Accessories Reviews

Fujifilm WCL-X70: The Cheap XF14mm Lens?

· 1.June.2016

The Fujifilm X70 is a unique APS-C sensored point-and-shoot camera. If you can live without the viewfinder, this fixed 28mm equivalent compact camera can go anywhere and do almost everything your X-T1 can do, except it can fit into a jacket pocket. Add the WCL-X70 wide conversion lens and it’s also the cheapest (under $1000 USD) and lightest way to get to a 21mm equivalent lens within the Fujifilm X series system (while still using the X-Trans CMOS Sensor II and EXR Processor II). If you’ve bought or are thinking of buying the X70 as your EDC (Every Day Carry), consider the WCL-X70 as a great addition to transform your friendly little compact into a powerful ultra wide angle image making machine!

X70B9012-3smallI’m not suggesting that the WCL-X70 wide conversion lens ($199.99 USD) is a replacement for the sexy XF14mm f/2.8 ($899.99 USD). It’s like suggesting the X70 is a replacement for your X-T1 (or X-T10, X-E2, etc.), because it’s not. However, if you need to be as compact, light and economical as possible, it’s hard to beat this combination. Imagine a quick non-photo based situation where carrying around an ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) would be intrusive or prohibitive. Whipping out a compact point-and-shoot and an attachment lens may be the perfect solution. Perhaps you want to shoot while bike riding, skateboarding, rock climbing; or conversely dressed to the nines for a wedding, business meeting or an important date. Trust me, you really don’t want to drag around an ILC with a couple of lenses (yes, I’ve learned from experience). The X70 and the WCL-X70 will give you a 21mm, 28mm and 35-50mm (via digital tele-converter) equivalent focal lengths in a compact and reasonably light package.

X70B9071smallThe WCL-X70 is a very simple conversion lens. There is no need to buy an additional attachment piece to connect to the camera (unlike the similar Ricoh GR). Simply remove the threaded ring around the lens on the X70 and screw on the conversion lens. That’s it. No moving parts, no electronics, no switches or controls. The only thing you have to remember is to go into menus and turn on the conversion lens feature. This adjusts the firmware to recognize the conversion lens and will software-correct the image for distortion, vignetting, etc. When removing the conversion lens, don’t forget to turn this feature off or else your standard images will look very distorted (heavy pincushioning). Because the wide converter lens has optimized software correction applied, the images are very linear with very little noticeable barrel distortion, light falloff or vignetting.

X70B9089smallThe question begs to be asked: Is the WCL-X70 as good as having the XF14mm f/2.8 lens? Definitely not. The XF14mm lens is superior in terms of edge to edge sharpness, smoother out-of-focus area (or Bokeh), focus accuracy, colour rendition, better contrast, less lens flare, chromatic aberration and purple fringing. The XF14mm should be superior to the WCL-X70, considering it’s $600 (MSRP) more expensive and it’s a prime lens with a dedicated focal length. Remember that any converter lens is only as good as the lens it is sitting on. Not that the X70’s 18.5mm lens isn’t good, but the compact pancake design is not as good as the XF lenses. However, the ability to transform your compact EDC into a ultra wide angle camera is pretty cool for a $200 investment. The images coming off of this combination (lens+converter+sensor+processor) were solid and I was pleased with the final results.

X70B9077-2smallThere is another advantage that the combination of the X70 and WCL-X70 has over the XF14mm lens and any X series body: the leaf shutter. Because the X70 doesn’t have the typical focal plane shutter across the sensor but a shutter built into the lens, this little gem can flash sync up to the maximum 1/4000th of a second. Yes it’s a very specific and unique use of an ultra-wide angle lens and a flash, but if you use flash photography during the day, you can shoot at 21mm equivalent and have full use of all your shutter speeds while shooting wide open at f/2.8 without the use of ND filters. For those who don’t care about flash sync, the leaf shutter offers ultra silent shooting capabilities, much quieter than the already stealth focal plane shutter on the other Fujifilm ILC cameras. Shooting ultra wide and up close on the street, no one will hear you coming or going. Bonus points.

X70B9103-3smallMoreover, the WCL-X70 is a solid investment for those who enjoy shooting ultra-wide angle images. Unlike the WCL-X100 converter lens that gave the X100 a very boring 28mm equivalent lens; the X70’s converter lens is a true ultra-wide 21mm equivalent. At $199 USD, it’s a $600 savings versus buying the very competent XF14mm f/2.8 (although there has been a recent price drop), and the best bang-for-buck accessory for the X70 (the VF-X21 OVF is the same price). Even if you already own the XF14mm or the XF10-24mm, having a compact EDC with the option to go ultra-wide with a reasonably priced converter lens is a very attractive option versus lugging around your big and heavy ILC camera and lenses. Leave your X-T1 and XF14mm at home. It has a place in your gear arsenal for your serious shooting days. Instead, grab your X70 and the WCL-X70 and enjoy the day with family and friends (or go solo) and allow your gear to become invisible.