Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Review

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Review:

35mm is a very popular focal length because its versatility makes it great for a variety of subjects, such as, landscape, street, environmental portraiture, and even architecture.  Fuji already has a superb 35mm equivalent lens for the X Series with a maximum aperture of f1.4.  But there are two main drawbacks to having that speed: fast lenses are often times more expensive, and they are also larger.  The truth is, the extra speed isn’t always necessary for the way many use a 35mm lens.  The 35mm focal length is considered an everyday lens to a lot of people, and because of that, something more compact and lighter is often times more important than having a larger maximum aperture.  I know that when I shoot a 35mm lens, it’s usually set around f4 to f8 most of the time.  So, it only made sense for Fuji to create the XF 23mm f2 R WR lens.  It may lose a stop when compared to its sibling but it’s a lot more compact.  It also costs less, and incorporates the latest tech from Fuji.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Build Quality:

As the X Series progresses, the build quality seems to only getting better and better.  The XF 23mm f2 is definitely no exception to this rule.  The design is similar to one of my favorite lenses, the XF 35mm f2 R WR lens, and that’s really good because I consider the XF 35mm f2 to be one of the best designed lenses in the X Series system.  Like the XF 35mm f2, the XF 23mm f2 seems to take a lot of its design cues from classic rangefinder lenses making it a very attractive looking piece of glass.  In fact, it looks like my older Leica 50mm Summicron from the early 1980s.  The exterior is made of metal, and like the XF 35mm f2, it comes in black and silver.   To top it off, the focus ring is very smooth, and in terms of feel, the XF 23mm f2 also has one of the best aperture rings in the X Series.  It has just the right amount of resistance, and it clicks in third stops like pretty much every other Fuji XF lens.  Furthermore, the lens is dust and weather resistant.  It can even operate in temperatures as low as -10°C making it a perfect match for cameras like the X-T2.  Overall, the materials used in combination with the way that the lens is assembled gives it a very high end feel.  It’s a very solid feeling lens.  In fact, from what I remember of the f1.4 version, the XF 23mm f2 actually feels better built.

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↑ The XF 23mm f2 R WR lens is ultra compact and light.

In addition to being well assembled, the XF 23mm f2 is extremely compact and weighing in at a mere 180g, it’s also very light.  That’s a significant weight reduction when you compare it to the f1.4 version, which weighs 300g.  To give you even more of a sense of how compact this lens is when compared to its sibling, the f1.4 version has a 62mm filter thread versus the f2’s 43mm filter thread.  Being compact and light are probably the two biggest reasons to go for this lens versus the f1.4 version, and these characteristics are extremely important when it comes to the 35mm focal length because as I mentioned before, many use one as an everyday lens.  As an everyday, lens, you want something that not only gives you great image quality but also something that you won’t regret carrying at the end of the day.  When I reviewed the XF 23mm f1.4, I loved it.  The image quality is superb.  But since I didn’t really need the f1.4 aperture, I just couldn’t see myself using it as an everyday lens because of its size and weight.  In comparison, the XF 23mm f2 handles like a dream.  It’s discreet when you need it to be, and it doesn’t make your camera front heavy or cumbersome.

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↑ The lens hood is small, which is nice.

If you ask me, the overall size and weight make the XF 23mm f2 one of the key lenses that Fuji were missing in the X Series system.  While I’m a huge fan of Fuji’s lenses, there was a time when it felt to me like the lenses were steadily getting larger.  One of the biggest reasons why I love mirrorless cameras is because of how compact they can be, so I’m glad that lenses like this one or even the XF 35mm f2 are being made now.  I can understand that sometimes a person needs that extra stop, and in those cases, the XF 23mm f1.4’s excellent optics are totally worth it.  But for most situations, the f2 version is plenty fast enough for me, and therefore I’d be willing to sacrifice that extra stop for what I feel is a significant reduction in size and weight.

Now, just like most Fuji lenses, a lens hood is also included with the XF 23mm f2.  The hood looks similar to the one that comes with the XF 35mm f2 with one difference.  Unlike the XF 35mm f2’s lens hood, which is a screw on type, the one that comes with the XF 23mm f2 is a bayonet style mount.  This makes it a lot more convenient to take off and attach.  But like the XF 35mm f2’s lens hood, it is made out of plastic, so if you want a metal styled hood that looks a bit more attractive as well, you will have to purchase the LH-XF35-2, which comes in either black or silver to match whatever color you chose for your lens.

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↑ The XF 23mm f2 with lens hood mounted on an X-T2 with the VPB-XT2 Vertical Booster Grip.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Autofocus:

Now, let’s talk about the autofocus capabilities of the XF 23mm f2 R WR lens.  According to Fuji, this lens has the ability to focus as fast as 0.05 seconds.  Obviously, I did not time it to confirm this because quite frankly, I don’t really care about test bench results.  I want to see how this lens actually performs in practice, so during my time with it, I tested the XF 23mm f2 in many different situations, and what I concluded is that the XF 23mm f2 is seriously one of the fastest autofocus lenses that I’ve used so far in the X Series system.  It may actually even be the fastest.  If you go to my Fuji review section, you’ll see that I’ve tested nearly all the XF lenses, and from what I concluded, if you want a lens for your X Series camera that’s a speed demon, this is the one that you should buy.

The results are obviously excellent in daylight but it is also great in dim lighting.  It’s fast enough that at this point, it’s one of those things that I’m not even concerned about in any way.  I don’t even think about it in dim lighting or action because it’s fast enough that it has become a non-issue to me.  There’s no misstep or drama; the autofocus just works, and works very efficiently I might add.

In addition to the blazing speed, the autofocus also operates silently.  It’s so fast and quiet at times that when I first tried it, a part of me was wondering whether or not it was even working properly (I have the focus confirmation beep on my X-T2 off).  These two characteristics along with its compact nature make the XF 23mm f2 a fantastic lens for street photography.  When you use this lens along with the X-T2 and its electronic shutter, the combo is near silent.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Image Quality:

So, the XF 23mm f2 R WR lens is built well, it’s compact, it’s weather resistant, and the autofocus is fast.  This almost sounds like the perfect 35mm equivalent lens but there’s one more piece to the puzzle that we need to discuss, and that’s image quality.  I actually paid particular attention this this category because I received a couple of messages with concerns about it.  So, here’s what I concluded after my testing: the XF 23mm f2 can definitely produce some killer images.  I seriously tried to find major faults with the optics in this lens but in my opinion, there really aren’t any.  In fact, when you combine all of its characteristics like size, weight, autofocus, price, and of course, image quality, the XF 23mm f2 is another winner in my book from Fuji, and this is coming from a person who doesn’t even like to use the 35mm focal length.

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↑ This was taken at f5.6.

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↑ This was taken at f5.6 in the New York Public Library.

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↑ I was walking around Midtown, and took this with the lens set at f8.

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↑ This was taken at f4.

Like many other Fuji lenses, the XF 23mm f2 R WR lens optics are built to impress.  This lens produces contrasty images with a lot of depth, and rich color rendering.  To me, it leans a bit on the warmer side, and in many ways, it reminds me of what I was producing with the XF 35mm f2.  There is slight vignetting at maximum aperture but by f2.8 it clears up significantly.  By f4 it’s pretty much gone.  As for flare, I had one or two situations where it occurred but it’s nothing to be concerned about.  For the most part, unless you’re shooting in some seriously demanding situations where you’re basically aiming the camera directly at the sun, for example, I wouldn’t worry about it.

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↑ This was taken at f5.6.  I love the color and contrast.

fuji-x-t2-xf-23mm-f2-r-wr-lens-street-art-graffiti-2-crop

↑ Here’s a 100% crop (1590×1060) of the image above.  Check out all the little details that this lens can resolve.  You can even see the texture of the paint.

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↑ This was taken around Bryant Park at f5.6.  Look how crisp the lines are.

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↑ This was taken at f5.6.

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↑ Notice that even at f4, the image is plenty sharp.  Notice the facial features.

In terms of sharpness, I found the XF 23mm R WR lens to be very impressive overall.  Even at f2, this lens is sharp nearly throughout the frame, at least with my copy, which I found very impressive.  But I did notice that when I was shooting very closely there was a slight softness.  Soft might be a poor word choice because it’s not even that it’s slightly soft, it’s just not quite as crisp.  Again, I want to emphasize the word “slight” because it’s such a small amount that you would have to zoom in at 100% to really see anything, which means it’s not going to make a difference in real world photography.  But this is the only issue, which is minor, that I have in terms of sharpness.  Other than that, you should have no problems getting ultra sharp images.  Once you stop the lens down to even just f2.8, everything including the corners and edges sharpen even further.

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↑ I found it a tad soft when I shot very closely with this lens’ using its maximum aperture.

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↑ Here’s a 100% crop (1590×1060) of the image above.

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↑ Here’s an image at f2 taken from a distance.

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↑ This was taken at f8.  This lens definitely produces some sharp images.

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↑ Here’s a 100% crop (1590×1060) of the image above.

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↑ This was taken at f8.  I love the way this lens can render color, and as you can see, it is plenty sharp!

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↑ Here’s a 100% crop (1590×1060) of the image above.  Look at the details of the brick work, and the paint.

Altogether, the XF 23mm f2 R WR lens is an excellent lens optically.  To me, it doesn’t quite measure up to the optics of say the XF 90mm but in my eyes, I consider that lens to be one of the absolute best from Fuji.  However, the XF 23mm f2 is definitely not at the bottom of the totem pole either.  In every way, the XF 23mm is up to the standards that we’ve come to expect from Fuji lenses.  It’s an excellent workhorse, and it’s hard to beat when you consider it’s characteristics like size, speed, and overall image quality.  I’m not a big fan of the 35mm focal length but even with that said, I would love to own one of these, and I probably will in the future.

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↑ The New York City Marathon occured recently.  This was taken at f5.6.

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↑ This was taken at f4 in dim lighting but the autofocus had no problems locking on.

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↑ This was taken at f5.6.  As you can see, the XF 23mm f2 is a very sharp lens.

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↑ Here’s a 100% crop (1590×1060) of the image above.  Check out how clear the “NO TURNS” sign on the upper right hand corner comes out.  Look how clear the “Book this taxi…app” on the upper left hand corner comes out.

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↑ This was taken at f11 while I was on the East River Ferry.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Bokeh:

In terms of bokeh, with its 9 aperture blades, there really isn’t anything to complain about in this category.  You’re going to get images that are ultra smooth and inviting.  The XF 23mm f2 R WR lens doesn’t give you quite the same look as say the f1.4 version but we all know that.  However, it’s still what I consider top quality.  There are a couple of examples below.

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↑ The bokeh from this lens is very smooth.  Here’s a photo taken at f2.

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↑ Here’s another example taken at f2.  I really like the bokeh from this lens.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Pros And Cons:

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Pros:

  • Excellent build quality.
  • Weather and dust sealed.
  • Compact and light.
  • Great lens for trying to be low key and discreet.  Excellent for street photography.
  • Bayonet style mount for lens hood, which is better than the screw on type from the XF 35mm f2.
  • Ultra fast autofocus that’s also silent.
  • Excellent image quality.
  • Even at f2, most of the frame is nearly sharp.
  • Nice, smooth bokeh.
  • Price decently.  It’s also $450 cheaper than the f1.4 version.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Cons:

  • The lens hood is a little cheap.
  • Very slight softness at f2 when focusing very closely.

Fujifilm XF 23mm f2 R WR Lens Verdict:

The XF 23mm f2 R WR lens really has all of the traits that make it a great 35mm equivalent lens, and the beauty of it is the lens costs $449, which I consider pretty reasonable.  I personally don’t really like using the 35mm focal length but even with that said, I actually want one of these pretty badly.  In fact, if I was really in the market for a 35mm equivalent lens for my X-T2, I would buy this one over the f1.4 version, which by the way, did really impress me as well (my review here).  I feel the f1.4 version produces slightly better image quality, and it does have the larger maximum aperture but I’d pay for it in terms of size and weight.  To me, it’s essentially like mounting a lighter Leica Noctilux onto the front my X-T2.  It wouldn’t be that bad if it was a lens that I only used for certain purposes but as an everyday lens, I personally would like something smaller.

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↑ Here’s one more photo of the XF 23mm f2 mounted on the X-T2 with the VPB-XT2 Vertical Booster Grip.

Because there is the f1.4 version out there that’s double the price, some may consider the XF 23mm f2 as just an entry level lens but it’s not; to me, the f2 version’s image quality is already good enough that it can definitely be a real alternative for those who don’t absolutely need the larger maximum aperture.  In the end, just like the f1.4 version, the XF 23mm f2 is still going to produce excellent images but it does so in a lighter and more compact body along with the benefits of weather sealing, and blazingly fast yet silent autofocus all while being $450 cheaper.  If you ask me, this is better than true value for the buck.  The XF 23mm f2 is truly another winner from Fuji, and if any of you are looking for a decent 35mm equivalent lens, you should really consider this one.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review!  If you’re considering purchasing the XF 23mm f2, and my review helped you decide, please help support this site by purchasing from any of the links in this review.  It will not cost you anything extra.  Thank you for your support!

XF 23mm f2 R WR lens in black at B&H Photo

XF 23mm f2 R WR lens in silver at B&H Photo

17 comments… add one
  • Jeff

    Very nice review!
    Do you recommend it for landscape for an under 500$ lens?
    I have the XC 16-50 which is pretty good and sharp but I feel like I should get a prime to step up my skills (though hobby photographer) and gain some features like better bokeh,sharpness at F6 to F10, resistance to sun and flares…what do you think? Is it worth it or it’s a waste of money?

    • Patrick

      Hi Jeff!

      Thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time to read it! Yes, this would make a great landscape lens, and it’s always good to have a prime in your kit. It’s sharp even to the corners, especially if you plan to use apertures around F6 to F10. You might also want to consider the XF 35mm f2 if you want more of a bokeh effect. That’s also a fantastic lens. It’s one of my favorites as well. I reviewed it here:

      http://findingrange.com/2015/12/10/fuji-xf-35mm-f2-r-wr-lens-review/

      I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Thanks for a very informative review. I’ve not yet jumped to either f/2 lenses as yet, still keeping my f/1.4’s but can see the attraction of them without doubt and at some stage will buy one to add to the others.

    • Patrick

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for the kind words, and for taking the time to read it! I still own the 35mm f1.4, and love it but I may get a 23mm f2 in the near future. I love how handy it is. Nice straps btw 🙂

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Jeff

    Thanks again for the detailed review, can you do a side by side comparison with one of the zoom kit lens like 18-55 or 16-50? So we can clearly see if we have to get a 23mm f2 when we have a fuji zoom

    • Patrick

      Hi Jeff,

      Thanks for taking the time to read it! I would love to do a comparison but since the lens was a loaner, I had to return it last month. Maybe if I can get another one soon, I’ll do a comparison. It wouldn’t be too difficult, since I own the 18-55mm, which is technically half the battle :).

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Adam

    What’s the leather strap you are using on your xt it looks nice.

  • Hadar

    Thank you for your detailed and practical review. I own the fuji XF10-24 but still interested in this
    cute lens size & weight and the option of 2 stops gain with my X-T2. The point is that the rumors about the blur\ not sharp results at its closest distance made me take a step back .
    Basically its use would be general for street & landscape but the idea that I can not expect sharp results (when it occasionally occurred) in close distance subject does not make me happy .
    Could you please advice some more data about sharpness in f2-f2.8 in close distances like
    0.25 – 0.5 meters ? . Thank you .

    • Patrick

      Hi Hadar,

      Sorry for the late reply, and thanks for your kind words. From my experience with the review copy that was sent to me (which is also a production model), I felt the blur/not sharp results were a little over exaggerated. It’s still sharp. It may not be quite as sharp as some of Fuji’s sharpest lenses at such a close range but there’s nothing here that I would worry about. If I was in the market for a 35mm equivalent, I would easily pick this lens over the f1.4 version. You lose a stop over the f1.4 version but there’s quite a lot here for the money. The f2 version is weather sealed, the image quality is still excellent, the autofocus is fast, and you can’t beat the size. I really enjoyed reviewing this lens :). I hope this helps you out a bit. Thanks for stopping by!

      Best regards,

      Patrick

  • Excellent review!

    We’ve been using the XF 23mm f2 R WR lens for a lot of our product shots on location and absolutely love it!

    • Patrick

      Hi Hawkesmill,

      Thanks for taking the time to read it! Yes, it is a fantastic lens…one of the best in the Fuji collection in my humble opinion. Btw, beautiful bags! That Jermyn Street, for example, is a work of art! Thanks for stopping by!

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Hi Patrick,

    This is best review i’ve read so far and i wonder if i can get your permission granted for posting this link and the picture to my webstore and credited to you and this site.

    Cheers!

    • Patrick

      Hi Yong,

      Sorry for the late reply! Wow, nice of you to say, thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to read it! Yes, sure you can. Thanks for stopping by!

      Best,

      Patrick

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