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One of the reasons why I moved from DSLRs to the Fujifilm X-Series system a few years ago was because of the smaller, lighter camera bodies and lenses. So given that, it seems odd that I added the monster Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens to my kit.
At the time of its release in 2016, this was the biggest and heaviest line in the X-Series by far, being eclipsed in terms of size and weight only by the XF 200mm F2 R LM OIS WR lens in 2019.
So given its hefty size (and price tag), you might well wonder why I bought it? It’s really quite simple: I love telephoto lenses!
Given the option of a telephoto or an ultra-wide angle, I’d choose the telephoto every time. I love how you can pick out details of a scene with a telephoto to fill the frame. I also love how a telephoto lens gives the impression of “flattening” scenes – making faraway objects look close together.
In this review, I list the specifications of the 100-400mm lens, examine its build quality, handling, and optical performance, as well as discussing what it’s like to use and who would benefit from having it in their kit.
The specifications of the Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens are truly impressive. Let’s have a look at what all those numbers and letters mean.
Fujinon is the brand name that Fujifilm use for their excellent lenses. XF denotes the high-performing lenses in the X-Series line-up. There is also a range of cheaper, yet very good value for money lenses with the letters XC on them.
The next set of letters and numbers denotes the focal range of the lens: 100-400mm. As the X-Series bodies have APS-C sensors with a 1.5 crop factor, this gives the lens a full-frame equivalent focal range of approximately 150mm to 600mm. This is not just a telephoto zoom; this is a super-telephoto zoom.
The next bit of information refers to the variable aperture of the lens: f/4.5-5.6. Like many zooms, the maximum aperture increases as you zoom in. At 100mm, the maximum aperture is f/4.5, at 200mm, it’s f/5, at 300mm, it’s f/5.2, and at 400mm, it’s f/5.6.
The R denotes that, like the vast majority of X-Series lenses, it has a ring to control aperture on the lens barrel. This is a feature that I love so much. I’m so used to changing the aperture on the lens now, I’m not sure I could move back to a system where I couldn’t do that.
LM stands for linear motor – this ensures high speed autofocusing, quiet operation, and low power consumption. OIS stands for optical image stabilization – the linear motor checks for camera shake 8000 times a second. Fujifilm claims that the lens has a five-stop image stabilization system for shake-free results.
WR stands for weather resistance. Paired with a WR body such as the Fujifilm X-T2 or X-T3, you can be confident using your kit in extreme environments where water and dust is an issue. You can use this lens in temperatures as low as -10°C. There’s a water-resistant fluorine coating applied to the front lens element, making it less susceptible to smudges and easier to clean.
The build quality of this lens is very good, though it doesn’t feel quite in the same class as the other Fujinon red badge zoom lenses (the XF 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR lens and the XF 50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR lens).
This is probably because the superzoom is made of high-grade plastic rather than metal. I’m guessing that an all-metal barrel would’ve made the lens too heavy, so you can understand the choice here.
Only the mounting ring and tripod collar are metal. You can easily remove the tripod collar if you don’t need it. The lens hood is plastic but features a filter door, which allows you to rotate a circular polarizing filter, for example.
The lens weighs 1.375kg and takes 77mm filters. It’s compatible with both the 1.4x and 2.0x X-Series teleconverters, giving you the potential to shoot at up to 852mm and 1218mm in full-frame equivalent terms. However, this comes at the cost of 1 and 2 stops of light, respectively.
Okay, so this lens is big…so big that it makes the 50-140 look compact, and most other lenses in the X-Series line up look tiny. The first time you pick it up, it does feel bulky but compared to many other lenses of this focal range, it’s definitely on the lighter side.
The length of the lens, especially when zoomed in, is quite large, and it dwarfs the size of the camera body. Yet there is a surprisingly comfortable balance when shooting with it. In fact, the lens feels lighter in my hands than it does when I carry it around in my backpack.
The zoom action is very smooth – you can move the entire range easily while supporting the weight of the lens. Like almost every other X-Series lens, there is a ring around the lens that changes aperture in third stop clicks. The variable aperture of this zoom means there are no aperture markings around the barrel like the 50-140 or any of the prime lenses. Instead, you need to check aperture in the viewfinder or LCD.
There are three switches down the side of the lens. The first is a switch that controls the range of the zoom. The two options are for full range (1.75m to infinity) and 5 meters to infinity. The latter allows for faster focusing.
The next switch down is for controlling the aperture manually or automatically – something that all Fujifilm zoom lenses have.
The third switch is to turn optical image stabilization (OIS) on or off. OIS is a godsend for handheld shooting: the lens is capable of taking some incredibly sharp images at relatively low shutter speeds. Typically, you would turn OIS off when the lens is in use on a tripod, but you may want to experiment with this.
For example, when I was taking photos of the Sydney Opera House at the Vivid Festival, I was shooting from the footpath on the Cahill Expressway. There were minute vibrations from the traffic, so I felt that I was getting better images with OIS turned on.
Further up the lens barrel, there is a lock switch which will prevent lens creep as it stops the lens moving past 100mm.
Fujifilm is one of the world’s best lens makers, so as you’d expect, the optical quality of this lens is excellent. It’s capable of producing stunning images across the focal range. However, I did get the feeling my images zoomed all the way in at 400mm were not quite as sharp as those taken towards the wider end of the zoom.
Shooting handheld, the lens feels nicely balanced. I’ve used it for cityscapes, sports, wildlife and landscapes. Autofocus is very good, especially when used in conjunction with the X-T2 or X-T3’s continuous focus and tracking options.
When I first got the lens, I took it to a local speedway to test out. Given that it was the first time I’d shot motorsports, I was very impressed with the images I took with this lens. It has a cool feature when it detects panning: it automatically switches camera shake correction to the vertical plane only.
The lens also has a very pleasing bokeh. While I’ve never used it for portraits, with many of my wildlife photos, the out-of-focus areas in the background look beautiful and don’t detract from the images.
If you love a superzoom, there is only one option with the Fujifilm X-Series at the moment, and what a choice it is: the Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens.
Suited to wildlife and sports shooters primarily, the lens can also be used by landscape and cityscape photographers. The lens has a fantastic range of features, including weather resistance and OIS. It is relatively light for a lens with this range and has excellent optics.
Overall, I would say that the lens is good value for money, though perhaps not as good as other lenses in the X-Series line-up. The price of the lens has stayed steady since its release. However, you can sometimes get discounts or cashback offers, substantially bringing down the cost.
I have no hesitation recommending the Fujinon XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens. Just writing the review and looking at the photos it produces makes me want to get out and use it right now.