Fuji’s budget Cabrio 19-90 and 85-300 zoom lenses.

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I finished shooting a project with Elle Magazine where I used both of Fuji’s Cabrio lenses. “Cabrio” is in reference to a small, compact convertible sports car and the naming probably has something to do with the lens’s small size and ability to “convert” with or without the zoom rockers.

In short, these lenses are the first to bridge video and cine production worlds because they feature a removable handgrip/zoom rocker so you can shoot ENG-style or cine-style. Both lenses are much shorter and lighter than full sized cine-zooms of the same focal length. For my application, they were the perfect choice because I needed a super-35 look but had to shoot ENG style and not stop the action too much.  We removed both zoom rockers so I could accommodate a preston follow focus but I still needed a zoom lens that was physically compact and lightweight (less than six pounds)  and shorter in length (about nine inches).

They cover a 31.5mm image circle for all Super-35 type sensors, including the RED EPIC in 5K full frame and the ALEXA Studio in 4:3 mode. For my shoot, we built two cameras to acquire the amount of content we needed to get. A-cam was a RED Epic configured with the 85-300 Cabrio on sticks, and the B-cam was a Sony F55 equipped with the 19-90 in handheld mode. The light weight F55, compact Cabrio, and shape handles made for a nice handheld package.

Optically speaking these lenses are impressive. I did not do any formal lens tests so my observations are opinions and impressions based in real-world shooting. I found both lenses to be incredibly sharp with an even field of illumination and good contrast.  Without testing, I can say they appeared to be every bit as sharp as the much more expensive Fuji Alura line which I have quite a bit. The lens coatings handle flares exceptionally well too. I wanted to add some lens flare effect but the gaffer had a very hard time finding the right spot to hit the lens with a 650 watt fresnel and make it flare! It was an arduous task but eventually we got the flaring we wanted and it had a VERY pleasing look.

I don’t really have anything critical to say about the 19-90. It’s a great lens in all regards, albeit a little slow at 2.9 but that’s to be expected for a lens of it’s size. The zoom rings on these lenses are less dampened than the Alura lenses. I think this is because it allows for a one-man-band operation for ease of movement on the zoom ring. I do however have to nit-pick the 85-300 and that is the “ramping” effect you get from zooming through 2.9 at one end of the lens and a T4.0 at about 260-300mm. I hate when lenses ramp down because you really aren’t working with it’s minimum aperture.  What you end up working with is the lowest t-stop of 4.0! What does this mean? It means you have to take into account your lighting level and make sure you light for a 4.0 and not a 2.9. Nothing is worse than zooming in to 300mm and watching a stop of light completely disappear! But it’s a trade off for compactness and efficiency. On this job, I happily dealt with some ramping for not having a humongous 300mm Optimo on the end of the camera as that would have only slowed us down.

Sum up: Highly recommended for projects requiring mobility, speed and smaller budgets. Not recommended for exterior night shooting or low light levels.

Pros: 

  • lightweight
  • compact
  • sharp even wide open
  • good contrast
  • evenly illuminated even in corners
  • excellent build quality
  • resists flaring

Cons:

  • 85-300 ramps from 2.9 to 4.0
  • Slow lenses at 2.9
  • night exteriors can pose challenges
  • resists flaring

Cabrio 19-90 5/5

Cabrio 85-300 4/5

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