The Fujinon GF80mm F1.7 | The One for a Beautiful World!

Prologue

Why do I own and review the brand new GF80mm F1.7? I’m definitely not a dedicated portrait photographer. I’m also not a photographer who does typical photo shootings – especially not in a studio. My photography mostly takes place on the street or in real-life situations – so it’s more of a classic documentary style. So, it’s not surprising that I rarely use my XF56mm – I usually prefer the small and magic XF35mm F1.4 lens to it.

Accordingly, it is very little wonder that I never particularly had my eye on the GF110mm F2. It was simply too big, too expensive and without OIS/IBIS too little usable for my purposes anyway. The fact that lovers of this lens praise it to the skies has not changed my mind. With the IBIS of the GFX100S, at least the most important reason for me has changed: usability. So, I was briefly torn about which portrait lens to add to my GFX kit. In the end, I decided to go with the GF80mm for many reasons.

The GF80mm F1.7 R WR

When I heard the first rumours and then saw the preview at the Fujifilm X-Summit in London in 2020, I was completely delighted. A medium format lens with a maximum aperture of 1:1.7 and with a focal length that was more to my liking for portraits. In addition, you could guess that it would also be much smaller than the GF110mm. Wow – the GF80mm immediately looked like a must-have to me – especially since I have sold my GF63mm.

And speaking of the GF63mm – I can’t help but make one thing clear: Personally, I think this lens is nowhere near as bad as some make it out to be. It is optically a very good lens, and above all very compact. Only the rather below-average autofocus, coupled with the slightly noisy external focusing mechanism, are somewhat worthy of criticism. But hey, let’s keep it real… the GF63 is an excellent lens!

Mechanical Quality

Overall, there is little to say. Like all GF lenses, the lens is built like a tank, very robust and valuable – and of course weather resistant.

Perhaps a few brief words about size and weight. No, it is not super-compact, of course. The GF63mm and GF50mm are obviously much smaller and lighter. But for such a high-speed lens, the dimensions and the weight of 795 grams are more than reasonable. Personally, I’m rather surprised at how compact the lens is and, unlike the GF110mm, I can just about manage with these dimensions.

The only other thing I could write about would be the aperture ring. I might even write a book about Fujifilm aperture rings one day. No, they’re all not bad – often just the opposite – and at least Fujifilm lenses have an aperture ring. But almost all of them are somewhat different in terms of feel. I wonder if there is not a unified development team for aperture rings?

Anyway, in the case of the GF80mm, the aperture ring is rather stiff in comparison. I don’t know how to put it… but it feels more like you experience a certain and fairly even resistance throughout. Yes, there are those tactile and audible clicks and they are also more noticeable at full apertures… but just not as prominent as with some other XF or GF lenses. All of this is neither unpleasant nor bad – and above all, it does not cause the ring to adjust unintentionally. But it could feel a little better for me… even if this is really complaining on an unbelievably high level. 😉

By the way, the best implementation of the aperture ring in my opinion have the small “Fujicrons”, like my XF35mm F2.

Optical Quality

Obviously, no one buys the GF80mm because of its aperture ring. The interesting thing is of course the optics, and in this case certainly the unique selling point as the fastest (autofocus) lens in the world of medium format. Therefore, the question of how the GF80mm performs optically is above all.

I’ll start with the obvious: Sharpness and rendering. The GF80mm is as sharp as a razor, even at open aperture. The resolving power of this lens is sensational and obviously easily keeps up with the 100-megapixel sensor of the GFX100S. But sharpness is by far not everything. Rendering is often more important – and here, too, the GF80mm delivers.

The bokeh is smooth and beautiful, but not clinically sterile. In general, the rendering is fantastic for my taste. How should I express it? Looking through the viewfinder, you just immediately get the impression that this lens makes the world a more beautiful place. Recently, a user in a Facebook group said a very nice thing about the fantastic GF45mm: “The 45mm makes even ugly bugs look interesting.“ I hereby adopt this statement for the GF80mm and fully agree with it. It really is like that…

Of course, this is even more true when you photograph beautiful things, no matter how insignificant they may be from a photographic point of view.

I’ve noticed one or two situations where the bokeh seems a bit strange, let’s say nervous – like in the example below. But I’ll have to get a much better understanding of that before I can make a final statement. For that I need more time and experience with this lens. And I need more real photos without any flowers… 😉

The bone of contention: colour fringing

Ok, now let’s get to a point where the internet community often gets gasps: CA. More precisely, we are talking about longitudinal chromatic aberrations, LoCA for short. We can forget about lateral chromatic aberrations here, they are definitely not a problem with the GF80mm. If you are not familiar with these technical details, Nasim Mansurov has explained the phenomenon very briefly here on his website. However, there should be thousands of contributions on this topic on the internet, including scientific articles.

In very simplified terms, it’s about colour fringes, usually green and purple fringes outside the focus area. Therefore, this is often referred to as “colour fringing” or “bokeh fringing”. Now there are a few people on the net who accuse the GF80mm of having a big weakness in this field. What is the truth of this?

It is true that perfect control of colour fringing is not one of the GF80’s absolute strengths. There are lenses that are better corrected in this respect. From what I have read and seen, this is probably the case with the GF110mm. The central question, of course, is how severe and disruptive this phenomenon is in practice. Well, that’s where opinions will differ – especially since some are going crazy about CA. My short answer: take it easy, it’s all not that bad and hardly worth the fuss!

First, LoCA are excellently corrected under almost all normal circumstances, even at open aperture, and hardly occur at all. I have seen many – very many – fast lenses where the phenomenon is much more apparent. I don’t have that test bench that lens testers like to use (and have no interest in doing so) – so here’s a quick shot of a newspaper at F1.7. Do you see any LoCA? Not really, right?

Want a bit of pixel peeping? OK, then here is the 100% view… as said, LoCA are hardly a serious problem.

So where do these grumblings on the Internet come from? Oh, quite simple, because it’s not difficult to provoke these effects and then put them on the web as an example. Of course, I can do that too…

Shocked? So better not to buy the lens? Before you ask yourself this question, you might want to ask yourself two other questions first:

  1. Are all the colour fringes in the examples really caused by this optical flaw or how much do blown out areas with outshines play a role?
  2. Am I really constantly photographing branches and leaves against a bright white sky with the GF80mm?

No, seriously – small colour fringes can indeed appear here and there. However, one should not forget that we are talking about pixel peeping with a 100-megapixel sensor. In practice, I never really noticed these colour fringes in a negative way. And when stopped down a bit, the they disappear almost completely…

Staying cool is, as so often, the better advice – and then appreciate and use the exceptional capabilities of this optic!

Autofocus

Now let‘s move to the second biggest upset about the GF80mm on the net. Unlike the GF110mm, for example, the lens does not have a linear motor. This makes AF audible and, in the case of the GF80mm at least, not lightning fast either. The GF30mm is very fast even without a linear motor, but obviously too much glass is moved here.

Screengrab of the official Fujifilm X website

Again, the question is: What does this mean in practice and how “bad” is it? To answer this directly for me personally: For my photography it hardly matters, and it is certainly not “bad”.

Of course, I would also be very pleased with an even faster and silent AF as well. But the GF80mm doesn’t have it, and that will have its reasons (cost and size?). So you have to decide if it’s OK for you or not. Perhaps the three critical points in turn:

Noise:

You can hear the AF, but in my opinion it’s not half as bad as some reviewers claim. It’s also not a shrill, annoying noise, but rather a fairly dull one. I’m fine with it, and I’m already quite sensitive. I remember the GF63mm being a bit noisier, and of course a bit more annoying because it doesn’t have internal AF.

Speed:

The AF speed is also completely OK for me. For a medium format lens, it is even more than adequate – at least on the GFX100S. I would say the AF works somewhere between the GF63mm and the GF30mm in terms of speed.

Let’s be very clear, so that no misunderstandings arise: Anyone expecting the AF performance of a Sony α 1/7/9 with the fastest GM lenses will certainly be very disappointed. So those who normally work with eye AF and AF-C in the beauty/fashion sector and assume that the AF will easily follow every fast movement of the model and the photographer – nope, no chance! Neither this lens nor – to be honest – the GFX system is designed for that. For that task, you should set your eyes on the SoNiCanon world.

If you’re like me and shoot more thoughtfully and are more interested in the individual, personal portrait, the AF is more than fast enough.

Reliability:

For me, that is the more interesting point – although reliability is perhaps the wrong word. When the lens hits the focus point, it is of course very precise and reliable. However, the AF seems to pump a little bit more than, for example, the 30mm or the 50mm – here you are rather reminded of the 63mm. But this very slight pumping is not the only thing that I have realised.

There is one odd characteristic of the AF, which Dustin Abott has also already brought up in his review video on the GF80. Sometimes you get the feeling that the AF continues to work after reaching the focus point – but without the focus being adjusted. You only hear and even feel a strange click… that is somehow irritating. I have never experienced something like this with any other lens.

However, this all is not really a problem and I hope that Fujifilm can fix this in one of the next firmware updates of camera and/or lens.

Usability

Well, a high-speed medium-format portrait lens is no jack of all trades. It’s certainly not the only lens you’d really want to take on a trip, either. OK, unless it’s a trip with – depending on your preference – Scarlett Johansson or Johnny Depp. (This example just reminds me how old I am – spontaneously I couldn’t think of anyone who would be mentioned in this context today… but anyway, you know what I mean.)

So, who is this lens actually for? First of all it’s for anyone who is in the portrait field (in all its facets). It really is a fabulous portrait lens and for me and my way of working, the somewhat shorter focal length (in contrast to the GF110mm) is rather an advantage. In addition, I find its size and weight still well usable in practice. The 110mm is already a bit too big for me.

Moreover, it’s still compact enough to occasionally take along to the Rhine beach for one or two pandemic-compliant beers – something usually reserved for the X100V or the X-Pro3. 😉

From my point of view, however, this awesome lens has another field of application: painting with light. It is not very far from the classic 50mm focal length (FF equivalent is 63mm) – and thus a nice lens for visual storytelling with details. As I said above, the rendering of this lens is absolutely gorgeous and almost unique – everything looks beautiful in the viewfinder as it looks on the prints. This makes it a great lens – enhanced by the shallow depth of field capabilities, of course – to explore your surroundings and see beauty in all places.

If it weren’t for the second point, I might have skipped it. I find the portrait capabilities of the GF63mm to be excellent (see image below), and the 1.7 aperture is rather troublesome for most portraits – you can barely get one eye in focus, let alone both.

GFX50S with GF63mm

And yet, I’m still not sure if at least I personally will really put a value on this lens. As I said before, I’m not a dedicated portrait photographer… only time will tell…

Verdict

Anyone who can use this focal length for their photography and doesn’t need an extreme AF speed monster shouldn’t worry. In this case, the GF80mm is a no-brainer! It is optically excellent and super fast. The relatively compact size and exceptional f/1.7 speed also make this lens a good choice if you want to build a smart and yet portable GFX kit on fixed focal lengths. I opted for the triple GF30mmGF50mm – GF80mm – and get along very well with it for everything I do.

Despite all the pragmatism, one should always keep one thing in mind: This lens was created to bring out the beauty in this world. It’s magical!

Exceptional! (In terms of rendering; only highly recommended for pixel-peeper when it comes to CA)


There is always light somewhere – go out and shoot!

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