Fuji's glass is second to none, and many dedicated photographers swear by the 56mm f1.2 or the 90mm f2 as their portrait lens. Some people even consider the 'Fujicron' xf50mm f2 as a go-to lens for portraiture. With the release of the 80mm f2.8 this year, the choices for portraiture are endless... But the more lenses that come out, the more one lens keeps getting pushed further and further into the background: The XF 60mm f2.4 macro.
When I moved back to the states this February, I quickly started getting requests to take family portraits, but didn't have a dedicated portrait lens to actually shoot with. I weighed my options, but it didn't take long to choose the 60mm f2.4. It wasn't the one I lusted after... It was just the only one I could afford, and to even afford it, I had to part with my XF55-200 to be be able to pay for it in time for a portrait session.
I bought a used copy of the lens for $350 from an American soldier stationed overseas who was selling it purely because he was too busy to ever use it. I was excited to see what this lens could do, but I still felt like I was buying a second-rate option, with it even being nicknamed a 'poor-man's 56mm'. Before it even showed up on my doorstep, I was already looking at financing options for the 56mm, thinking that the 60mm was just something I'd have to settle for until I could scrape together another thousand bucks.
Just over a half a year later, I realise this lens isn't a step down from one of the great Fuji portrait lenses. It's just a step in a different direction, and for me, it was a very good direction. It's like comparing a machete to a swiss-army knife. The swiss army knife is a lot more versatile than a machete, but it's certainly not as useful for cutting through the underbrush like a machete knife.
For the portrait work I was getting, it did the job well. Whatever is in focus is sharp and detailed, and whatever isn't in focus is pleasing to look at. But what surprised me most is how much it actually stayed on my camera when the job was finished. Be it on the streets of Chicago or in Northern Japan, this lens seemed to always get the job done for me. It became an unconventional choice for night-walks around Aomori and a go-to lens for taking product photos for things I was selling. The results this lens put out have been consistently above my original expectations.
It has it's short-comings, and compared to other Fuji lenses, it has quite a few. Getting it to focus in low-light is impossible, and shooting any event would be like playing russian-roulette with a camera. In continuous auto-focus, the focus mechanism moves so slow it always feels like it's focusing on the photo you wanted to take 4 second ago. However, if you're already shooting fast-paced events with a Fujifilm camera, you probably already know this lens isn't for you.
Is it a legendary lens? No.
Will it ever go down as a must-have lens? No.
But is it a lens you should consider ONLY if you can't afford the 56mm? Defiantly not.
If you're getting into the Fujinon Lens ecosystem you may feel intimidated by the choices, and if you're just a budding photographer then the prices may also intimidate you as well. But the XF 60mm f2.4 can be purchased used for less than $350, and can easily be a walk-around lens. If you're trying to cut down on the size of your kit and want a lens that can cover quite a bit of ground on it's own, don't forget about the 60mm f2.4.