Field review: Fujifilm XF 70-300 F4-5.6 R LM OIS WR: Digital Photography Review Leave a comment


Introduction

The Fujifilm Fujinon XF 70-300mm F4-5.6 R LM OIS WR is a very versatile, compact telephoto zoom lens for the company’s APS-C X-mount, arguably filling a much needed gap in the company’s lineup.

The XF 70-300mm offers a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 105-450mm after accounting for the APS-C sensor size.

Given its far-reaching telephoto, it’s well-suited to sports and nature photographers. Thanks to impressive close-focusing capabilities, it makes for a decent macro lens, too. And that ability to focus up close also means it’s better-suited to portraits with blurred backgrounds than you might otherwise expect, given its not-so-fast aperture. Its high performance, with good sharpness across the frame, lack of chromatic aberrations, fast autofocus, and very effective image stabilization make it a very versatile addition to Fujifilm’s XF lineup.

Available from March 2021, the Fujifilm Fujinon XF 70-300mmF4-5.6 R LM OIS WR carries a list price of $799.


Key specifications:

  • Focal length: 70-300mm (105-450mm with APS-C crop)
  • Aperture range: F4.0 wide / F5.6 tele – F22
  • Stabilization: Yes, 5.5 stops
  • Weather-sealed: Yes, seals throughout
  • Filter thread: 67mm
  • Close focus: 0.83m (32.7″) across zoom range
  • Maximum magnification: 0.33x tele (0.5x equivalent for APS-C)
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Hood: Included
  • Weight: 580g (1.29 lb)
  • Optical construction: 17 elements in 12 groups (1 aspherical, 2 ED elements)
ISO 160 | 1/200 sec | F8 | 287mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Although 70-300mm zooms are common on many mounts, there are no direct rivals to the XF 70-300mm F4-5.6 lens on Fujifilm’s X-mount. No third-party has yet released an X-mount zoom to compete with Fujifilm’s own glass. The nearest first-party alternatives, meanwhile, are the XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS and XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR.

The nearest of these alternatives is the XF 55-200mm, and compared to that lens, the 70-300mm is a far more attractive option. Sure, it’s just a little less bright, can’t shoot quite as widely, and is around $100 more expensive. And it’s also a fair bit bigger, starting from 15mm (0.6″) longer at wide-angle, and increasing to 29mm (1.1″) longer as you zoom in.

But for that, you get full weather-sealing, much better macro capabilities, more effective stabilization, a nine-bladed aperture and, of course, far more telephoto reach. And impressively, all of those extra capabilities have been achieved without adding a single gram above the weight of the 55-200mm.

ISO 160 | 1/125 sec | F5 | 248mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

The 100-400mm, meanwhile, is pro-grade, and it shows. At $1899.95 and 1375g (3lb), cost and weight are both 2.4 times as much, and it’s also far larger in every dimension. Its barrel is 19.8mm (0.8″) wider, and even at wide-angle it’s a smidgen (5mm; 0.2″) longer than is the 70-300mm when fully extended. Zoom in and the 100-400mm grows to 65mm (2.5″) longer than the 70-300mm.

Of course, that size, weight and cost also brings pro-grade image quality thanks to a significantly more complex optical design. And the 100-400mm offers quite a bit more reach at the telephoto end of the range, although the 70-300mm counters that with an extra 30mm at the wide-angle end.

Compared to…

Fujifilm XF 70-300mm F4-5.6 Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 Fujifilm XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6

Price (MSRP)

$799 $699 $1899
Equiv. focal length 105-450mm 82.5-300mm 150-600mm
Optical construction 17 elements, 12 groups 14 elements, 10 groups 21 elements, 14 groups
Aperture blades 9 7 9
Weather sealed Yes No Yes
Stabilized Yes, 5.5 stops Yes, 4.5 stops Yes, 5 stops
Minimum focus distance 0.83 m (2.72′) 1.10m (3.61′) 1.75m (5.74′)
Max magnification 0.33x (0.5x equiv.) 0.18x (0.27x equiv.) 0.19x (0.29x equiv.)
Diameter x Length
(no hood)
75mm x 133mm (2.95″ x 5.22″) 75mm x 118mm (2.95″ x 4.65″) 94.8mm x 211mm (3.73″ x 8.29″)
Weight 580g (20.5oz) 580g (20.5oz) 1375g (48.5oz)

All images edited in Adobe Camera Raw 13 with adjustments limited to white balance, exposure, highlights, shadows, white and black levels. Sharpening and noise reduction at ACR defaults.


Handling

For a lens of this type, the XF 70-300mm is impressively compact, with a 75mm (2.95″) barrel diameter and a retracted length of just 133mm (5.2″). As you zoom in, its length increases by more than half again to a maximum of 206mm (8.1″).

ISO 160 | 1/160 sec | F5.6 | 450mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

It’s also nice and light, tipping the scales at 580g (1.3lb). That’s doubtless been achieved in large part thanks to liberal use of plastic in the 70-300mm’s design. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s quite plasticky, with the bulk of its barrel constructed from polycarbonate.

But with that said, the lens mount is still made from metal and everything feels tightly-assembled, much as in Fujifilm’s other XF zoom lenses. And we found balance to be very nice both with the lighter X-S10 and heavier X-T3 bodies with which we did our testing.

As is typical for a Fujinon XF lens, there are quite a few controls to be found on the lens barrel. As well as manual focus and zoom rings, there’s also an aperture ring which can be overridden with an aperture mode switch, if you’d prefer that your camera take control of this variable. Dampening of the rings is fine, if a little loosey-goosey for our liking.

Additionally, Fujifilm provides both a focus limiter switch and a zoom lock to prevent zoom creep when carrying the camera vertically. This latter control can only be locked at the 70mm wide-angle position.

A nice touch is that you don’t need to fuss with unlocking the zoom when an unexpected photo opportunity arises. Simply turn the zoom ring, and the zoom lock will be disabled automatically, which could make the difference between getting that spur-of-the-moment shot or winding up frustrated.

Optical image stabilization is provided, which is always nice to see at longer focal lengths like those offered by the 70-300mm F4-5.6. Fujifilm tells us that the system has a corrective strength of 5.5 stops. That’s a full stop better than the system in the 55-200mm, all the more impressive given that with this lens’ more powerful telephoto, it has a tougher job to do in the first place.

If your camera body supports in-body image stabilization, it can work in concert with the lens’ own stabilization to pool the benefits of both systems. (In-lens stabilization typically corrects for pitch and yaw shifts, working better at longer focal lengths, while in-body stabilization can stabilize on five axes, compensating additionally for translation and roll.)

Another worthwhile improvement over the 70-300mm F4-5.6 is its weather-sealing, which keeps out dust and moisture not just at the lens mount, but at controls and other potential ingress points throughout the barrel. Fujifilm also rates this lens as freezeproof down to -10°C (14°F).

Up front, you’ll find 67mm filter threads. That’s a little larger than the 62mm threads on the 55-200mm, but a good bit smaller than the 77mm threads on the 100-400mm, which will put filter costs in between the two.

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ISO 160 | 1/320 sec | F5.6 | 198mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Autofocus and focus breathing

The Fujifilm XF 70-300mm’s autofocus drive is based around a linear autofocus motor, the same type used in the earlier 55-200mm. (The higher-end 100-400mm, meanwhile, uses dual linear autofocus motors.)

Performance is nice and snappy, and that’s true even if you don’t use the focus limiter to abbreviate the focusing range. It takes less than a second for focus to rack from the minimum focus distance to infinity, but for shooting more distant subjects, it’s worth using the focus limiter to limit the minimum focus distance to 5.0m (16.4′) for even better performance.

ISO 160 | 1/60 sec | F8 | 450mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Unlike both the 55-200mm and 100-400mm lenses, the Fujifilm XF 70-300mm has pretty astounding close-focusing capabilities. At telephoto, it can provide a 35mm-equivalent 1:2 (0.5x) macro reproduction, which is significantly better than the 1:3.4-3.7 equivalents (0.27-0.29x) offered by the other two lenses.

That’s great news, because there aren’t a ton of macro lens options available in Fujifilm’s X-mount lineup, and it adds greatly to the versatility of this lens, letting you switch back and forth between wildlife and flowers with a single optic.

The 70-300mm F4-5.6 is also very well-suited to video capture. Not only does it include very effective 5.5-stop image stabilization, its autofocus drive is also silent, ensuring that AF operation won’t disrupt your audio. And you don’t need to worry about focus breathing, either. There’s just a little bit at the 70mm wide-angle, and it’s very minimal indeed by the 300mm telephoto.

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ISO 160 | 1/160 sec | F5.6 | 298mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Image quality

In most respects, the Fujinon 70-300mm offers pretty good image quality. There are only a couple of weak spots, both of which will be of most concern for portrait shooters. Its bokeh suffers from quite strong onion ring and cat’s eye effect, both of which can lead to distracting backgrounds if specular highlights are present. Neither should be a big concern for sports and wildlife photographers, though.

Sharpness

At wide-angle and shooting with its F4 maximum aperture, the XF 70-300mm offers very nice sharpness in the center of the frame, and only minor softness in the corners which remains even if that’s where focus was set. There’s only a little bit of improvement to be gained in the center by stopping down to F8, but a little bit more improvement in the corners.

ISO 160 | 1/160 sec | F8 | 105mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Switching to telephoto, this lens remains nice and sharp in the center at its F5.6 maximum aperture, again with only minor softness in the corners. Much as at wide-angle, stopping down a bit helps in the corners a bit more than in the center.

Sharpness remains nice and consistent throughout the zoom range. It’s very good news that it remains strong all the way out to 300mm, as that’s likely where you’ll most want it on a telephoto zoom lens. The minor corner softness we saw across its range is typical of telephoto zooms of this nature, and won’t be an issue for most subjects.

The combination of a powerful telephoto and close focusing make it easy to get nicely-blurred backgrounds if your subject is relatively close to the camera.
ISO 160 | 1/210 sec | F5.6 | 450mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Bokeh

Given that it doesn’t have a particularly fast maximum aperture, you might expect achieving a thin depth of field with this lens would be tricky. Thanks both to its extreme telephoto nature and its ability to focus very closely across its entire zoom range, however, you can actually get some nicely soft, blurry backgrounds if your subject is relatively close to the camera.

It also offers a very nice transition in bokeh from out-of-focus to in-focus areas and back again. Unfortunately, bokeh is a bit of a weak spot for the Fujifilm 70-300mm in a couple of respects. Portrait shooters in particular will want to choose their backgrounds carefully, or perhaps reach for a different lens instead.

The Fujifilm 70-300mm is prone to pretty strong onion ring effect, which can make its bokeh quite distracting when out-of-focus specular highlights are present.
ISO 160 | 1/350 sec | F4 | 105mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

The reasons for this are twofold: A pretty heavy cat’s-eye effect that yields football-shaped (or for non-Americans, rugby ball-shaped) bokeh towards the corners, and pretty strong onion ring effect as well.

The cat’s eye can be greatly minimized by stopping down a little bit, but unfortunately the onion ring can’t be dealt with so easily. Less defocused objects, particularly specular highlights, can appear quite busy due to the onion rings and patterns. Indeed, sometimes the 70-300mm’s bokeh has a very wild look to it that can be very distracting.

Near the corners, bokeh suffers from heavy cat’s eye effect when shooting wide-open. Stopping down just a little improves the situation significantly, however. Onion ring effect is visible even in diffuse specular highlights.
Photos by Chris Niccolls

The good news is that it’s most noticeable in strong specular highlights, which aren’t something sports and wildlife shooters will have to worry about as much. With grandstands in the background, the bokeh should look great. For portraits with blurred-out lights in the distance, or backlit trees, though, it may look pretty rough.

Flare, ghosting and sunstars

Thankfully, flare and ghosting really aren’t an issue for this lens. We didn’t see much of either, and a really big, quite effective lens hood is included with the product bundle to help keep the sun off the front of the lens.

ISO 6400 | 1/15 sec | F16 | 450mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

And while we didn’t really expect much when it came to sunstars, in actual fact they turned out to be pretty good!

Lateral and longitudinal chromatic aberration (fringing)

We saw almost no longitudinal chromatic aberration with the XF70-300mm. This aberration typically shows up as magenta and green fringing in front of, and behind, the focus plane, respectively. It’s mostly problematic with fast aperture primes, so we weren’t too surprised to find that it was a non-issue here, even in situations where one might expect to see this aberration.

Lateral chromatic aberration, which shows as green/cyan and purple fringing around high contrast edges at image peripheries, is well-controlled. The tiny bit that is there is easily corrected for in post-processing and automatically by the camera in JPEGs.

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Teleconverters

Fujifilm offers two optional, weather-sealed teleconverters that can be used with the 70-300mm F4-5.6, and we tested the lens with both of them.

The Fujinon XF1.4X TC WR teleconverter takes the telephoto reach to 420mm (630mm-equivalent) with an F8 maximum aperture. The XF 2X TC WR teleconverter, meanwhile, extends this to 600mm (900mm-equivalent) at a decidedly dim max. aperture of F11.

ISO 160 | 1/1000 sec | F5.6 | 450mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10 without teleconverter
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Balance is still good with the 1.4x TC mounted, but with the 2x version, the combination does start to feel a bit front-heavy with lighter bodies.

Even with the 1.4x TC attached, we still found autofocus performance to be quite snappy, and tracking continued to work well. Using the 2x TC, though, AF does slow down quite a bit even in bright sunlight. And while AF tracking still works with the 2x TC, it’s pretty slow.

ISO 160 | 1/320 sec | F8 | 630mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10 with 1.4x teleconverter
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Of course, either TC can also be used to increase the lens’ already impressive macro capabilities. With the 1.4x TC, the 35mm-equivalent macro is 1:1.44 (0.69x), and using the 2x TC it’s 1:1 (1.0x)-equivalent.

ISO 160 | 1/100 sec | F11 | 900mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10 with 2x teleconverter
Photo by Chris Niccolls

As you’d expect, there is some loss in image quality with either teleconverter, although it’s relatively minor with the less powerful 1.4x TC. With the 2x TC, there’s a very noticeable drop in sharpness, while chromatic aberrations are significantly magnified. Color fringing can remain even after corrections with this combination, as you can see in the example below. If you want better sharpness and a wider aperture, and you can justify its added cost, we’d recommend considering the XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens instead.

If portability is your highest priority, however, the 1.4x TC and 70-300mm lens together will save you a worthwhile 665g (1.5lb) over the 100-400mm while just slightly besting its telephoto reach. The combination will also be 63mm shorter with the lens retracted, and will retain the 70-300mm’s 19.8mm (0.8″) advantage over the 100-400mm in barrel diameter.

Even the larger, heavier and more powerful 2x TC will still save you 625g (1.4lb) in weight and 48mm (1.9″) in length without increasing the barrel diameter of the 70-300mm lens. And with list prices of $450 apiece for either TC, you could buy both along with the 70-300mm lens and still save $200 over the cost of the 100-400mm lens alone.

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Conclusion

What we like What we don’t
  • Great versatility and good build quality
  • Weather-sealed and well-stabilized
  • Compact and light for its type
  • Aperture ring is nice to have
  • Zoom lock disables automatically
  • Good, consistent sharpness
  • Ghosting isn’t an issue, and pretty nice sunstars too
  • Swift, silent autofocus and minimal breathing
  • Surprisingly good macro performance
  • Pairs nicely with optional 1.4x and 2x teleconverters
  • Feels quite plasticky
  • Focus and zoom rings are a bit ‘loosey-goosey’
  • Strong onion rings can make bokeh rather busy
  • Significant cat’s eye near the corners if shooting wide-open
  • AF and tracking slow down noticeably when using optional 2x teleconverter
  • Significant chromatic aberrations when using optional 2x teleconverter

In most respects, the Fujifilm XF 70-300mm F4-5.6 turns in a great performance given its compact, lightweight design and quite affordable pricetag. And it will prove doubly attractive to Fujifilm X-mount shooters given the paucity of compelling alternatives, either from third parties or Fujifilm itself.

Although it does feel a bit plasticky in-hand, it’s nevertheless quite well-constructed, and it’s easy to overlook the use of plastic given the significant weight saving it allows. Fujifilm has also done quite well on the control front, save for the overly-loose focus and zoom rings. We really appreciate the inclusion of a dedicated aperture ring, and the self-disabling zoom lock is a really nice touch.

In most respects, image quality also satisfies, especially for subjects like sports and wildlife. And thanks to its swift autofocus drive, it should handle both with aplomb. It’s also a surprisingly capable macro lens, which adds to its versatility and helps address a weakness of Fujifilm’s X-mount lineup. What’s more, very effective image stabilization help X-mount shooters, particularly those shooting with stabilized sensors, achieve better image quality across the wide range of use-cases this lens is expected to encounter. And it’s also quite well-suited to video capture.

ISO 400 | 1/200 sec | F4 | 105mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

Our biggest concerns with the 70-300mm are its bokeh issues, both with onion ring and cat’s eye. These will be most troubling for portraits shot against a backdrop of strong specular highlights, but could lead to unnecessarily distracting bokeh in a variety of situations. They shouldn’t pose much problem for sports and nature shooters, however.

Given its strengths in most respects, and the relatively small step upwards in price, the 70-300mm has effectively replaced Fujifilm’s earlier 55-200mm for most purposes. We can see little reason to purchase that lens now, unless it’s offered at a significant discount.

ISO 160 | 1/200 sec | F6.4 | 450mm equiv. | Fujifilm X-S10
Photo by Chris Niccolls

And that leaves only one real alternative: Fujifilm’s pro-grade 100-400mm. Given its much greater size, weight and cost, that lens will simply be overkill for most X-mount shooters.

If you’re expecting to shoot a lot of portraits and need the best possible bokeh, the 100-400mm is certainly a worthwhile upgrade. And that’s also true if you need its stronger telephoto, but can’t make do with the downsides of using a teleconverter.

But for most purposes, Fujifilm’s 70-300mm is now your best bet for an X-mount tele zoom. You might say that this reason alone is enough to garner the XF 70-300mm F4-5.6 LM WR OIS WR our Silver Award, but that would be selling it short. Aside from critical bokeh assessment, its optical and autofocus performance are excellent, so if you’re an X-mount shooter looking for a lot of reach, you have little reason to look elsewhere.


DPReview TV review

See what our team at DPReview TV has to say about the Fujifilm XF 70-300mm F4-5.6.

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Sample galleries

Please do not reproduce any of these images without prior permission (see our copyright page).

Final-production lens with Fujifilm X-S10

Pre-production lens with Fujifilm X-T3 and X-S10

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Scoring

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