Review: Fujifilm WCL-X100 Wide Angle Conversion Lens
I didn't expect Fujifilm to be so invested in their X100 camera that they would consider releasing a wide angle conversion lens for it, after a year. It's a smart move.
I've seen online that many people using their own wide angle converters or adapters, such as the Nikon WC-E68, Panasonic DMW-LWA52. I have tried the Nikon WC-E67 and Panasonic DMW-LW46. The Nikon WC-E68 actually produces decent results, but you're mounting a black converter lens on your beautiful silver X100. As for the rest, don't even bother because their image quality suck.
Buying the WCL-X100 conversion lens wasn't on my mind initially. I love using the X100 at the 35mm field of view (FOV). Due to some freak luck, I saw one at a camera store selling at US$90 cheaper than the recommended retail of US$399. So I thought why not?
The WCL-X100 comes in a small black box. Inside, there's the manual, your conversion lens, and a black fluffy carrying pouch.
It's solid, smooth and lustrous.. The metal is similar to the 23mm lens on the X100. Note that it comes in two colours, so if you have the limited edition black X100, you can get the black one.
The lens cap is quite similar to the ones from the Fujifilm XF lens. It has a deeper recess so it's much easier to grip the centre part. The back rubber cap is rather loose. If you're going to toss this into a bag or pocket, the rubber cap will come off. Consider yourself warned.
Using the conversion lens is easy. Just remove the front ring of the X100 lens, and mount it. No adapter is required. Overall, it looks good.
There are grooves on the lens body so you can reuse your Fujifilm (or highly recommended compatible) lens hood. The lens hood doesn't really shield much of the front so I question the effectiveness. The conversion lens will block slightly less than a quarter of the OVF, and the hood will block a quarter (actually half of that quarter). Not too much of a concern to me.
X100 weighs 445g and WCL-X100 150g, so the total is 595g. That's moderately heavy. Your neck and shoulders are still safe. Just for comparison, the X-Pro1 (450g) and XF 18mm f/2 lens (116g) weigh 556g together.
Below are some pictures taken with and without the conversion lens. I've post-processed them for exposure and contrast. It's a bright sunny day.
The difference between the 28mm and 35mm field of view isn't that drastic. If you have space to move around, you can always step back for a wider view.
But sometimes you can't step back. I was at the edge of a busy road taking the photo above.
You get more mileage out of the wider angle if you shoot frequently in limited space.
The quality of the lens is delicious. Those herbal eggs too.
The image quality doesn't seem to suffer much from the add-on. The image above was shot at f/2, and it's reasonably sharp in the centre and slightly soft at the corners. That's quite similar to the 23mm lens without the conversion lens except for the FOV.
This is the first time I see a stuffed bear in plastic bag.
Go 1 or 2 stops down and you get even sharper.
This image above was shot in RAW. After which, I applied the X100 camera profile from Lightroom 4. It's very significant distortion that can't be easily corrected in post.
However, if you were to shoot jpeg, the camera applies the correction directly onto the jpeg file quite well as shown below.
Vignetting is strong at f/2. Applying the camera profile corrects the vignetting but it's still visible.
The minimum focus distance is around 40cm in OVF, 5cm in EVF and 5cm in macro mode. Without the conversion lens, the OVF minimum focus distance is 80cm in OVF, 35cm in EVF and 10cm in macro.
There's a catch though if you want to focus at 5cm. You have to move the camera slowly forward. That's because the lens only moves a bit to seek focus. To focus easier on close subjects, just engage the macro mode.
Another downside is that the flash is rendered ineffective. The conversion lens is big enough to block off the bottom half of the flash. So photos with flash will look weird. Imagine photos of people with lit faces and everything below is dark.
Here's a 720P video comparing the different views you can achieve with the conversion lens. I've used the 3X digital zoom. At more telephoto length, the video is quite jerky from my hand shake.
Fujifilm has released firmware version 1.3 together with the launch of the WCL-X100.
After installing the firmware, you'll be presented with the option to tell the camera of the presence of the conversion lens. You can set that new menu command to a dedicated function button.
After you activate that new menu command, the OVF framelines will expand to the edge. It's probably a 90% coverage with the OVF. The image that you capture will be slightly bigger.
The EXIF will also be updated to indicate the lens as 19mm.
If you don't mind the inaccurate EXIF data, then there's no need to use the menu command. You can just shoot with the EVF, or use the edge of the OVF to frame. I'm not sure if there's any correction done to the image though, such as distortion correction.
I'm very satisfied with the WCL-X100. The image quality is quite good in terms of sharpness. It's almost like you didn't put on the conversion lens. It does introduces vignetting so I guess that's the downside. Fujifilm claim that there's no light loss, so the f/2 is still a f/2.
Should you buy it?
It depends on what you shoot and on how long you intend to use the X100. If you feel perfectly happy with the 35mm, there's probably no reason to upgrade. If you feel frustrated at times because you're unable to capture a wider scene, then you can consider this upgrade.
It's no doubt a good quality conversion lens. However the retail price of US$399 is quite high. Even though I bought it at $90 cheaper, I still consider it high. Hopefully, the price can drop more in the future.
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