A few months ago when I had a dSLR kit my favorite lens was the Canon 35L. I fell in love with the 35mm field of view. I loved it on my X100, I loved it on my dSLR and I love it on my X100s. The Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R is a highly anticipated lens. Even before the Fuji Lens Roadmap was out people were asking for the 23mm. Until now you could only get it on the X100(s). But the wait is almost over. October 16th it will be shipping. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one from Fujifilm Canada for a short time. These are my thoughts based on my limited use of it.
Since receiving the lens late last week people have asked me about the build. Was it keeping with the the newer XF lenses? Absolutely. With every lens Fuji is really honing in on the absolute best quality. This chubby hunk of glass feels very solid. It is heavier than the other primes and the circumference of it's body is also bigger. When mounted to my X-Pro1 the camera body does not sit flush on my desk.
For me the XF 23mm feels the best on the X-Pro1 with the hand grip. It is well balanced and it is not so heavy that it will tire you out. It has a 62mm filter ring which can be a pain for some people having to buy more filters. I am that guy as I like having ND filters around for all my fast lenses. I know I can buy a step-up ring but aesthetically I do not like using them.
Here are some photos of the XF 23mm (right) compared with the XF 35mm (middle) and XF 14mm (left).
As fellow X-Photographer Patrick LaRoque touched on in his review of this lens.. the hood is big. It really adds to the size of the lens. I will probably keep it on my lens the majority of the time. I do not like UV filters and I tried a eBay vented hood on the XF 35mm but I don't like screw-in hoods. It is just a matter of personal preference. Maybe once I own the lens and use it often I will ditch the hood if it's size drives me nuts. I don't know if it was just the copy of the lens I had but the hood did not go on and come off with ease. It felt a bit jammed up and did not turn like my other lens hoods. I am hoping this is just a one-off issue and the production lenses won't have this problem.
Since the lens has the 'R' designation it has an aperture ring. It moves a lot like the XF 14mm's ring. Update: The XF 14mm's aperture ring is actually easier to turn. But the XF 23mm can still be bumped out of position. And it can be bumped fairly easily to a different aperture. I would like them to feel the the ring on the X100s. Maybe it is an issue with it being in 1/3rd stop increments instead of full stops like the X100s and they cannot make it tougher to turn.
You can see in the above photos the lens comes with the clutch AF/MF with a distance scale. I love this feature on the XF 14mm and it translates just as well to the XF 23mm. Manual focus is really a joy to use on the X-Pro1 and I find myself using it more and more. Not because the auto focus is crap. It was in the beginning but now I have no complaints with it.
Update: Some folks have asked how the lens looks through the Optical Viewfinder since it is a bigger lens. I didn't really notice it that much when I was composing but maybe I am just so used to a lens being in my view. Here is how it looks through the OVF of the X-Pro1:
I first used the XF 23mm during a portrait session over the weekend. I used a mix of natural light and a strobe. The quality of Fuji optics are amazing. Especially for the price. Sometimes when I zoom in Lightroom to check focus it is unreal the detail the lens captures even wide open. That is the one big difference with the lens compared to the 23mm on the X100(s).. that it is sharper wide open. I try not to peep pixels because no one (besides other photographers) looks at photographs that way.
The way the XF 23mm renders detail in a photograph is so appealing to me. It is not something I can translate into words really.
After the portrait shoot I know I wanted to spend sometime without a client in front of me to get to know the lens. I hit downtown Calgary with my photo-pal, Curtis Gee. He stood in as a model when I found some light and we had a great day exploring.
This lens will be a great companion to the XF 35mm. I own the XF 14mm but for the most part I do find it to be a little too wide for my tastes. The XF 23mm is a jack of all trades for me. There will be distortion at the edges of the frame but overall it is well controlled.
What's that? You want to pixel peep? Alright. This photo was shot at f/2.2. With a pixelicious crop below.
This lens will be added to my kit. I do own a X100s but having the same field of view with a faster aperture on the X-Pro1 will definitely benefit me. I will not be selling my X100s.. probably ever. It has the leaf shutter with crazy fast sync speeds, it is small, compact and gorgeous to look at.
The lens retails for $900 Canadian which I know seems expensive. But that is definitely cheaper than the Canon 35mm 1.4 and the Fuji is much sharper wide open in my opinion.
And I'll end this post with one more shot of Curtis taken, of course, with the XF 23mm lens. If you want to see these photos larger as well as a few more taken with the XF 23mm head over and follow me at my Tumblr.
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