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Review: Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 X (X Series Lens)

by Chris Gampat on 07/20/2012

Update: As of July 2013, Fujifilm continues to deliver firmware updates to this lens that have made it only better and better.

As one of the first lenses for the Fujifilm X Pro series of cameras, the 35mm f1.4 is also currently the fastest aperture lens available on the market. As a 35mm focal length, it renders a near 52mm field of view on the X Pro 1‘s APS-C sized sensor with a razor thin depth of field. It was also designed as a throwback to older, more retro-vintage lenses.

But is the lens really worth putting into the bag of an X Pro 1 user? Indeed, mirrorless cameras can have so many lenses adapted to them.

Pros and Cons

Pros

- Exceptional image quality

- Jaw dropping sharpness

- Focusing speed has improved with further firmware updates, but still isn’t top notch

- Excellent metal build quality

- The finish will make it look like an old lens over time

Cons

- Still a bit too slow to focus in some situations, but when you have this kind of image quality, you really can’t complain all day.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the lens.

Performance
Focal Length 35 mm
Comparable APS-C Focal Length: 53 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/1.4
Minimum: f/16
Camera Mount Type Fujifilm X mount
Format Compatibility DSLR (APS-C Sensor)
Angle of View 44.2°
Minimum Focus Distance 11.02″ (28 cm)
Magnification 0.17x
Groups/Elements 6/8
Diaphragm Blades 7
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 52 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.56 x 2.16″ (65 x 54.9 mm)
Weight 6.60 oz (187 g)

Ergonomics

The Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 comes with a lens hood that in all seriousness should always be left on. If you leave it on, you’ll pretty much never need to use the lens cap for the lens or for the hood. In fact, the lens cap for the hood is quite flimsy and fell off a few times. So after a while, I just ditched it.

The hood is also odd in appearance in that it is perfectly circular and then becomes very boxy. At times, it makes me miss the lens hoods from Canon, Nikon and Olympus.

Around the lens is an aperture ring that works through electronic coupling. That is to say that stopping down doesn’t let you see the aperture ring opening and closing by itself.

The top of the lens is clearly marked so that the user can figure out what aperture they’re currently set to. Additionally, there is also a fairly large focusing ring ahead of the very thing aperture ring.

Want to go into full program auto mode or shutter priority? Turn the Aperture ring to the A mode for automatic.

Focusing

The 35mm f1.4 is slow to focus but that is also to blame on Fujifilm’s focusing system to begin with. Something that does irk me though is that the entire lens is also a focus by wire structure. That means that when I’m cranking away at the focusing ring, it will barely move the inner focusing elements. When you’re sick of trying to rely on the autofocusing and need to switch to manual focusing, this can be quite a pain.

Otherwise though, the lens works mostly well at all autofocus points that the camera enables.

Update: As of July 2013, the company continues to improve their focusing system, and it focuses speedily, but still not as fast and Olympus and Sony.

Image Quality

The 35mm f1.4 is truthfully best experienced if not wide open, nowhere past f5.6. Otherwise, you’re doing an extreme injustice to yourself by not taking advantage of the beautiful bokeh and extreme sharpness that the lens has to offer wide open. In my personal opinion and comparisons, this lens is just a tad softer than my trust 35mm f1.4 for my Canon 5D Mk II in the center. Granted (and I totally understand), they are two totally different lenses for different formats. But that statement is literally just to compare how far the technology has come along.

Most users of this lens will be extremely pleased with the image quality providing that the camera can nail the perfect focus for them. Paired with Fujifilm’s sensor, you’ll notice that you’ll get extremely sharp images even at higher ISO settings.

Something else that should be mentioned is the color rendering. As I’ve mentioned in my Fuji X Pro 1 review, the lens works together with the sensor to render images that look very close to Fujifilm’s line of films. For love sick photogs like myself, that means that the only way to shoot my beloved Astia is through this camera.

Paired with this lens, it looks just like the images came out being used with Zeiss glass. I say that because their rangefinder glass doesn’t have as much microcontrast as their DSLR glass, but it is still noticeable. And the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 does have some microcontrast indeed to make subjects pop.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Fujifilm X Pro 1 35mm f1.4 review (3 of 7)ISO 400

When the autofocus begins to bug you, you’ll sometimes opt for manually focusing instead. For the absolute best results, you should flip the camera into the EVF mode. This way, you can actually see what you’re focusing on with a full depth of field preview. And for manually focusing, you’ll begin to see that this lens is relatively easy to use and in order to create better images. In fact, I’d even go as far as saying that one should sometimes manually focus instead for street photography.

Sharpness

I’m not going to go into the results of intense pixel peeping, but what I am going to say is that the lens is super sharp wide open and only gets better when stopped down. I feel like it reaches its peak at f4 but there is never any reason to go beyond f2.8 or f3.6.

This lens is similar to the Voigtlander 17.5mm f0.95 in that when focusing through the electronic viewfinder, the lens was so tack sharp that I seemed to see a bit of focus peaking although this camera doesn’t have that at all. For all the flack that the Fujifilm focusing system takes, we should be happy that the lens is this sharp to work this well with the EVF.

When focusing out to infinity and stopped down to f5.6, every single thing will be tack sharp and you’ll also be able to crop to your heart’s content. In one test, I photographed a subject all the way across an NYC street. She was bleeding sharp.

For even more on the image quality though, it would be best to check out my full X Pro 1 review.

Ease of Use

The lenses from Fujfilm are extremely easy to use and one can tell that they were designed to primarily be used in autofocus mode. This is evident in the lack of a depth of field or distance scale and also in the fact that they are manual focus by wire. For most users, this is alright. For the ones that are nit-picky (like myself, and Fujifilm knows this) you may have to do a bit more work.

For their future lenses, I recommend that Fujifilm look long and hard at the Olympus 12mm F2: which still in my mind has to be the most brilliantly designed autofocus lens I’ve used.

Conclusions

When I made the purchase of the X Pro 1, I was torn between the 18mm f2 and this lens. I think I made the right decision due to the faster aperture despite the fact that I like shooting wider. Either way, this lens is a wonderful piece of glass that every photographer going into a mirrorless system should consider. Granted, it does have its contenders. Panasonic’s 25mm f1.4 and Voigtlander 25mm f0.95 may keep Micro Four thirds users locked in at the time of this publishing. Sony doesn’t have anything in the equivalent area to step into the arena, though some can argue that the 30mm f3.5 may be a suitable fit.

For me though: I’m actually extremely content with the X Pro 1 and the lens. And every time I pick it up, I get a certain nostalgia come back to me that reminds me of my days shooting with a Leica CL.

If you’re considering getting into the camera system, this is the lens to consider.

Update: As of July 2013, Fujifilm’s continued efforts to make this lens focus faster have greatly helped the performance of this optic via firmware updates. It is the lens that is often permanently glued to our cameras and nearly four other editors on this staff have purchased it.

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