Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 Review: MTF Performance
Fuji clearly applies some funky optical corrections to its JPEG images. While it certainly helps push sharpness in the center all apertures, it strangely results in decreased mid-frame and corner performance between f/1.4 and f/2.0. In addition, Adobe software automatically applies optical corrections to Fuji’s RAW files, making it impossible to see what corrections do to images. Since I measure MTF performance using Imatest and DCRaw, the below results reflect lens performance without any corrections, so you can see what the real optical capabilities of a lens are.
It is extremely important to point out that cross-brand comparisons with Imatest data should never be done. Meaning, you should not compare data from a Nikon lens to a Fuji lens. That’s because Imatest analyzes the lens + camera combination to quantify lens performance. This means that such variables as sensor resolution, image processing pipeline and low-pass filter could have a serious impact on the produced data.
For example, the Nikon D810 can yield fairly large numbers in Imatest, thanks to its 36 MP sensor and lack of a low-pass filter. If I were to mount the exact same lens on the D750 (which has a 24 MP sensor and a low-pass filter) Imatest numbers would be noticeably smaller. That’s why I never change cameras when testing Nikon lenses and always stick to my D810, which is my standard for evaluating lens performance on the Nikon system. Similarly for the Fuji system, I decided to standardize on the Fuji X-T1, which I will be using for all lens tests going forward. I recognize that Fuji might release a higher resolution camera in the future, but my tests will still have to be done with the same X-T1 to stay consistent.
Let’s take a look at the lens performance measured by Imatest:
The center performance is quite decent wide open at f/1.4 and it shines at f/4, which is its sweet spot. Corner performance is not as good as the center and the mid-frame (but that’s expected from a fast prime) – it starts out a little weak at f/1.4, but improves as you stop down, reaching the best performance at the f/5.6 mark.
In summary, there is not much to complain about this lens sharpness-wise. When shooting JPEG, it seems like there is little difference between f/1.4 and and f/5.6 in the center (which is remarkable), thanks to the smart lens corrections applied by Fuji. Corners are a little weaker at large apertures, but that’s about it. When shooting RAW, results will vary depending on what RAW converter you use. Based on my tests, I would say that Photo Ninja is probably the next best thing to JPEG images.
The quality of bokeh from the Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 can vary depending on how bright the light sources and reflections are. I found bokeh to be very smooth and beautiful when the source of light is large and not as bright. However, if the source of light or the reflection is very bright, the lens tends to produce onion-shaped bokeh that can be distracting to look at. Take a look at the below image:
As you can see, the “layered” highlights are clearly visible in the middle portion of the frame where the highlights are fairly strong. However, if you look at the left side of the image where the highlights are not as strong, the onion shape is much less pronounced. I would not be too concerned with this, since you would not encounter such strong highlights very often in everyday photography. Plus, I would not expect a standard lens to create flawless bokeh – that’s more in the court of specialized portrait lenses.
A bokeh comparison between the Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 and the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 can be found in the Lens Comparisons section of this review.
As for vignetting, the lens shows a little darkening in the corners wide open, but it is not too pronounced. Imatest measured approximately 1.26 EV on average in the extreme corners and if you stop down to f/2, it is reduced significantly. By f/2.8, all traces of vignetting are practically gone, as illustrated below:
If you are bothered by what you see wide open, you can take care of vignetting easily using post-processing software like Lightroom or Photoshop.
Here is the worst case scenario illustrated at f/1.4:
Ghosting and Flare
Thanks to Fuji’s proprietary Super EBC lens coating, the Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4 seems to handle ghosting and flare pretty well, especially at large apertures. There is a little bit of rainbow flare visible when shooting straight into the sun at large apertures, but it is not bad. However, when including bright sources of light in the frame at smaller apertures past f/8, you might witness something called a “red dot flare“, which can be very distracting to look at:
This happens as a result of internal reflections and short flange distance, and it is something that can be commonly seen on pretty much every mirrorless camera. So if you see that in your images, keep this in mind and try to use larger apertures to avoid the problem.
Distortion is surprisingly low, whether you shoot JPEG or RAW. Imatest measured just 0.16% barrel distortion on JPEG images and 0.18% on RAW images. Looks like there is very little correction of distortion taking place.
Chromatic aberration levels are quite low, as shown below:
Let’s move on to lens comparisons and see how the lens stacks up against the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8.
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