Fujifilm set the bar for APS-C portrait lenses with their phenomenal XF 56mm f/1.2 a few years back and they have done the same for digital medium format with the GF 110mm f/2 R LM WR. The GFX system is an exceptional fit for those shooting high-end portraiture and the GF 110mm f/2 is quite possibly the perfect portrait lens for this application.
A quick conversion for sensor size tells us that this lens will give the same field of view as an 87mm lens on 35mm full-frame. It will also provide the depth-of-field equivalent of an f/1.6 lens. Of course, it is still an f/2 lens in terms of light gathering, so you'll need a little more light to achieve the same depth of field as you would on a 35mm camera. So, this may seem like a good substitute for your trusty 85mm f/1.4 lens. However, the optical characteristics are quite different. Let's take a look at those below.
Size and Weight
This lens is large and heavy, but it does not feel unbalanced on the GFX when using it handheld. Using it on a tripod is another story. The length of the lens and the heavy glass means you'll want to have a good grip on the lens before moving the tripod head.
At just over a kilogram, this is not the heaviest lens on the market, but it's not the lightest either. For a medium format lens, it's quite acceptable. Carrying this lens around all day will result in quite a bit of fatigue. I have found that long shooting sessions require a tripod so as not to get too tired. Those used to carrying a large full-frame body with a 70-200mm may find this combination light, but I'm coming from the Fujifilm X system.
The lens is 4.94 inches long, or about as long as the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8. There is plenty of space to get a good grip on the weight of the lens. The physical length of the lens is significantly increased by using the included hood but I cannot recommend using the lens without it. The front element is right at the end of the lens and flare is rampant without it.
Build Quality and Handling
This is yet another lens that Fujifilm have built superbly. Construction is on par with all of the other lenses currently available for the GFX. Considering the price, you should expect nothing less. This lens comes in at over $2,500 on B&H right now. The ample focus ring has good grip and turns smoothly, and has plenty of throw to allow for precise manual focusing should you want to.
Although the lens is built spectacularly, the floating elements can be a little disconcerting at first. Before the lens is powered on, these rattle inside the lens as was the case with the Fujifilm XF 90mm f/2 and XF 50-140mm f/2.8 for the X system. Once powered on, however, these noises cease and the lens focuses quickly. More on that in a moment.
The lens itself weighs 2.22 pounds and that weight gets noticeable very quickly if you are shooting handheld. Although it feels very well made and like it is a part of the GFX body, the battery grip does help to balance it a little better if you have it. The length and weight also make the lens more difficult to change without setting the camera down on a surface first.
The one thing that feels somewhat out of place is the lens hood. For a lens that costs more than $2,500, the hood really does feel like an afterthought. The clip to lock it in place feels like it will break straight out of the box. So far, I haven't had any problems with it. However, for a premium lens like this, I would expect a hood that matches.
Autofocus on GFX lenses is never going to be spectacularly fast. There's a lot of heavy glass to move around and the sensor only supports contrast detect AF. However, the 110mm f/2 is no slouch. It focuses plenty fast enough for portrait shooting. In good light, I've never found the lens to be too slow for any of my applications.
As we have seen with the Fujifilm X Series cameras, Fuji's autofocus is extremely accurate every single time. In reasonable light, the GF 110mm f/2 will nail focus every single time. It does struggle quite a bit in backlit situations or extremely dim lighting, but AF assist can help with that. Studio shooters might want to keep a basic level of light present all the time to ensure fast and accurate focusing.
The one thing that I found disappointing with the lens is the amount of breathing present while focusing. In video, it would be unusable. However, even when shooting stills, the breathing is just extremely distracting as the lens cycles through trying to focus. It can be really distracting and require you to move significantly closer to or farther from your subject due to the change in framing. Check the video below to see what I mean.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this lens has my favorite rendering of any “portrait lens” I’ve ever used. I know this is purely subjective, but let’s get this out of the way. I love the out-of-focus rendering of the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D, I love the added sharpness that the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G added, and I also love the dreaminess of the Canon 85mm f/1.2. These are all present in the 110mm f/2 from Fujifilm in some way.
This lens is extremely sharp, but it still retains beautiful skin texture without the garishness of some ultra-sharp lenses (macro lenses typically fall into this category for me). This is impressive, especially considering how sharp Fujifilm GFX files are. It also maintains beautifully soft bokeh and a swift falloff. The shot below is at f/2 and directly exported with Lightroom's default sharpening.
The 110mm focal length (rather than the 87mm required for this field of view on 35mm full frame) provides an exceptionally quick falloff from sharpness. One more optical feature of this lens that stems from the longer focal length and quick falloff is the much debated three-dimensional rendering of the medium format system. Although the field of view is the same, “pulling” the background slightly closer using the longer focal length results in a beautiful rendering in which focus is clearly separated.
I have yet to see any chromatic aberration at all, but that could be Fujifilm's lens corrections improving this before we get a chance to see it. Either way, the images are extremely clean. Flare, however, is a completely different story. Without the (huge) included hood, any stray light results in a large reduction in contrast and haloing if the light source is even close to the edge of the frame.
What I Liked
- One of the sharpest portrait lenses I have ever used
- Beautiful skin rendering
- Pleasing bokeh
- Pleasing subject separation
- “Medium Format Feel”
- Quick and accurate focusing (especially for a medium format system)
What I Didn't Like
- Large and heavy
- Focus breathing
Although there are a few adapters out there that will allow you to mount your existing 35mm lenses on the GFX, this is Fujifilm's native offering and as we've seen from their lenses to date, they are spectacular. The 110mm f/2 resolves all the detail this gorgeous sensor wants and then some. It gives that “medium format feel” and renders bokeh beautifully. It's hard to find fault with this lens, so I'll give it my full recommendation for anyone shooting portraiture on the GFX system.