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I notice Canon lenses start at $125 for the 50mm f/1.8, and the $125-$400 range is filled with many options from wide angle to telephoto, not even counting third party brands.

Whereas the cheapest Fuji lens I could find was $300, and prices quickly go up for wide angles.

Are Fuji lenses really that much better in build quality and image quality that they justify the extra cost?

13

FujiFilm charges more for lenses (than Canon) because they can.

  • FujiFilm has a near monopoly on X-mount lenses. Other options include cheap manual lenses and expensive Zeiss lenses. This is changing somewhat with the introduction of Viltrox autofocus lenses.

  • Image quality of FujiFilm lenses is nearly guaranteed to be very good. Even XC lenses perform above expectations (based on their price). FujiFilm has to maintain high standards because they have a small market share.

  • Build-quality of XF lenses generally seems to be very good. XC lenses are mostly plastic and priced accordingly.

  • FujiFilm is like Apple. Customers buy into the system expecting to pay more, so they do. (It's not as extreme as some other companies though.)

Canon charges less for some lenses because they have to.

  • There is more competition for EF and EF-S lenses. This is not yet the case for RF lenses, which I expect would be priced higher.

  • Lenses target different market segments. There are no L lenses in the price range you describe. FujiFilm has only recently begun targeting different markets the way Canon has (XC, XF, Red Badge, Cinema, etc).

  • Many Canon lens housings are nearly entirely plastic. FujiFilm's plastic lenses (XC) are similarly priced.

  • Image quality of Canon lenses tends to fall in line with price. However, there are exceptions.

  • Canon needs lower-priced lenses to attract people who would otherwise purchase third-party counterparts.


Consider EF-S 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS USM vs XF 18-135/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR (used with the same FujiFilm body):

  • Price:
    • EF-S 18-135/3.5-5.6 IS USM – retail ~$600; used ~$200. Canon has multiple variations of 18-135/3.5-5.6, so market confusion may have pushed the price down. Many USM lenses are listed for sale as STM, and vice versa.
    • XF 18-135/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR – retail ~$900; used ~$500.
  • The EF-S lens is mostly plastic and not weather resistant.
  • The XF lens is sharper. It is a better lens in both build and optical quality, but the difference is only visible when pixel peeping.

Is the difference worth $300? For me, not really. But to use the EF-S lens on a FujiFilm body requires a $300 smart adapter, which negates any potential saving. The lens does not work with the less expensive adapters, and it cannot be manually focused with passive adapters. So if you want an 18-135/3.5-5.6 lens on a FujiFilm camera, there isn't much of a choice.

Is the price difference worth buying into the Canon system vs FujiFilm? That's up to you.

What about other lenses? For lenses other than 50/1.8 and kit zooms, FujiFilm lenses are more attractively priced (than the XF 18-135/3.5-5.6). For instance, you'll be hard pressed to find a working Canon EF 35/1.4 for less than $600, while the XF 35/1.4 can be found used ~$400. However, there are Canon lenses for which there are no FujiFilm equivalents.


Although some may see better results when comparing a FujiFilm system vs Canon, that does not mean that the FujiFilm lens is necessarily better. To compare lenses, they have to be used on the same camera body.

This image demonstrates the effect that different camera bodies can have on image quality when using the same lens (EF 40/2.8 STM) with the same exposure settings. Canon tends to use smaller sensors and strong anti-aliasing filters, which is the likely cause of the blurriness in the sample image. It would have been unfair to blame the lens for an issue caused by the camera.

The perception that FujiFilm lenses are of higher quality than Canon lenses is partly based on using them with FujiFilm bodies, which don't have AA filters. Canon has removed, or reduced the strength of, the AA filter in some models. If planning to buy into the Canon system, consider waiting for models with reduced AA filtering to obtain image quality similar to that of cameras from other manufacturers.

  • Can you explain or expand on " ...(FujiFilm is not represented because DXOMark boycott them.)" - It may be true but if so I'd be interested in knowing more. – Russell McMahon Sep 18 at 13:18
  • @RussellMcMahon: This might have to do with the X-Trans sensor. – Eric Duminil Sep 18 at 13:41
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    @RussellMcMahon DxOMark claims – "We do not measure X-Trans sensor because of the specific technology... We would need a lot of time to adapt our protocol for such sensor and we did not had the chance to do that." – So in the last seven years, they haven't "had the chance" to develop a reader for X-Trans files when every major raw processing software has long done so? And this X-Trans issue somehow affects FujiFilm cameras that use Bayer filter arrays, which have been produced since 2013? – xiota Sep 18 at 14:11
  • Why should the OP be so concerned with AA filters as to wait for cameras with weaker ones? The OP expresses no such concern. Not all photographers are obsessed with pixel peeping. Some are more concerned with moire. – Michael C Sep 18 at 20:47
6

This answer is in addition to Michael C's answer.

The other part of the story is that lenses are sometimes priced based on what the market will bear. Fuji lenses are expensive compared to some Canon lenses, yes, but they are rather cheap compared to others.

For instance look at pairs of standard lenses: a cheaper slightly slower one and a faster generally more expensive one. For Fuji, by 'standard' I mean 'about 35mm' while for full-frame by 'standard' I mean 'about 50mm'. Prices rounded to nearest £10, all from the same shop.

So:

  • Fuji
    • 35mm f/2 £370
    • 35mm f/1.4 £500
  • Zeiss M mount
    • 50mm f/2 Planar) £650
    • 50mm f/1.5 (C-Sonnar) £920
  • Leica M mount
    • 50mm f/2.4 (Summarit-M) £1,330
    • 50mm f/1.4 (Summilux-M) £3,100

And if you want to be really silly: Leica 50 f/2 Summicron ... £6,000 in black or £6,350 in silver (the silver finish on the lens costs as much as the whole 35mm f/2 Fuji lens). And that's not the most expensive Leica 50mm lens, even without considering absurdly fast ones.

Now of course, you could argue that these lenses are hugely better than the Fuji equivalents. Well, I own some of them, and the ones I own are not. I have both of the Zeiss lenses I mention above and the C-Sonnar, which I love dearly, is frankly not objectively a great lens: it famously has focus shift, and many of them, including mine, are really annoyingly rattly. It's neither better made nor objectively optically better than the Fujis. I don't own the Leica lenses I mention above (I own a much older Summicron), but I seriously doubt they are either that much optically better or that much mechanically better than the Fujis, especially than the 35 f/1.4 which I understand to be a really, really good lens.

None of the M-mount lenses have autofocus which presumably costs more than nothing to provide in a lens.

This price difference is not covered by R & D costs. I don't know the product history of the Leica lenses mentioned, but I bought both of the Zeiss lenses I mention above before there were X-mount Fujis, and they're both variants on fairly (in fact very) old designs.

It might be that the difference is accounted for by the relatively tiny market for M-mount lenses. I don't personally think this is true, but I don't have evidence.

What I think is reasonably clear however is that people who buy M-mount cameras expect to pay a lot for their lenses. Poor (relatively) people who buy M-mount cameras, like me, spend more on their lenses than they would on objectively better Fuji lenses. Rich people spend much, much more.

  • 3
    It's not really fair to compare 35mm f/2 to 50mm f/2 or 35mm f/1.4 to 50mm f/1.4 because 35mm/2 = 17.5mm, 50mm/2 = 25mm, 35mm/1.4 = 25mm and 50mm/1.4 = 35.714mm. The 50mm lenses at same aperture number have to have more glass than the 35mm ones. – juhist Sep 17 at 17:51
  • 1
    @juhist: The amount of physical material in a lens is extremely unlikely to be a significant factor in its price for relatively small lenses. The number of elements might be (the Fuji 35mm/1.4 is 8 / 6, the Summulix/M is 8 / 5, both have one aspheric elt).What I am comparing is the 'standard' (50mm-equivalent) lens for each format: APS-C for the Fuji lenses and 24x36 for the M mount. – user82065 Sep 18 at 10:08
  • @tfb: it's probably not the amount of material but the difficulty of producing a larger flawless part. – cbeleites supports Monica Sep 18 at 10:22
  • @cbeleites: the filter thread of my (2007-ish, I think it's the current model) M-mount Planar (so this is the slower of the two Zeiss lenses) is 43mm: the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 (the faster of the two Fujis) is 52mm. The Fuji has an aspherical (so, hard to make) element, the Planar doesn't. The Fuji is significantly cheaper than the Planar. – user82065 Sep 18 at 11:20
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Most of the lower priced Canon lenses are older designs that have long since sold enough copies to recover the R&D cost for Canon. Canon introduced the EF mount in 1987 and many of the current consumer grade lenses trace their lineage back to the early or mid 1990s. The newer Canon lenses in that price range are, for the most part, slight revisions of older designs.

Fuji, on the other hand, didn't introduce the X-mount until 2012. They're probably still trying to recover R&D costs for many of the lenses they offer in the X-mount, particularly their lower priced lenses with razor thin margins.

Canon also holds a much larger market share of the interchangeable lens market than Fuji does. Products that sell in higher volumes can be marked up less and still make more profit than products that sell in significantly lower numbers.

There's also the factor that when these lower priced entry level lenses from Canon were originally priced, there was a lot of competition from third party lens makers who filled the market with very cheap, very mediocre (or worse) lenses for the EF (and Nikon F) mount(s).

Canon lenses which tend to compete with the Fuji X-mount lens range in terms of performance tend to be priced as high or higher than their Fuji counterparts. Fuji doesn't make any all-plastic body, low-end entry level lenses X-mount lenses that correspond to, for example, Canon's EF 50mm f/1.8 II, EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS II, or EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III. Tamron and Sigma do and compete with Canon in that space.

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