A True Workhorse – The Fujifilm XF35mm f/1.4 R Lens

 

As always, full disclosure time. I’m not paid, sponsored or endorsed by Fujifilm in any way. I purchased this lens with my own hard earned cash and as such the thoughts contained in this article are strictly my own opinion. This isn’t a paid advertisement, nor was I compensated by Fuji to write this review. 

I bought my first Fujifilm X Series camera back in June of 2014 with the 18-55mm and 55-200mm lenses. I still planned on shooting my Nikon Full Frame camera setup for all my “serious” work and using the Fuji X-T1 and those two lenses just as my day to day walk around camera that would be just for fun.

That was it, the end of my Nikon days. After nearly a year of not even taking my Full Frame Nikon gear out of the bag, I parted ways with the rest of that gear and used the money to more fully outfit my Fuji X Series set-up as my one and only system. Fuji stole my heart away from Nikon and the first lens I bought, aside from the two I got the day I bought the camera, was the amazing Fujifilm XF35mm f/1.4 R. So after a solid 2 and a half years of use I thought it was about time to talk about this fantastic piece of glass that has become my most used lens without a doubt.

Some quick backstory for you. Before I made the switch to the Fujifilm X Series my primary Nikon set up was using a full frame D700 with a set of lenses that included almost entirely prime lenses. It was the 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 85mm prime setup with a cheap 70-300mm thrown in just in case I needed a little reach for something. Out of that setup the 50mm and 85mm lenses were my two most used primes by far, it wasn’t even close. So on the APS-C Fujifilm X Series, it was natural for the 35mm to quickly become one of my most used lenses.

What can I say, I’m a prime short to mid telephoto kind of guy I guess. Let’s get to the good stuff shall we?

The Technical Side

The XF35mm f/1.4 R (called just the 35mm from here on out) is a 135mm, or full frame equivalent, of ~53mm. It was Fuji’s original offering for a standard “Nifty Fifty” in their initial lineup. This 35mm was one of just 3 original lenses released at the launch of Fujifilm’s X Series and it’s held up beautifully.

The lens weighs in at about 187g (without the caps and hood) with overall measurements of 65mm in diameter and 54.9mm long. It’s constructed of 8 elements in 6 groups including just 1 aspherical element. It has a 7 bladed aperture diaphragm with rounded blades and a near focus limit of ~28cm or just over 11 inches.

Phew, you still with me? Good! That technical stuff can be a mouthful. To simplify that, it’s a fairly small lens, doesn’t weigh much and has a round bladed aperture diaphragm which will help make your out of focus areas(bokeh) smooth and uniform. Think of those nice round balls of light out of focus in the background when you photograph a Christmas tree. Oh, and because it will focus as close as about 11 inches you can get fairly close to your subject while maintaining focus.

Build Quality:

In terms of build quality, this lens is fantastic. Extremely solid feeling while still being ultra portable. The aperture ring on the lens has a smooth yet solid feel as you click through to change the aperture settings. If you shoot video, this is a pain in the rear, but as a photographer it’s very nice to feel that solid click as you spin the ring.

Speaking of rings, the lens has a solid feeling large focus ring on the front half of the lens, making it super smooth to manually focus. Though in fairness, if you are used to traditional manual focus, this will take some getting used to as it’s actually what is called focus by wire. That means when you spin the focus ring there is no hard stop at either end, rather it’s relaying information to the camera and electronically focusing…in a nutshell.

It is the lens I use most often, including being the lens mounted on my small Fuji X-T10 that I carry with me every day. I won’t say it’s taken a beating, because I really don’t beat on my gear, but it’s been well used and has held up perfectly. Before I get the emails saying how “camera gear is meant to be used, it’s just a tool so stop babying your gear”, I want to be clear in saying that I’m not intentionally banging it into things, dropping it, leaving it sitting out in a downpour…things like that. I don’t baby my gear, it’s well used but also well cared for because I’m not made of money and I need my gear to last as long as it can! All cool? Can we skip those emails and messages? Awesome, thanks!

Image Quality:

In terms of image quality, what can I say that you haven’t already heard preached from the mouths of almost every Fuji X series user. Absolutely beautiful. Stunning. Perfect(nearly). Seriously, this little lens is still one of the most used lenses for photographers trying to capture some of that special Fuji look in their work. Because of the f/1.4 aperture it’s very fast allowing for excellent out of focus (bokeh) in your images while also allowing you to shoot hand held in much lower light conditions that normal. Couple that with the terrific high ISO performance of most of the Fuji X Series lineup and it’s a combo that has caused many photographers to drift into natural light and has them leaving the flashes at home. Sharpness is terrific, maybe some slight softening when wide open, but that’s for the pixel peepers to cry about. Colors are those fantastic Fuji colors we’ve come to love, really this lens is NEARLY perfect.

I say nearly because I do run into situations when shooting wide open where I’ll get a decent amount of green/purple chromatic aberration(fringing). Most of it cleans up fine in post pretty easily though so it doesn’t bother me. To be honest, most of the time it’s not a major deal to me so I don’t do anything other than the automatic fringe correction in Adobe Lightroom. All in all though, the image quality of this lens is fantastic.

One other thing to know about this lens, the dreaded damning of the autofocus performance. Being one of the original lenses in the XF line-up, it’s running on old tech. As such the autofocus can be a little slower, can hunt a little more in low light and is a little noisier than the current line-up of lenses. Unless you are shooting fast action sports, birds or wildlife it’s never been an issue for me. I think it’s one of those things that while technically true, gets blown out of proportion by most people.

As they say in the info-mercials, “Don’t Take My Word For It”! Here are some more examples of the versatility of this lens!

Of course, this lens is great for not just landscapes and nature photography, I use mine regularly for portrait and wedding work and it’s literally my go to day to day walk around lens for 90% of my shooting!

Final Thoughts

This lens is easily my most used lens in my bag. The versatility of the 35mm(50mm) focal length, the ability to still get some background separation and creamy bokeh, the fact it’s very fast at f/1.4 which means I can shoot hand-held in dim lighting conditions, it all adds up to being a pure joy to use. The size of this lens feels so perfect and balanced on the Fuji X-T1’s I shoot with currently, I’m not sure there’s a better combination of lens and camera.

If I have to point out a few flaws, it would be the things I already mentioned. Autofocus can be a bit slow and/or hunt in certain lighting conditions. It does make a little noise while focusing but I hardly notice it anymore and the occasional issues with chromatic aberrations can be annoying at times, but none of this takes away from my enjoyment of this lens.

I don’t have any experience with the newer 35mm f2 lens, though I’ve read plenty of articles about how they fixed the autofocus issues and made it perfect. At the same time I’ve read many other articles about how the 35mm f2 lens, while fantastic, just doesn’t give the same unique Fuji look as this old trusty f/1.4 version. If I were rich, I’d own both and a couple of X-T2’s instead of a couple of X-T1’s, but I’m not so unless the good people over at Fujifilm US want to give me some new gear I’ll be still rocking the classics!

All in all, this lens really should be in your bag if you ask me. Which, if you’ve read this far, you’ve basically asked me so I say pick one up if you don’t already own it!

In the near future, I’m debating about setting up the affiliate links to help support the ability to do more reviews and some new fun things here. BUT, I also haven’t decided how I want to approach that so in the meantime if you enjoy what I’m doing here on my Journal and would like to support me I only ask that you hit those SHARE/TWEET buttons down below and let people know about it! I sincerely appreciate it!

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