Update: the price of the new Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4R lens has been changed to $899 (ass opposed to $849 listed previously on B&H)
Fujifilm has announced one of the most anticipated lenses in their current line-up, the XF 23mm f/1.4. When mounted on one of Fujifilm’s X-mount cameras, this lens behaves much like a classic 35mm f/1.4 lens does on a full-frame camera in terms of light gathering capability and angle of view. In terms of depth of field, it is closer to a 35mm f/2 lens on full-frame, which is still very, very good – it is currently the fastest lens in its class for APS-C sensor cameras. To say the least, we are excited, but not at all surprised. Partly because of Fujifilm’s lens roadmap, of course. But partly because fast, high-quality lenses is what we have come to expect from Fujifilm. Let’s talk about this lens in a bit more detail.
1) The Technical Bit
It is a beautifully designed lens with a focal length of 23mm and aperture range of f/1.4-16. As you would expect from this manufacturer, in addition to the usual focus ring, the lens also has a dedicated ring to control the 7-blade rounded aperture and that, along with the XF designation, marks it as Fuji’s high-end, professional optic. Along with the focus and aperture rings, Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 lens has an engraved distance and depth of field scales, which street photography and landscape enthusiasts will be quick to appreciate.
A side note: at this point you may remember that two of Fujifilm’s X-mount lenses do not have an aperture ring. One of them is the XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, which is a lower-end lens (thus the XC designation). The other is the tiny XF 27mm f/2.8 lens. While it belongs to the higher-end XF series, it is simply too small to hold an aperture ring.
With 11 elements (one of which is aspherical) in 8 groups and Fujifilm’s special coatings to reduce flare, you should expect Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4R to have a similar build quality to previous XF lenses with a mixture of metal and high quality plastics. The lens can focus down to 28 centimeters (11.02″) to achieve a rather uninspiring magnification of 0.1x. The Sigma 35mm f/1.4 that we praised so much in our review manages a slightly more impressive 0.19x magnification. But then, the new Fujinon is a moderate wide-angle lens, so what should one expect? Such a specification should hardly concern potential users.
The XF 23mm f/1.4R weighs in at mere 300 grams (0.66 lb). With filter size of 62mm, it is 72mm (2.83″) in diameter and 63mm (2.48″) in length. These dimensions are slightly larger than those of Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8R and modern 50mm f/1.4 DSLR lenses, such as my beloved Nikkor AF-S 50mm f/1.4G (it is shorter, but slightly wider in diameter than the Fujinon). The price of the XF 23mm f/1.4R lens makes it the most expensive in Fujinon XF series at $899, along with the XF 14mm f/2.8R lens.
2) What is So Good About It?
This focal length (rather, the equivalent on full-frame cameras) has long been considered a classic and very useful for all kinds of photographic applications. That is probably part of the reason why Fujifilm used this focal length on its popular X100 and X100s cameras. Being on the wide side of normal angle of view, it is hard to call exciting. It will not provide you with an emphasized sense of perspective as a wide-angle lens would, nor the compression of background blurring capabilities of a telephoto lens. However, much like classic 50mm lenses, when used properly, it can be used in a very wide range of situations from photojournalism, street photography and group portraits, to environmental portraits, landscapes and still-life. Unlike the 50mm lens, however, it is also very useful in cramped spaces, where the former may become too tight. The fast aperture of f/1.4 helps make sure you have enough light under most circumstances. I personally know a lot of photographers who, when equipped with a 35mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.4 class lenses, can go through a whole wedding and never need another lens. That is also my personal favorite duo, although at the time being I often have to substitute the slightly more flexible 35mm f/1.4 with a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera not permanently owning a 35mm lens myself, yet. This XF 23mm f/1.4R lens, coupled to a Fujifilm X-Pro1 or X-E1 body, might just change that soon. I just find it the perfect angle of view for most of my photography with the 85mm following close by.
We try not to jump at conclusions here at Photography Life as much as we can. However, if the rest of Fujinon XF lenses are of any indications, this new lens should prove to be a brilliant performer. Possibly as good as Fuji’s popular XF 35mm f/1.4R. What is even more impressive for us is how Fujifilm keeps releasing well-judged optics in terms of focal length and aperture. Sure, systems such as m4/3 have more lenses on offer. Still, with 9 own lenses (with more to come) and 2 designed by Zeiss, Fujifilm X-series mirrorless camera system is swiftly becoming one of the most complete on the market, and definitely one with the fastest lenses in terms of aperture.
As always, we will be able to give you our detailed opinion as soon as we get a copy for a review. Until then, we can’t wait to see Fujinon XF 56mm f/1.2R released!
3) The Price
At first, a price of $899 may seem a bit steep for such a lens, but actually is not. For example, the Sony E-mount only Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 costs a whopping $1100 normally (currently with an instant rebate for $898). The other cheapest lens in a comparable class is the great Sigma 35mm f/1.4, but it is designed for full-frame DSLRs. Considering Fujifilm’s status as a premium compact camera system, the pricing of the new XF 23mm f/1.4R lens seems to be close to what should have been expected. After all, based on its specifications, it is a professional-targeted lens. At the same time, it is nowhere close to Zeiss pricing policy. My guess is this new Fujinon will prove to be very popular.
4) Official Press Release
Here is the official press release by Fuji. Note how Fujifilm’s announced price is different from that of B&H. A typo?
FUJIFILM LAUNCHES ULTRA FAST FUJINON XF23MM F1.4 R WIDE-ANGLE LENS
Valhalla, N.Y., September 5, 2013 – FUJIFILM North America Corporation today announced the new FUJINON XF23mm F1.4 R, a premium wide-angle lens designed to work seamlessly with the award-wining line of X-Series compact system cameras.
The FUJINON XF23mm F1.4 R has a focal length equivalent of a 35mm lens, and is ideal for a wide range of applications including portraits and landscapes, as well as everyday photography. The fast maximum aperture of F/1.4 allows users to shoot hand-held in low light conditions and achieve sharp images, while also delivering beautiful bokeh for artistic images.
“Fujifilm is committed to expanding the X-Series line of high quality FUJINON lenses, and today’s announcement brings the total number of available lenses to nine,” said Manny Almeida, senior vice president and general manager, FUJIFILM North America Corporation. “The new XF23mm gives photographers everything that they want in one lens: speed, performance and versatility, and we know this new lens will exceed our users’ expectations.”
Ideal Lens for Everyday Photography
The new FUJINON XF23mm F1.4 R provides enhanced resolving power with crisp contrast to draw maximum performance out of the highly descriptive X-Trans CMOS sensor. The fast F/1.4 aperture allows the user to reduce blurring in low light conditions and achieve stunning shallow depth to field photography.
The FUJINON XF23mmF1.4 R features a camera-to-subject distance indicator and a depth-of-field scale on the barrel. Both are useful when manually pre-focusing to capture a fast moving subject, or minimize the shutter lag to capture a fleeting moment.
Lens distortion has been reduced to an absolute minimum using only optical rather than digital correction, thereby delivering the highest possible picture quality. The rounded seven-blade diaphragm ensures smooth bokeh even when shooting portraits or product shots at a medium aperture to maintain reasonable depth-of-field.
High Speed Autofocus
The FUJINON XF23mmF1.4 R uses an internal focusing system which incorporates a lens group consisting of three cemented lens elements and one aspheric lens element in order to keep weight down. Additionally, the built-in high-torque DC coreless motor delivers ultra-fast AF performance for the most demanding shooting opportunities.
All lens elements are treated with Fujifilm’s multilayer HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating) which delivers enhanced durability and ensures an even spread of light across the sensor.
Compact Size and Premium Design
The FUJINON XF23mmF1.4 R weighs 10.6oz and measures just 2.48” in length making it the most compact and lightweight lens in its class. Metal parts are used for the focus and aperture rings, which are designed to give just the right amount of torque and feel.
FUJINON XF23mmF1.4 R key features
- 35mm equivalent F1.4 lens
- Fully compatible with FUJIFILM X-Mount
- 1 lens group consisting of 3 cemented lens elements and 1 aspheric lens element
- Built-in high-torque DC coreless motor
- Seven round-edged aperture blades, which offer 22 stops in 1/3 EV steps
- Lens elements treated with Fujifilm’s multilayer HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating)
- The FUJINON XF23mm F1.4 R will be available in October 2013 for $899.95.