We all know that the Fujifilm XC50-230mm is often belittled and very underrated. We looked at Fujifilms most underrated lens recently, and the general feedback was that those who actually use it, really like it, but those who hadn’t used it seemed to think it was just a poor man’s 50-200mm with not much to offer. Of course, at all know that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. So in this article we’ll look at using the 50-230mm for taking photographs of wildlife, in particular birds.
About the lens
The XC50-230mm is a compact zoom lens with the range of 75mm to 345mm in full frame. It has an aperture of F/4.5-F/6.7, so while not the most widest aperture to collect light or get background blur, it’s more than sufficient for photographing birds in normal light conditions.
It’s just 375g in weight, and 111mm in length, and is made of plastic. With that in mind, the lens is still a great, solid feeling lens and it’s been on many adventures without once thinking it would not sustain any damage through terrain or weather.
There is great image stabilisation on the OISII model, and you can confidently be at the full 230mm range knowing you’ll achieve sharp images.
One of the prime components you expect for photographing birds is a great autofocus, and in this respect the 50-230mm does an admirable job. Quite often shooting moving birds in burst modes of around 10 frames (on an X-T20) per second, regardless if they are flying towards you, from side to side or in an erratic fashion, the hit rate is extremely high at between 80-90%.
I’ve only briefly used the 50-230mm on the X-T3 for birds, but using Pre-Shot at 20fps, the hit rate was even higher, and the results even more spectacular. So camera system also plays an important factor in the lens performance (just like with most other lenses).
Be warned though, there can be issues occasionally in very low contrast areas, just like with a lot of other lenses. Occasionally, if you start to focus the lens will hunt because of this. Although this doesn’t happen very often, it does have to be noted that our can happen.
Here are a selection of examples of birds taken with the 50-230mm. They were edited in various programs through the years. Please click on the images to EXIF data.
There is more to just pointing and shooting at a bird to capture them in flight. There are some basic settings that you need to adjust before you start in order to ensure you get the photographs you need. Depending on the size and speed of the birds your photographing, these will be to be fine tuned.
The first and most obvious is the focus mode. For my photographs I use the wide zone tracking (not the full screen) as I find this more accurate in tracking the bird once it’s caught focus. Focus mode is of course set to “C” for continuous.
Continuous shooting mode really depends on the speed of the birds you shoot. You can happily capture slower birds in CL (Continuous Low) mode at around 6fps and the faster birds in CH (Continuous High) at around 11fps or more. Of course, with some cameras like the X-T3 you can use the Pre-Shot feature which captures images whilst you are half pressing the shutter release. This is perfect for capturing a bird which is about to take off, you can just hold the button and wait, and as soon as it starts to fly, gold the shutter release down for as long as your need to follow the bird and you’ll have your captured images, plus a second or so images before you pressed the shutter button.
Aim to keep your shutter speed as fast as you can, firstly to keep capture the birds without any motion blur, and secondly to keep up your frames per second. Don’t be afraid to raise the ISO to achieve this, and set your focus mode to focus mode two in AF-C custom settings menu.
Photographing birds is fun, and the 50-230mm is a great lens which is more than up to the task. The selection of birds I have examples of were shot in the wild, at a sanctuary, in the garden and on general walks. The key is to remember to set your camera up ready for capturing them, and remembering that you need to have enough shutter speed.
Regardless of what other long lenses you may own, the 50-230mm is a keeper. Small enough to take with you, and powerful enough to capture you amazing photographs.