By Antonio Malara
Long before the "pandemic" began, my sister and I were planning a safari in Africa. Regardless of which park to visit if South Africa or Tanzania, I immediately realized a very important detail that made me feel a bit stupid. At that time the only telephoto zoom in my possession was the Nikkor Af-S 70-200 F2.8. This high quality lens is very heavy and bulky, plus for travel, since 2018 I had already started using Fujifilm's X system more than the Nikon DSLR. Although I had spent thousands of euros on cameras and lenses over the years, I realized that I didn't have the right lenses for a theoretical safari. On the one hand this saddened me but on the other it pushed me to plan more logical purchases.
Fortunately or unfortunately, due to a pandemic, I was unable to plan the famous safari and when last year Fujifilm released the Fujinon XF70-300 F4-5.6 I realized that it was one of the lenses I had to buy even if I didn't have a trip on the way. The purchase of the new Fujifilm lens was originally planned for spring 2021. I preferred a telephoto zoom for the Fujifilm system rather than Nikon and I considered the quality-price ratio of this lens to be excellent. Unfortunately after the first pieces, this lens went sold out and I only found it in an online store before summer 2021, a period in which I use very little photographic equipment. Later, even in the early winter months, there was no possibility of finding the 70-300 and when in mid-February this year, my reference shop brought it into stock, I bought it immediately. As with my posts related to the Fujinon XF18-135 mm and the Viltrox 23 mm, this will not be a review but simply a brief description of the lens and my experience of using the 70-300, followed by the photos, which in the end are the most important element for evaluating photographic tools.
The Fujinon XF70-300 mm is a telephoto zoom that in the 35 mm format corresponds to a 105-450 mm, has a variable aperture from F4 to F5.6 and weighs 580 grams, very light for its zoom range. This is due to the materials with which it is built, although it is stabilized and weather sealed, the lens is mainly made of plastic. There are a few buttons on the lens, one to lock the zoom extension, the aperture switch (manual or automatic) and one for choosing the focus distance. To change the stabilization mode, you have to enter the menu because there is no dedicated switch on the lens.
The feeling I had with this lens was very good, mounted on the XT 3 it is quite balanced, initially I had doubts about practicality using it at maximum extension but I must say that more than front heavy, it becomes a bit disproportionate and you have to be careful about don't slam it somewhere. In fact, the weight in the front part is not perceived so especially when shooting at 300 mm and looking in the viewfinder, you have to be careful if for example shooting while following an object. In general, I found myself very good in terms of handling, not very different from when I use the XF18-135. The aperture ring is well positioned and the click is very precise, so managing it is very practical.
But the most important thing I wanted to check on this lens were the images and I must say that I found myself in a position to use this lens rather than try it. What I mean is after the first photos taken, I immediately noticed the capabilities of the 70-300, experiencing an incredible pleasure and satisfaction. Autofocus, stabilization and responsiveness are the best part of this lens. The images it produces are very beautiful, both in terms of color and detail. Without realizing it, I took almost two thousand photos of various types, both in naturalistic and urban contexts. Plants, flowers, insects (some very small) but also details of buildings or people while they were running. I can say that with this lens I enjoyed photographing everything. Autofocus rarely went wrong and even in continuous shooting the performance was good. However, the thing that particularly interested me was the macro capabilities, I had read good things about it and couldn't wait to try them. As you can see from my other posts, I have a passion for legos and have always found it frustrating that I don't have a lens to photograph the details of some of them, especially cars. With the Fujinon 70-300 I finally succeeded and already in my post "Lego Dom's Dodge Charger", I took some detailed shots of the famous car starring in the "Fast and Furious" film series, which satisfied me a lot. Even the macro capabilities are therefore of a good level, so much so that for the moment I have postponed the purchase of a specific lens for the macro given the results that can be obtained with the 70-300. From the point of view of image quality, as I said before, not only does the lens produce very beautiful colors and details but I was pleased to note how chromatic aberrations are non-existent. If I really have to be picky, the only flaw I noticed was a bit of vignetting at the telephoto focal lengths but I didn't have the opportunity to analyze the causes. Even if the minimum aperture is F4, however, never in one of the shots, even against the light, I noticed this annoying defect. I also did a comparative test between the Fujinon XF70-300 using the XT-3 and the Nikkor 70-200 F2.8 mounted on my D800. Apart from the difference in white balance that on the Nikon is warmer, the differences using the same parameters were really minimal. The images of the 70-200 and Nikon D800 were only better exposed in the shadows, but considering the difference in weight, size and especially cost, the Fuji combination is truly a winner. Obviously, my tests were done outdoors in normal light conditions, probably shooting an indoor event for example, the differences would have been decidedly to the advantage of the Nikon combination.
Paid € 779, the Fujinon XF 70-300 satisfied me fully, the more I shoot photos the more I enjoy using this lens. As I said before, it's as if I didn't need to try it because especially for its versatility, I found it useful in multiple occasions. Surely I will need an even more extreme zoom than this for other types of subjects but for the moment with the 70-300 I can photograph everything. I hope I have been helpful with words about my experience with this lens, but I believe that looking at the images produced with it is a better and wiser thing to do.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Fujifilm XT-3