By now it should be no secret to the long time readers of this blog that I started my Fujifilm photography career with the X100 in 2011 and added the X-Pro1 with the XF35mm f/1.4 shortly after. I have been using that combo of focal lengths ever since, upgrading the cameras with every new iteration while still shooting 95% of all my photographs using those two focal lengths. Between the two, the 23mm is the one that I connect with the most. I often say that I see the world in a 23mm APSC equivalent focal length.
I have always loved the XF23mm f/1.4, while the XF23mm f/2 never spoke to me that much since the quality wide open always felt a bit lacking and I always used my X100 series when I needed a 23/2 lens.
But the 23mm f/1.4 has always done me good, and it has served me with some of my most beloved images. So when I learned that Fujifilm was to launch a new version of the XF23mm f/1.4 my first thought was that it was unnecessary, since the image quality was already stellar with that lens.
But, oh my, was I in for a surprise. They completely reimagined this lens, and made what I consider the best XF series lens to date! Yes, even better than the XF18mm f/1.4 and todays co-released XF33mm f/1.4. So le’s have a look at this latest lens offering from Fujifilm.
Before we get going as always, I’ll be courteous and write down my usual disclaimers.
Feel free to skip everything but number 3
Disclaimer 1: I’m an X-photographer. That’s spelled brand ambassador for Fujifilm. I don’t get paid for doing these write ups (and I have been doing them even before getting involved with Fujifilm). This means that I’m just about as biased as I can get, and whether you choose to believe my views or not is entirely up to you. I expect you to be adults, capable of forming your own opinions based on presented information.
Disclaimer 2: All the images in this article has been shot using an early prototype of the XF23mm f/1.4R LM WR. Image quality might therefore not be final – But it’s so insanely good, that I think it is.
Disclaimer 3: All shots with- and of the product has been shot by me, and is not to be used without my explicit permission.
Build and Feel
Just like the XF18mm f/1.4 and XF33mm f/1.4 R LM WR, the XF23mm f/1.4 R LM WR REALLY feels at home on the X-Pro1-2-3 bodies. On this particular series of camera bodies it feels just right. Not at all front heavy. Whereas the 18mm f/1.4 has a 62mm front filter thread, the XF23mm f/1.4 R WR and XF33mm f/1.4 both feature a smaller 58mm filter thread.
The lens weighs approximately 375g and measures 77.8mm in length. So it is slightly longer than the XF18mm F/1.4 R WR but with a diameter of 67mm its not as “fat” as the 18mm f/1.4.
But in general the XF23mm f/1.4R LM WR seems like the biggest lens of this new fast prime trilogy.
Obviously it is built to the usual XF lens build quality standards. This means metal mount, metal barrel, metal focus ring and metal aperture ring. It’s really well built and really sturdy. Even though it’s an all metal construction Fujifilm managed to keep the weight down while keeping the lens sturdy and solid. It feels absolutely great.
The focus ring is super smooth. It turns infinitely since its still focus by wire. And it is just as smooth as on the XF18mm f/1.4R and the XF33mm f/1.4 – Next level build quality from Fujinon.
The aperture ring clicks in 1/3rd stop increments. It clicks firmly, and it won’t accidentally get knocked out of place. This is also exactly like with the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR and the new XF33mm f/1.4 R WR.
Just like the predecessor, the 23mm f/1.4 R LM WR has an internal focusing method without a protruding barrel. This ensures better possibilities for weather resistance as well as faster autofocus performance.
Fujifilm did away with the pull-back focus clutch of the old 23mm f/1.4. Something that some users will miss, and others will not. I’m in the latter category.
While they took away the pull-back clutch, they added something much more important. The WR label. This lens can be brought along in any kind of weather without you having to worry about it getting wet. As long as you use one of the WR Fujifilm camera bodies, you’re good to go.
All in all the new XF23mm f/1.4R WR is also very very well built, it has the perfect balance on the X-Pro bodies (which I use) and it just feels like a very premium product through and through! – Again, just like the XF18/1.4 and the new XF33/1.4.
Compared to the old 23mm f/1.4, this new lens is a bit longer, but also has less girth. The build feels better and a lot more sturdy. Not that the old one felt flimsy. This just feels better. Also the aperture ring is much more firm than on the old 23mm f/1.4, whose aperture ring could easily be knocked out of place by a simple slide across my waist.
Just like the XF33mm f/1.4, this lens consists of 15 lens elements (!!!), including two aspherical elements and three ED elements, in 10 groups. It has WR and a new fast Linear focus motor. Physics dictate a certain amount of mass for all of that to happen. Nothing is free, and just like the case of the XF33mm f/1.4, the extreme quality of the XF23mm f/1.4R WR comes at the cost of added size. – But compared to the old one, it really isn’t than much bigger.
Below are the technical specifications for the XF23mm f/1.4 R LM WR lens. Worth noting is the Linear Motor build, the 2 ASPH and 3 (!!) ED elements lens configuration as well as the WR build. Just like with the XF33mm f/1.4, Fujifilm threw ALL the good stuff into this lens.
|Lens||XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR|
|Build||15 elements in 10 groups (includes 2 aspherical and 3 ED elements)|
|Focal Length||f=23mm (34,5mm)|
|Aperture Range||F1.4 to F16|
|Aperture Mechanism||9 blades (rounded diaphragm opening) – 1/3EV stops (22 steps)|
|Close focus distance||19cm|
|Dimensions||φ67mm x 77,8mm – 375g – φ58mm|
|Weather resistance||Yes, with temp down to -10°C|
There are are couple of things from the above chart that I need to highlight, and explain in further detail
Autofocus – Linear motor build
Just like with the XF18mm f/1.4 R LM WR and the XF33mm f/1.4R LM WR, it’s quite nice that Fujifilm built this lens around a very fast and silent linear motor. Usually this type of motor is used in the way bigger lenses within the Fujifilm X series where the amount of glass that needs to be pushed to attain focus is way bigger.
But when Fujifilm decided to build their new small’ish fast prime trilogy around this type of AF motor they ensured autofocus performance that is absolutely incredible. Just like with the XF18mm f/1.4 this lens is among the fastest lenses within the XF lens lineup to lock focus.
I must say that the autofocus capabilities of the XF23mm f/1.4 R WR is nothing less than amazing. And of course it blows the old XF23mm f/1.4R right out of the water! And I actually still find the original XF23mm f/1.4 to be among the fastest focusing lenses of the lineup, but the autofocusing capabilities of this new 23mm is just a whole different experience. The autofocus improvements really shines through in all of my day to day street- and lifestyle photography. As with the XF33mm f/1.4 I missed about zero intended shots due to AF shortage. Something that I’m not exactly used to with the old XF23mm f/1.4.
Close Focus ability
This is something that I know so many people enjoy from the XF16mm f/1.4R WR, and recently the XF18mm f/1.4R WR. That super close focus ability combined with a wide FOV and a shallow aperture option gives the images a completely unique look and feel that I have yet to see outside the Fujifilm ecosystem.
The XF23mm f/1.4 R WR will focus just as close as the XF18mm f/1.4. (the 18mm focuses to about 20cm – 11cm from the front of the lens, while the 23mm focuses to 19cm and also around 11 cm from the front of the lens) And add to that the slightly longer focal length you actually get a little bigger magnification ratio with the 23 (0.2x) compared to the 0.15x from the 18mm. Combined with that f/1.4 aperture you can really get creative with your close up photography.
This is actually something that the old XF23mm f/1.4 wasn’t able to do. It has a near focus distance of 28cm, leading to a magnification of merely 0.1x.
Well, actually I’m not going to dive too far into this trait in this section since the analysis of image quality is straight below. But just note this, from looking at the optical diagram of this lens you know that it’s bound to be very very good. 15 elements. 10 groups. 2 ASPH elements and 3 Extra low dispersion elements! This lens is so optically corrected for any distortion and stray rays that it’s not even funny. It’s quite literally insane! – Fujifilm also note that these new lenses are capable of resolving up to 40mp! This is the same for the XF18/1.4, the new XF33mm f/1.4 as well as the XF23mm f/1.4. This obviously makes me wonder what’s in store for us in the coming years in terms of the sensors in the coming X series cameras. Exiting times indeed!
Once again, let’s discuss IQ, shall we? This is after all the most important aspect of this product.
This lens has 2 aspherical lenses and 3 ED lens amongst its 15 lens elements, spread across 10 groups which effectively minimize chromatic aberration and spherical aberration, delivering edge-to-edge sharpness even when wide open. Regarding said sharpness, it really doesn’t matter if you shoot this lens at f/1.4 or at f/16. Sharpness is very very good, clean and consistent. Given that obviously at f/16 you will start to see spherical abberations which are largely inevitable.
The sharpness is very very good at the center, and middle of the frame, losing only a tiny bit of sharpness towards the corners. But already at f/2 the corners clean up and gets close to center sharpness. This is exactly the same as on the XF33mm f/1.4 and XF18mm f/1.4, however I do think that the best corner sharpness comes from the 23mm f/1.4. It’s very sharp even in the corners.
Bokeh and flares/sunstars
When launching the old XF23mm f/1.4 Fujifilm really highlighted the fact that it renders beautiful out of focus areas. They really emphasised that as a leading trait of that particular lens. And indeed the old XF23mm f/1.4 has some of the most soft and beautifully rendered bokeh within the XF system. It’s way up there with the XF50/1 and the XF35mm f/1.4.
And exactly like the XF33mm f/1.4 the bokeh reminds me a lot of that of the XF35mm f/1.4R which is widely regarded as some of the best bokeh from any lens of the XF system. I would actually say that it has better OOF quality than it’s predecessor. So again, well done Fujifilm!
It has nice smooth specular highlights with no onion rings, hard edges or anything like that. It’s just super smooth and very pleasing.
The bokeh doesn’t seem to exhibit the same amount of optical vignetting as the XF33mm and XF18mm f/1.4. Which means that the specular highlights won’t exhibit as much of a cat-eye shape the further you move from the center of the frame.
A shared trait between the XF18/1.4, the new XF33mm f/1.4 and XF23mm f/1.4 is the 9 aperture blades which makes for some stupidly nice looking solar sunstar flares. They look a lot like the sunstar flares you can achieve on the 23mm f/2 mk2 lens on the X100V – and I LOVE those sunstars! – Well, atually they look better on the these new prime lenses, and also this XF23mm!
The coating of the lens makes damn sure that irregular flares doesn’t interfere much and cause lowered contrast. I did manage to make it flare contrary to the 33mm f/1.4. But it was only at the harshest of angled sunlight without a hood attached. There is no ghosting with this lens.
But just look at the examples below shot at f/16. Just like with the XF18mm f/1.4 and XF33mm f/1.4 they really speak for them selves. Obviously directly into the sun, but also at a bit of an angle. Those are some very well controlled flares!!
Conclusion and sample images
Whereas I will forever be hard pressed to substitute my beloved XF35mm f/1.4 with a new version, the XF23mm f/1.4 R LM WR represents a different story. Fujifilm took an already great performer for the X series system and updated it with faster AF, WR, new high-resolution optics while keeping the size largely the same as its predecessor. The only thing they really removed is the pull back clutch, which I don’t miss at all.
For any X series 23mm shooter that doesn’t have an X100(STFV) in their arsenal, this lens is a no brainer. It’s way beter than the XF23mm f/2 in any measurable parameter, and the same can be said when comparing it to the old XF23mm f/1.4 – A lens that was already insanely good to begin with.
The XF23mm f/1.4 R LM WR might actually be my perfect prime lens! It has blazing fast, and silent, autofocus performance. It has weather resistance. It has incredible sharpness, well controlled flaring and gorgeous bokeh. I seriously don’t have anything negative to say about this lens!
It might be overlooked during todays presentation of the equally stunning XF33mm f/1.4, but let me just say that out of those two lenses – this beast of a 23mm f/1.4 lens is my definite favourite. This lens will surely find its way into my camera bag. Will it replace my X100V Hell no! Nothing ever will. But it will indeed replace my old XF23mm f/1.4 as well as my XF23mm f/2. The XF23mm f/1.4R LM WR is an amazing lens, that will set the bar for Fujifilms future lens development.
The XF23mm f1.4R LM WR has a suggested retail price of USD899$ and will be widely available from the end of September.
Below you’ll find a lot of images in the sample gallery. I tried to use this lens as much as I could these past two months during summer, so the sample gallery ended up quite big (again!! – so sorry). However, this probably gives a good indication of just how versatile the XF23mm f/1.4R WR is in day-to-day use.
All images can be viewed by clicking the gallery below. Download them at will and look at the EXIF. Everything is there. Knock yourselves out.