Want an X100 series camera but prefer the 50mm perspective? You'll want the Fujifilm 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.
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)
IMAGES FROM THE X100S + TCL-X100
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.
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 solid if not stellar 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 Zeiss 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 4 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
NOVEMBER 2018 UPDATE:
Since this 3 year old article mysteriously remains popular (well, the X100 series is a great line), I should add that about 1.5 years ago (in early 2017) I began shooting entirely with the Sony Alpha series. I use three A7II bodies and three prime lenses. It’s clear to me that Sony is completely on a higher plane, way out ahead of the pack. With IBIS, their high ISO and dynamic range quality from cameras barely larger than APS-C, and the benefit of the most sophisticated eye tracking (“Eye AF”), Sony has raised the bar. Even if I were to shoot APS-C, I’d grab an A6500, which is tiny, light and has the fastest AF I’ve ever used. For portrait and event photographers, this is a huge benefit. Landscape and street photographers tend to shoot at apertures that make AF speed something of a non-issue. As someone who has been shooting professionally since 1999 and mirrorless since 2012, I find all mirrorless cameras too small in my hands. There is an easy fix for this: I bought 3 cheap vertical battery grips that are imitations of the VG-C2EM Sony grip for the A7II, A7RII, A7SII cameras. While not as robust as the Sony grip, they are lighter and actually ergonomically superior to me. They are literally $44USD and I have never had a problem with them. They make the ergonomics perfect for adult sized hands, add a 2nd vertical shutter and more custom controls and the additional of a 2nd battery in the grip for longevity. The grip is essentially weightless, so the only consideration is the minor weight of the 2nd Sony battery. The link to these inexpensive PowerExtra grips is here. As of this writing, they don’t have one for the A7III, A7RIII or A9 cameras yet, but sell them for the first and second generations of these cameras. Sony is the only mirrorless company that has long lasting mirrorless batteries, available in the third generation of Alpha cameras.
For the past 1.5 years, I have been doing a photography podcast with my friend Ian Weldon, a UK photographer known for his candid approach and sense of humor. Each Wednesday, new episodes are posted. We are just posted our 30th episode. You can listen to them by finding Outerfocus on iTunes or via the podcast web page here. We chat with current photographers about their work while we discuss a photographer in history about their impact on the craft of photography. We don’t talk about equipment or do product reviews. We talk about what we love about photography and what we are thinking about everything about it. We’ve had some amazing guests, and more to come. Most recently, we’ve spoken with Vinca Petersen, Ben Smith of A Small Voice podcast, Gerard Uferas, Richard Kalvar, Matt Stuart, Paris Visone, Fadi Boukaram, Ed Templeton, Jillian Edelstein, Martin Parr, Charles Peterson, Goncalo Delgado, Julia Coddington, Ross Harvey, Gina Milicia, Jonathan Higbee, Melissa Breyer, David Carol, Facundo Santana, Jordi Cervera, Kym Skiles, Paul Rogers, Nima Taradji, Kirra Cheers, Spencer Lum, Niki Boon, Edoardo Morina, Cam Neville, Gisele Duprez, Kirk Mastin, Steven Bollman, and Joao DeMedeiros.
To see more Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN portraits, wedding photography and weddings all over the world, visit my main portfolio on bradleyhanson.com or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 206-393-8292 and we can discuss your wedding plans in detail. My speciality is shooting family portraits in an unposed, natural style and wedding photojournalism. I photograph weddings as they happen rather than direct the action, which is often referred to as documentary style wedding photography. I’ve photographed weddings in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Seattle and many countries around the world.