How Good Is the New Fujifilm 23mm F1.4 R WR LM?

I’ve been eyeing the new Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 R WR LM for a while now. My heart was broken when it was delayed, but it’s finally in my hands. The new lens addresses a bunch of concerns after nearly a decade since the original was introduced. At the top of the list is the significantly faster autofocus performance. This lens has a new linear motor that makes it speedy even on the old X Pro 1. Meanwhile, the character comes through on the new X Pro 3 while showing off how sharp this lens really is. And finally, it boasts weather sealing. At the time of writing this piece, I’ve spent 24 hours with the new lens. Believe it or not, I’m still going to keep the original.

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The original Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 R lacks weather sealing, faster focusing, etc. It also has the snapback focusing ring street photographers know and love. But what it really has is an extra softness that makes people just look so nice. I’ve seen folks talk about the new Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 R WR LM, and I think that they’re doing it all wrong. Some are pixel peeping, and I find that useless with Fujifilm,. The Fujifilm X series system isn’t about pixel peeping, MTF charts, or anything like that. It’s about soul and character. Call that statement hipster, but didn’t Fujifilm literally bring the idea of retro ergonomics back to the mainstream?

Now here’s the good news: if you’re not pixel peeping, you’re not really going to tell the difference unless you’re shooting very scientifically. But with portraits and photographing people, I think the results are pretty apparent. The other week, I photographed my friend Anthony with the older 23mm f1.4 R and a Hoya Intensifier filter. Above is one of those photos from the shoot. It’s unedited; all I did was shoot in Classic Negative, bounce a gelled flash’s output off the window, and set the exposure. The photo has this really nice, classical, organic film-feeling to it. How can I hate on that?

The photo above was shot on St. Patrick’s Day this year. Reviews Editor Hillary Grigonis was asking about the corner performance for group shots. This photo was shot with the new Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 R WR LM. I think it totally did the job well. Is the photo a bit shaky? Yes. I’m aware it is. And I like it anyway because no one looking at it or caring about the moment is pixel peeping. Photography is about a lot more than pixel peeping.

Again, if you’re not pixel peeping, the older lens will have a nice softness you can’t hate on. But at the same time, the new lens also looks very good. Where the bigger differences come to mind are in everything else.

I tested the Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 R WR LM on the Fujifilm X Pro 1 and the Fujifilm X Pro 3. It’s very fast on both cameras, and it’s noticeably faster than the original version of the lens. That’s the new linear motor at work. At the same time, you’re getting a longer, thinner lens. Is that a dealbreaker? Not really, it’s just not a super-duper small prime lens anymore. 

But, you’re also losing the manual focus ring trick the older lens had. Personally, I can live with that. Fujifilm’s autofocus isn’t perfect, but it’s become good enough that I don’t need to touch it up all the time.

Then there’s the addition of weather sealing. If you’ve read this site for a while, you know just how important weather sealing is. Weather sealing not only protects the camera and lens from the elements, it also keeps your sensor clean longer. So. your camera develops fewer issues over time. Think of it as an overall reliability boost. It’s hard to turn that down.

Below, I’m posting more sample images. You can take a look for yourself. I’m working on my full review still. But overall, if you have the older lens, I’d keep it and get this one too. The older lens has more character to it I don’t think you can deny. You can get one over at Amazon or Adorama.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.