Fuji TCL-X100 review Part 1

The Fuji TCL-X100 is a new teleconverter lens for the Fuji x100s camera that extends the fixed 35mm equivalent lens to about 50mm. 

Fuji TCL-X100 Teleconverter Lens

Fuji TCL-X100 in the studio

For the record, the studio is possibly one of the worst environments to test and judge the TCL-X100, but it’s where I needed to use it, so take the following with a grain of salt if you have no intentions of using yours in this environment. I’m not a pixel peeper, and you won’t see any charts, graphs, or fancy, mathematical, technical terms here. I judge gear by how easy or difficult it is to work with in the field, and the image results I get. I’m a touchy, feely kind of shooter who loves a piece of gear or an image if it feels right. First, a little backstory on why I purchased the TCL.

Fuji x100s with TCL-X100 Teleconverter Lens

Fuji x100s with TCL-X100 Teleconverter Lens

I’ve been using the x100 now for three years. Initially I purchased the x100 for shooting street. Almost immediately the small camera that could became my favorite camera ever. I love the fast, bright f2.0 35mm equivalent lens, and have never really had issues with it being fixed. In fact, not being able to change lenses has been more of a blessing than a curse. I also own a X-Pro1 that I use for street and studio work. Recently, while working on a long-term portrait project, my 60mm lens on my X-Pro1 started having focusing issues and I was forced to send it in for repair. 

Now, as luck would have it, I traded in my other two X-Pro1 lenses, the 18mm and 35mm, plus my x100, to upgrade to a limited edition black x100s back in April. I almost never used the 18mm, and while I loved the 35mm I just didn’t use it much either. When I shoot with both cameras I would put the 60mm on the X-Pro1 to give me better reach coupled with the 23mm on my x100s. My plan was to eventually upgrade to the new 56mm f1.2 and have the best of both worlds. After the 60mm went down I needed something that would enable me to continue my portrait project without having to spend close to a grand. Enter the new TCL-X100. It's a fraction of the price, will allow me to shoot portraits, and adds value to an already great camera. The 50mm focal length may not be the ideal portrait lens, but as you can see in the sample below it definitely gets the job done.

The following images were shot with a one light setup, two speedlights in a Westcott Apollo Octabox, and a reflector. I could get by with one speedlight, but this lessens the load on my batteries and shortens the refresh rate. I shot RAW+JPEG in monochrome with a yellow filter. This enables me, and the subject, to see only black and white results as I’m shooting. It’s also much better for judging your lighting if you plan to convert to black and white later. The x100 and x100s have always had some low light focusing issues in my experience, and as reported by others, the TCL does seem to have added focusing issues in low light environments like a studio. Since my speedlights do not have modeling lamps, I found myself really struggling to achieve focus in single focus mode or manual, even though there was some ambient light from a nearby window with blinds closed. When looking through the EVF, the scene was so dark I couldn’t even see the subject. This forced me to use the OVF, but I still had issues. In single focus mode it was just an exercise in frustration. In manual mode it was impossible since turning the ring to focus switches automatically to EVF. In the end, I had to use OVF and continuous focus mode. For some reason continuous focus mode was able to achieve focus most of the time. For what it’s worth, I had this same focusing issue with the X-Pro1 and 35mm lens. I’ve shot in studio quite a few times with x-series cameras and in my experience they all struggle with focusing here. I do wonder if using strobes with modeling lamps or continuous lighting would alleviate this issue. Anyone know?

All images are pretty much straight out of camera. I used the fuji monochrome with yellow filter camera calibration profile in Lightroom 5.5 to convert to black and white. Also applied the built-in lens correction profile for the x100 with the TCL. Very little difference between with and without lens correction. Noticeable but not much in this case at least.

Next, I’ll take the TCL out and about here in Okinawa, and we’ll see how it performs in more everyday environments. I suspect this is where it will shine. TA