At last! The most rangefinder-like of the mirrorless camera systems has a 35mm equivalent lens! We’ve always been a fan of SLR Magic’s lenses here on the Phoblographer and when we received the 23mm f1.7 in the mail, we were super stoked. It renders a near 35mm field of view on the cameras. Though Fujifilm themselves will be releasing one later on from the publishing of this piece, they were beaten to the cake by SLR Magic. We’ve spent a couple of days with this lens since seeing at Photokina, so far and we have to say that this one makes the X Pro 1 feels like the Leica cameras that I was trained on.
Pros and Cons
- Beautiful bokeh
- Fairly sharp wide open in the center and even sharper when stopped down
- Excellent ergonomics
- Solid build quality
- Corner sharpness isn’t the greatest
Specifications taken from the Adorama listing
|Compatibility||Fuji X-Mount: X-Pro-1, X-E1 camera|
|Focal length||23mm (34.5mm Fuji X-Mount)|
|Filter Size||49mm / 1.92″|
|Dimensions||Length: 61.3mm / 2.41″|
|Weight||265g / 9.34oz|
The SLR Magic 23mm f1.7 is an all manual lens that remains compact and extremely Leica-like in its ergonomic design. On a Fujifilm camera body, the lens seems to be much more at home than on a Sony NEX camera. Perhaps the reason for this is due to the fact that it has an exterior that harkens back to the classic lenses of old.
The front of the SLR Magic 23mm f1.7 is like many of their other current lenses. These lenses have a lens cap that screws on and is made of solid metal. I’m typically leaving the lens cap at home because it is slow to get off of the lens due to the fact that it is a screw based design.
The lens’s front element also stays right in place when focusing.
The SLR Magic 23mm f1.7 also has rings for control of aperture and focusing. They’re not too thin and not too thick, but instead they’re just the right size. However, the back ring for aperture control is placed very far back and you’ll need to basically get your fingers in and almost around the mount to open to close the lens’s F-stop.
The lens also has a working depth of field scale, and being a wide angle lens it won’t take very long before you’re focusing down to infinity.
For the price point, Fujifilm users are receiving one of the most solid and well built lenses I’ve seen for the system and perhaps even for mirrorless cameras as it is. The lens is comprised entirely of metal and it has even taken a bump or two while navigating the subways of NYC. The lens wasn’t affected at all by the hit.
The manual focusing ring is also exceptionally smooth and fairly accurate. The aperture ring is also smooth and clickless, though we’re not exactly sure why the company chose this option vs being a clicked aperture. In fact, when it comes to working as a street photographer I’m much happier with the clicks because then I know just how far I’ve stopped a lens down or not.
Ease of Use
The sheer simplicity of this lens combined with the fact that it is my favorite focal length makes me even more excited and in awe of this optic. All you need to do is focus and shoot. However, you’ll need to switch your camera to the EVF vs the OVF as there are no electronic contacts at all. In addition, we recommend that if you’re using the Fujifilm X Pro 1 that you get the right diopter for your camera to ensure the absolute and most accurate focusing. I’ve shot many times with this lens thinking that I was in focus when in fact I wasn’t.
That’s not an issue with the lens, it is with my eyesight.
Being an all manual lens, the SLR Magic 23mm f1.7 does not have autofocusing. Instead they opted for manual focusing. This works best for many true street photography nuts as they can just use the zone focusing style of shooting and capturing subjects. Focusing this lens is wonderfully smooth. In terms of smoothness I’d rate this lens as an overall better experience than Rokinon, Zeiss, Leica and Voigtlander. Rokinon optics in general feel very good but they’re not as all buttery smooth as this lens. Zeiss has changed their smoothness over the years. I own an old 58mm f2 lens from them and we’ve tested nearly all their DSLR still lenses on this site; and though the experience is a positive one every time, it still isn’t as nice as SLR Magic’s.
This lens isn’t too loose or too smooth–it’s just right.
To work more with the vintage appeal and aesthetics of this lens, we processed many of the images in this review with VSCO Film Tools 3–which comprises of instant film renderings and which are quite clear in this review. Overall image quality is pretty darned good, though it could be better. It will appeal to those that really love the film-like look and for those that don’t have the exceptional Lightroom Presets, you can take pride in knowing that when you use Fujifilm’s film renders, your images will look even more like that of film.
Throughout all of our frames that we shot, we found no vignetting or major problems. However, one of the major characteristics of this lens will make it appeal much more to film shooters.
One of the best characteristics of this lens is the bokeh. Every time I see it, I became instantly enthralled by just how beautiful it really is.When using this camera, we also personally felt that with the way the lens is designed that the bokeh also generally looks best right out of the camera when using he Velvia, Provia, or Hi Pro setting. This not only makes the bokeh creamy but also very punchy in color.
In our tests, we found this lens’s center sharpness to be very good but it tapered off in the corners. Sometimes, I like to shoot wide open and place a subject along the outer areas of the rule of thirds for a better composition. However, that subject usually ends up just being soft instead then. Wide open, the lens is still not at its sharpest and it only starts to really fully impress us at around f4. The X Trans sensor by default still makes images very sharp.
Sometimes, we saw that the sharpest performance from this lens came when the images were converted to black and white.
One of the biggest technical successes of this lens is the lack of color fringing. By darned, we couldn’t find it anywhere while editing our images. If you’re a JPEG shooter with the Fujifilm series of cameras (and there are lots of them) you’ll be happy to know this fact. At the time of reviewing this lens, we found fringing in all of Fujifilm’s lenses–but not this one; and it’s a fraction of the price of those lenses.
If you’re a RAW shooter, then it just means that you’ll have less work to do in post-production. As a note, the image in the next section may look like it has fringing, but that is actually VSCO’s rendering instead.
In combination with the Fujifilm X Pro 1′s X Trans Sensor, the SLR Magic 23mm f1.7 renders color very similar to film. Part of this has to do with not only Fujifilm’s color profiles but also because of the softer overall look to the lens. With that said though, don’t expect a Color Portra look–go somewhere else for that.
We didn’t find very much distortion with this lens in practice. Lines are straight and there doesn’t seem to be very much perspective control that is needed. In fact, we didn’t do any to our image.
Extra Image Samples
While the SLR Magic 23mm f1.7 is an extremely fun lens to use, it will also require you to slow down your working process a whole lot. For portraits or street photography, you’ll really need to sit in one place and think due to the fact that it focuses manually and you’ll also need to zoom in/magnify areas to ensure that you’ve got a sharp photo. And this is where we really wish that Fujifilm has a focus peaking feature in the X Pro 1 as of the publishing of this story.
Either way, for the price one really cannot go wrong. And though we’re not overly enthusiastic about this lens, it still really is a very good purchase for the money.
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