Wednesday, October 21, 2015

FIRST LOOK: FUJIFILM XF1.4X TC WR review - 1.4 TELECONVERTER

Beside the new 35mm f2 lens, FUJIFILM also announced the XF1.4X TC WR today; a 1.4 times Teleconverter that works with the XF50-140 f2.8, the yet to be released XF120mm f2.8 Macro and the XF100-400mm lenses. It should become available towards the end of November and will retail for around 449,-USD.





EXTENSION TUBES versus TELECONVERTERS ?
Before we start diving into the world of Teleconverters, somehow there often seems to be confusion between Extension Tubes and Teleconverters... Both fit between the camera body and the lens. The first one (Extension Tube) is a small tube that allows for a closer focus distance; kind of having a Macro lens on a budget. Fujifilm is making two Extension Tubes; the MCEX-11 and MCEX-16. My review and more info on extension tubes can be found here

Unlike an extension tube which has no glass elements, a Teleconverter, sometimes called "Tele Extender", does have "lens" elements built in. It extends the "focal length" of a given lens by the factor the extender is made for. In the case of the new XF1.4X TC WR extender this factor is about 1.4. As an example the 50-140mm lens becomes a 70-196mm lens. 

PRO's and CONTRAS of TELECONVERTERS

PRO:

PRICE/FLEXIBILITY: It is like having a new longer focal length lens, at an affordable price point. I used a pre-production copy of the XF 1.4x TC mounted on the XF50-140 Fujinon lens, which gave it a "new" focal range of 70mm to 196mm. As one can elect to shoot with or without the TC, if offers a lot of additional flexibility on the road.

WEIGHT/SIZE: at 130 gram this teleconverter is light; one can easily just throw it in the camera bag without thinking much about it. Beside the actual weight of the TC, one saves more weight as it basically replaces another lens.

FOCUS DISTANCE is not affected when using the XF1.4X TC; which is an added advantage when shooting close-up photography with longer focal length. Can't wait for the 120mm f2.8 Macro to be released somewhere next year!

OPTICAL IMAGE STABILISATION: on the 50-140 the OIS seems to be working just fine with the TC installed. Because the effective focal length increases, the importance of good OIS becomes even more important and the XF1.4x TC does not disappoint!





AUTOFOCUS SPEED
My Nikon 1.4x TC used to give a significant reduction in auto-focus speed. Even though there is a slight reduction while using the 50-140 + TC combination, it is hardly noticeable. The new autofocus tracking released with firmware 4 seems to be working just fine with the TC installed; if anything it might be a tad slower, which again is quite normal when using a TC. 

QUALITY
In line with the Fujinon lenses, the TC is also of an excellent quality; while light and compact it has a nice professional finish and is made in Japan. The teleconverter glass consists of 7 elements in 3 groups.




It is Weather Resistant (WR) rated and therefore will make for a perfect fit on the X-T1 with the XF50-140 WR lens. 

It comes with its own dedicated cap, which is deeper than the usual camera body cap. Possibly giving it a slightly different color like Nikon does with theirs, would be beneficial to find it easier in a camera-bag. Minor detail only however!





CONTRA  

IMAGE QUALITY: As everything in life, there is always a compromise. Because there is a glass element involved, it is a given that image quality will be slightly affected. 

POST-PUBLICATION (29 NOV 2015): it is now clear that my pre-production copy (August 2015) of the 1.4X TC, had a more degraded sharpness than the final production copy. Fujifilm has offered to send me a production copy the extender to test again together with the recently released Firmware updates for both bodies and the 50-140 lens. I have a feeling that especially the firmware copy makes a big difference in the image quality (both in jpg and RAW). The text and images below, have now been replaced with updates of the new combination; firmware XT-1 4.10,  500-140 lens 1.10.




The first comparison above is between the 50-140 with and without the TC; at about 90mm, shot at f5.6. It is a 100% zoom on center of the frame. The image on the right, without the TC, is definitively sharper. Once again not unexpected as "all teleconverters" loose some sharpness in the process; this is just basic optics. However the results are better than what I was used to see with the 1.4 Nikon TC in my Nikon days.



Second test is between the 50-140 with the TC and the 55-200 (no TC); both at the maximum focal range (196mm and 200mm). At f8 and zoomed in at 100% on the left side of the frame; the one with the TC (on the left) is sharper than the 55-200 shot. The difference is noticeable while comparing both shots next to each other. This is great news for those that presently have a 50-140 lens and that want to replace their 55-200 with the TC.



The last one is another comparison shot between the 50-140 with TC and the 55-200 but this time at their widest possible aperture, fully zoomed in and viewed at 100%. The 55-200 on the right, is loosing again.

Note: All comparison images above have been shot on a sturdy tripod and are in-camera jpegs without additional image editing. 

MAXIMUM APERTURE: Typical for "all teleconverters" there is a reduction of light that reaches the sensor and this causes a loss of one stop of light for a 1.4x converter. Practically speaking, this means your 50-140 f2.8 lens becomes f4 at the widest aperture; still plenty as long as you are not shooting in the dark! The smallest aperture (f22 on the 50-140), also becomes one stop smaller; f22 becomes f32 which come in handy for long exposure photography.

With the lens set wide open at f2.8, both the camera viewfinder and the Metadata, reflect the actual f4 f-stop. With the latest 50-140 firmware update, the meta data does now list that the TC is installed; it shows XF50-140 + 1.4X TC.

SAMPLE IMAGES
The main testing ground for the 50-140 and TC combination, was an airshow in Northern France; the "Cambrai-Niergnies airshow". A few images can be found below.

Yakovlev Yak-3UA
ISO 200, 162mm, f6.4, 1/400s

Airbus A400
ISO 200, 196mm, f16, 1/150s

Avenger in the rain
ISO 200, 155mm, f6.4, 1/200s


Twister in the sun
ISO 200, 196mm, f6.4, 1/12000s (electronic shutter)

ISO 3200, 70mm, f8, 1/140s
ISO 400, 196mm, f4, 1/950s
Dubai Airshow 2015
ISO 200, 161mm, f5.6, 1/2900s


Dubai Airshow 2015
ISO 200, 70mm, f4.5, 1/2500s
ISO 400, 196mm, f4, 1/1250s


CONCLUSION

POST-PUBLICATION (29 NOV 2015): Initially (AUG 2015) I tested an early pre-production copy of the TC with the 1.0 firmware which turned out to be not as good as the production firmware and TC. Today with a production copy and the 1.10 lens firmware, the image quality of the 50-140 with the TC, clearly exceeds that of the 55-200 lens! 

I therefore will be investing in a XF1.4X TC W R which might replace my 55-200 lens. The only advantage of keeping the 55-200 is the smaller form factor and weight compared to the 50-140 + TC.

I can't wait to see the results of the TC mounted on the yet to be released 100-400mm lens; making it effectively a 140-560mm lens! Some serious telephoto range for you wildlife and sport photographers! 


A second part of the 1.4X TC review with some more images, can be found here.

While my review of the XF 35mm f2 lens that was also released today, click here.




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BJORN

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