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.

For me, however, I have always maintained that I want the smallest camera possible, which is as plain as possible, but does the best job possible.

To that end, I loved the X70 and of course my well worn X100T which get’s used every single day.

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.

fuji xf23mm f2fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm 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.

As mentioned earlier, I received this lens late last week and have had one wedding since then.  I shot most of the wedding with my established equipment and a little with the Fuji XF23mm F2 WR – I don’t have a whole load of images yet, but if you see the summary later, you’ll understand that this will change pretty soon.

Since this lens was launched, I’ve had lots of questions mostly about the following:

  • Size
  • Speed
  • 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:

fuji xf23mm f2 v fuji xf23mm f1.4Fujifilm 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.

fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm 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.

I like to shoot my weddings from the “inside looking out”, rather than the “outside looking in”

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.

fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm 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.

The new focus ring, by the way, is sweet.  It’s wider than the 35mm F2 one which I found a little difficult to manoeuvre.  The MF of the lens is basically perfect to me.

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.

fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm XF23mm F2 @ f/2, 1/125th Second, ISO 400

fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm 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.

fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm XF23mm F1.4 @ f/1.4fuji-xf23mm-f2-wr-3Fujifilm 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….

fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm 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.

fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm 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”.
fuji xf23mm f2Fujifilm 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)
  • I couldn’t agree more!
    I’ve had my 23 f2 for a week now (on my X-Pro 2), and I have been thoroughly impressed – but like you, there have been several times that I checked to see if the AF even worked because it’s so quiet and so fast! What a great problem to have 🙂

  • Bob Owen

    Always enticing articles Kevin and a pleasure to read

  • I know the options are the 23mm F/1.4 lens, the X100T and now the F/2 WR Lens. What is the performance between your X100T VS this new lens for speed, focus, etc. Some people may decide to just get the X100T as a second body with permanent lens attached and if they are both F/2, it would work fine. I guess I’m asking about the performance of X100T body VS which body you would put this new lens on? I personally have an X-T10. One day I will upgrade to probably and X-T2, but that is way down the road. So I guess I am wondering the differences with the X100T VS new F/2 WR Lens on any Fuji X Body?

    • Hi Elaine – I’m fairly sure (though I haven’t measured it technically), the F2 on the XP2 and Xt2 is a lot faster than the X100T in terms of focus speed.

      • Yeah, I kind of figured. Thanks.

      • Lyubo

        And of 1.4 vs. 2.0, since you have both ? 🙂

    • Richard Pålsson

      I have an XT1 and I bought a used X100S insted of a wider like 23mm lens. When I walk in the nature I often have the 50-140 or 100-400 atached and instead of changing lens I have the little X100 easy accesble. This is new for me but I love it so much.
      Give it some thoughts.
      You can see some of my pictures made by both on my Instagram “ripal”
      Look in # for xt1 or x100s

  • Stephen Scharf

    Oh man, Kevin, your work is just *killer*! I love it, you are a source of inspiration to me every time I see it, my friend. Like you, no matter what other cameras I own, I’ll never give up my X100T.

    Best,
    Stephen

  • Tim

    …but the funny part: it´s not 23mm – more like 21mm. For the first time the angle is wider than the 23 on x100 and 23/1.4… Good for my work, but…

  • Pavel

    What I am missing is comparison with X100T. To me this lens just makes X-Pro a (lot) bigger X100. So what is your reason to use it instead of just using X100T? is it just because the X100 line still hasn’t been updated to the new sensor, AF, etc., or is there some other reason to use this lens for street or wedding?

    • Quicker to focus, weather sealed etc. Its a very different ecosystem to the X100 range.

  • nsm

    Sir, looks. great. you are my #1 personal fav and inspiration. Please consider leveraging your weight and requesting make a 16mm f2 that is of similar size to the 23 f2….

  • Hi Kevin,

    Always love hearing your thoughts about new Fuji products and this review is no exception. One thing I noticed in the bokeh comparison shots of the camera is that the color rendition appears to be slightly different. Is this due to a change in camera settings or is there indeed a difference in how colors are rendered. If they are different do you prefer one over the other?

    • Hi Vinnie – this is more than likely the difference in light coming through the window. I’ve certainly not noticed any specific difference.

  • Jeff

    Hi!

    If you could only keep one, which one would you keep? The F1.4 or the F2?
    I have neither but I’m looking for a 23mm. I too almost exclusively shoot with available light. So I’m guessing the 1.4 would be the better choice.

    • If I could only have one, I’d go for the F2 easily.

  • Marek

    Nice review/discussion…thanks.

    I would second leveraging your weight…but for a 14mm f/2 of similar size weight to the now 23 & 35. If Fuji could have the focal length equivalent for 35mm field of view of (21mm, 35mm, and 50mm…all in a small f/2 weather sealed package)…wow what a nice small prime kit for travel and walking about.

  • Hi Kevin..from Bach to Guns n Roses, now that’s what I call a wide musical taste, but as you like wide (f2) I shouldn’t really be surprised! (do you listen to YES)

    Robin

    • Indeed I do. I have Close to the Edge on vinyl 🙂

  • Rashed

    Hi, great review, site and photos, I’ve been following for some time and a fan. I was wondering if you’d tried the 23mm F2 on the XPro1? I have the XPro1 and the X100T and toying with the idea of selling the X100T and keeping the XPro1 and get the 23mm F2. I know AF speed won’t be as fast as on the XPro2 but with the new motor etc would it be comparable to the X100T? Thanks in advance

    • Hi Rashed – you know I haven’t actually used my X-Pro1 in quite some time now. That said, you are right, it will be faster (though not as fast as XPro2) as the motor in the lens itself is quicker.

  • Peter

    Hi Kevin, thanks for the informative thoughts. Is f2 enough for low light churches and indoor wedding venues in your experience (so you only resort to the 1.4 at night)? I would love to switch to the new f2 primes for faster AF and the smaller size.
    By the way, will you be “reviewing” the upcoming 50mm f2?
    Thanks in advance,
    Peter

    • Hi Peter – I think in some cases F2 might not be enough, but I always have my 56mm f1.2 on the other body. It’s probably only during the winter where the F2 won’t suffice during the day.

      I haven’t yet purchased the 50mm F2. If I do, I’ll obviously put some images online.

  • Morten

    H Kevin, I very much appreciate your review. I’m debating between the 23mm f2 WR on my X-Pro2 vs. the new X100F.

    You stated somewhere above that you would keep your x100T.

    I can only assume that you still prefer the X100 series for street because of smaller size and unobtrusiveness – and overcome the slower focus (I assume this is still the case for the x100F?) by using back-button focus and / or zone focus, is that it?

    I’m having a hard time deciding between a 23mm f2 for my XP2 as a daily carry vs. x100F.

    I had the x100s and loved the size, but not so much the AF, and sold it as soon as I got to work on the RAWs from the X-Pro2. The new sensor is just so much better I would find it hard to give that sensor advantage up for low-light. With the x100F the sensor is improved, but I assume the AF is still the same?

    Could be I need to rethink my shooting technique as well – would be great if you would elaborate a bit on how you overcome the slower AF on the x100T/F for street?

    • Hi Morten – the sensor in the 100F is the exact same as the one in the X-Pro2. AF Speed for me, was fine on the 100S and very good on the 100T. It’s better still on the 100F – but I shoot with BBF and I can shoot very quickly with it.

  • Morten

    Thanks Kevin! I assumed the Af was more or less the same on all the x100’s (I’ve only ever owned the x100s) but glad to hear that Fuji have gradually improved the AF on the x100 series too. Will have to try it to get a feel for it I guess. Just tried BBF on my X-pro2 – it feels strange initially, but I used to do BBF on my Canons back in the film days, so I know I can do it 🙂

  • hi Kevin, great work and inspiration, love your BW images & stories … Selling all my Nikon gear after 10 years and starting my new wedding season on 2x XPro 2 ! Can’t wait .. GOODBYE NIKON ! HELLO FUJI !
    Best
    Branislav