Fujifilm Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 R Lens Review

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Fuji XF 23mm F1.4 R Lens Review:

The 35mm lens is one of the most popular focal lengths for photographers because of its versatility in street, reportage, and landscape photography.  For a long time, it was the one lens that was sorely missing in the Fuji XF lineup.  If you wanted a 35mm equivalent lens, you would have to either adapt another manufacturer’s lens, purchase the XF 18-55mm zoom or the XF 18mm, which is approximately a 27mm equivalent.  Fuji made a promise a long time ago that they would produce a 35mm equivalent lens, one with an F1.4 aperture no less, and people have been waiting very patiently for Fuji to deliver on this promise.  The wait is finally over: Fuji has finally released the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens, which is one of the most highly anticipated lenses in the XF lineup.

Fuji XF 23mm F1.4 R Lens Build Quality:

The 35mm lens is the ideal lens for many, and since Fuji took so long to release the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens, many are expecting a lot from this optic.  In terms of build quality, the XF 23mm F1.4 does not disappoint because as far as I’m concerned, this is the best built XF lens so far.  The lens’ build quality is downright impressive for a Fuji XF lens.  The XF 23mm F1.4 has a metal barrel, and you can definitely feel it.  There is no “hollow” or plastic-like feel to it, which I’ve said I experienced in some of the past Fuji lenses.  Even the functions on this lens feel more polished and act more smoothly.  The aperture ring is silky smooth yet it clicks in thirds stops authoritatively.  Everything in general, just feels more high end.

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↑ The XF 23mm F1.4 mounted on my X-E1.  The lens is big enough that it actually lifts the front of my X-E1 up a bit.

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↑ The XF 23mm F1.4 R lens without the hood.

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↑ The XF 23mm F1.4 R lens with the hood mounted on.

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↑ Top view of the XF 23mm F1.4.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that the manual focusing on this lens feels and works absolutely great.  I don’t really manually focus the XF lenses much but with the XF 23mm, a lot has clearly been improved. The XF 23mm F1.4 has a focusing collar that you “pull” back to manually focus, and “push” forward to use the autofocus.  It works really well in practice, and each time that you “pull” or “push” the collar, it clicks solidly into place.   Furthermore, the manual focusing has better overall feel, and the focusing ring does not turn indefinitely.  The ring actually stops at the closest focusing distance and also at infinity.  With focus peaking on, manual focusing is fast, easy, accurate, and most importantly, a very enjoyable experience.

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↑ The XF 23mm F1.4 in autofocus mode.

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↑ The XF 23mm F1.4 in manual focus mode.

Since we’re on the topic of focus, I feel I should mention a little bit about the autofocus.  First off, the focusing is internal, which is great.  Also, I find the autofocus to be decent, and fairly accurate.  It’s not as quiet or as fast as the XF 18-55mm zoom but it’s not that noisy either.  I had no major issues using it at all.

Now, let’s talk about the size, and heft of this lens, since that’s probably what you’ll first notice when you open the box.  At 300g, the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens may not be a heavy optic for a DSLR but it is heavy for an X Series lens.  Just to give you an idea of the heft of this lens, according to Fuji, the XF 35mm only weighs 187g.  This lens is also rather big for an XF lens.  In fact, the XF 23mm F1.4 reminds me of the Leica Noctilux F1 minus the weight of course.  At 62mm, the 23mm F1.4 even uses a slightly larger filter than the Noctilux F1.

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↑ To give you all a sense of the size of the XF 23mm F1.4, I thought I’d show you how it compares with my Zeiss Touit 12mm F2.8.

However, in no way does the XF 23mm F1.4’s weight and size make it feel out of balance when mounted on the camera.  The good news is it doesn’t necessarily feel front heavy; but since my X-E1 is already so light, I definitely did notice the weight of this lens (when compared to some of the other XF lenses) while it was mounted on my camera, especially when I spent all day with it.  Another thing to keep in mind is that if you use this lens with the OVF from the X-Pro1, it will block out a portion of your viewfinder.

There is one issue that I have, and it really doesn’t concern the lens; it’s about the lens hood, which I find too big and cumbersome.  There might be cost issues if Fuji ever decided to offer built-in telescopic lens hoods in their lenses but I wouldn’t mind a lens hood that was similar to the one on the XF 35mm F1.4.  I’m not a real fan of these petal shaped lens hoods Fuji keeps producing.  The XF 35mm F1.4’s lens hood is smaller, and it has a cap that goes directly on to the lens hood.  Of course, if Fuji does go this route again with future lenses, I suggest they make lens caps that don’t fall off so easily.  For now, I just leave the 23mm F1.4’s hood at home.

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↑ Here’s a top view of the XF 23mm F1.4 with the lens hood mounted on my X-E1.

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↑ The interior of the lens hood is ribbed to help reduce flare.

Overall, the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens is built extremely well, and all its functions performed brilliantly.  I want to emphasize that I was really impressed with how this lens was built.  This lens proves to me that the Fuji X Series is really maturing into some great stuff, and I’m really glad that I stuck with the system for so long.  The XF 23mm costs $900 but in terms of build quality, it is definitely worth every penny.  Now, let’s see how it performs in the IQ department.

Fuji XF 23mm F1.4 R Lens Image Quality:

Optically, the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens performs brilliantly, and I don’t think anyone could ask for much more.  I don’t like the 35mm focal length as much as the 50mm, and therefore, I wasn’t expecting to really enjoy using this lens as much as say the XF 35mm F1.4 but I was definitely pleasantly surprised.  This lens is very resistant to flare, has good contrast and color, has practically no distortion, and vignetting is negligible.  It also produces very three dimensional images not just at F1.4 but even when the lens is stopped down giving images a sense of “pop”, tangibility, and clarity.

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↑ This was shot with my X-E1 at F5.6.

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↑ Here’s another photo taken at F5.6.

The XF 23mm F1.4 R lens is also very sharp,  At F1.4, it is sharp but as you stop it down a bit, image quality gets even better.  In my opinion, this lens performs at its absolute best at F5.6 or F8.  It is actually pretty incredible how sharp it is around that range.  Sharpness can definitely rival the XF 35mm F1.4, which is insanely sharp in my opinion.

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↑ Here is a shot taken with my X-E1 at F1.4.

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↑ This was taken at F1.4 as well.

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↑ This was taken in Dumbo, which is in Brooklyn at F14.

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↑ Here is shot taken near Chinatown at F5.6.

I know one of the main selling points of this lens is its F1.4 aperture but I used this lens throughout the entire aperture range because that’s how I generally shoot, and I actually really loved how it performs when this lens is stopped down a bit.  It is amazing how much detail is retrieved.  In general, I don’t believe you should only shoot wide open most of the time just because you have a fast lens.  The XF 23mm F1.4 R lens is one of Fuji’s most expensive lenses for the X Series system; if I’m paying this much for a lens, I want it to perform exceedingly well at ALL apertures.  Because of the 35mm focal length’s versatility, many people will just carry this one lens, so it’s even more important that it functions perfectly in all situations, which often require shooting with the entire aperture range.  Then, there are individuals who will use the XF 23mm F1.4 as a street lens, and that often requires smaller apertures for candid shots or shots taken from the hip.

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↑ I was walking around on a very cold morning and took this photo at F5.6.

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↑ Here is a shot taken at F8.

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↑ This was taken at F11.

Fuji XF 23mm F1.4 R Lens Bokeh:

While having a lens that performs well at all apertures is great, let’s be honest; people who are going to buy this lens also want to know how it performs at F1.4.  With the rounded seven-blade diaphragm, the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens does not disappoint.  Most of the time, the bokeh or shallow depth of field is buttery smooth.  The transition from the subject to the background is smooth yet there still is a lot of “pop”.  Once in a while, the background did look a little busy to me but I think it really depends on what your shooting.  Overall though, shooting at F1.4 produces very three dimensional images with this lens.  There is nothing overly harsh when shooting wide open, and if anything, it can definitely get quite addicting shooting at F1.4.

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↑ Bokeh is very smooth at F1.4.

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↑ It’s great to have a fast lens for low light situations, although the high ISO capabilities on the Fuji are pretty good.

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↑ Shooting at F1.4 with this lens can definitely help isolate the subject from the background.

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↑ Another shot at F1.4.

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↑ Here’s a shot of my sister’s golden retriever.  She’s always playing tug of war :).  This was shot at F1.4 but I added a vignette.

 Pros and Cons of the Fuji XF 23mm F1.4 R Lens:

Here is a general list of what I think are the pros and cons of this lens.

Pros of the Fuji XF 23mm F1.4 RLens:

  • Extremely well built.
  • The XF 23mm F1.4 feels more high end than previous XF lenses.
  • Does not have that plastic-like, and hollow feel of some of the other XF lenses.
  • Great manual focusing capabilities.
  • Image quality is fantastic throughout the entire aperture range.
  • Images produced by this lens are very three dimensional.
  • This is a very sharp lens.
  • Bokeh is ultra smooth most of the times.

Cons of the Fuji XF 23mm F1.4 RLens:

  • Lens is a little big.
  • Lens hood is too big and cumbersome.
  • At $900, the XF 23mm F1.4 can be pricey for some.

Fuji XF 23mm F1.4 R Lens Verdict:

Many have waited patiently for Fuji to come out with a 35mm equivalent lens for the X Series, and while they took their time to finally release it, it was well worth the wait.  I definitely enjoyed my time with the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens, and I did not want to return it.  Most importantly, it just fit so well into my daily routine because it felt so comfortable to use.  As I said before, I prefer a 50mm focal length over a 35mm but I have to say that I was quite impressed with this lens.  Optically, the XF 23mm F1.4’s performance is exceptional, and the build quality is in my opinion, the best so far in the XF lineup.  I wish my XF 35mm was built as well as this lens.  But it goes further than that: There is something special about this lens that is hard to describe.  This lens really has a unique character.

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↑ Here’s a photo shot at F1.4.

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↑ This was shot on a very cold night (I couldn’t even speak properly because my jaw became numb :) ) at F9.

There has to be something special, and dare I say magical about this lens, and one indication of this is the asking price of $900.  I think Fuji wanted to release this lens later because they knew the 35mm focal length was a lens that they really needed to get right, and often times, that requires a lot more money.  Fuji needed time to establish the X Series mirrorless system, so they could justify the price of this lens now.  At $900, the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens is one of the most expensive XF lenses so far but I truly believe that this lens is worth every penny.  In all honestly, I probably would pay more.  This lens is special, and it’s not one of those lenses you’ll be trading in any time soon.

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↑ Here’s another shot taken at F1.4.

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↑ Grand Central Station: this was shot at F1.4 as well.

The price of the XF 23mm F1.4 R lens did make me think about something that I want to mention real quick; since the 35mm focal length is so popular among photographers, I think Fuji should release an F2.0 version at some point.  As of now, the XF 23mm F1.4 is by far, one of my favorite XF lenses but an F2.0 version could be priced lower, and it would be a lot smaller.  The 35mm lens is popular because of it’s versatility, and often times, it’s small size.  Plus, while there are plenty of people who will want a 35mm equivalent lens for their Fuji, not everyone of those individuals will be able to afford a lens that costs $900, which is almost as much as their camera body.  Anyway, sorry for the digression :).

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↑ This was shot wide open with my X-E1.

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↑ It was cloudy most of the time that I had the lens, so I thought I’d just throw in a photo with a little color.  This was shot at F11.

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↑ This was taken at F8. 

Here’s the bottom line: this is an amazing lens!  If you want a 35mm equivalent lens for your Fuji, do not hesitate to buy this lens.  I returned the XF 23mm F1.4 last week but I’m still thinking about it, and there’s a big part of me that’s considering purchasing a copy as I’m writing this :).  Fuji clearly made use of the time that they took to design this lens, and it definitely shows in the build quality, overall design, and most importantly, the image quality.  The XF 23mm F1.4 R lens also has a unique character that makes this lens feel truly special.  It’s a lens that anyone who thoroughly uses, and enjoys the X Series system will appreciate and should experience.

That’s it for my review.  Thanks for taking the time out to read it!  For those who don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account, you can join me on my new Google+ account!

If you’re considering buying the XF 23mm F1.4, and my review helped you decide, please help support me by purchasing from one of the links below.  Thank you for your support!

XF 23mm F1.4 R lens at Amazon

XF 23mm F1.4 R lens at Adorama

26 comments… add one

  • Wow,great photo from this series, very impressed. The photo of the bridge is really wow, the “star” is somehow different in a very good way.but the lens is really huge…nice, definitely making me wanting to try this out,haha

  • ian

    very nice review. i agree that this 23mm lens is pricey. here in australia, it is priced at AU$1,000++. if only fuji will take out the 23mm f2.0 lens of the x100/s and offered it as an alternative (and priced it, say, $500-600), then we will definitely have a winner. just my humble opinion. :)

  • Patrick

    Hey Ian,

    Thanks for taking the time to read it! Yeah, it’s a nice lens, and it performs great. I think it’s one of the best XF lenses so far. But I definitely think that Fuji should make an F2.0 version as well because so many people use the 35mm focal length as a standard lens but not everyone is going to be able to pay $900 for it or even wants such a big lens as their everyday optic. Some people are willing to trade a little speed for a more compact lens. Thanks for your input :).

    Take care,

    Patrick

  • Patrick

    Hey Meng,

    Thanks! I appreciate you coming by as always! Yes, it’s a big lens…but one of Fuji’s best lenses so far. If you get a chance, you should definitely try it out. But you would probably like the XF 56mm better, right? ;) That lens would probably be great for your portraits.

    Take care,

    Patrick

  • Byrd-2020

    Patrick- Nice review. I have recently purchased the 23mm f1.4. And, while I agree by and large with your analysis, I would just offer the following. This lens is optically superb! No complaints there. However, I really liked the light weight of the 35 f1.4 and the 60 f2.4. The weight is a change–but not for the better in my view. I’m also not sure about the push-pull mechanism. I found the older mechanism perfectly acceptable–actually, preferable. But I might change my mind as I use the 23mm more. As for the lens hood. Aghgh! I purchased on Ebay a Leica style (vented) screw on lens-hood that is now a permanent fixture on the lens.

  • Patrick

    Hi Byrd-2020,

    Thanks for checking out my review, and congratulations on your purchase! I really enjoyed using this lens. Optically, it is FANTASTIC, and in general, it actually feels like a new generation lens in terms of build quality.

    I agree with you about the weight. When I first picked it up, it didn’t feel like the added weight would really make that much of a difference but as I starting shooting with the lens, I definitely felt it, especially since I usually hold the camera in my hand when I walk around. It’s not as heavy as a DSLR lens but it’s just my X-E1 is pretty light! :)

    Yes, the older manual focusing system is perfectly acceptable. My friend prefers it as well. I tried the new system out a few times, and I liked it. It was definitely something that I had to get used to though.

    In terms of the lens hood, I can’t stand it as well. I don’t know why Fuji uses such large and cumbersome hoods (it makes my X-E1 feel so big, especially when the 23mm is suppose to be a standard lens) but great idea using the Leica style hood. I also like the fact that it’s small enough to be fixed permanently onto the lens. Which one did you use exactly?

    Thanks again for leaving your input!

    All the best,

    Patrick

  • Byrd-2020

    Patrick-

    The lens hood I purchased is being sold by “Pinshe Camera 008″ on Ebay. It’s called the “Leica metal 62mm… E334.” It costs $10.99 with free shipping to the US. It not only provides all the flare protection I require (no problems yet, anyway), it looks good and protects the front of the lens.
    Best,
    Byrd-2020

  • Patrick

    Hi Byrd-2020,

    I just went to ebay to checked it out…it actually looks like the hood from the older Noctilux. It’s a really great idea, and cheap too! It’s no where near the size of that petal shaped monstrosity :). Thanks for sharing that info here with us, and don’t be a stranger!

    Take care,

    Patrick

  • Dirk

    My XF23 was delivered last week. Did perform a brief test, also in the streets, fully agree with every word in your review. Optically it’s on the same level as Leica – this is definitely the best XF.

  • Patrick

    Hey Dirk,

    Thanks for leaving a comment, and congratulations on your purchase! I hope you enjoy your new lens. Fuji took a long time to release this lens but it is well worth the wait!

    Take care!

    Patrick

  • Kerwin

    Hi Patrick,

    Great review on the Fuji 23mm F1.4. I think you hit all the points for this lens in this review. I have been waiting for Fuji to release this lens eversince it was announced. After reading your review, I have decided to get one. I’m really looking forward to using it. I have been reading nothing but praise for this lens. It’s great to see that Fuji is really pushing for the best for the X-line of Cameras and lenses. I just read the comments above and agree about the hood. It looks huge! I think that ebay hood that Byrd-2020 is a great solution. Now we wait for the 56mm F1.2!

    Best,
    Kerwin

  • Patrick

    Hey Kerwin,

    It’s always great to hear from you, and thanks for taking the time out to read it! I had a feeling you were going to get one lol. It’s a great lens…I’m sure you will be happy with it for a long time. I’m still not sure if I like it better than my XF 35mm but for a 35mm equivalent, it has definitely exceeded my expectations for the Fuji X Series.

    Yes, Byrd-2020 has a great solution for the lens hood issue. It’s small, it looks great, it’s cheap, and it works! Now, like you said, all we have to do is wait for the XF 56mm. It’s been so long…I hope it comes out soon!

    Take care,

    Patrick

  • Kerwin

    Hi Patrick,

    You have a very good point about the XF35mm. For the price of that lens, I think it is a bargain compared to what it can produce. Plus the size of it and weight is just perfect for the XE1. And the hood is nice and small too. :-)

    Cheers,
    Kerwin

  • Patrick

    Hey Kerwin,

    Yup, optics are fantastic, it’s small, and like you said, the weight is great for the X-E1. Let me know what you think about the XF 23mm when you get it :).

    All the best,

    Patrick

  • I have been using the 23 on my XP1 and I am very frustrated with it. It is slow and fails to focus 50% of the time. I am a street shooter and there is seldom time to wait for the motor to grind around, low light is even worse. It probably works better on the newer Fujis with PDAF.

  • Patrick

    Hey Larry,

    Sorry for the late reply (hurt my back lifting some stuff), and for your frustrations with your XF 23mm. Nobody should be unhappy when they have to spend $900 for a long awaited lens. Yes, I’ve heard the same thing about the autofocus with the newer Fujis. I guess I’ll find out soon when I get an X-E2 in to try out,

    All the best,

    Patrick

  • Curious about your use of the LARGE and cumbersome hood. Were your posted images all shot with the hood or not? Hoping most were without… I totally understand the value of a hood but this one seems so BIG! Researching alternative options….

  • Okay, researching alternate hoods… trouble finding what is posted above… This is what I come up with but not vented… Help? http://www.ebay.com/itm/Leica-New-62mm-Metal-Screw-in-Vented-Tilted-Lens-Hood-Lens-E296-/251371214766?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item3a86e457ae

  • Patrick

    Hi John,

    Sorry for the late reply! I still have some family over for the holidays. I completely agree with you about it being so big. I didn’t have any problems without the hood, so I didn’t use it at all.

    Happy Holidays,

    Patrick

  • Patrick

    Hi John,

    I didn’t try any of these hoods on the XF 23mm because while a hood is always good to have, I didn’t have any issues using this lens without a hood. The link that you sent me in this comment shows a vented hood, and I think this is the one that’s similar to what Byrd-2020 uses. Either way, vented or not, it shouldn’t make a difference if you own the X-E1/X-E2 or use the EVF in the X-Pro1; the venting was only designed for rangefinder users to help them see better through the optical viewfinder. I hope this helps,

    All the best,

    Patrick

  • Patrick

    Hi John,

    It’s no problem at all. Feel free to comment/ask questions as much as you like. I think the one that Byrd-2020 uses is the other link that you posted. I did a search on ebay (I typed in exactly: leica metal 62mm e334) and found this:

    http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_trksid=p2050601.m570.l1313.TR0.TRC0.Xleica+metal+62mm+e334&_nkw=leica+metal+62mm+e334&_sacat=0&_from=R40

    See if that helps.

    Take care,

    Patrick

  • Andrew

    Hi there, wonderful review and amazing images!!

    I’ve got a fuji X100 and was contemplating trading up or purchasing the X-E1 body (as it’s on sale) and looking at getting an additional lens with it… i’ve seen this review of the 23mm and love the real sharpness, clarity and pop of these images! I also compared your review of the 35mm f1.4 lens but noticed the images (when compared to these) lacked the real sharpness this lens seems to display – would you say you found that in your user experience?

    Would I be losing / missing out on much if I went with the 35mm instead?

  • Patrick

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks so much! I appreciate you taking the time out to read my review! The truth is, I still prefer the XF 35mm over the XF 23mm. First off, I like using the 50mm focal length. Second, I would say that both lenses are pretty much equal in clarity and sharpness…If I had to lean towards one (haven’t done a side by side comparison yet), I would say that the XF 35mm is ever so slightly sharper, especially at F1.4. That’s the feeling that I get at least. Sorry if it doesn’t seem like that in my review. At the time that I wrote my XF 35mm review, the X-Series interchangeable system was brand new, and there weren’t even editing programs that could open the X-Pro1’s raw files :).

    So to answer your question, I don’t think that you would be losing much at all if you went with the 35mm. In fact, it’s actually my favorite X Series lens. You won’t get the “2nd gen” build/design but in terms of image quality, it’s a top notch lens (extremely sharp).

    If you have any other questions, please feel free to write back or send me an email!

    I hope you enjoy your future purchases!

    Patrick

  • Dogbytes

    Great write-up. I’m about to buy into the X system and I too prefer the 50mm equivalent angle of view – but you may just have sold me on this one.

  • Patrick

    Hi Dogbytes,

    Thanks! If you end up getting it, let me know what you think of it!

    Best regards,

    Patrick

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