Pimp your XF lenses!
Thanks for the many comments and suggestions! I have (twice now) updated this post
with a quick overview table (at the end), and added a few clarifications here and there.
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Let’s be honest: next to the ease-of-use of the Fujifilm X cameras, the advantages of their sensor, the performance of the XF glass and the resulting image quality, many X-shooters just love the retro design and handling of the bodies. Right from the start, with the original X100, we got a compact tool to completely enjoy taking pictures. If you’re old enough to have started photography with roll film or 35mm cassettes: just add “again” at the end.
In order to augment the “old days” experience, we’ve been adding leather carrying and wrist straps, half cases, thumb grips, soft releases, old-fashioned cable releases… In the end though, you can’t but ask yourself:
Why didn’t Fujifilm bring us sexier lens hoods?
It started rather well actually. The X100’s fixed 23mm lens comes with a nice metal vented release. That comes handy when using the optical viewfinder, as less of the field of view is obstructed (as long as the openings are well aligned, hence the bayonet mount).
Then, the XF 18mm f/2.0 and XF 35mm f/1.4 (both part of the X-Pro1 release wave) came with somewhat classy rectangular metal hoods, alas also with horrible rubber front caps.
After that, sadly, we saw the typical petal shaped or (rather oversized) cylindrical lens hoods coming over from the (D)SLR market…
There’s a lot of good things to say about the Fujifilm lens hoods though. They do come included with the lenses, and provide more than adequate light shielding and protection for the front lens element. They can be mounted reversed to save space in your bag, and are made of solid mass-colored plastic to resist dents and scratches (the 18 and 35 metal ones are the exception for both last attributes).
But they remain cumbersome, tend to come off or knock loose when banging around in crowds, are a pain to mount/unmount when changing lenses, and look quite a bit, well… boring.
It’s not all that bad, is it?
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives available. Some come from traditional third party accessory brands, others spawn out of Chinese workshops courtesy of eBay.
As I was gradually building up my lens collection for the X-cameras, I constantly looked for and experimented with alternative and mostly classic-styled lens hoods. The ones that I have and use are all sturdy one-piece metal designs, with a screw mount in the matching filter thread size. Screw-on hoods have the advantage that they stay firmly in place even when things go hectic around your camera. Read: street photography, event coverage, reportage…
These hoods are anodized black, with a satin finish on the outside and a grooved matte finish on the inside, the latter to reduce internal reflections. They have proven to resist well against dents and scratches, I cannot see much wear other than along the front outer rim: in that they perform at least as well as any other metal hood I used throughout the (many) years.
As you can see above, the hoods come in different versions, each available in various sizes:
- a vented design, approximately 18mm long, with three* slots (model MH-xx);
- a standard cylindrical one, approximately 20mm long (model MH-xxS);
- a tele cylindrical one, approximately 35mm long (model MH-xxT);
- a wide tapered version, approximately 18mm long (model MH-xxW).
I order my lens hoods directly from Hong Kong based eBay vendor gadgetworldexports. They have proven to be very reliable, supplying correct information, and offering free and fast standard shipping (about twice as fast to Belgium as any other HK/China outlet I ordered from). Never had any issue whatsoever.
After a lot of small yellow packages in the mailbox, I now have a broad collection in thread sizes from 39mm to 72mm (the ‘xx’ in the model designation). Unit prices ran between USD 3.49 and USD 5.99, shipping included – so nothing to break the bank. No fear for damaging or losing.
* A keen observer on some of the images that one of the vented hoods shows not three but five “vents”. The very first vented hood I purchased (early 2012, a 52mm model to go on the XF35) indeed came from a different eBay vendor and has a slightly different design.
More form than function
I don’t want you to get all carried away, now… Remember that the length of any symmetrical lens hood should not exceed the minimum depth of the Fujifilm petal hoods, or else corner vignetting may pop up (after all, that’s what the originals were dimensioned for).
Also, whereas screw-on filters can be added without changing the position of a bayonet mounted hood, they will take up space between the lens thread and the screw-on lens hood: that too may lead to vignetting. Take this into account when combining screw-on hoods with screw-on filters!
Finally: you can put lens caps on the hoods for extra dust or impact protection, e.g. inside a carrying bag. I recommend to use appropriately sized snap-on or pinch-type caps attaching to the front of the hoods. Such caps are readily available from various sources, including the eBay vendor I use. You can even ‘re-assign’ some of the supplied Fujifilm caps from one lens to another (e.g. use the 52mm cap from the XF18 or XF35 with a 39mm vented hood). The quick overview table at the end of this post lists the required cap sizes.
Some people may prefer to use the supplied Fujifilm cap by mounting it deeper inside the hood. Installation and removal however becomes cumbersome, takes time and requires proper care.
The vented hoods perfectly accept the original caps: they get to sit halfway into the hood, past the vents, so the space immediately in front of the lens is sealed off. I found that the wide hoods simply will not adequately hold the caps. With cylindrical hoods, the caps fit but do not stay firmly in place. In addition, inserting or removing the cap may scratch the grooved interior, potentially exposing bare metal and causing reflections. Therefore I prefer using front-mounted caps with both wide and standard or tele hoods.
Enough caveats: let’s have a closer look at my choices and findings for the various XF lenses.
Very wide primes – 14mm & 16mm
The lens+hood combo is shorter than with the Fujifilm shades, but wider at the front. That is not am issue with my (ThinkTank Retrospective) camera bags. The front lens element remains adequately protected. And the whole screams power!
Wide primes – 18mm & 23mm
Here I prefer the vented variants (thread sizes 52mm and 62mm respectively). The lenses now take on the look of their classic counterparts and the overall bulk is reduced, especially with the 23mm. Have a look at my preferred street shooter setup:
Standard primes – 27mm & 35mm
This time we get some choices. The XF27 looks great with a vented hood, but a standard cylindrical one will no doubt do as well (39mm thread). But in this case ANY hood will defy the compact pancake nature, so mine usually goes out ‘as is’: bare naked.
The XF35 then looks great with both the vented model and the standard design (52mm thread). The decision becomes a matter of taste (and mood): I find myself alternating…
Short tele primes – 56mm & 90mm
My preference goes towards the sleek look of a cylindrical hood. Both the standard and the tele sizes will do on either lens, so I decided to split my options. Kudos to Fujifilm for the common 62mm thread size!
Don’t you agree that the 56mm looks quite ‘sharp’ on the outside as well in this ‘dress’?
What about the 60mm macro?
Good question. My XF60 doesn’t venture outdoors a lot, I mainly use it for product and close-up shots in the studio, where the default lens hood does well. Furthermore, the lens is known not to like stray light. If you find the original Fujifilm hood too large, be aware that the Fujifilm bayonet shade for the XF35 fits equally well (above right).
A vented hood with 39mm thread is another option, without disturbing the autofocus operation (something the XF60 is notorious for). I am sure a standard cylindrical hood would work too, I just never got one of those in 39mm thread (yet).
The ‘convenience’ zooms – 18-55mm, 18-135mm & 55-200mm
It’s a bit of a stretch to strive for a classic look with zoom lenses, but al least the XF18-55 is compact enough to pass for a longer prime – as long as you drop the default petal shade. And although my primes see ‘action’ more often, I do use my lighter zooms in similar situations, where a screw-on lens hood will stay on solidly and provide better physical protection.
My choices went towards a vented hood for the XF18-55 and XF-18-135 (58mm and 67mm threads respectively), and for a tele cylindrical one on the XF55-200 (62mm thread). Again, the resulting combination is more compact than with the Fujifilm hoods.
The ‘serious’ zooms – XF10-24, XF16-55 & XF50-140
These excellent lenses come with a heft that in no way you can ‘camouflage’ as a prime…
Also, in my case, those are the optics I go to for ‘serious’, more deliberate, top quality work. So here I prefer to stick with the original Fujifilm lens hoods, that provide good shielding against stray light across the zoom range, and – when mounted in reverse – take up little extra space in the bag.
Anyway, I doubt that the XF10-24 would stay free of corner vignetting even with a wide model hood, looking at the minimum depth of the original shade. So I did not even order an alternative in 72mm thread (yet). Same for the XF16-55, where in addition a wide hood would considerably add to the already significant 77mm front diameter.
The only exception: the XF50-140. Here, a tele cylindrical hood (72mm thread) works just fine and – as with the 56 and 90 siblings – delivers that sleek and slim appearance.
Time for a little recap
Had enough of it? You bet!
Hey, guys and girls, don’t take all of this too serious! It’s only lenses and hoods, after all… Looks and style may be pleasant and fuel good discussion (preferably around a table, after a shoot!), but none of that pimping will improve your skills or get you better images.
So, take away from the above whatever you like, and keep up the good photo fun!
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