The Fujinon GF32-64mm F4 | The No-Kit Zoom Lens!

Note: This is my first review of a lens that I do not own – but have only borrowed. Nevertheless, I decided to do this because this GF32-64mm is exceptionally good.

Prologue

Even though this is primarily a review on the GF32-64mm, I still need to first share a few words and thoughts about zoom lenses. I don’t like zoom lenses (a lot). I don’t like huge and heavy lenses. And I don’t like slow lenses. Consequently, I have the best chance of not liking this lens, right? But wait! Unfortunately, there are two little problems. First, this lens is great as hell and second, it’s extremely versatile. But how does this fit in with my first three statements?

Quite simple, because I am not talking about my “normal” photographer’s life and my usual photographic work. I’m talking about a new part of my photographic life – I’m talking about medium format photography. One could of course argue that medium format is just a format size and yet does not fundamentally change the way of taking photographs. However, this argumentation is simply wrong. Because this is exactly what medium format does – it changes almost everything.

I knew that I would not want to use it while travelling or on the road. What I wouldn’t have guessed is how much medium format would affect the way I work on small documentary projects like this one. My normal way of working – fast, spontaneous, inconspicuous – does not work at all. I had to learn the hard way how medium format slows me down and how little it forgives mistakes – especially camera shake. A first try with the great GF45-100mm on the GFX50S and now with this lens on the GFX100S have shown that this problem is now obsolete – thanks to OIS or IBIS!

That could have been the end of the story. Because I have hardly used my new medium format equipment so far. Which is both stupid and inexcusable, as it obviously does not justify the enormous cost of its purchase. Then I realized more and more that I have to work with it in a very different way and that I will certainly realize different projects with it. Olaf Sztaba has written a lot about this phenomenon in his blog and elsewhere. Now I understand.

The GF32-64mm F4 R LM WR

First of all, I think I need to explain the title of this post a bit. Of course, it’s pretty stupid to call this lens a „kit lens“. This is forbidden both by the fact that it’s normally not offered as a kit at all, and also the price is anything but kit-typical. The fact that it is also not affected by the usual optical and mechanical limitations of kit lenses probably doesn’t need to be mentioned. Furthermore, in terms of focal length it corresponds more to the classic beginnings of wide-angle zoom lenses, as we know them from this famous Nikkor lens, for example. Medium format is not comparable with 35mm or APS-C – there will never be huge focal length ranges here. These would be neither manageable in practice nor truly affordable.

For someone who rarely uses zoom lenses anyway, this is of course no disadvantage. And the focal length range of 32-64mm (25-50mm equivalent to the 35mm format) is extremely useful for me. I think about 95% of my pictures are taken in this range – at least if I equate 25mm with 24mm. So, in principle, the lens should be right up my alley. However, as I said, I don’t have a great preference for zoom lenses. This is mainly due to three things: Size, speed and – ahem – too much choice. I still believe that a single focal length sharpens my eye for images and makes me a better photographer. A zoom lens can tempt you to constantly change the focal length, sometimes destroying the visual language of a story.

Mechanical Quality

It’s built like a tank, it’s weather resistant, the workmanship is superb, and all the rings run silky smooth. The apertures lock cleanly in thirds, as is usually the case with many Fujinon lenses, with a noticeably stronger click at the full aperture stops. In general, Fujifilm has really mastered the craft of building lenses in the truest sense of the word.

There is one tiny minus point here: the zoom range adjusts under the weight of the lens when you put it down. Stupidly, this also happens when you have the lens on the camera and point it relatively steeply upwards. In practice, this is not so bad because you usually have one hand on the lens (zoom ring) anyway and can prevent this. Still, the zoom ring could have been a bit firmer.

Optical Quality

Holy cow – his is where the lens really starts to shine!

Even though I never really liked zoom lenses, I’ve always owned some in my life. Mostly I used wide-angle or standard zooms, sometimes also those typical fast portrait zooms like 50-140mm (on APC-C) or 70-210mm (in full frame) – the latter I liked even less than other zoom lenses because of their size and weight. And even today I still use two excellent zoom lenses for the Fujifilm X system: the XF18-55mm and the XF10-24mm. However, this GF32-64mm is really in a class of its own. OK, it should be at this price point, but still. To be fair, I should also say it’s in a class of its own with the other GF zoom lenses. Because that also applies to the GF45-100mm.

To tell a long story in short: The optical quality of the GF32-64mm is simply breath-taking! It outshines all zoom lenses I have ever used in my life by far – again, apart from the GF45-100mm. I honestly can’t see any optical weakness with this lens. Sharpness, contrast, colour reproduction are on such a high level that any criticism is out of the question in my opinion – even the bokeh is great for a zoom lens. Fortunately, despite all the perfection, the rendering is not clinically sterile, but simply beautiful and three-dimensional. The GF32-64mm can also really keep up with the 100-megapixel resolution of the GFX100S – which is apparently the case with all Fujinon GF lenses.

Autofocus

This is then the third point where this lens becomes a clear winner. Thanks to the linear motor, the autofocus is very fast, not only for a medium format lens! Even in the world of cameras with smaller sensors, there are definitely lenses that can’t keep up with the GF32-64mm here. In addition, the AF is whisper quiet and absolutely reliable. I was really amazed and extremely positively surprised when I used the lens for the first time. The autofocus speed is about on par with the small GF50mm F3.5, which is known to be one of the fastest GF lenses at focusing.

Usability

The GF32-64mm is not only a mechanically and optically excellent lens, it is also extremely versatile. Even though I don’t like its size in principle, it is quite acceptable for me, especially in direct comparison with some other zoom lenses. Here, I would like to come back to the fast zoom lenses mentioned earlier, which many photographers use for shootings. Compared to these, the GF32-64mm size suddenly becomes quite relative and also more bearable. Want to see a little proof? Then just take a look at this comparison on camerasize.com. 😉

As an enthusiastic fan of wide-angle lenses, the wide-angle end would normally have been the decisive point for me. And I also got a great deal on a used lens from my photo dealer. So, I’ve been wavering between the GF30 and the GF32-64mm for a while. In the end, the zoom was too big and heavy for me.

Do I regret this decision? Sometimes I do, when I think about the great optical performance and versatility of this lens. But in the end, you have to decide what keeps you from taking pictures or what makes you want to. And the GF30mm is just as good optically and almost half the weight.

Verdict

I am surprised at myself, but I actually consider this lens to be one of the most interesting and best in the entire GF lens line-up (for many people). And if I say this as a person with very little love for zoom lenses, then friends of these lenses can understand this statement once again as double praise for the GF32-64mm. This is, in the best sense, a virtually flawless lens with an enormously large and versatile application potential – and it is hands down the best zoom lens I have ever used.

Nevertheless, I returned it and opted for the lighter and smaller GF30mm F3.5. This was a very personal decision and has nothing to do with the quality of the lens.

Exceptional!


There is always light somewhere – go out and shoot!

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