The second lens I ever owned was a 135mm f2.8 Vivitar lens. It was a manual focus model made with a Canon FD mount. I used the crap out of that lens and I was amazed at some of the images I got with it. I took it along on a backpacking trip to Europe in 1978, along with my Canon TX SLR and spent the trip bouncing back and forth between the 135mm and my other (only other...) lens, a 50mm f1.8 FD lens. It was actually a great combo for me, the 135mm seemed like just the right focal length for so much stuff and that made the 50mm look, in comparison, like a wide angle. I never have really warmed up to anything wider than a 50mm on a full frame camera and I often wonder if that's because of my early experiences with the longer focal length...
When I bought into the Fuji X system I fooled myself for a while and pretended that I'd only buy and use three lenses, a wide to medium zoom, a 70-200mm equivalent zoom and a normal lens, like a 35mm f2.0 on that format. But, of course, all that fell by the wayside and I started ravaging my wallet for credit crumbs and buying lenses as though all the makers of cameras and lenses were going to cease production in the very near future. I wanted to be ready for the impending gear drought.
I hemmed and hawed about the 90mm f2.0 just because of its ruinous price. Then, one day I walked into Precision Camera to find that Fuji had certain lenses on sale and the 90mm was one of them. At $300 off it seemed like a bargain so I dusted off that last remaining credit card and bought one. I was slow to embrace it. I let it sit in a drawer for a few weeks before giving it a tentative audition. The results were good and I started including it in my regular kit, with every intention of using it for --- something. I took it to some play rehearsals but it was always just the wrong focal length. A bit too long for groupings and a bit short for tight actor shots on stage. Dialing in a sweet spot for use of a focal length can be a tedious process after one has been dumbed down by the seeming fluidity of a zoom lens.
Finally, I was asked to shoot in conjunction with a TV commercial production at the theater and I once again packed the luxurious 90mm but I started to feel that I'd never find that "use window" that would justify my outlay for the product. I started the four hour shoot with the 16-55mm f2.8 lens but sometime in the middle of an action packed evening I reached into the Airport Security roller case and pulled out the 90mm. I attached it to an X-H1 body and set the aperture ring to f2.8, reputed to be the f-stop at which the lens reaches its highest level of optical performance. And I started clicking off carefully selected frames.
The quad linear motors were fast and largely flawless. Working on a dark set with black all around people in small puddles of light the lens and camera combination rarely hunted and usually locked focus quickly and accurately. I started feeling the potential of the lens. At a 135-140mm equivalent the lens picks out details and single person shots with ease. I found that even after years of using zoom lenses as crutches I was still able to use my actual feet to move forward or backward as dictated by the constraints of my immovable frame.
If you are anything like me you operate with a vague feeling of uncertainty. You know that what you are shooting should be sharp and of high quality but you suffer from self-doubt. Am I getting anything good? Is it in focus? Is the lens/camera combination really sharp? Will I see the difference between a $1,000 prime and any number of under $100 "vintage" lenses when I get this stuff back to my computer. Have I been duped once again by a shiny sales pitch? A fact-y advertisement? Or is there real merit to this lens?
While I am still working my way towards the right frame of mind to provide the right frame of a frame for the 90mm I am finding more and more sharp and detailed images coming out of the shoots on which I press this long lens into service. It's nice. The stand off feels good. The ability to retreat a bit and frame things more graphically is wonderful and harkens back to everything I learned in early days.
I'm now packing the 90mm in my bag no matter what the assignment or self-assignment. I'd like to think it a bit magical but I know that's the ads talking. The real magic just comes from my appreciation of the focal length and my relative ease at using it as opposed to lenses I actively dislike --- such as any 28mm equivalent. I am still startled by the cost because I am getting equally wonderful shots out of the 60mm f2.4 macro and I paid less than half as much for it. But then again, they are two different focal lengths and two different philosophical conversations.
For me the happy thing was to get highly detailed shots of dancers. It made the lens feel like it was earning its keep.