clear to me. When I unpacked the lens I was relieved. Of course, it is a lot heavier than the XF56mmF1.2, comparable in length to the XF90mmF2, a bit thicker than this one and a little bit heavier. You already have the feeling that you’re holding something extremely precious in your hand. Lots of glass, most of the parts made of metal, a smooth, soft focus ring and the aperture ring you’re used to from FUJIFILM. You can see at first glance that this is a special and high-quality look. The fear that the lens might be too large and unwieldy was then also relatively quickly dispelled. In combination with the X-T4, with or without battery grip, you get a unit that really fits well in your hand. You can feel the additional weight compared to the combination with the XF56mmF1.2, but the XF50mmF1.0 isn’t intended as a travel lens either, but as a first-class tool for portrait shootings, and the few grams more don’t really bother you.
Shooting on location
To test the resolving power at open aperture and also the bokeh, I had first planned a “shooting on location”. An old cinema with several adjoining rooms, out of use for 34 years and almost unchanged since then, offered the perfect conditions for this. Changing lighting conditions, sometimes pitch-black like in the cinema hall and in some places with beautifully diffuse light. I started taking pictures in the cinema hall, in complete darkness, only the modeling light from the mobile flash illuminated the dark room a little. I was surprised how accurately the autofocus worked. FUJIFILM has improved the autofocus on the X Series over the years, and now the auto focus really leaves nothing to be desired. I worked with single-point autofocus, which can be adjusted very precisely using the joystick on the X-T4, and I couldn’t find a single significant misfocus. The autofocus of the XF50mmF1.0 worked reliably and accurately in conjunction with the X-T4.
I took a number of other pictures with the available light, some of them actually at F1.0. I just wanted to see if the lens could be used with a full open aperture. I have to admit that I was really surprised – even with this extreme aperture the pictures were crisp and sharp. The aperture F2.0 turned out to be an absolutely terrific working aperture for “portraits on location” with available light. Sufficient depth of field to get enough of the face in focus and a wonderful creamy blur in the background. The bokeh, i.e. the blurred areas in the picture, is one of the most important criteria for a high-quality portrait lens, and the FUJINON XF50mmF1.0 is truly world class when it comes to this. Wonderfully creamy, gentle and with a graceful calm, it underscores the effect of the image in an impressive and clearly perceptible way. Pictures taken with this lens definitely have a special appeal. This is hard to describe, but in any case, you get an effect that makes this lens a worthwhile purchase.
Shooting in the studio
In the studio, the positive impression that the lens had made on location resumed seamlessly. Not a single misfocus, although I only worked with the modelling light from one light source. The camera was really good in my hand with the lens. In the meantime I had the feeling that I had been taking pictures with this camera-lens combination for years, even though it was only the second shooting. It’s rare that I could get used to a lens so quickly. At an aperture of F5.6 the imaging performance is almost unbelievable – unbelievable what’s possible in combination with an APS-C sensor. The images were sharp, detailed and unbelievably clear, without appearing unnaturally oversharpened.
With the FUJINON XF50mmF1.0, FUJIFILM has achieved a major breakthrough. While the XF56mmF1.2 was previously the best portrait lens in the X Series, it has now been impressively relegated to second place. The XF56mmF1.2 is still a lens worth recommending, but those looking for the absolute top class in this field won’t be disappointed by the new XF50mmF1.0. The Bokeh is simply wonderful, and the focus performance is outstanding across all aperture settings. The lens also has an extremely reliable autofocus. I recommend this lens for ambitious portrait and wedding photographers who want to work with the best possible tools. You’ll be very happy with this lens.