Gear Inspiration Reviews

Why I love the Fujinon XF35mm f/1.4 R

· 8.June.2015

My relationship with the Fujifilm X system started when I put my hands on the X100S. It was not a carefully planned, deliberate purchase. Rather a coincidence – sudden and intuitive decision made in front of my local photography store. I was looking for a small camera to carry around. A couple of minutes later I already knew that I had just made one of the most important steps in my photographic life. I fell in love with this camera.

Fast forward a couple of months: my DSLR equipment was going on sale and I started replacing my system with Fujifilm components. Next things in the shopping cart happened to be the X-E2 and the XF 35mm f/1.4 lens. Today my X arsenal consists of three cameras (X100T, X-T1 and X-E2) and a couple of lenses (10-24, 18-55, 35 and 56). Among all these Fujifilm products there are two items, which has absolutely won my heart: the X100 series (currently the X100T camera) and the XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens. The latter being one of the most miraculous the most miraculous piece of photographic equipment I have ever used. How ironic it seems to be that exactly those two pieces (X100T and XF 35mm f/1.4) will never ever be able to work in tandem.

Venice, Italy. X-T1, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/125 sec.

“Venice, Italy”. X-T1, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, ISO 320, f/5.6, 1/125 sec.

There are certain characteristic of every single lens produced on this planet, that are usually being taken under the loupe by the most experienced lens reviewers: sharpness, presence or lack of chromatic aberrations and purple fringing, vignetting and distortion, quality of the bokeh, and – last but not least – the built quality of the lens itself. It does not happen very often though, that the reviewers comment on lenses’ personality or on the character of the images they produce.

With the XF 35mm f/1.4 R Fujifilm has succeeded to produce a lens with its own, absolutely unique character and soul. Every time when using this lens I have a feeling similar to interacting with a human being. This lens seems to have its good and its bad days. It is in many ways unpredictable. Its focusing speed abilities are not stellar, it struggles with a backlit situations. Once you get to know it though, once you agree to be patient and accept its quirks, it can provide you with some absolutely amazing images.

"My daughter is falling asleep". X-T1, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, ISO 3200, f/1.4, 1/140 sec.

“My daughter is falling asleep”. X-T1, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, ISO 3200, f/1.4, 1/140 sec.

When people ask me if this lens produces sharp images, I always have this moment of hesitation before giving them the answer. To my eyes the images from the XF 35mm f/1.4 have the most pleasing quality of sharpness I have ever experienced from any lens I have used. They are, in fact, tack sharp BUT AT THE SAME TIME THEY ARE SOFT. Yes, I will have difficulty here to explain you what I mean. What I am trying to say is, that these images have a natural look, which is very close to how our eyes see the world. I find this look so pleasant, so satisfying that I end up grabbing this lens more than any other Fujifilm lens.

“Christoph”. X-E2, XF 35mm f/1.4, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/480 sec

There is an entire set of features, which sums up for a wonderful product, which this lens is:

  • the f/1.4 maximal aperture, which allows producing visually stunning images, separating subjects from the background and producing the most wonderful bokeh
  • the 35mm focal length, which is the equivalent of 53mm – very close to the field of view of human eye
  • its tiny size and robust build quality, which gives you a reliable feeling even in bad weather conditions
  • its elegant metal (yes!) lens hood
  • its “glass-molded aspheric lens at the 5th element, which minimizes spherical aberration” and (that’s what my gut feeling is telling me) is responsible for this unique image character I was writing above

It was introduced on September 21st, 2011, together with the X-Pro1. It is one of the “oldest” Fujinon lenses for the X series, which only adds to its uniqueness. Fujifilm was able to produce a lens, which passes the test of time with ease.

"Lucerne, Switzerland". X-T1, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, ISO 400, f/1.4, 1/200 sec

“Lucerne, Switzerland”. X-T1, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, ISO 400, f/1.4, 1/200 sec

As you may probably know, Fujifilm is going to release another 35mm lens later this year: the XF 35mm f/2 R WR. Other than being weather resistant, I really can’t see any other reason for exchanging my current 35mm for the new lens. Another miracle would have to happen in order to Fujifilm producing something even better than the XF 35mm f/1.4. It will be really interesting to see what the price on the new lens will be and who and why will end up buying the new lens.

"Zurich, Switzerland". X-E2, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, ISO 500, f/1.4, 1/200 sec

“Zurich, Switzerland”. X-E2, XF 35mm f/1.4 R, ISO 500, f/1.4, 1/200 sec

I am definitely sticking to my XF 35mm f/1.4 R. Thanks, Fujifilm for creating such a gem.

Below a couple more images I took in Venice this year using my favourite Fujifilm lens: