Fujinon XF 90mm F2 Lens Review: Beyond the Portrait Lens

Fujinon XF 90mm F2 Lens Review: Beyond the Portrait Lens

This telephoto lens transforms your Fuji body into a top-tier system for portraits and much, much more.

 A Fujinon XF 90mm F2 lens (source:  toolsandtoys.net )

A Fujinon XF 90mm F2 lens (source: toolsandtoys.net)

In terms of price, sharpness, bokeh rendering, and overall image quality, there might be no better telephoto option – native or otherwise – than the hefty chunk of metal and glass known as the Fujinon XF 90mm F2.

See for yourself.

Tech Specs

  • Focal length: 90 mm (137mm equivalent)
  • Weather Sealing: Yes
  • Image stabilization: No
  • Aperture: F2–F16
  • Minimum focus: 0.60 m (23.62″)
  • Autofocus: Yes
  • Weight: 540 g (1.19 lb)
  • Diameter: 75 mm (2.95″)
  • Length: 105 mm (4.13″)
  • Filter thread: 62 mm

The notable callouts from this list are the weather sealing – a hugely important feature on a lens designed for outdoor shooting – and a focal length/aperture ratio of F2 at 137mm.

Shooting with the Fujinon XF 90mm F2: Usability, Autofocus Speed and Accuracy, and More

    One of Fujifilm's biggest selling point is their lightweight form factor and portability. But once you've become invested in the Fuji ecosystem, whether due to the unique image output, body handling, or lens lineup, it just makes sense to pick up a telephoto lens that trades small size for versatility

    The Fuji XF 90mm F2 isn't significantly larger than (competitors), but it does take your Fuji body from 'throw it in a coat pocket' to 'keep it in a camera bag'. While not an insignificant length or width, the above combo is still far smaller than a full frame DSLR with a 135mm f/2.

     The 90mm F2 on an X-Pro 2 (source:  mirrorlessons.com  – go check out their review!)

    The 90mm F2 on an X-Pro 2 (source: mirrorlessons.com – go check out their review!)

    One last form factor point of note: when the lens isn't attached to a turned-on camera body, you'll feel a slight rattle inside the lens. Don't be alarmed – this is by design, and it goes away when the magnetic force of the camera body power holds the rattling elements together.

    Now on to the good stuff.

    This lens autofocus speed and accuracy is unreal – one of the fastest in Fuji's entire lineup, which is especially crazy considering how razor-thin the depth of field is wide open. Fuji blessed the 90mm with their quad-linear autofocus motor technology – compare that to the triple-linear autofocus motor technology in the Fujinon 50-140mm f/2.8 and the difference in performance is immediate and obvious. 

    When it comes to fast moving lifestyle, portrait, or event photography that this lens is wonderfully suited for, that autofocus speed and accuracy comes in clutch.

     Rita in her hotel. Fuji X-Pro 2, Fujinon XF 90mm F2

    Rita in her hotel. Fuji X-Pro 2, Fujinon XF 90mm F2

    What is the Fujinon XF 90mm F2 Lens Used for?

    With an equivalent focal length of 137mm, the Fuji XF 90mm is a bit too long for studio work and a bit too short for wildlife – and being a prime lens, lacks the versatility one might need for sports or photo journalism.

    Far from a jack of all trades, the Fuji XF 90mm F2 is specific in its value proposition: it offers a level of compression, sharpness, and shallow depth of field unmatched by any other lens in the lineup – the perfect formula for a portrait lens.

    At first glance, a 137mm equivalent focal length might seem too constraining for anything other than head shots, but in real-world use, it's extremely versatile at capturing portrait-based photos with just enough context.

    In fact, the Fujinon XF 90mm F2 on an X-Pro 2 joins the Fuji X100F as my (entire) event photography kit.

    Not only is the reach beneficial for capturing candid moments in the street or at events, but the compression and shallow aperture render subjects in a dream-like way. More often than not, the intimate moments captured by the 90mm are the clients favorite from the event.

    However, note that a longer focal length requires you to increase your shutter speed proportionally (you can learn how to take sharp photos here). It's not wise to shooter slower than 1/125th at the very minimum, or you're liable to end up with camera shake. The fast aperture and Fuji's high ISO performance don't make this too big of a deal, but it can be a pain in very low light situations

     Rita in the theater (50% crop. 1/125, 4000 ISO). Fuji X-Pro 2, Fujinon XF 90mm F2

    Rita in the theater (50% crop. 1/125, 4000 ISO). Fuji X-Pro 2, Fujinon XF 90mm F2

    How to Get the Creamiest Bokeh on the Fujinon XF 90mm F2

    I'm ashamed to admit that a big part of this lens' appeal to me is the insanely shallow depth of field you can produce with it. Fujifilm bodies, packing APC-S sensor, have a difficult time getting the same shallowness and bokeh as full frame bodies. But with such a large focal length and fast aperture, it becomes a non-issue – with this lens, tack-sharp focused areas quickly fade out to blurry bokeh like butter.

    I've written all about how to get more bokeh from a physics point of view, and those principles apply here. Get your lens close to your subject, your subject far from the background, and shoot wide open at F2 – with as many twinkly sources of light as possible in the background (sunlight through the trees is great for this!).

    As with all lenses, changing your aperture changes nature of your bokeh: generally, the widen your aperture, the rounder and 'creamier' your bokeh will render. With a higher aperture, you'll start seeing more hexagonal shapes in your bokeh.

    Fujinon 90mm F2 vs Fujinon 56mm F1.2 vs Fujinon 80mm F2 Macro

    Photography forums endlessly battle over the merits and shortcomings of each of these three native Fuji telephoto(-ish) lenses. They all have their own subtle pros and cons, but here's the rundown:

    • From a size perspective, the 56mm beats the 80mm beats the 90mm.

    • From a reach perspective, the 90mm beats the 80mm beats the 56mm – although this reach can be problematic. The 56mm is the most versatile of the three.
    • From an autofocus performance perspective, the 90mm beats the 80mm beats the 56mm.
    • From a focusing distance/macro persective, the 80mm beats the 90mm beats the 56mm.

    Due to the ratio of focal length and aperture, the 56mm F1.2 and the 90mm F2 actually end up with similar depth of field. However, the 90mm reigns supreme in terms of compression and subject isolation. It's also worth noting that the 56mm F.12 is among the worst of Fuji's offerings in terms of autofocus performance.

    The 80mm F2 does just about everything the 90mm F2 can do, but it's minimum focusing distance. However, that comes at the loss of an almost 15mm equivalent, which impacts the reach and compression that make the 90mm F2's images so milky.

    At the end of the day, we're splitting hairs here – all 3 are fabulous lenses. But my pick is hands down the 90mm F2 – particularly because I've already got a $30 Helios 58mm f/2 to cover a shorter tele range.

    Final Verdict: Should You Buy the Fujinon 90mm F2?

    If you're the type to skim through an article, here's what you need to know.

    The Fujinon 90mm F2 is incredibly sharp, incredibly well built, focuses instantly, and renders images wonderfully. You should buy this lens if you're comfortable with a longer focal length and increasing the size of your kit.

    You should not buy this lens if you plan to use this lens for video (no image stabilization is a bummer), your portraiture tends to take place in the studio, or your telephoto needs require in-the-moment versatility that only a zoom lens can provide.

    Digital strategist, writer, and image maker based in Manhattan working with clients in the tech and entertainment industry.