Lens Sharpness and Contrast
Thanks to the advanced optical design that incorporates a number of corrective lens elements, the performance of the XF 14mm f/2.8 R is outstanding. Many modern lenses cannot resolve much detail on extremely high-resolution cameras, but it is not the case with this lens – it is as sharp on a 16 MP camera as it is on a 26 MP one, which is pretty impressive. Take a look at the lens performance, as measured by Imatest on the Fuji X-H1:
As you can see, the lens is sharp already at f/2.8 in the center, but stopping down to f/4 yields much better sharpness, especially in the corners. If you are a landscape photographer and want to know the sweet spot of the lens, I would say it is f/5.6 – that’s where you see maximum corner performance. Any smaller aperture reduces sharpness due to lens diffraction, especially if you stop down past f/8.
The XF 14mm f/2.8 R has superb contrast, which is expected from all high-quality Fujifilm lenses.
When it comes to bokeh, don’t expect to see phenomenal rendering of out-of-focus areas from wide-angle lenses that feature aspherical lens elements (and in the case of the XF 14mm f/2.8 R, there are two of them). Aspherical glass makes background highlights look like onion rings, which is distracting. While the XF 14mm f/2.8 R can focus as close as 0.18 meters, I personally don’t like the way it renders bokeh, and perspective distortion can also be a bit too extreme at such close distances, especially when photographing people.
Here is a sample image that I captured at f/2.8, at a fairly close focusing distance:
Note how distracting the background highlights are, especially towards the edges of the frame.
Speaking of distortion, while perspective distortion can certainly be an issue at close distances, the actual lens distortion is basically non-existant on this lens, which is very impressive. Imatest measured just 0.11% barrel distortion on RAW images – that’s basically within the margin of error. If you are planning to photograph anything with straight lines, the XF 14mm f/2.8 R is the perfect candidate for the job!
As for vignetting, depending on whether you shoot JPEG or RAW, it can vary from very little to fairly extreme. Since Fuji applies lens corrections automatically to JPEG images, you will see no signs of vignetting in the resulting files. However, if you shoot in RAW format and you use third-party post-processing software that does not apply lens corrections automatically, you might be surprised by how much vignetting you will see in your images.
Imatest measured over 2.5 stops of vignetting at f/2.8, which is quite a lot. Although stopping the lens down reduces vignetting below 2 stops, it still stays above 1.4 stops, even at f/8. Take a look at the below graph that illustrates the problem at different apertures:
Personally, I am not bothered by vignetting issues, since they are easy to address in post. And if you use Lightroom or Capture One, you don’t need to worry at all – lens corrections will be automatically applied to all imported RAW images.
Ghosting and Flare
Thanks to Fuji’s proprietary Super EBC lens coating, the Fuji XF 14mm f/2.8 R seems to handle ghosting and flare pretty well at any aperture, even when stopped down past f/8. Take a look at the below image, captured at f/11:
As you can see, there are no ghosts anywhere in the frame. There is a little bit of “red dot flare” around the sun star, but that’s expected to see from most mirrorless cameras.
Lateral chromatic aberration levels are quite low, as shown in the below chart:
Imatest measured about half a pixel of lateral chromatic aberration at all apertures, which is very good.
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