Seeking The Best Lens For Bird Photography: FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6

Birding with a medium format camera might initially sound like an unconventional pairing, but Fujifilm’s FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6 lens challenges the status quo. As a photographer, I approached this lens with a mix of excitement and skepticism, unsure if it could truly deliver on its promises. However, after reading numerous reviews and experiencing the FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6 firsthand, I’ve formed a well-rounded opinion on this intriguing lens. I’m pleased to say that the GF 500mm f5.6 exceeded my expectations in many ways.

First Impressions

Weighing just 1375g (3.03 lbs) and measuring 24.7 cm (9.4 inches), it’s remarkably portable for its class. Fujifilm has clearly focused on making this lens a practical option for photographers who need to carry their gear for extended periods.

Build Quality and Design

The lens boasts weather resistance, a crucial feature for outdoor photography, particularly in environments where conditions can be unpredictable. During my testing, I appreciated the lens’s durability, knowing that it could withstand the rigors of birding expeditions in various climates. Extending your creative vision, the FUJINON GF500mm F5.6 R LM OIS WR lens offers a focal length equivalent to 396mm. This compact, lightweight, and weather-resistant lens delivers detail-rich results up to 102 megapixels, featuring fast, silent autofocus with focus preset controls, and a 6.0 stop Optical Image Stabilizer to combat camera shake.

Fujinon GF 500mm f5.6 - 1
FUJINON GF500mm F5.6 R LM OIS WR lens

In terms of design, the GF 500mm f5.6 shares similarities with Sigma lenses, prompting speculation about its origins. However, Fujifilm asserts that it’s an original OEM creation, with unique optical formulas and designs. Some may question its resemblance to Sigma lenses, but the GF 500mm f5.6 is well crafted and ergonomic, with intuitive controls that facilitate smooth operation in the field. Measuring 24.7cm (9.4in) and weighing just 1375g (3.03lb), it remains portable and, importantly, highly maneuverable in crucial moments, making it the ultimate field companion for wildlife photography and bird photography.

Autofocus Performance

One of the lens’s notable drawbacks is its autofocus speed, which falls short of the performance offered by DSLR counterparts. While it’s adequate for most situations, capturing fast-moving subjects like birds in flight can be challenging. Fujifilm’s autofocus system, while functional, lacks the refinement and speed of industry-leading systems from Canon, Nikon, and Sony. However, the silent, high-speed autofocusing, along with focus preset options, ensures that no moment is missed, which is essential for framing distant sport and wildlife subjects to perfection.

Fujinon GF 500mm f5.6 - 2
FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6 with Fujifilm GFX 100S (Image: Adorama)

During the tests, the Fujifilm GFX 100S was primarily used in AF-C mode with tracking. It yielded satisfactory results but occasionally struggled to keep pace with erratic bird movements. Switching to Boost Mode provided a slight improvement in autofocus speed but didn’t entirely eliminate missed shots. Overall, patience and skill are essential when using the GF 500mm f5.6, particularly in demanding wildlife photography scenarios.

Image Quality

Where the FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6 truly shines is in its image quality. Despite its autofocus limitations, the lens delivers stunningly sharp images with excellent color rendition. Various film simulations, including Velvia and Classic Chrome, offer distinct visual characteristics that add depth and personality to the photos. Fujifilm built the GFX System digital camera products to provide astounding image quality, and the FUJINON GF500mmF5.6 R LM OIS WR lens is an optic to match. Each of the lens’s elements delivers maximal resolving power equipped to meet that of a 102-megapixel sensor.

Fujinon GF 500mm f5.6
(Image: Fujifilm)

The lens’s ability to capture both clinical sharpness and subtle character is commendable, making it a versatile tool for photographers seeking creative expression. Whether shooting landscapes or wildlife, the GF 500mm f5.6 consistently produces captivating images that exceed expectations.

Extended Reach

While this lens offers incredible coverage as standard, there’s potential to go further. Greater telephoto power can be achieved by adding the optional FUJINON GF1.4X TC WR teleconverter (sold separately), resulting in a 35mm equivalent focal length of 554mm. This extension makes it even more powerful for capturing distant subjects in wildlife photography and bird photography.

Main Specifications Of The FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6

SpecificationDetails
Focal Length500mm (35mm equivalent: 396mm)
Aperture Rangef/5.6 to f/32
Lens Construction14 elements in 9 groups
Diaphragm Blades9 (rounded diaphragm)
Minimum Focus Distance3.5 meters (11.48 feet)
Maximum Magnification0.09x
Image StabilizationOptical Image Stabilizer (6.0 stops)
AutofocusLinear Motor (LM) with focus preset controls
Weather ResistanceYes (dust and moisture resistant)
Filter Size95mm
Dimensions24.7 cm (9.4 in)
Weight1375 g (3.03 lb)
CompatibilityFUJIFILM GFX System
Special Features– Lightweight and compact design
– Silent, high-speed autofocusing
– Focus preset options
– High resolving power for up to 102MP sensors
– Compatible with FUJINON GF1.4X TC WR teleconverter
MountFUJIFILM G mount

This table provides a clear overview of the key specifications and features of the FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6 lens, highlighting its suitability for wildlife photography and bird photography.

Fujinon GF 500mm f5.6 - 6
(Image: Fujifilm)

Pros and Cons of FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6

Pros:

  1. Lightweight and Portable: Despite its large focal length, the lens is surprisingly light and compact, making it easier to carry for extended periods.
  2. Weather Resistance: Built to withstand harsh conditions, making it ideal for outdoor wildlife and bird photography.
  3. Sharp Image Quality: Delivers excellent sharpness and detail, suitable for high-resolution photography up to 102 megapixels.
  4. Effective Image Stabilization: The 6.0 stop Optical Image Stabilizer helps to combat camera shake, especially useful for handheld shooting.
  5. Beautiful Bokeh: Produces smooth and aesthetically pleasing background blur, enhancing the visual appeal of images.
  6. Silent Autofocus: The linear motor provides fast and quiet autofocus, essential for capturing wildlife without disturbing the subjects.
  7. Focus Preset Controls: Allows for quick and precise focusing adjustments, which is beneficial in fast-paced shooting environments.
  8. Compatibility with Teleconverter: Can be extended further with the optional FUJINON GF1.4X TC WR teleconverter for even greater reach.

Cons:

  1. Autofocus Speed: Autofocus is slower compared to leading DSLR and mirrorless systems, making it challenging to capture fast-moving subjects like birds in flight.
  2. Price: As a high-end medium format lens, it may be expensive for some photographers.
  3. Limited to Medium Format: Only compatible with the FUJIFILM GFX system, limiting its use to medium format cameras.
  4. Manual Handling Required: Requires patience and skill to achieve optimal results, especially in dynamic wildlife photography situations.
  5. Lack of Advanced Autofocus Features: Competing brands offer advanced autofocus features like sophisticated scene detection and tracking capabilities.

Pairing The FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6 Lens

Pairing the FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6 lens with the Fujifilm GFX 100S II opens up a world of possibilities for photographers seeking exceptional image quality and versatility. The GFX 100S II, with its high-resolution 102-megapixel sensor and advanced features, complements the lens perfectly, allowing photographers to capture stunning detail and clarity in their shots. Whether you’re photographing wildlife, landscapes, or sports, this combination delivers outstanding performance and precision. With the GFX 100S II’s robust build and intuitive controls, paired with the lightweight and weather-resistant design of the GF 500mm f5.6 lens, photographers have the freedom to explore and create without limitations. Together, they form a powerful and reliable toolset for capturing extraordinary images in any environment.

Read more about Fujifilm`s latest release, the Fujifilm GFX 100S II.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the FUJINON GF 500mm f5.6 is a remarkable lens that pushes the boundaries of what’s possible with medium format photography. Despite its autofocus limitations, its lightweight build, weather resistance, and exceptional image quality make it a compelling choice for photographers looking to explore the world of birding and wildlife photography with medium-format equipment.

While it may not match the autofocus speed of DSLR equivalents or the precision of leading mirrorless systems, the GF 500mm f5.6 offers a unique blend of performance and portability that sets it apart in the medium format landscape. For photographers willing to embrace its quirks and limitations, this lens has the potential to unlock new creative possibilities and capture breathtaking moments in stunning detail. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or an enthusiastic hobbyist, the GF 500mm f5.6 will extend your creative vision and become an indispensable tool in your photographic arsenal.

Start And Enjoy Your Birding Journey Today!

Sign up and be informed about new posts and other updates. We promise we’ll never spam! Look at our Privacy Policy for more info.

Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.