Fujifilm’s 10 year anniversary of the X Series as an interchangeable lens system is weeks away. The original X-Pro1 was announced in January of 2012, which began the X Series as a fully fledged camera system. Leading up to this special anniversary, Fujifilm has promised new products that will point forward to the next 10 years. To kickstart this campaign, the engineers have given us three new prime lenses that showcase the future of Fujifilm’s professional-level prime lenses. During this year’s X Summit Prime event they announced two new lenses, the XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR and XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR, in addition to the previously launched XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR.
During the X Summit Prime event, Fujifilm promised new concepts for the next ten years, which includes the idea of ‘More Sharpness’. These three new primes were examples of this, although most believe that the full potential of these lenses won’t be seen until they work in conjunction with the upcoming stacked layer back-illuminated BSI X-Trans CMOS sensor. I had the opportunity to test all three lenses and I can definitely see the optical improvements with all of them. However, I do feel the true potential will be unleashed with a brand new sensor and processor. –
First of all, all three lenses are the best primes Fujifilm has made from an optical perspective. Each lens is very sharp, the micro-contrast is great and chromatic aberrations are very well-controlled, even wide open. Of course, the lenses sharpen up along the edges as you stop down but even wide open, these lenses are optically sound. Because of the linear motor, the focus is faster than its previous counterpart, although the stepping motor design in the Fujicron’s (XF23mmF2 R WR, XF35mmF2 R WR, XF50mmF2 R WR) is still faster. However, you’re moving larger and heavier glass in the new f/1.4 lenses, so the autofocus speed matches the type of optics we’re dealing with. All three lenses use an effective floating lens design to obtain quick and quiet autofocus. This is why you can hear the elements shifting when you have the camera turned off and you shake the lens. However, this is normal, so do not fret. It’s part of the design.
For many, the reason to buy fast aperture lenses is the ability to shoot wide open and get quick, accurate autofocus, as well as pin-sharp images. All three lenses focus quickly, quietly and accurately, especially when mounted to the latest X Series bodies. I tested all three lenses on the X-T4, X-Pro3, X-S10, X-T30 II and X-E4. The focus speed and accuracy remained consistent across all of these camera bodies, which isn’t surprising since they all share the same sensor and processor. Although the XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR will give the most compression due to its 50mm equivalent focal length, the XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR will give the most magnification due to its close focus distance. The XF18mm shows the least amount of bokeh from the same distance, but there’s enough pop in the subject to have them stand out from the background or foreground.
I had the opportunity to test both the XF18mm and XF33mm extensively and have reviews on both lenses here at FujiLove. I had the pre-production copy of the XF23mmF1.4 for a couple of weeks, but I was told the optics were not final (the lens coatings would be different in the final production copy) so I refrained from conducting a full review. However, all three lenses exhibited similar optical qualities that I really enjoyed. The bokeh wasn’t overly busy, the center sharpness was superb and, stopped down, all three lenses exhibited a beautiful sunstar-starburst effect. The XF23mm had the most beautiful starburst effect, with the longest and clearest pointy arms.
If you are in the market for a high-performance prime lens for your X Series system, I would recommend either the XF33mm or XF23mm. Although the XF18mm is my favourite focal length for the X system, I think most would prefer to shoot somewhere between 35mm and 50mm equivalent. If you already own the XF35mmF1.4 R and are primarily a stills shooter, I think you should wait before ‘upgrading’. Yes, the autofocus is much improved on the new XF33mm, but optically I could not see a huge difference between the two lenses except for chromatic aberration. I think we will see a bigger difference between these lenses when the new sensor and processor combination is released next year. If you have the older XF23mm lens, I think an upgrade is worth it, unless you really like the clutch focus system. If you are a 28mm equivalent shooter, the new XF18mmF1.4 is an amazing lens, albeit big and heavy compared to the XF18mmF2. However, there is no comparison between these two lenses. The new XF18mmF1.4 outperforms the XF18mmF2 in every category except size and weight.
In conclusion, the new XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR, XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR and XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR are future-proof lenses for those who want top-notch images from their Fujifilm X Series cameras. Compared to their Fujicron counterparts, these lenses are bigger, heavier and more expensive, but you are rewarded with superior image quality and construction. If you’re a FujiLover that likes your camera kit compact and light, these lenses are not for you. Stick to the Fujicrons. However, if you’re growing your X Series lenses into professional tools, one of these lenses should probably be in your collection. The upcoming X Series cameras in 2022 with the new stacked layer back-illuminated BSI X-Trans CMOS sensor will take full advantage of these new lenses, most likely resolving at a higher resolution than the current 26 megapixels we’re getting now. Moreover, according to Fujifilm, if you’re looking for ‘more sharpness’ these are the lenses you should be looking at right now. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!