When Fujifilm first created the X-System, they came out of the gate with three outstanding prime lenses…a unique decision in today’s world where zooms are considered the bread and butter of a system, especially in the consumer market. It set a note for what the X-System would become.
As Fuji fleshed out the system, shooters increasingly became anxious for a fast prime that would give them a 35mm full frame equivalent field of view. At last, this past fall, Fuji came through with the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R. Let’s see if it was worth the wait.
If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective. You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here. There are plenty of other sites that cover those. I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting.
Around the Lens: Build Quality and Handling
The XF 23mm f/1.4 is a solidly built lens constructed of metal and high quality plastics. The lens body is entirely constructed of lightweight metal, most likely aluminum. The lens feels reassuringly solid without being too heavy. It’s a relatively large lens for a mirrorless camera, but it doesn’t overwhelm the camera body. Due to its light weight, the lens handles well on any of the Fuji X cameras and there’s something about the looks of the lens that tells you it means business.
The aperture ring is easily moved and features click stops every 1/3 stop. The ring moves smoothly and without any slop, but I wish the detents were a bit firmer, as it is rather easy to bump the ring and change the aperture accidentally.
The focus ring is wide ribbed metal. The XF 23mm f/1.4 features the same focus clutch mechanism that first debuted on the XF 14mm f/2.8. This allows you to quickly switch to manual focus simply by pulling back on the focus ring. The focus ring moves smoothly and quietly and feels excellent in the hand. While there are hard stops at either end, the lens still focuses by wire, and you can hear the focus motor stepping through the range while manually focusing, which is slightly annoying.
The lens comes with a very large petal shaped hood. I know Fuji designed the hood to be the most effective it could be, but the extremely modern and ungainly hood design meshed with the wonderfully classic design of both the lens and the Fuji X camera bodies creates a disjointed effect. The hood feels out of place and unusually large. I honestly would have preferred a slightly less ‘effective’ hood that was smaller and more in-line with the rest of the lens and camera design. I’m not usually a form over function kind of guy, but as you’ll see in the image quality section, the 23mm is very resistant to flare, so I’m not sure the excessive hood is needed.
I tested the XF 23mm f/1.4 using the brand new Fujifilm X-E2, which features phase detection autofocus (PDAF) for the first time on a Fuji X-System interchangeable lens camera. The 23mm f/1.4 had average autofocus speed when the camera utilized only contrast-detection AF (CDAF), about on par with the XF 35mm f/1.4, or perhaps a hair faster. This is what you can expect in low to medium contrast areas and when using the lens on an older X-Series body.
When the phase-detection system kicks in, the lens focuses nearly instantly. This is something I will discuss further in my upcoming X-E2 review, but the XF lenses focus extremely quickly when phase detection is used, and the 23mm is no different. While there is a slight chirp when the lens focuses with phase detection, in CDAF, you can tell the micro-motor in the lens is a little louder than I’d like. I’m not quite sure why Fuji can’t put their silent linear motors that are present in the Fuji zoom lenses into their prime lenses.
One thing I did notice is that the 23mm tended to miss focus occasionally, throwing up the red AF box in situations where most any other XF lens is fine. I’m not sure what’s going on there exactly, but it happened enough with the 23mm mounted for me to notice it. The vast majority of the time, the autofocus locked quickly and accurately, but there were more AF failures than I’ve experienced with other lenses since the X-E1’s big firmware update earlier this year.
17 thoughts on “Review: Fujifilm Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 R”
Hi, there was a firmware update released when the X-e2 was launched which was intended to improve AF performance of some lenses. Was your camera using the latest firmware?
The firmware updates you speak of were for the older XF lenses to enable PDAF capabilities. The 23mm came with that out of the box, and the X-E2 has no firmware beyond the launch 1.0 firmware. So, yes, all firmware was up to date.
That gavel photo is awesome!
May I ask what you used to post-process the courthouse photo? And what parameters?
Love the colors and overall impression of that photo!
Thanks! That was a pretty minor edit. I did some minor exposure and saturation tweaks, and then did some selective clarity in Lightroom – increasing it on the tree and decreasing it a little on the background to help the tree pop a bit more. I also added a bit of a vignette.
I wonder if you have tried taking infrared images with the 23mm, and if so, how did you find it? Were there any hot spots?
absolutely love the sunset bench photo! It has depth, color and lots of mood, can almost imagine sitting on that bench watching the sun go down.
Well done! Wish they had such a lens on the Sonys 🙂
Hi,I’m looking at getting a setup using the XT-1 for travel writing and tourism in New Zealand, also on an 800 km walk through parts of Europe and a trip to west Africa, trying to keep weight down and be as minimal as I can, I would really like to get some advice regarding lense choices, there will be a lot of street shots and landscapes etc, not interested in animals just people and surroundings. Thanks in advance.
Dear Jordan Steele,
Thanks for this great review,
I’m thinking to buy Digital Camera APSC,
Nikon D5500 or Fuji X-E2S, but the problem with APSC sensor there is no real 35mm lens, the only option is to use either Nikon 24mm F1.8 or Sigma 24mm F1.4 both in the same price range also Fuji 23mm f1.4 in the same price range,
I don’t care about the View finder or the camera size or weight,
If I Buy X-E2S with 23mm f1.4 with it produce sharper image than D5500 with Sigma 24mm 1.4 Art lens
Can I rent these lens with the camera
Sigma 20mm f/1.4 DG HSM
Sigma 24mm f/1.4 DG HSM
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM
and send it to you then you make the compare between them and X-E2 with 23mm
to see the difference in sharpness in the center and corner like the compare between FE35mm F1.4 and 23mm
If you don’t mind is there any way to contact you about that, I’m interesting about Digital Camera and I like to share info about that or give some help to share info for people as like what you do.
Haider from IRAQ
Very useful, thank you. I am a newcomer to the Fuji system who has just bought a second-hand x-pro1 to fool around with my Nikon glass. So far, I am delighted, although I do not see this system as being capable, so far, of replacing my Nikon stuff but merely as a joyful complement. I plan on getting some fuji lenses and the 23mm and 35mm are on my shortlist but I keep questioning my self whether to get the 1.4 or 2.0 versions. Your review reinforces my belief that the 1.4 versions are more suitable to what I look for when I shoot. Thank you. BTW, there are nice photos in your portfolio, I’ve just checked out your instagram as well.
Many years later…
Thanks for your extensive review of the Fujinon XF 23mm f/1.4 lens. I’m in the market for a 23mm lens. I have the XF 27mm f/2.8 and although I think it’s a very good lens, a 23mm will probably be more suitable for me. Also, both 23’s feel a bit better in use. The question is; which one is best for me? After reading a lot of test and reviews, including yours, I decided to give the older f/1.4 model a try. The older XF lenses are not as refined and sometimes even a little quirky, but the image quality is very good. I like the fact that the 23mm is optically corrected for distortion and that images taken at wide apertures are useable. This makes it a very good low light moderate wide angle. Thanks again and have a great day.