I recognize this isn’t a new lens. Like a lot of photographers, many of you — like me — are considering Fuji for the first time. A 35mm equivalent is one of the first lenses a photographer should consider. The Fuji XF 23mm f/1.4 R should absolutely be one of the first lenses a new Fuji shooter should look into.
Build and handling
Even though the lens is made out of metal and has an f/1.4 aperture, it’s surprisingly lightweight and easy to manage. Coming in at 10.58 ounces (exactly 300 grams), I would consider the 23mm a featherweight when compared to it’s full frame 35mm f/1.4 competition.
The focus ring is smooth and buttery to my hand and moves rather fluidly. Speaking of the focus ring, Fuji (like Olympus) has done a fantastic job of implementing the AF/MF clutch mechanism. Manual focus is smooth and refined, and the 23mm has a proper focus distance meter, which is great for filmmakers.
Like most of the lenses in the Fuji line, the 23mm also has an aperture ring. Even the lens hood and lens cap are built to a very high standard.
On the downside, the lens isn’t weather sealed. And if I really had to nitpick on the build, the one other blemish is the aperture ring. On more than one occasion, I would have set the aperture ring to my desired f-stop — say f/5.6 — only to discover later that it had been bumped and moved to f/6.3 or f/4. I wish Fuji had some kind of locking mechanism for the aperture ring. The other option of course is to set the aperture ring to A (auto) and set the aperture in camera.
Apart from those two issues — neither of which is a deal-breaker — the 23mm is otherwise a physical specimen.
Autofocus speed and accuracy
I’ve worked with my fair share of mirrorless camera bodies and lenses over the years and one area where mirrorless cameras can fall short is autofocus speed and accuracy. So many mirrorless systems have some “jackhammering.” Jackhammering is a phenomena whereby you set a point of focus and the camera and lens will bounce back and forth over the intended target 2–3 times before focus is captured. Fortunately, it usually happens so quickly that I don’t miss the shot, but it can be unnerving at times.
With the XT-3‘s phase detect autofocus, the 23mm has little to no jackhammering and focus is captured instantaneously and accurately almost every single time. Even wide-open and even in low light situations — in my experience, AF performance simply doesn’t get any better than this.
The 23mm is built well, and the autofocus speed is quick, quiet and accurate. But, how are the optics? Tack sharp and crispy! Especially in the frame center. Wide-open, center sharpness is simply divine! There is admittedly some sharpness fall off toward the edges.
I want some separation from the subject and the background and at f/1.4, I’m able to achieve that result. As I move closer to my subject — the minimum focus distance is just over 11 inches — the bokeh quality becomes even more impressive. The 23mm has a 7 blade aperture and in spite of that, the bokeh is smooth and pleasing. Out of focus backgrounds render beautifully and complement the images perfectly!
Fuji does a lens profile correction in camera, and as result, vignetting, chromatic aberrations and distortion are minimal. Bottom line, I simply love the results I’ve been able to achieve with the 23mm!
The 23mm is one of those rare lenses that will satisfy both the enthusiast and professionals alike. Offering up a lot of versatility, the 35mm equivalent is often found in the bags of wedding, landscape, street and even environmental portrait photographers. I wouldn’t use this lens for headshots, but it would be right at home in an environmental portrait situation.
The only real downsides to the 23mm are the fact that it isn’t weather sealed, and the aperture ring is just a bit too easy to knock from it’s intended setting. Apart from that, the 23mm is one of those lenses that should definitely find its way into the bags of a variety of photographers!
- Focal length: 23mm (35mm full frame equivalent field of view)
- Aperture range: f/1.6—16
- Aperture blades: 7, rounded
- Elements/Groups: 11/8
- Dimensions: 2.83 x 2.48″ / 72 x 63 mm
- Weight: 10.58 oz / 300 g
- Angle of View: 63.4°
- Solid, lightweight build quality
- Outstanding image quality — notably wide-open in the frame center
- Fast, silent and accurate AF
- Outstanding implementation of manual focus
- The rare lens that will completely satisfy enthusiasts and pros alike
- Lack of weather sealing
- Aperture ring — like other Fuji lenses in my experience — is a bit too loose, could benefit from a locking mechanism