Fujifilm has announced the fastest autofocus lens on the market, scorching the speed limit with the Fujifilm XF50mm f/1.0 – which also has "50% richer bokeh".
Fascinatingly, the lens actually replaces the previously announced Fujifilm XF33mm f/1.0, which was revealed and repeatedly prototyped last year, before the company scrapped the idea when it became size and weight prohibited.
While the manufacturer's biggest announcement was undoubtedly the Fujifilm X-Pro3, with its titanium construction and "hidden LCD" to prevent chimping, the most intriguing story concerned the tortured development of the Fujifilm XF33mm f/1.0 and how it ultimately became the XF50mm f/1.0.
"As you know, we disclosed this latest lens roadmap at the last Photokina. Among these lenses I think the most impressive lens was this lens, the XF33mm f/1.0," said Takashi Ueno, Fujifilm senior manager. "Very impressive on paper," added Toshi Iida, Fujfilm general manager.
The company revealed a revised design as well as a physical mock-up at the Fujifilm X summit in Dubai later last year, which many attendees – and company executives – felt was too big and heavy. Iida challenged the R&D team to make it smaller – but it came back even bigger than before.
"This is the latest optical design," continued Ueno. "There are 15 glass [elements] in the body, so the weight is over 1.3kg. And it really needs a tripod mount. Can you accept this size?" The answer was a resounding no – the gigantic lens began to dwarf Fujifilm's compact mirrorless bodies.
"Honestly speaking, we also cannot accept this size and weight. But if we would like to reduce the size and weight of this lens, we have to change the maximum aperture value or we have to change the focal length. So finally we decided to change the focal length from 33mm to 50mm."
It seems a bit of a copout to abandon the lens completely and design a totally different one, but it's obvious that Fujifilm's target isn't to design a new 33mm optic – it's to design an f/1.0 optic with autofocus.
"This is the new lens," Ueno proudly stated, revealing the new optic with a 75mm equivalent full-frame focal length. "By this change the size will be 35% smaller and of course be lighter too. Our target weight is under 900g. And needless to say, bokeh effect also will be richer and smoother.
The Fujifilm XF50mm f/1.0 isn't the fastest lens available – that honor goes to the Handevision Ibelux 40mm f/0.85, which comes in the Fuji X-mount – but it's the fastest autofocus lens available.
Well, we speak too soon – it remains to be seen whether the XF50mm f/1.0 comes to pass, or whether Fujifilm struggles with the design and turns it into another lens in a year's time…