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.
↑ 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.
↑ The XF 23mm F1.4 R lens without the hood.
↑ The XF 23mm F1.4 R lens with the hood mounted on.
↑ 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.
↑ The XF 23mm F1.4 in autofocus mode.
↑ 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.
↑ 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.
↑ Here’s a top view of the XF 23mm F1.4 with the lens hood mounted on my X-E1.
↑ 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.
↑ This was shot with my X-E1 at F5.6.
↑ 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.
↑ Here is a shot taken with my X-E1 at F1.4.
↑ This was taken at F1.4 as well.
↑ This was taken in Dumbo, which is in Brooklyn at F14.
↑ 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.
↑ I was walking around on a very cold morning and took this photo at F5.6.
↑ Here is a shot taken at F8.
↑ 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.
↑ Bokeh is very smooth at F1.4.
↑ It’s great to have a fast lens for low light situations, although the high ISO capabilities on the Fuji are pretty good.
↑ Shooting at F1.4 with this lens can definitely help isolate the subject from the background.
↑ Another shot at F1.4.
↑ 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.
↑ Here’s a photo shot at F1.4.
↑ 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.
↑ Here’s another shot taken at F1.4.
↑ 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 :).
↑ This was shot wide open with my X-E1.
↑ 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.
↑ 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!
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