Sorry for the clickbait-esque title of this article, but this is the most commonly asked question by many Fujifilm photographers via my various social media platforms: Which is better, the X-Pro2 with the XF23mm f/2 WR or the X100T? The second most common question: Which lens is better, the XF23mm f/2 or the XF35mm f/2?
Instead of comparing this with that, it’s better to talk about the entire XF xxmm f/2 WR lenses and how it compares with the f/1.4 lenses. It’s also better to talk about the benefits of having an all-in-one camera versus an interchangeable lens camera system. Another important factor is your photographic priorities. Is the overall size and weight more important to you than a slight improvement in image quality and autofocus speed? Obviously I look forward to the upcoming Fujfilm X100F, but that’s for a future post. This article is my first impression of the new XF23mm f/2 WR, and so far this lens is a incremental improvement to an already amazing lens lineup within the Fujfilm X ecosystem.
If I was forced to answer the first question, definitely the all new XF23mm f/2 WR is a superior lens to the 6 year old lens on the X100T (the original X100 was revealed at Photokina 2010). It’s sharper, faster and more accurate focus, less distortion and light falloff, ergonomically superior (easy access to aperture and focus ring), and I prefer the overall image rendering of this new lens. In fact, the way the new XF23mm lens captures highlight and shadows looks significantly different from both the XF23mm f/1.4 or similar design XF35mm f/2 WR, focal length aside. I have always been a 18mm (or 28mm equivalent) shooter for the majority of my photographic career (I adore my Ricoh GR series cameras), so I had to adjust to shooting with the new XF23mm lens. It wasn’t a difficult adjustment to make.
It’s actually easier to shoot with the XF23mm focal length versus my preferred wider 18mm. I found myself with a bit more breathing room between me and my subject, not needing to get as close to frame my image. The overall image is also more linear than the slightly wider 18mm focal length, great for shooting group shots of people or when having the least amount of distortion is important. Yes, the XF35mm is the ideal focal length for the most linear image, but sometimes I find the field of view a bit too narrow when shooting on the street. I often find I’m stepping back a few steps to get my shot with the XF35mm lens, where the XF23mm is always at the perfect distance between me and my subject. I spent some time with Singaporean X Photogapher Aik Beng Chia in Hong Kong and he was also testing the new XF23mm lens. It’s perfect for his style of street photography, and he said the autofocus speed and accuracy on the new lens was spot on. I found it very quick as well, much quicker and quieter than the older XF23mm f/1.4. I also did a side-by-side comparison with the XF35mm f/2 WR, and I found the XF23mm f/2 WR slightly faster, less hunting and more accurate. This could be more about the wider focal length with a shorter focus throw, but it’s something to consider if you want a fast focusing lens for close to mid-distance photography.
This is just my first impressions of this lens. I will be taking it along with the new X-T2 on an upcoming trip and really put it to the test. My lens kit for this trip will be the XF14mm f/2.8, XF23mm f/2 WR and the XF35mm f/2 WR. My guess is that the XF23mm will be my main street lens since the AF is so snappy and accurate. The image rendering is also fantastic and I look forward to see how this lens performs in low light. Fujifilm is going in the right direction with these fast prime f/2 WR lenses. I wrote an article on this subject here on FujiLove last summer, and I’m happy that Fujifilm has decided to widen their range of prime lenses, much like the Leica prime lens model. My hope is the other f/1.4 lenses will soon have their own f/2 WR version (XF16mm, XF56mm); and perhaps Fujifilm will consider a manual-focus-only version of the XF23, XF35 and XF56 lenses in the near future. For now, the new XF23mm f/2 WR is my favourite prime lens in the entire line-up. Getting back to the title of this article, I would definitely choose the new XF23mm f/2 WR and X-Pro2 over the X100T. Compared to the new sensor, the older X-trans sensor just can’t keep up. It’s hard to go back once you’ve used the new 24mp sensor and new pro processor. In terms of the lens, I’ve never liked the X100’s 23mm f/2 lens, although the overall package I’ve always enjoyed. The edges are too soft and the AF too slow and inaccurate. The real competition is when the new X100F (‘F’ for ‘Fourth’ version, ‘T’ being the ‘Third’) comes out in early 2017. Since the lens should be all new and with the latest 24mp sensor and pro processor, the upcoming X100F will be a serious contender against the X-Pro2 and XF23mm f/2 WR lens combo. For now, let’s just say the new XF23mm f/2 WR lens is the best that Fujifilm has to offer at this focal length currently in terms of price, size, weight and IQ. Happy shooting.