With the release of XF 35mm f/1.4 in 2011, Fujifilm set the tone for the X-Series. It was a risky decision to offer only prime lenses with no zoom lens available at the time, but that's the kind of bold move that helped cement Fuji as a photographer's brand. Since then, the 35mm has not only become one of the most beloved lenses in the Fuji line-up, but also a benchmark for image quality.
It is one of those lenses that has a certain je ne sais quoi, many photographers struggle to explain what truly makes it unique, it's not just the sharpness, the bokeh, or the way it renders, it's difficult to put into words. "Magical" seems to be the word that gets thrown around a lot when it comes to describing the quality of this lens, and that is probably the most appropriate word. It's the lens that turned me into a believer of the X Mount system, and it remains a favourite of mine to this day.
When I heard that Fujifilm would be releasing a new 35mm that is weather resistant and more compact, initially I was skeptical for it would have to be something truly special to be a worthy successor, but it certainly has piqued my interest. That's why I jumped at the opportunity to review this lens. (Disclaimer: Fujifilm Canada provided me with a review unit.)
On paper, the reduction in size doesn't appear to be significant, let's face it, the original 35mm isn't exactly a big bulky lens. To me, the new 35mm still appeals because of the much improved auto focus capabilities and the weather sealing. Also, the 35mm f/2 is being priced slightly lowered than its predecessor, so that's another thing it has going for it. It does have a slower aperture in comparison, but all things considered, that is a compromise I'm willing to make.
The new 35mm f/2 and the 35mm f/1.4 have different characteristics and perhaps different target users, so instead of doing a comparative review, I will only focus on my experiences with the XF 35mm f/2.
This lens has retro good looks and feels incredibly solid and well made, at the same time, it is very compact and lightweight. I love the way it tapers towards the front end, this was purposely designed to be unobtrusive to the X-Pro series viewfiner. In terms of focal length, it is 53mm in full frame equivalent, so it's very close to a standard nifty fifty, which is well suited for street and documentary photography.
By pairing it up with the X-T1, it gives me a weather resistant kit that is ready for anything. Even though it was designed with the rangefinder body in mind, it looks great on the X-T1!
And here it is mounted on the X-E1.
Upon receiving my review unit, I immediately updated my X-T1 firmware to version 4.10. Fujifilm claims this update allows the auto focus to work more naturally for this lens. I must say the AF performance is very good on this lens, the focusing speed feels a bit faster than the XF 23mm f/1.4 and about on par with the XF 16mm f/1.4. Even in low light conditions, the AF speed is reasonably fast and accurate. Compared to the its predecessor, the AF is vastly improved, and the difference is night and day. The aperture ring is another thing that stands out, it feels very sturdy and it turns and clicks with absolute certainty, once set, it doesn't shift out of position easily, unlike some of the other XF lenses with looser aperture rings. One minor gripe I have is the supplied lens hood kind of cheapens the overall look when it's attached, but it gets the job done from the functional standpoint.
Tis the season for festive lights and holiday decoration, so I thought that would be a good theme for this review. I also wanted to find out how this lens fares under challenging lighting, so most of the shots were taken late in the day or in the evening when the lights came on.
I was very happy with the low light performance, and the images are quite sharp even when I shoot wide open. The bokeh is smooth and creamy, but compared to the XF 35mm f/1.4, the rendering is a bit different and not as dreamy. I certainly do not see this lens as a replacement for the XF 35mm f/1.4, it's more of a welcomed addition to the XF lineup. If you are trying to decide on which 35mm to acquire, I would go for the XF 35mm f/2, despite being slower, it is simply more practical, especially for street photography. If you already own the XF 35mm f/1.4, the decision is not so clear cut. You have to ask yourself: Is AF speed very important to you? Do you consider weather resistance a must-have feature? Personally I need a dependable kit that will stand up to the harsh Canadian winter, so having this lens in my bag is a no brainer. If you are a X-T1 user, then having this lens makes a lot of sense because it is the perfect companion for the X-T1.
I'll leave you with a few more images taken around the holidays( plus no review would be complete without a cat picture). All images were shot in raw and converted in Lightroom 6 with Fuji's film simulation modes applied. Thanks for stopping by. Happy New Year!