After picking this lens up right before we left for Rarotonga, I’ve been trying to use it as much as possible. For me personally it’s a new experience & while at first thought an easy focal length to use, technically its quite a challenge to use well. It’s a wide focal length but not that wide, everything kinda looks normal, without a weird distorted look while still fast enough to be able to achieve enough subject isolation. You really have to consider your background almost as much as your foreground subject to tell the story with this lens.
The xf23 or “35mm” focal length is one that I’ve never really lusted over in 15 years of photography and instead have grown to absolutely love the xf35 or “50mm” prime lens for reasons I will discuss in another post. I have to admit I was not super excited for this focal length, but I got an offer I could not resist to enter the notoriously expensive realm of (hopefully) great 35mm masters. I was also subdued by a couple of friends who live and die by 35mm. Even if I kept having a sour thought that it would be just like shooting with my Iphone, I took the plunge to see what all the fuss is about.
I guess the first impressions are this lens is its fast and silent compared to the xf35, but it also makes the xf18-55 zoom look small! Its got quite a girth to it and definitely not a toy (300g). There’s obviously some serious glass inside (11 elements in 8 groups) and i guess the auto focus motors to make it all move. It not only has a dedicated aperture ring but also a pull back manual focus ring with distance scale. You know Fujifilm is serious when they include this into the design. I think the only other lens with this feature is the xf14mm. In a few words, its creamy smooth, sharp, punchy and delivers photos with that something extra. Very similar to the amazing xf56 or xf35. Addicting to shoot with and see the results that is for sure!
Its pretty easy to look at this lens with false hope of a compact lightweight mirror-less system but not all hope is lost if we quickly compare a similar 35mm 1.4 lens’s like the Sigma ART that weighs in at more than double the weight.(665g) The fact is we need lenses like this, and unfortunately only so much form can be compromised for stunning image quality & function. The lens hood is bit of a monster but it does a job, reduces flare & ghosting while shooting outdoors in bright sunlight while also protecting the large front glass element.
For me the xf23 incorporates its subject into its surroundings. It captures quite a lot of the background and even if you get close there is still enough to show your subject in context. The 1.4 aperture offers enough subject isolation so that your eyes focus on your subject while still gathering a tonne of background information. Its a versatile lens that is wide enough for a range of subjects. This is quite different to say my other favored prime length the xf35 (50mm) in that you have so much direct attention of your subject with even more background blur and narrow framing to really make your subject pop with little distraction.
Why you need this lens: Subject isolation in a wide surrounding. Low light indoor shooting, gigs, restaurants etc.
A normal focal length covering a wide range of subjects from landscapes to portraits.
Use it to tell the whole story of a scene while allowing you to get up and personal with your subject.
Manual focus pull back ring with scale (still focus by wire). Fast aperture & wide focal length great for Astronomy photographers.
Why you don’t need this lens: You enjoy using the xf18-55 zoom, the image quality is almost there, the xf23 does render just that something a little extra but not all is lost. Turn it to the indicated “23” and get shooting! It wont have quite the same subject isolation but you will see if you like the focal length.
You enjoy using the smaller lighter prime lenses: try the xf18, xf27, or xf35 instead.
Your a “bokeh-holic”: choose the amazing xf35 or xf56 for more blurry bits!
Your a dedicated landscape photographer: Grab the wider xf14 or xf10-24 zoom!
I genuinely hope there is something that helps you make a decision in here or at least enjoy the sample pictures at the end. I’ve tried to include a little of everything, and that is exactly what this lens is about! I look forward to doing a small review of my xf35 lens shortly!