If you ask any diehard Fujifilm X series photographer what their top 3 favourite lenses for the system is, there’s a very good chance that the XF35mm f/1.4R will be among those lenses. It was the first lens I bought for my X-Pro1 back in the day, and it has served me with so much joy ever since. To this day I still answer without a doubt in my mind that it is the best lens in the Fujifilm XF lineup. Not because it is a perfect lens, ’cause it is exactly he opposite of that. It flares like crazy, it renders a bit soft at wide open aperture and it has slow external autofocus.
But it is very special! Some people say it’s magical, but as I wrote in my XF50mm f/1 R WR review HERE, there’s no such thing as magic in lens design. It’s all about optical design decisions, optical lens element choices and what characteristics the designers pour into their optical diagrams. To me Fujifilm created the perfect lens right away with the XF35mm f/1.4R, but it’s getting old, and while those of us who have been using the X series since the beginning still adore its “flaws and character” the new breed of Fujifilm users are not as forgiving.
They want clinical sharpness, ultra resolution, gorgeous bokeh, fast & precise autofocus as well as weather sealing.
And Fujifilm is here to deliver!
During our discussions in Tokyo back in 2018 regarding the startup of the X-Pro3 project we discussed a Mk2 version of the XF35mm f/1.4. But the “all element external focus” build is such an integral part of that lens design, that making it WR and having blazing fast internal AF is really not easy. I think this fact is a very big factor when they decided to build a new lens from scratch. Instead of going the 35mm f/1.4 mk2 route, Fujifilm went ahead and made a brand new lens. Brand new optical formula. Brand new glass. Brand new housing. A lens for the future.
To find the design cues for the 33mm f/1.4 R LM WR one has to look no further than the recently released new XF18mm f/1.4 R WR. After todays reveal it’s all too evident that the insane quality from the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR was merely a predictor for what is to come. A first of a trilogy of lenses of fast aperture classic prime focal lengths that Fujifilm completed with todays launch of the XF23mm f/1.4 R LM WR and the XF33mm f/1.4 R LM WR. For classic documentary- and street photography these three focal lengths is probably all you would ever need.
So when I dive into the build and feel of these new lenses, it will merely be a repetition of the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR build and feel runthrough.
But 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 XF33mm 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, the XF33mm 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. The 18mm f/1.4 has a 62mm front filter thread where as the XF33mm f/1.4 and XF23mm f/1.4 both feature a smaller 58mm filter thread.
The lens weighs approximately 360g and measures 73.5mm in length. So it is smaller than the XF18mm F/1.4 R WR in both length and diameter.
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 – 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 XF23mm f/1.4 R WR.
The focusing is internal. Meaning that you don’t have a protruding barrel like the XF35mm f/1.4 R. This ensures better possibilities for weather resistance as well as faster autofocus performance. Both features that is indeed included in the XF33mm f/1.4 R LM WR.
All in all the new XF33mm f/1.4R WR is very very well built, it has the perfect balance on the X-Pro bodies and it just feels like a very premium product through and through! – Just like the XF18/1.4 and the new XF23/1.4.
Even though the XF33mm f/1.4 is very well-built I still need to address the biggest let down with this lens. And that is the size of it. Even as well balanced as it is on my X-Pro3, it is still a significant step up in terms of size when comparing it to the XF35mm f/1.4. Without the hood, the XF33mm f/1.4 is as big as the XF35mm f/1.4 with its lenshood attached. It’s not a big deal, but for me it matters, and I know it will matter to a lot of people out there.
Of course I’m not impervious to the fact that this is because of sheer physics. The XF33mm f/1.4 consists of 15 lens elements (!!!), including two aspherical elements and three ED elements, in 10 groups. WR and fast Linear focus motor. Physics dictate a certain amount of mass for all of that to happen. Nothing is free, and in the case of the XF33mm f/1.4 R LM WR the extreme quality comes at the cost of added size.
Below are the technical specifications for the XF33mm 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. Fujifilm threw ALL the good stuff into this lens.
|Lens||XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR|
|Build||15 elements in 10 groups (includes 2 aspherical and 3 ED elements)|
|Focal Length||f=33mm (50mm)|
|Aperture Range||F1.4 to F16|
|Aperture Mechanism||9 blades (rounded diaphragm opening) – 1/3EV stops (22 steps)|
|Close focus distance||30cm|
|Dimensions||φ67mm x 73,5mm – 360g – 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, 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 XF33mm f/1.4 R WR is nothing less than amazing. And of course it blows the old XF35mm f/1.4R right out of the water! The XF35mm f/1.4 doesn’t stand a chance in this comparison with its old external focus mechanism.
I shot the XF33mm f/1.4 as I have always shot my 35mm. In any situation, mostly street photography and photos of family and friends. And the autofocus improvements really shines through. I missed about zero intended shots due to AF shortage. Something that I’m not exactly used to with the XF35mm f/1.4. This is a huge usability improvement for sure!
Well, actually I’m not going to dive too far into this trait in this section since the big 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 XF23mm f/1.4 as well as the XF33mm 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. Fujifilm has made a build where the focusing group is placed “mid-lens” and includes two ED elements and one aspherical element. They state that this is “to reduce fluctuation of aberration caused by the movements of focusing elements, securing superior image quality across all focusing range from close-up to infinity”. I don’t know the technicalities behind all of this, but all I know is that this lens is insanely sharp, no matter the distance to subject.
Regarding 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.
Bokeh and flares/sunstars
Contrary to the 18mm focal length, the 33mm focal length is often used for more portraiture based photography where subject separation from the background is quite important to the final image. So the importance of good rendering of the out of focus areas is hence greater.
The quality of 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. So they definitely took one of the best traits of the old XF35mm f/1.4 and put it into this lens.
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 does exhibit a little bit of optical vignetting meaning that the specular highlights will get a little more cat-eye shaped the further you move from the center of the frame.
A shared trait between the XF18/1.4, the new XF23mm f/1.4 and XF33mm 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 XF33mm!
The coating of the lens makes damn sure that irregular flares doesn’t interfere much and cause lowered contrast. I tried so damn hard to make it flare this summer, and all I could really get was gorgeous sunstars. SO I guess that’s a success! There is absolutely no ghosting and unwanted flaring with this lens.
But just look at the example below shot at f/16. It really speaks for itself. Obviously directly into the sun, but also at a bit of an angle. Those are some very well controlled flares!!
Conclusion and sample images
There will never be a replacement for my beloved XF35mm f/1.4R. That lens is beyond special to me. I’m in love with its quirks and tradeoffs. I’m also in love with its soft yet sharp (I know…🙄) rendering. Its so unique, and I have yet to see it recreated outside that lens. But the fact is that as camera technology moves forward the XF35mm f/1.4 will struggle even more with AF performance and resolution issues.
This is why Fujifilm HAD to do a complete makeover for their fast normal focal length prime. They needed to make a future proof lens.
The XF33mm f/1.4 R LM WR is close to the 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. The only downside is its added size, and come on, it’s not even that big.
I think that this lens will find its way into the camera bags of quite a few X-series shooters out there. Will it replace my XF35mm f/1.4? Hell no! Nothing ever will. But it will indeed replace my XF35mm f/2. The XF33mm f/1.4R LM WR is an amazing lens, and a peep into Fujifilms APSC future. And it looks quite bright!
The XF33mm f1.4R LM WR has a suggested retail price of USD799$ 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 XF33mm 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.