Hands-On Review: FUJIFILM GF 30mm f/3.5 R WR Lens

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Wide-angle field of view, compact design, impressively sharp: If I could distill this review of the new FUJIFILM GF 30mm f/3.5 R WR lens into a few select points, that would be it. Luckily, though, I can talk a bit more about FUJIFILM's newest lens for its mirrorless medium format camera systems. Following in the footsteps of the 63mm f/2.8 and 45mm f/2.8 lenses, the new 30mm f/3.5 is the third in this series of simple and versatile prime lens options that value portability and familiarity with performance to complement the company's full range of cameras, even including the GFX 100.

FUJIFILM GF 30mm f/3.5 R WR Lens on a FUJIFILM GFX 100
FUJIFILM GF 30mm f/3.5 R WR Lens on a FUJIFILM GFX 100

I was excited to have a chance to work with this lens before its launch, along with a GFX 100 camera, and I was immediately impressed by how the lens felt with the camera body. This is a pretty generic statement, but it's something that stood out to me the more I got to shoot with this combination because the GFX 100 is a much larger and ergonomically hampered camera than the GFX 50S and GFX 50R I've used in the past. The GFX 100 isn't a camera you'd necessarily want to go on a walk with, but paired with a lens like the 30mm f/3.5, it's not a combination that's going to leave you weak by the end of the day. Like the 63mm and 45mm lenses I mentioned above, the 30mm f/3.5 is of similar stature and weight—measuring 3.3 x 3.9" and weighing 1.1 lb—and it knocks the reputation that medium format automatically means big and heavy.

Flowers with the Manhattan Bridge in the background.
Flowers with the Manhattan Bridge in the background

Another shared trait this new lens has is a weather-resistant design, indicated by the WR in its name, which means it's sealed against moisture and dust, as well as rated for use in temperatures down to 14°F. Other physical commonalities: the lens has a manual aperture ring with a "C" position that lets you make camera-based aperture selections, and it has a large, grippy focusing ring—something I didn't use too much, but which also just gives a nice place to hold and a simple, sleek design. Its autofocus performance is quick and quiet. Unlike the 50mm f/3.5, among other GFX lenses, this 30mm f/3.5 and the 63mm and 45mm lenses lack a linear AF motor or LM designation in their name. Comparatively speaking, the lenses with a linear motor should have quieter focusing operation, but it doesn't necessarily mean that lenses like the 30mm f/3.5 have especially noisy focusing. Maybe the differences would be more pronounced for video applications, but for photo, which I think is the main user group for these cameras, the focusing speed and noise were perfectly acceptable.

Apartment buildings in Clinton Hill.
Apartment buildings in Clinton Hill

Moving beyond the physical design, the optics are, of course, what everyone cares about. I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I received the lens and camera together for review, thinking "Wow, they gave me the 100MP camera to review this lens?" It felt like a bold move, because my initial reaction was that this lens was better suited for something like the GFX 50R. Besides the smaller design, the 50MP sensor isn't quite as taxing on a lens's performance. But, I was given 100MP and I used 100MP. And, naturally, the lens held up admirably. In photographs of flowers taken from 6' away, you can decipher individual stamen and pistils in each flower, as well as even see pollen, bruises, and more. I'd expect this level of detail from a macro, but from an off-the-cuff shot of some flowers with a wide-angle lens, it was a new level of detail I'm not normally used to. This is mainly due to the 100MP sensor, sure, but that this lens can hold up to that immense resolution is something that pleasantly surprised me.

Spring bloom in Bed-Stuy.
Spring bloom in Bed-Stuy

Beyond just zooming into random photos to gaze at the layers of detail, I also had to remind myself that it is a wide-angle lens and is something to take in the bigger picture. Its field of view is similar to that of a 24mm lens on full frame, so it's on that nebulous cusp of ultra-wide and wide and is an ideal place to be for urban photography. Confined to my neighborhood in north Brooklyn during this review period, it ended up being a nice lens choice for taking in expansive shots of the waterfront, as well as focusing on details with a more bug-eyed, wide-angle approach.

Pink balloons and purple flowers.

Distortion felt well controlled for a focal length like this, but there is some keystoning that's natural when placing subjects near the extremes of the frame. It's a unique tool for taking in the entire Manhattan Bridge from beneath it or to turn around for a moment to catch some flowers peeking out from a fence. In terms of its optical design, it has 13 elements in 10 groups, and four of these elements have a special design. Two are aspherical and two are made from extra-low dispersion glass. The aspherical elements, common to wider focal lengths, help to control the distortion and contribute to sharpness and resolution—two attributes this lens has plenty of. The low dispersion glass, on the other hand, reduces chromatic aberrations and color fringing. I didn't have a ton of instances where I'd expect fringing to appear, but in some higher-frequency shots of cabling on the bridge and in-between links on a fence, I didn't find any real fringing worth noting.

Bed-Stuy at sunrise.

Another impressive component of the optics is the anti-reflective coatings. For the sake of keeping a minimal kit, I was using this lens without its included lens hood. One of the afternoon shots I took was facing directly into the sun, a situation I figured would be a lost cause due to flare and something I couldn't overcome by shielding the light with my hand since it's such a wide focal length. I decided to look for some creative flaring and color effects, instead, but ended up having more images unaffected by the flare. Generally, and like most FUJIFILM lenses for the X and GFX systems, this lens exhibits a high degree of contrast, and the color rendering felt especially punchy and clean. I only had this 30mm lens with me at the time, but from comparing to some older files shot with other GFX lenses, the color consistency from lens to lens seems just about spot on, too.

Looking up at the Manhattan Bridge from John St. Park.
Looking up at the Manhattan Bridge from John St. Park

So, going back to my initial points about this lens, the three main points that stick out to me with this GF 30mm f/3.5 R WR are the broad field of view, the portable design, and its sharpness. What more could you really want in a wide-angle lens? There's nothing superfluous about this lens, either, which I think is great. I think some people are going to raise an eyebrow at the f/3.5 maximum aperture, but likewise I would raise an eyebrow at having to work with a lens that is substantially heavier, larger, and more expensive. I've said it before on a number of occasions, but it's worth restating here that one of the benefits of modern camera technology is the improved usable ISO range of cameras. There is no need to have an f/1.4 lens to work in low light anymore, since you can raise your sensitivity to ISO 6400 with no issues. And then on the depth-of-ield front, well, let's just say this is a wide-angle lens, so shallow depth of field isn't really the trademark look of this type of lens, anyway. This is a lens for taking in space, and it's something this lens does in a very natural and pleasing way.

What are your thoughts on FUJIFILM's newest lens for its GFX medium format mirrorless camera system? Are you a fan of the wide angle? Let us know your thoughts, below.

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It would be nice to see a side by side comparison of the GF 23 MM f/4 which I use for architectural photography.  The 23 has very, very slight edge blur that I normally crop out.  Anyway you can pop a picture up showing the difference?  Otherwise, both my GF lenses are excellent.  My GFX 50R is doing well, traveling in a bag on the back of my bike, backpack or on my motor bike.  Excellent images!

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