Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R

Categoria: English Pubblicato: Venerdì, 08 Novembre 2013 Scritto da Max Angeloni

Apart from the zoom lenses announced till today (even if they’re very good in construction and image quality) it’s clear how prime lenses are the ones that allow the photographer to get the best image quality, something that many photographers consider the most important thing when it comes to photography.
The three lenses launched with the X-Pro1 (namely the 18mm, 35mm and the 60mm) are well built and offer solid performance in many ways at an affordable price. It was clear though that the X-System had to be completed and had to establish itself before the launch of more specific and high-end lenses, that also couldn't come at the same price level.
But finally lenses like the Fujinon XF14mm F2.8R and the Fujinon XF23mm F1.4R arrived.

Looking back to the launch of the system this explains why Fujifilm didn’t announce lenses that covered the most used focal length in photography: the 35mm and 85mm equivalent.
These focal length are considered as an emblem of photography and for this reason Fujifilm wanted to cover them with really high quality products. This led them to wait for the system and the “audience” to be ready to embrace such high quality lenses.

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/125, f/2, Iso 800

Let’s state it clear: regardless the sensor size and other technical considerations the high quality, bright lenses are always big, heavy and really expensive. Of course, this is always compared to other lenses of the same system. There are different reasons for this, but we don’t want to dig in this regards.
If there’s one thing for sure is that the XF 23mm F1.4R have all of this.
Does that mean that the new “35mm” for the X system is a superior lens?
Well, usually you need time to give an answer like this, an answer based on many different shooting conditions.
The answer is...YES! This is the lens that many were looking for!
Hey! Wait! YES? And what happened to the different shooting conditions?
In this case...well...we didn’t need to go through all of this.

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/80, f/1.4, Iso 200

There are lenses that give you the answer as soon as you attach them to your camera giving you the confidence that many satisfactions will come with them.
This is what happened (for me, of course) with the Nikkor 85mm F1.4D and the 35mm F1.4G, the Leica Summicron 35mm pre-asph and the Zeiss Sonnar 35mm F2 of the RX1.

You look through the viewfinder, shoot, look at your picture and just say...WOW!
It’s not logical, I know, but I can’t help but feel like that. But after years of photography and the use of many, many tools of different kind and brand, sometimes (seldom, to be honest) it happens that just one picture, one shot is enough to light the fire on me.
Let’s admit this: it’s with lenses that you make the difference in photogrpahy. You may have the best camera in the world, but it’s always thanks to those “pieces of glass” that you can make the difference. A great sensor can be killed by a bad lens while a great lens may allow an old sensor the chance to shine, and also allows the photographer to be creative with it.
This is the aim of the new XF 23mm F1.4 R, trying to give the best answer to those who were waiting since the beginning a great lens to cover the “35mm” and get the best from the X-Trans sensors.

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/60, f/1.4, Iso 500

Construction
Under the metal barrel, the 23mm has pretty neat features.
The focusing system allows to focus without changing the size of the lens (no moving parts on the outside) thus improving AF performances in speed and audible noise from the lens (it’s quieter than the 35mm).
Also the lens is optically corrected against distortion, something you won’t find easily in modern CSC lenses, while the coating of the lens, on paper, should be another strong point of the lens.
On the outside of the lens there’s the manual focus activation system, by pulling the focus ring, and the focusing distance scale engraved on the barrel, something already present on the 14mm lens.
While I really appreciate the quick manual focus activation system, I can’t say the same for the depth of field scale. The way it is designed it’s almost useless because it’s not complete and too distanced.
The lens hood should’ve been designed better, to be worth of the X-system. Please, don’t get me wrong, it works great, and the petal shape was choosen in order to allow the X-Pro1 optical viewfinder to be used without being blocked by the hood.
But, to be honest...it’s the ugliest of the entire X-System. It’s big, fat, and protrudes from the lens spoiling the look of my X-Pro1. I understand that there are many reasons for this choice, and I’m sure that this design is aimed to offer the best performances but we also have to understand that many people love this system even for the elegance of the lines, of the design. The same elegance shown in the metal hood of the first three lenses of the X-System. I’m pretty sure that it could’ve been found a more appropriate solution.

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/420 f/4, Iso 200

In the Field:
Let’s start with the good news for the manual focusing lovers: the focusing ring has a 180 degree range and stops at infinity and minimum focusing distance. This is thanks to the new implementation of the manual focus with the presence of the depth of field scale. It’s easy to operate the ring and the operations are smooth and precise. The angle between 1.5m and infinity is around 25 degrees giving all the extra angle to the close focusing distance.
Dimensions and weight (around 300gr.) are similar to the ones of the XF 18-55 F2.8-4 OIS with the exception of the bigger front lens that makes it fatter than the other prime lenses.

Crop 100% jpg OOC, Fujifilm X-pro1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/40, f/1.4, Iso 200

As written before, the AF is fast and quiet, even if not as quiet as the zoom lenses (the technology is different). I really can’t understand why they don’t use the same AF motor seen for the zoom lenses for the entire system, it’s still a mystery for me.
As far as the image quality is concerned I think it’s enough to say that several times, after watching the picture on the camera’s display, I had to check what lens I had on it. It behaves as a 35mm lens even if it is still a real 23mm lens. That means it doesn’t have all the typical shortcomings of a wide angle lens. The bokeh is smooth, but it is also pronounced, the lens is sharp even wide open, it has a great flare resistance and it’s unbelievably corrected against distortion.
Don’t expect to see any F8-F11 deep analisys. To me a bright lens like this is designed to be used at wide open settings, or close to this. If you’re not going to use this lens like this, or if you just don’t feel your going to use these settings that much, then you will be probably better using some other lens because it’s between F1.4 and F2 that the 23mm F1.4 R shows its best.
It’s clear that at F5.6 the lens is capable of better details and an even center-border rendition but to me it doesn’t make sense to buy a lens like this while a good zoom lens is capable of almost the same performance with those settings.
There’s nothing worth mentioning other than what we’ve already covered. I think pictures will better explain what I tried to put in words.

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/60, f/1.4, Iso 800

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/160, f/1.4, Iso 800

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/250, f/2.5, Iso 500

Conclusions
The Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 R was the great missing lens for the X-System. Many were waiting for this lens and many were the speculations about why this lens wasn’t available in Fujifilm’s lineup.
It’s obvious that the 35mm focal length are the emblem of photography. In a system that inspires itself from the glorious rangefinders of the past a lens like this have to be available and, moreover, has to be a great lens.
Even if it’s “just” an APSC, forcing Fujifilm to have a 35mm equivalent rather than a real 35mm lens, this lens has all the behaviours of a 35mm lens, despite being a real wide angle. Kudos to Fuji for their effort to achieve such a great result.
Don’t expect miracles though. In the end this is...well...“just” the best X-System lens ever built (until now, of course).

Fujifilm X-Pro1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/550 f/1.4, Iso 200

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/125, f/1.4, Iso 4000

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/100, f/1.4, Iso 2500

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/100, f/1.4, Iso 4000

Fujifilm X-M1, Fujinon XF23mm F1.4 R, 1/125, f/1.4, Iso 4000