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One of the biggest questions all Fujifilm X-Series users have to contend with is, “which telephoto zoom lens should I buy?” Luckily, there are three great Fujifilm X telephoto lenses to choose from:
All three lenses are fantastic in their own rights, but which one is best for you? In this article, we’ll take a look at two telephoto lenses in particular: the 55-200mm and 50-140mm. Why these two? Because they’re intended to fill the role of the standard 70-200mm zoom lens, an important tool in every professional photographer’s gear kit. If you’re unfamiliar with Fujifilm, note that all X-Series cameras are crop sensors, so these lenses have a 35mm equivalent.
Based on specs alone, there are big differences between these two lenses. The 50-140mm is much larger, heavier, and more expensive. Although, it doesn’t even cover nearly as much range as the 55-200mm. What gives? For starters, the 50-140mm is one of few Fujifilm lenses to receive the Red XF Zoom Badge. It’s similar in concept to Canon’s L-lens designation, indicating that red badge lenses are more premium and geared toward professionals.
There are two qualities in particular that make the 50-140mm more premium: weather sealing, and the constant f/2.8 aperture. Both features make this lens more flexible in terms of shooting in bad weather and in low lighting conditions. Both important features for professional photographers. Unfortunately, that also means the price is much higher with the 50-140mm costing more than double the 55-200mm.
Specs aside, let’s talk about how these two lenses compare in terms of handling and physical construction.
Both telephoto lenses are made of a combination of metal and rubber. There’s a rubber ring to control the zoom and another rubber ring for manual focus. The lenses also have Fujifilm’s signature aperture ring that allows the user to twist to select the aperture. There’s a key difference in that the 50-140mm has a marked Auto Aperture ring, whereas this takes the form of a switch on the 55-200mm. Both lenses also have a switch to turn OIS on or off.
Another big difference between these lenses is how they zoom. The 55-200mm has an external zoom, which means it extends as the zoom ring is turned. When fully extended, the 55-200mm is nearly the same length as the 50-140mm. This can be positive in that the lens ends up being quite compact when not fully extended. However, when fully extended, there’s an added risk of damaging the lens. On the other hand, the 50-140mm lens zooms internally, meaning it physically remains the same length even as you zoom in and out.
Both the 50-140mm and 55-200mm come with plastic lens hoods. The 50-140mm’s lens hood is scalloped and has an opening allowing easy access to lens filters (ie. circular polarizers).
Likely due to its size and weight, the 50-140mm comes with a metal tripod collar. This allows for the lens to be mounted to a tripod, rather than the camera body, resulting in better overall balance. The tripod collar has several knobs that allow it to easily be turned in any position, or removed altogether. Compared to other telephoto zooms such as the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8, Fujifilm’s tripod collar is much lighter and easier to remove. Overall, the tripod collar seems to be one of the best and most surprising features of this lens.
The 55-200mm lens does come with a tripod collar.
Let’s start with the 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 lens as its price point and size makes it the easiest to add to your kit. Overall, the lens performs extremely well. Images are sharp and in focus. Even when shooting at 200mm f/4.8, image bokeh is smooth and there’s a good separation between the photo subject and background. However, it’s still a variable aperture lens. When shooting in low lighting or needing to isolate your subject with creamy bokeh background, this lens is blown out of the water by the 50-140mm.
Moving on to the 50-140mm f/2.8 lens. This lens is definitely much beefier and you’ll need more room in your bag to lug it around. Its size can make it an awkward match for some of Fujifilm’s more compact cameras such as the X-E bodies. If your camera comes with an optional battery grip, using it can help the lens and camera feel more balanced. Personally, I had a hard time turning the aperture ring with the tripod collar attached, although the collar did help hold the lens steady.
In terms of image quality, the 50-140mm offers sharp, crisp images at all focal lengths and apertures. It has an obvious upper hand when it comes to low light shooting and bokeh with that f/2.8. However, if you’ve gotten used to shooting with the 55-200mm, you might miss that extra zoom range that you can’t get with the 50-140mm.
So which of these two Fujifilm telephoto lenses is best for you? It’s hard to say. If you’re on a budget, don’t want a bulky lens, or don’t shoot in a lot of low lighting scenarios, the 55-200mm is a great deal that will still give you sharp, clear images. However, if your budget can stretch a bit and you really value having a constant f/2.8 aperture, splurge on the 50-140mm. Despite being larger, pricier, and offering less range, the 50-140mm is a sturdy, reliable lens that will last you a long time.
Have you used either of these lenses? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.