Field Report: Fujifilm WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens

Two years ago I wrote a blog post from Hawaii, where I was traveling with a brand-new Fujifilm X100S mirrorless digital camera.

Since that time, I’ve experimented with several other mirrorless cameras, including the Olympus OMD-EM5, and the Sony Alpha a6000, and I’ve traded in that original Fuji X100S for the newer X100T, mainly to get the face-detection autofocus feature.

So it’s with a strange sense of deja vu that now, exactly two years after that original review, I’m once again in Hawaii on biennial family retreat, and once again carrying the Fuji (this time the X100T) as my sole travel camera.

In those two years, mirrorless cameras have changed the way I travel.  I still love my lightning-fast DSLRs for home and studio photography, but I almost never carry a DSLR on a plane any more.  The small mirrorless cameras are so good now that it just isn’t worth lugging the bulky DSLR kit with me when I leave home.  Of course, if I were a landscape photographer, or if I were shooting events professionally while I travel, I’d still carry the big guns.  But I’m not.  I’m mostly shooting for pleasure when I travel.

But there is one difference in my Fuji travel kit this time, one small concession I’ve made which violates my new “one piece camera” rule for travel:

My Fuji X100T with the WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens mounted

The Fujifilm WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens

I’m testing the Fujifilm WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens, which screws on to the fixed lens of any a Fuji X100-series camera to change it from a 35 mm (equivalent) to a 28 mm (equivalent) field of view. It does not replace the Fuji’s normal lens, but instead mounts in front of it and magnifies the light passing through it by a factor of .8x.  

And it works amazingly well.

I probably wouldn’t have bought this adapter for myself (after all, it’s a $300 gizmo providing only a marginal increase in the field of view), but my good friend and fellow Fuji fanatic Sebastian Michaels sent it to me as a gift, so I don’t have to feel guilty about buying it.

First impression: As with the camera itself, this adapter is a rock-solid piece of precision Japanese engineering.   It looks and feels as good as an iPhone in the hand.  When you thread it onto the Fuji’s lens, it locks into place with the smooth solidity of a bank vault door closing.

And the optical quality is flawless as well.

Photos with the Wide Conversion Lens look just as sharp to me as the normal lens.  Click to enlarge.

You simply cannot tell that there is an extra set of lenses in the optical path.  The unmatched quality of the Fuji's images remains…well, unmatched.

But that's a lot of money for a little bit of wide.

Compare to two photos below, of a little place that in my original Fuji review I called the “hot tub with the best view in the world.”  At the time I complained that I wanted a wider lens for this shot.  Well, be careful what you wish for, because someone may send it to you.

The original photo from 2 years ago with the standard Fuji 35 mm (equivalent) lens.

The same scene two years later (different time of day) with the Wide Conversion Lens.  The plant at the right side of the frame is in roughly the same place, so you can see how much view you gain at the left edge.  Everything to the left of that boulder is additional in the second photo.  Note also more trees and sky in the upper part of the frame.

Two years later, I took the same photo with the wide adapter.  I regret that the light is different, but the comparison still serves to show what you get with a 7 mm (equivalent) shorter focal length.

It’s not a huge difference, but it definitely feels more expansive.

Here’s another set, taken on different days, one with the normal Fuji lens and one with the wide.

Normal Fuji 35 mm equivalent lens

With the Wide Conversion Lens.  Differences in quality/color, etc.,  are due to the sunlight and time of day, not the quality of the lens itself.

Again, it's not a huge difference, but a noticeable one.  This is not a “wide angle” lens by any means.  It’s just a slightly wider normal lens than the Fuji’s regular normal lens.

So the question is: Is it worth it?

Is it worth the $300 cost?  And more importantly for me, is it worth compromising the thing that I love most about the Fuji as a travel camera: the compact one-piece design that can fit in a large pocket (or a small purse or a flat briefcase)?

With this wide lens in place, I can’t stick the Fuji in my carry-on laptop bag for travel (the camera still goes in there, but the adapter goes in the checked suitcase).  And I can’t stash the camera in the pockets of my cargo shorts when the raindrops start, as they often do in Hawaii.

Another annoyance is that the camera does not know the Conversion Lens is on unless you tell it so, using a menu setting.  This does not prevent the lens from working, because optics are optics — but if you forget to change this menu setting (as I always do), the EXIF data on your photos will show an incorrect focal length for the lens, and even worse, any automatic lens profile corrections will be slightly off.  This has not presented any real problem for me, and my photos with the Wide Conversion Lens still look great even when I forget to change this setting, but it's a small frustration nevertheless.

And perhaps worst of all, the lens adds significantly to the weight of the camera, adding roughly 5 oz (150g) to its 15 oz (440g) weight, an increase of about a third.  That weight shifts the center of gravity so that the camera dangles awkwardly on its strap, instead of lying flat against my body like it does normally.

So, those are a lot of compromises to make for an extra 7 mm of width.

But if you love your Fuji X100-series camera and sometimes want a wider field of view (and who doesn't?), then this adapter does a gorgeous job of adding some extra breathing room.   Many times when taking group photos in close quarters it saved the day (or at least saved me from having to walk several steps backward to get everyone in the frame).

Group photos become with easier with the Wide Conversion Lens

So my conclusion about the Wide Conversion Lens is this:  It's great to have it on hand when you want it, but somewhat physically annoying to keep on your camera all the time because of the weight/balance issue.

If you carry a purse where you could keep it stashed until needed, it would be perfect.   But since I normally have no storage beyond my pants pockets, I have to decide whether to put it on the camera before going out for the day, and then deal with the consequences of that choice.

If I could permanently change my Fuji X100T to have this 28mm field of view, I think I would do so.  But I'm not willing to leave the Wide Conversion Lens on all the time to get that effect.  It's just too cumbersome.

Would I recommend it?  

If you’re a Fuji X100-series fanatic (or know one in need of a holiday gift) and you want every extra gadget you can get for your camera, then yes.  Definitely. It’s beautifully made and does the job it was designed to do.

But if you primarily love the Fuji for its compact one-piece portability, then I’d suggest saving your money for something else.  (Perhaps the third-party Fuji Thumb Grip or raised Shutter Release Button both of which greatly increase my Fuji satisfaction.)

Price the Fuji WCL-X100 Wide Conversion Lens on Amazon

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