Fuji GFX 120mm F4 Macro Review

This will not be an overtly technical review, there are plenty of those already out there for those who need to know about chromatic aberration and that sort of stuff.  This is more, what is it like to use, what do I use it for and what do I think of it?  I've been using this lens now for two months on a variety of projects so here are my thoughts, along with some pictures of course.

First off, this is a macro lens, albeit a 1:2 macro lens not a 1:1.  This basically means you can't get as close as you would with a 1:1.  However, the insane resolution of the GFX means its quite easy to just crop in on the final image.  Now I am no macro photographer, but I do shoot weddings, and bridal shoots and all that sort of thing, so its very handy for me to be able to get high quality detail shots with the lens I also use for portraits.  For me, this is one of the main reasons I've chosen this lens over the 110 F2, its more flexible.

 

120mm Macro f4.5 1/250

120mm Macro f4.5 1/250

The other reason I chose the 120mm is the OIS.  It is the only lens in the GFX lineup with optical image stabilisation.  I find this incredibly useful when using flash, where the sync speed is 1/125.  With these big heavy lenses I can't be sure of a sharp image at 1/125 without either a tripod or OIS, and you wouldn't believe how often I forget my tripod on shoots ( ok so I'm an idiot, but I don't like tripods in general ).  The OIS just makes it a more flexible lens I can use anywhere.

 

So, we've covered OIS, and the macro side ( kinda ), what about for portraits and shots like the above?  Well, it isn't the bokeh monster that the 110 F2 is, but I don't need it to be.  It's produces razor sharp, punchy, contrasty images that I really like and I find f4 is perfectly adequate for me almost all the time, f2 would be a bit too thin a DOF for my style of photography.  Certainly when I'm testing for agencies, they wouldn't be impressed if parts of the model's face are out of focus because I shot it at f2.  Even at f4, with this focal length, you get a very pleasing background separation.  Some people have said it's a bit too sharp and unforgiving for a portrait lens, and I do kind of agree, you have to be very careful if your subject does not have good skin.  I recently did a shoot for an agency where I used this lens with a beauty dish, which is a hard(ish) light and the skin retouching was a bit of a pain.  I then switched to a big, soft Octa and it was fine.  So do bear that in mind when using this lens, it's not that forgiving if you don't get the lighting right.  

Personally, for those times when I want crazy bokeh, I'm going to get a Fotodiox adapter and some legacy lenses and use those, but I can understand a lot of people preferring the 110 F2.  If you just use natural light for your portraits, or constant lights, I can see the 110 F2 being a better bet, but I'm very often using strobes or flashguns and I don't want to always have a tripod on me, so for me the 120mm works better.  I'm also a bit bored of everyone obsessing about bokeh, it's a nice tool to have, but there is no point going to awesome locations to photograph your subjects and then just obliterating the background because you can!!

Here are a few more images from this awesome lens.  

 

As for weather sealing, its good:)  That shot of Shannon with the horse was shot in very typical British weather, rain.  I used it all day in that weather and it was fine.  

So..where and what do I use this lens for?  Well, mostly I use it for shooting models.  I test for agencies and I also shoot personal projects for fun, and its a fantastic lens for people photography.  I've used it at a wedding, and on an engagement shoot, and I can see myself shooting many couple portraits with it.  Some people might prefer the 110 F2 for that sort of work, but when I'm shooting 2 people there is no way I'm shooting f2 on a medium format, as they won't always be on exactly the same focal plane and I don't want to be messing around with a tripod on an engagement shoot.  I don't really use it for shooting family shots, its too big and heavy and my kids tend to notice when I point it in their direction and immediately adopt big cheesy grins or just hide their faces.  For that sort of thing I have the X system cameras, and I use those to shoot the majority of the wedding.  The GFX comes out to play for detail shots with this lens, for the couple portraits, and for the group shots with the 32-64mm lens ( another awesome bit of glass, review coming soon on that one ).

Here is a quick example of how the GFX has given me some new options.  On the beach shoot with my friend Coco the other day, she was wearing some awesome accessories.  It's been very easy for me to just crop right in and give the suppliers some nice closeups.  This always makes their day and helps improve my reputation out there amongst people who might then recommend me to their friends.  Here is the main image, shot with the 120 in direct morning light...

 

And here is the closeup...it's not perfect, had I been a bit more with it I'd have shot some deliberate closeups, but Coco didn't tell me they were custom nail extensions at the time.  Even so, just on the images from this shoot alone the supplier wants to book me for a job.

 

 

I know this review is a bit of a ramble, but when I looked for reviews of this lens there were very few with the kind of images I'm interested in ( Jonas Rask does some of the best fuji reviews, his images are awesome ).  I'm not that interested in pictures of bookshelves or bushes, for me this lens is used on people mostly and that's what I've tried to show.  This is how I use it, I'm still very much learning to get the best out of it and the beast of a camera that is the GFX, but it's a fun journey and I've no regrets about buying this lens.  The 110 F2 sure looks nice, but for me this lens is more flexible in it's use and I sure as hell can't afford both of them!  Thanks for reading.