Date: 10/03/2015 | By: Mathieu
Two Italian actresses, two great lenses – A Fujifilm 56mm vs. 56mm APD portrait gallery
This is not the first time that I’ve written about the Fujifilm XF 56mm twins. I appreciated the first version last year when I held a portrait session with Heather, and I had the chance to briefly test the APD version later on in November.
This year in January, Fujifilm Italia kindly sent me both versions for a more in-depth review and it was a perfect timing since I had two portrait sessions already scheduled with two Italian actresses, Barbara and Lara. At the beginning I thought that I would write a standard review and compare the two lenses. Then I changed my mind and decided to do something a little more informal.
Quick reminder: the Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2 R was released in February 2014. It is a stunning portrait lens (85mm equivalent) for the X system. You can check out our review here. In September 2014 Fujifilm announced a second version called APD. This second lens has an apodisation filter (aka APD) on the rear of the lens elements that makes the lens less bright (1Ev of difference) but renders a smoother bokeh. On the APD version there are two aperture markings: the one in red indicates the equivalent value.
By the time I began shooting with the two lenses myself, there were already a lot of articles online about the recent 56mm APD and the minimal differences compared to the original 56mm in terms of image quality. Since I had already experienced the normal 56mm, I wanted to use the APD version on its own for the entire first session with Lara without thinking about switching between the two lenses and making comparisons. For the second session with Barbara one week later, I switched between the two lenses a couple of times.
I wanted to see if I would notice relevant differences when using one lens or the other by concentrating on my subject rather than making precise scientific comparisons.
The reason why I will skip writing a full review of the 56mm APD is simply because there isn’t a lot to say that hasn’t already been said. I feel that the 56mm APD is a very specific lens that only portrait photographers can appreciate. Personally, I don’t shoot portraits for work every day, so perhaps I am not qualified enough to explain why the APD might be worth the extra money. I’ll simply go with my instinct.
The pictures above weren’t shot at exactly the same moment and the distance between the subject and the focal plane isn’t exactly the same but it is enough to show you the differences between the two lenses in a outdoor situation. What I found interesting is that Fujifilm states that the APD version produces a smoother bokeh whereas I actually found the contrary. The first 56mm version has a blurrier out-of-focus area with less distinctive contrast and bokeh texture. The APD however has more character when it comes to bokeh rendering: it definitely stands out more. This is more noticeable in the upper body shots. When you focus closer, the difference is less noticeable as you can see from the two portraits below.
There is also a difference in terms of the autofocus. With the APD version, you lose phase detection capabilities and the camera (X-T1 or X-E2) will use the contrast detection points instead. As such, the APD version is slower but I haven’t found the difference really relevant for portraits, at least in good light conditions.
So which one I would choose?
To be honest, I like both. If I shot professional portraits every day I would probably spend the extra money on the APD version. Otherwise I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the normal 56mm as it is excellent in every way. So, at this point, I think I’ll stop writing and “bokeh peeping” and let the pictures do the story-telling.
Note: If you are curious to check out more in-depth differences, I recommend this comparison article on Fuji vs Fuji.
The pictures below were taken with the Fuji X-T1 and post-processed in Lightroom using the Rebecca Lily Pro Set III. I used ambient light and a circular reflector.
Lara – 56mm APD
Barbara – 56mm and 56mm APD
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