Fujifilm TCL-X100 Review / by Bradley Hanson

Want an X100 series camera but prefer the 50mm perspective? You'll want the Fujifilm TCL-X100!

Fujifilm X100S + TCL-X100

I've been photographing weddings all over the world since 1999, shooting exclusively with Fujifilm X-Series cameras for 3 years. I switched completely from a Nikon DSLR system cold turkey in December of 2012. My first Fujifilm camera was the X-Pro1, but it was actually the original X100 that caught my eye as soon as I saw it gleaming beautifully from the camera shop case earlier that year. As a long time Leica admirer (and I've used their film cameras for 16 years), I love the design overtly appropriated from the late 1950s chrome Leica M3 body, the silent operation of the leaf shutter, the analog aperture and shutter speed controls and best of all, the image quality. Fujifilm has a deservedly stellar reputation for lens design, having made lenses for their 35mm cameras for decades, as well as their revered medium format 6x7 and 6x9 professional rangefinder cameras, and Hasselblad's XPAN panorama camera system (sold internationally as the Fuji TX-1 and TX-2) and Hasselblad's H system of digital cameras.

I have always preferred working with prime (non-zoom) lenses, not only for the speed of the lens for low light work and the ability to have greater control over depth of field, but because mastering specific focal lengths is critical for pre-visualization and knowing what I am going to see before the camera is even at my eye.

I've written a thorough article about my 16 year wedding photography history and my transition to mirrorless cameras and lenses here: http://www.bradleyhanson.com/blog/2015/5/26/my-25-years-with-the-fujifilm-x-series-cameras-and-lenses

The 50mm perspective is my favorite way of seeing the world through the lens. I'm writing an article about this that will be posted on X100c.com in the next few weeks. I'll be discussing the history of the 50mm lens, various favorites, and maybe even a few image comparisons with the new Fujifilm XF 35mm f2 lens.

The Fujifilm X100 series (X100/X100S/X100T) delivers amazing image quality in a portable package. The 23mm f2 lens has the angle of view of a 35mm f2 lens, thought of by many as the perfect all around focal length: Wide enough for landscapes and travel but just enough compression to make situational portraits possible; a popular focal length for street photography. There are times when 35mm is too wide and when you want more compression to be flattering to facial features and to better separate the subject from a distracting background.

Wedding image from Fujifilm X100S + TCL-X100

Fujifilm has a solution: The TCL-X100, which makes the 23mm f2 lens into a 33mm f2 lens, which is the equivalent of a 50mm with an APS-C sensor. I was initially skeptical that this simple and relatively inexpensive lens converter could transform this lens so convincingly. I was happily wrong! I waited over a year to write this review so I could get a few miles on the camera with the converter and have a chance to use it in all normal shooting conditions I would subject it to professionally. 

Just like putting a filter on the front of the original lens, you simply screw the TCL-X100 to the X100 series lens (it works on all three versions of this beloved camera). You then go to shooting menu 3 and set "Conversion Lens" to "TELE," which corrects all optical distortion electronically. I've tried the lens with and without the correction applied, just to see what is happening. Trust me, you want it ON! The OVF and EVF automatically show the 33mm perspective once it's mounted.

The TCL-X100 is all metal and contains four glass elements with Fujifilm's Super EBC lens coating. Once mounted, the TCL weighs only 6.4oz/180g, but feels initially like it doubles the weight of the camera. For me, this was a bonus as it makes the camera more substantial and easier to hold steadily in low light. The camera becomes front heavy, but seems to fit perfectly in the hand, giving you the space to support the lens with your left hand as you shoot. There is no lens hood for it, so I use a B+W multicoated 67mm UV filter, and just wipe that off as needed to protect the front element. I've tried shooting with and without the filter and see no difference in color, quality, contrast or flare, so I highly recommend these filters and use them on all of my lenses. (Review continued below gallery)

A nice surprise is that there is NO discernible loss in quality. Not sure what magic Fujifilm is doing in-camera once you tell the camera that the TCL is on, but sharpness is not an issue, nor is chromatic aberration; something that is as unexpected as it is remarkable. It's been noted that with the standard 23mm f2 lens, the only weak spot of the X100 is slight softness at macro range at f2, a non-issue by f2.8. I also find that the TCL seems actually *sharper* than the standard 23 at minimum focus. How Fujifilm can add additional elements and almost make the image look *sharper* is beyond my understanding, but they did.

It is worth noting that AF speed is slightly slower and less consistent in low light conditions, just as it is without the TCL. In bright light, I can detect no change in AF performance. In the cave-like lighting conditions I find in wedding receptions (I've coined the term "lightmare" for light too low to accurately focus), AF will sometimes hunt longer in situations where the standard 23mm would have locked focus. For the results, I feel this is a fair trade, so you may want to test for yourself before committing if you rely on AF in extremely low light. I've chosen sample images that reflect a variety of lighting conditions from ISO6400 + 1/15th @ f2 to bright daylight, as well as a number of shooting distances to show close up performance and broader compositions. I process my RAW files adding additional grain and contrast to emulate my favorite films, so between that and JPEG compression you might be get a complete sense of lens quality. I can assure you from looking at RAW files on my 27" iMac screen that the quality of this affordable adapter is breathtaking.

Fujifilm X100S + TCL-X100

Another consideration I haven't read in other reviews of this product is how the TCL converter affects the character of out of focus areas, commonly referred to as "bokeh." I'm very pleased to report that while the 23mm f2 has a good reputation in this regard, adding the TCL makes the backgrounds even smoother. Not perfect, but very similar to the old Leica 50mm "rigid" Summicron lens. Very smooth at close distances, sometimes slightly less so (very much like a 4 element Tessar lens) with distant scenes. In all of the close-ups in the photos posted in this article, they are all taken at f2 so you can see the sharpness and the quality of the resulting bokeh at maximum aperture.

Since the X100 cameras have the hybrid OVF/EVF of the X-Pro1, it's worth mentioning that the TCL will obscure the lower right corner (about 20% of the frame) when using the OVF.

Considering that it's like adding a Leica 50mm Summicron to your kit, it's truly a bargain and gives photographers the option of 28/35/50 perspectives should you also add the WCL-X100, which converts the lens into a 28mm f2 lens. The TCL-X100 is only about $349 USD and comes in both silver and black, as does the WCL-X100. 

For more about my experience using Fujifilm X-Series cameras and lenses for the past 3 years, a full article is right here: http://www.bradleyhanson.com/blog/2015/5/26/my-25-years-with-the-fujifilm-x-series-cameras-and-lenses

Fujifilm X100S + TCL-X100