This week I received a loan copy of the Fujifilm XF23mm F2 from Fujifilm UK.
Those that know my wedding photography and social documentary photography will know that almost always use a full frame equivalent combination of 35mm and 85mm.
In Fuji world, this equates to a 23mm lens and a 56mm lens.
I first used the XF23mm F1.4 when in Tokyo at a product planning meeting back in 2013 and its served me amazingly well ever since.
As Fuji moves forward into the realms of the GFX and large sensor cameras (they will, of course, continue to build on APS-C too), the emphasis on small size maybe less for some photographers.
When Fujifilm first released the XF23mm F1.4, I was thrilled of course. It was fast and it was much smaller than the DSLR equivalent I’d used all those years before.
Then I heard that Fuji were thinking of releasing second versions of some of their best lenses and my interest was piqued. When the 35mm F2 was released, with its weather resistance and such small form factor I knew then that what I really wanted was a 23mm in the same format.
I use the 35mm focal length, a bit. But only a bit. For me, the 23mm (35mm equivalent) is where I’m most comfortable and so I was happy to get my hands on the new lens just before last weekends wedding.
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 WR mounted on my X-Pro2
As ever, this post is not a full blown review. I’m not a photographer who produces technically perfect work; I’m a photographer that shoots candidly and I see “the moment” as far more important than “the technically perfect pictures”.
For that reason, there won’t be any MTF charts etc here, but what I will do is explain how I use the lens and what I think of it.
If you want to see a great review with the gorgeous product photos, then check out Jonas Rasks‘ page.
Since this lens was launched, I’ve had lots of questions mostly about the following:
- Depth of Field & Low Light Performance
So, I’ll tackle this post based on these points.
Fuji XF23mm F2 WR ~ Size
According to the official specification, the lens weighs just 180 grams. In my book, that is very, very light.
As a comparison, the XF23mm F1.4 weighs in at a seemingly whopping 300 grams.
That’s a big difference:
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 WR side by side with an XF23mm F1.4.
Now, to be totally honest, the image above is a little disingenuous as the lens hood on the F1.4 is ridiculously big. The lens hood on the F2 model is much much better.
I never use lens hoods though so in real terms, it’s easier for me to tell you simply that the F2 lens is basically, a lot smaller and a lot lighter than it’s older brother.
Using the OVF on the X-Pro2 with the XF23mm F2 is fine. You of course see a small amount of the barrel in the viewfinder but this is nothing compared to the F1.4 version
Fuji XF23mm F2 WR & Fuji XF35mm F2 WR
If you love the X-Pro2, as I do, then you may already have the XF35mm F2 and whilst the focal length of the two lenses is reasonably similar, I think that it’s not unreasonable to suggest the 35mm lens is likely to appeal more to portrait photographers, whereas the 23mm lens will appeal greatly to Street, wedding and landscape photographers.
Fujifilm XF35mm F2 WR side by side with an XF23mm F2 WR.
As I mentioned, the single most important thing for me is to be able to use gear that is small, discreet and does the job.
It’s the reason I lean more towards the X-Pro2 than the X-T2 and its the reason I tend to use primes, rather than zooms.
The 23mm F1.4 was a fine aid for me these last couple of years, and if I’m honest, I did think it was a little large compared the cameras I was using it on, but it did a great job. And still does.
Now, though, for the short period of time I used the 23m F2, I actually felt the physical difference and I also felt (this may be in my subconscious but none the less) that I got a bit closer, and a bit more candid and very crucially, without interfering with the moment at all.
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 @ f/5.6, 1/300th Second, ISO 400
Fuji XF23mm F2 WR ~ Speed
Well actually, one of the things I found disconcerting at first with the XF35mm F2 was the sheer speed of the AF. And probably more relevant, the silence of it.
The same is true of the XF23mm F2. The speed is incredible. And I mean incredible to the point that sometimes I have to wonder if in fact the AF has done anything.
I’m still getting used to these silent focus motors. There is something appeasing to my brain when I hear the whirr and clunk of an AF system. I have all my camera sounds switched off too so I do, genuinely, have to sometimes check that the AF has worked (which of course it has).
This is about the negative point about the speed of the AF in the lens, and of course, that’s a personal thing and something I will get used to.
I used the camera a few times on AF-C mode on the X-Pro2 and it didn’t miss a beat. Again, it’s a bit disconcerting when you can’t physically feel the lens doing its thing, and more so when shooting in AF-C, but it worked and it worked really well.
The best thing about it of course is that its so much smaller and this means with the X-T2, those that use the flip screen can have a lot more latitude with the shots they take (even using AF-C) with less weight in the arms.
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 400
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 @ f/5.6, 1/240th Second, ISO 200
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 ~ Depth of Field & Low Light Performance
I am not a portrait photographer and really, creamy bokeh and a narrow depth of field are less important to me than to many photographers.
For that reason, I would always take a smaller, lighter F2 lens over a heavier, bigger F1.4 lens in terms of depth of field.
I have been asked so many times recently about the depth of field difference between the XF23mm F2 and the XF23mm F1.4. Personally, I think its pretty marginal ~ but ~ it is noticeable.
If you are a portrait photographer who loves shooting at very narrow apertures (especially now the reliable face/eye detection in the cameras), then really you will likely stick with the 1.4 lens.
The difference between f2 and f1.4 is relatively noticeable when it comes to bokeh. Whether that is relevant to you depends entirely on your shooting style of course.
Fujifilm XF23mm F1.4 @ f/1.4Fujifilm XF23mm F2 @ f/2
If you look at the fall off of the window sill and also the top of the strap in the background you can get an idea of the bokeh difference between the F2 and F1.4 lenses at their maximum apertures.
Low light is very different.
And this is where the 1.4 trumps the F2 and the reason why I’ll definitely continue to have the F1.4 lens in my kit bag.
It makes sense to point out an observation here;
I shoot handheld, and almost always with the available light. I use the F1.2 of the 56mm a lot during first dance and speeches for example.
I tried the F2 lens on Saturday and even though its lighter, which means in theory I should be able to hand hold and shooter at slower shutter speeds to reduce the higher ISO impact. It didn’t work like that.
When I’m shooting dancing for example, I’m usually zone focusing and setting a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/125 or even faster. I found I needed that extra stop of light. But remember, I shoot with available light – if you use strobes, then this will be a mute point.
Shooting in amongst the guests in lower light is still fine of course, its only really when I needed to ensure the fast shutter speed that it mattered.
For example, in the following shot….
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 6,400
….it would have been easier to shoot at say 1/60th and perhaps ISO 4,000 than it would have been to shoot with the 1.4 lens at 1/60th of a second.
Its horses for course, and I think many wedding photographers at least, will end up with both versions of the lenses ~ whereas I can’t see any need for the F1.4 lens for my street photography at all.
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 ~ Summary
The fact of the matter is, in the low light situations I find myself in a lot, I will end up resorting to the F1.4 lens.
The good thing of course, is that for the rest of the day (which is about 90%), I’ll be using the smaller and lighter F2 lens exclusively.
This lens is perfect for street photography and perfect for almost all of my wedding photography.
I’m excited about using the Fuji XF23mm F2 WR from now on and I will definitely be sharing more of my experience with this lens. I really love it.
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 250
You can buy or pre-order the lens now if you wish, and I personally think the price point of it is exceptional.
And one last thing…..somebody asked me if the new 23mm F2 on my X-Pro2 would replace my X100T.
The answer is “No”.
Fujifilm XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/320th Second, ISO 400
- Happy Snapping – Kevin (in my Studio in Malmesbury, listening to Sweet Child O’ Mine by Guns n Roses)