The Fujifilm XF70-300mm:
An Astonishingly Unique Adventure Lens
In this Fujifilm XF70-300mm review, I share my thoughts on why it’s the ideal travel + adventure lens. But first, a little bit about my background and style of shooting. My first love as a photographer and filmmaker is the great outdoors. I’m lucky enough to make a living shooting in the diverse, wild landscapes of the American West.
As a result, I spend a lot of time exploring the wilderness, going long distances on foot and sometimes on two wheels. I really like to immerse myself and spend time getting to know a location because I’ve found that every environment is unique, with its own atmosphere, inhabitants, ecosystems. Even the quality of light varies from place to place.
I see my job as capturing a little slice of that uniqueness and telling a story through the lens of my camera. Everywhere I go, I have my X-T4 because I never know when an extraordinary moment will present itself. It’s my companion on long days out trekking or even short jaunts into town.
The great weight debate
A lot of times I can’t justify schlepping around a heavy camera kit that is typical on production shoots or safari tours. I prefer a lightweight approach that allows me to go further and stay out longer. For that I need a camera system that is optimized for portability and is ready to go.
At the same time, I don’t want to compromise on image quality. Fujifilm telephoto zoom lenses are proven and I have been using them for years. The XF50-140mmF2.8 and the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 are excellent. These staples were instrumental in my switch to Fujifilm about five years ago. So I was excited to have the opportunity to try out Fujifilm’s new XF70-300mmF4-5.6. These images were created during my initial few days with the lens on the Pacific Coast near San Diego, California.
Big performance in a small package
In terms of specs, the XF70-300mmF4-5.6 packs a powerful zoom lens with a huge focal range into a uniquely small package. We’re talking more that half the size and weight of the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6.
Like all the best Fujifilm lenses, the build is wonderfully tactile and very well made so there are no concerns about its ability to stand up to the rough and tumble elements of outdoors work. Plus, it comes with weather-resistant (WR) sealing. A must for the adventure photographer!
In terms of performance, the XF70-300mmF4-5.6 offers 5.5 stops of optical image stabilization (OIS), so better than any other XF telephoto lens. It has an ultra-fast linear focus motor (LM) and also a half-macro close focus distance. This translates into snappy autofocus and sharp image quality throughout most of its range, from three feet to infinity.
I find this works superbly for the kind of shots I want to take. I like having such a broad range of focal lengths available in a single lens because it provides so many framing options. From close-up to far-away, I can capture a diverse set of perspectives to add texture to my storytelling.
Near vs. far
At the long end, the OIS lets me hand-hold and reach far into the distance. As a result, I can pull out little features in the landscape with incredible clarity and detail. Switch on the focus limiter to improve AF speed at longer focal lengths. Keep in mind that neither camera IBIS or lens OIS stabilization will freeze action. That’s when you’ll need to compensate with higher ISOs because they enable faster shutter speeds. And if you’re zooming far in with a teleconverter, you’ll find the f-stop and ISO will climb up fast! Thankfully Fujifilm’s X-Processor handles high ISO noise very well. So capturing subjects crisply at 3200 will result in a nice film grain aesthetic.
At the other end of the focal range, I was pleasantly surprised by the close focusing capabilities. The XF70-300mm is capable of capturing up-close details at 32.7 inches away. For instance, see the seashell photo above. You can get macro-esque images (.5x macro reproduction equivalent) with this lens and that is a rarity in the XF lens lineup.
The features keep stacking up with the ability to throw on a XF1.4x TC or XF2x TC teleconverter for even more magnification – near and far! The teleconverters work seamlessly and are a joy to use on this lens. They are like steroids for your glass turning the 300mm into a 600mm, which is a 900mm full-frame equivalent with the 2x TC!
I shoot a lot of video on my Fujifilm cameras so I’ve become intimately aware of the unique nuances that come with each lens in terms of video performance. The XF70-300mm performed surprisingly well in that arena. The jerkiness found when panning with some lenses due to image stabilization is mostly unnoticeable. Also, there’s very little focus breathing and the linear motor is quiet and smooth for racking. The sample video footage below is all handheld, mostly at or close to 300mm.
A lens that opens up new possibilities
Summing up the pros and cons of this lens, the thing that really blows me away is just how powerful and versatile it is for such a compact, lightweight lens. While the barrel is polycarbonate (plastic) to save weight, the mount is metal and the entire lens is weather sealed. It’s balanced well and feels good in the hand. The action on the zoom, focus and aperture rings are premium plus there’s a bonus zoom lock that automatically switches off when you turn the barrel. It weighs in at just over a pound (580g/1.3lbs) and fits into my minimalist travel bag, yet as I’ve described, it offers good focal range, fast focus, excellent image stabilization and the photos are very sharp considering the sacrifice in size and weight. The addition of the close focusing distance and the ability to use teleconverters makes this a very compelling value.
On the cons side, when you have a lens offering so many capabilities, there is bound to be a weakness somewhere. I’ve mentioned that the images are mostly very sharp throughout the range with one possible exception. Shooting objects that are several thousand feet away, wide open at the extreme end of the zoom (f/5.6 at 300mm). The farthest end of a zoom range will be the achilles heel with almost any lens, so I’m not going to knock it too hard. Just make sure that your shutter speed is high enough to eliminate camera shake, and I think you’ll find the image sharpness and detail to be quite acceptable at 300mm. It won’t match the clarity of the XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 at that focal length, however, that lens is over twice the price and weight. Trade-offs!
Conclusion: Who is the Fujifilm XF70-300mm for?
With the XF70-300mm, the capabilities far outshine the limitations. In fact, for outdoor photographers who like to travel light and really immerse themselves in the landscapes they explore as I do, this is a lens that opens up new possibilities. Nothing of comparable size I have used gives you the same focal range and image quality. The XF55-200mmF3.5-4.8 R LM OIS is close but ultimately does not compete in terms of focal length and feature set.
Overall, it’s a really fun, really impressive lens to use. This is tailor-made for use on the go and out in the wild, which means it’s a true adventure lens. It greatly improves the photography experience and I can’t wait to explore more with it! Feel free to ask questions or comment below.
The Lens Stories video below shows some behind-the-scenes content and is a good compliment to my Fujifilm XF70-300mm review. It’s an entertaining watch!
I always recommend to serious buyers who are on the fence to rent or demo equipment. If you choose to do so, my friends at LensRentals.com can extend you a 15% discount with the code “SKH15”.