Abandoning legacy tele primes - the 55-200 is great

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Rod McD
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Abandoning legacy tele primes - the 55-200 is great
2 months ago

Hi,

I’m into hiking, landscape and travel, so one of my goals for mirror-less was to keep my kit small and light. I bought a 14mm and the 18-55 zoom and wanted a small short tele to make a three lens kit.  I initially avoided the 55-200 and in the absence of a Fuji prime of around 85-105mm, I tried film era SLR lenses.  I eventually bought the zoom and I’m posting here to explain why I’m abandoning legacy tele lenses. (Mostly.)  I hope this tale helps anyone who's been thinking along similar lines.

I bought, borrowed and tried half a dozen respected MF SLR lenses from 85mm to 105mm, two 90 & 100mm macros and two 135mm lenses for good measure. (It was clear from the outset that some of these weren’t going to offer any weight savings, but I still wanted to see if they offered top IQ from a smaller package). I used them for a while, shot my own comparative tests and did some serious pixel peeping to evaluate them – a task that surely qualifies as an OCD illness.

I confirmed for myself that film era medium tele primes can offer excellent IQ at their middle apertures. However, given that they get a lot of praise, I was personally disappointed in their performance until well stopped down. I thought most tended to be a bit soft and exhibited far more PF and CAs than I’d be happy with. To me this eroded the advantage of being a stop or so faster than the zoom. Then add the benefits of flexibility, AF, OIS and total integration with the camera, and the extra 250 grams starts to look worth it. (That’s if you did save 250 grams – once you add an adapter, only the smallest prime tele lenses offer significant weight savings.)  And let's not even start on adapter issues.....

I am pleasantly surprised on one hand that the zoom is so good and slightly disappointed on the other that my carefully chosen small lenses didn’t fare as well as I expected. I guess I’m shifting my view toward those who argue that film era legends have been found wanting on digital sensors.

For me, the question was whether adapted prime lenses offer IQ advantages over the zoom, or at least the same IQ for less size and weight. It’s not clear to me that they do – the zoom is better. Of course, it’s only better if you can live with f3.5-4.8 and preferably shoot one stop further down.  I can.  Others may need faster options. They’ll be keen on the coming 50-140/2.8 or the 90/2 for the fact that they're faster.  I’d still like a small, light tele lens for heavy hiking or extended travel so I’ll be looking at the 90mm too, but for its size.  I do hope Fuji design its size tightly to what is needed for its f2 aperture.

Sorry. This got a bit long.

Regards,

Rod

 Rod McD's gear list:Rod McD's gear list
Canon PowerShot G12 Canon PowerShot G1 X Fujifilm X-T1 Voigtlander 90mm F3.5 APO-Lanthar SL II Fujifilm XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro +5 more
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