Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R - Reviewing a lens I bought tree times
The XF 23mm f/4 R was highly anticipated
Many X-shooters had high hopes when this lens was released in 2013. I was one of them and purchased the lens for my X-Pro1. Before this, I had used an X100s for a couple of months and while the X100 line is highly praised with many photographers it never hit a strong note with me. The X-Pro1 / XF 23mm f/1.4 R felt more substantial. It had a certain heft and the dials and aperture are easier to work and are more to my liking. The fact that I was used to heavier SLRs in 2013 could have something to do with this. My main camera at the time was a 5D series from Canon. But it still holds true today. I was toying with the idea of an X 100F leading up a three months travel stint over the summer of 2018, but again the switch did not feel right to me. This, of course, is a very personal choice.
I bought the XF 23mm f/1.4 R three times
I actually sold my copy of this lens with a bundle which included my X-Pro1 but purchased a second copy as soon as I got an X-T1, before leaving for an 18 months travel stint in early 2016. When my X-Pro2 and XF 23mm f/1.4 was stolen in 2016 I repurchased the lens again, now for the third time, along with a new X-Pro2. I have since used it with the X-T1, X-Pro2 and X-H1 in a variety of work situations and mainly for lots of travel.
How does the XF 23mm f/1.4 R fit into a kit?
At 35mm full frame equivalent, this is a classic documentary style focal length and along with my XF 35mm f/1.4 R (53mm equivalent), these two lenses are my most often used for street photography. For a day of shooting, I will often leave with just one of these. In part, I like the challenge of just having one lens do it all, and the second issue is bulk/weight. I feel freer when not burdened with any extra accessories or lenses. I currently have a four lens kit, XF 14mm, 23mm, 35mm and 90mm. During a six week period travelling through China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand I chose to travel with just two lenses. I picked the XF 35mm f/1.4 and XF 14mm f/2.8 and I can’t say I missed the 23mm or 90mm too much. The two were left behind as they belong in the heavier end of Fuji primes. For six weeks of travel in Europe this past summer however I chose to take the 23mm. I am glad I did and I made a point of using it more.
XF 23mm f/1.4 R compared to the XF 23mm f/2 R WR
The 23mm f/2 WR was not available when I first purchased the f/1.4 version. To this date, I am actually not sure which of the two I would prefer. Looking through images online I prefer the images from the f/1.4 version. The weather sealing, lower weight/price, and faster AF are certainly appealing and I think I will try it out at some point. I have only tried it very briefly. I rarely shoot the 23mm wide open at f/1.4 as I find the bokeh various quite a bit depending on the background, distance to your subject and shooting situation. Sometimes it is rather magical and at other times it falls short and looks rather harsh.
As you can see in the above photos I have replaced the standard hood with a 62mm vented metal hood. It takes up less space in my backpack and it is easier to take the cap off and on when using one hand, as the lens now sits level on a table. I only use the standard hood in very bright light and rainy conditions as if does offer more protection. The vented hood has a third benefit and constructed with the optical viewfinder in mind on the X-Pro2. It blocks your view less. I almost always use the EVF so this point is not that important to me.
For more stories and photos check the travel blog
Below are a few of my favourite captures from the past three years.