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Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 R Lens: Review


Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 R Lens: Review

Hello, everybody! Welcome back to my continuing look at the Fujifilm X-series. As with my last couple of posts on this line of products, today too I am looking not at the superb fixed-lens compact cameras but at the mirrorless system subset of the X-series – and yeah, today I have reviewed for you one of the earliest (and now, one of the most popular) prime lenses of the Fujifilm system: the Fujinon XF 35mm f1.4 R

My Fujifilm X-E1, paired with the recently reviewed XF 18-55mm and this XF 35mm f1.4 prime lens, has been a wonderful tool, giving me all sorts of possibilities and never left me wanting, and this has been mainly due to the fact that the XF lenses in the X-series are quite simply fantastic – in every way: build, optics, handling, everything. If you have read my review on the XF 18-55mm you would already know how much I love that lens. And without giving too much away right now, I’m going to say that this 35mm prime is a lens I now cannot live without

The XF 35mm f1.4 is one of many prime lenses in the X-series – a series which has one of the most complete lens selections in the mirrorless market – and is arguably the most popular. The 35mm focal length, which gives an equivalent field of view of a 50mm on a full-frame camera, is perfect for street photography – thanks to the human-eye-like field of view – and works great for portraiture too. At f1.4, it’s fast; its build is top-notch; it has an R in the model name, meaning it has a manual aperture ring; and while it lacks the silent LM focusing mechanism and image stabilization, it’s a pleasure to use

Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 R

As I’ve always said, a prime lens is a must for any photographer. Not only is its image quality usually superior to a zoom in the same price category, not only is it faster and more suitable for night shots and portraiture, but not having the ability to zoom in and out to perfect your composition makes you work harder to get the shot…which makes you think…which in turn could often lead to a better photograph, and will definitely help you grow as an artist. So yeah, make sure you own a prime lens. And if you’re new to the X-series and looking for your first prime, I won’t say anything else except that this is one is a great option. Its focal length is ideal, it’s not too pricey, and, well, I love the thing

It goes for around $599 by itself – it’s also available as a kit with most X-series cameras – and for what you get, it’s a very good deal

Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 Lens on Amazon - Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 Lens on B&H Photo

I believe I’ve already sort of spoiled this review by stating my love for this little lens in the introduction itself. But read on and find out exactly why I like it so much. And if you find yourself liking it as much as I do, please use the links above to get yourself one!

Specifications You Would Want To Know

  • Focal Length: 35mm (53mm equivalent)
  • Diagonal Angle of View: 44.2°
  • Maximum Aperture: f1.4
  • Minimum Aperture: f16
  • Construction: 8 elements in 6 groups (1 aspherical element)
  • Number of aperture blades: 7 (rounded)
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 28cm
  • Maximum Magnification: 0.17x
  • AF Motor: Internal Micro Motor
  • Focus Mechanism: Internal (?) – Lens extends slightly when focusing, but does not rotate
  • Image Stabilization: No
  • Filter Size: 52mm
  • Hood: Square, bayonet-mount, included
  • Dimensions: 65 x 50mm
  • Weight: 187g

Size And Build

It’s a prime lens so it’s small. Well, that’s not always the case – some prime lenses can be pretty huge – but yeah, this one is quite compact. The diameter is around the same (or identical) to the 18-55mm zoom, but it’s a lot shorter, and takes a lot less space, making it much more compact on the camera body

Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 R

The build quality, as with all Fujifilm XF lenses, is top class. An all-metal body built around a metal mount, with a smooth (electronic) focus ring and comfortable aperture ring around the barrel, the XF 35mm just feels great in the hand. I did find the aperture ring to be a teeny bit loose, to be honest, and although it’s not loose enough to move accidentally, turning it doesn’t feel quite as nice as the one on the XF 18-55 does. Everything else, however, feels really good – and premium – as do all things in the X-series

As for switches on the body, there are none. Like on all other XF lenses, the AF/MF selector is found on the body, and to select between manual aperture and automatic aperture, you simply turn the aperture ring to the A position. Yeah

Thanks to the high-quality metal build, the lens feels a lot heavier you might expect. And that’s not a bad thing at all – it just feels great in your hand. Not too heavy, not too light. Just about right. Don’t you love it already?

Focusing

If there’s one area where I wasn’t 100% satisfied, it’s this: the focusing of the XF 35mm f1.4. If this area were as flawless as the rest of the lens, it would’ve been perfect, but since there’s no such thing as a perfect product, there has to be something that’s even slightly wrong with it, so let’s get it out of the way

It’s no big deal – it’s a very slight issue – but you should know that the AF mechanism of the XF 35mm is not as good as the one on the 18-55mm. First of all, it lacks the linear motor (LM) technology – so it’s not silent. It’s not really loud, but there’s definitely a bit of noise as you focus. Secondly, focusing isn’t fully internal – so, while it doesn’t rotate when focusing, it does extend slightly. And lastly, even with the latest firmware version, it tends to hunt for focus quite a bit. Even in good light

This leads me to focusing speed, which is quite good, and definitely acceptable, but if the lens didn’t hunt for focus as much, it could be a lot faster. The X-series isn’t known for its blazing fast AF system – the compacts like the X20 are, but the mirrorless system isn’t – so it’s not really surprising, but I’m just pointing it out here. In daylight, even as it hunts, the focusing speed is actually fine. No issues here. At night, it naturally slows down, but remains acceptable. But due to the focus hunting, it makes you feel like it’s slower than it actually is; and it could’ve been a lot faster than this. I’m hoping that yet another firmware update will fix this, but until then, you have to say that the AF performance of this lens is rather average

AF accuracy is generally very good, and it rarely fails to lock focus, so it’s fine in this regard. Make sure you upgrade to the latest firmware, though

Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 R

Manual focusing is very easy, thanks to the smooth focus ring and the focus peaking feature that all new Fuji bodies have now. If you’re experienced and if you’re comfortable focusing manually, you’d feel very comfortable here

So yeah, the AF mechanism of the XF 35mm isn’t silent; there’s no rotation of the filter thread, but the lens does extend when focusing; it’s quick in daylight and fairly quick at night; but it makes you feel like it’s a lot slower due to the focus hunting problem. And that just about sums up AF performance for this lens

Macro Capabilities

With an MFD of 28cm, this 35mm lens is not really good for macro work. It has a maximum magnification of 0.17x, which is actually slightly better than the XF 18-55mm zoom, but even then you can’t really call it macro, can you? There’s a specific macro lens in the XF line-up – the 60mm f2.4 R – if you’re really into close-ups. This one isn’t it


Image Quality

I wouldn’t have been so pleased with the lens earlier on if I wasn’t happy with the quality of the optics, right? Yeah. So I’ll just go ahead and say it: the 35mm f1.4 R is optically excellent. Paired with the X-Trans sensor of most X-series camera bodies, this lenses produces rich images that are colorful, sharp, and very pleasing overall. The Fujifilm-style colors have a lot of pop to them, the contrast is excellent, the lens is sharp, and like the 18-55mm, nothing looks over the top. It’s just a really good lens that, combined with the awesome X-E1/X-E2/X-Pro1, is capable of producing beautiful photographs

Yeah, sharpness is excellent. It’s very sharp in the center even at f1.4 or f2, and when stopped down to f5.6-8, it’s absolutely stunning. In the corners, things aren’t quite so sharp at f1.4-2 – things are actually a bit soft in the corners when wide open – which is normal for a lens of this kind – but stop down to f4-8 and even the corners sharpen up beautifully, resulting in photographs that are crisp from corner-to-corner. And you know, the thing about shooting wide open with a prime lens is that your subject would take up most of the center of the frame, leaving the corners intentionally blurred out anyway – so the slightly soft corners at f1.4-2 would rarely matter at all

As always, have a look at the sample crops to get a better idea of the sharpness of this lens

Everybody wants bokeh when buying a fast prime lens, and in this area, the XF 35mm won’t let you down. Getting blurry backgrounds is very easy, naturally, but not only that, the bokeh, or quality of the blur, is excellent. Very smooth, very natural, and is extremely pleasing to look at

One of the best things about using a (good) prime lens is that they’re usually free of lens distortion, and that’s 100% true about this one. There’s hardly any noticeable distortion to be seen, and that’s excellent. Sure, 35mm is a focal length where even zooms tend to lose any sort of distortion, so it’d be a shocker if this lens produced any distortions, being a prime – but I’m just making it clear that there’s no shocker of this kind. No visible distortion at all

Vignetting is rarely a problem either. Wide open, you’re obviously going to notice a bit of light fall-off in the corners. Stop down to f3.5 or so and there’s no vignetting to speak of

Chromatic aberrations are hardly visible unless you crop to 100%. I never noticed it in my tests, so I can assure you this will never be a problem with the XF 35mm

Flare? Can’t say that I noticed flare in any of my tests. It comes with a vintage-style square (metal) lens hood, which probably helps, but even without it, unless you’re taking a picture of the sun, flare will not be a problem

Image Quality: Sharpness

Image Quality: Vignetting/Distortion

Note: The distortion test was taken at a pretty close range, so the distortion is slightly exaggerated – and I didn’t have any other test subject for distortion at this time. In real life, it’s not this obvious
 

And yeah, that’s the Fujinon XF 35mm f1.4 R. It’s optically excellent, it’s mechanically tank-like, and it’s one of my favorite lenses in my kit. It’s sharp, it’s fast, and it takes beautiful photographs with great colors and gorgeous bokeh. What more would you want?!

Product Image Gallery

Sample Image Gallery

What I liked/didn’t like

Positives:

  • Excellent optics – the images taken using this lens look beautiful
  • Superb center sharpness – corner sharpness is excellent for the most part too
  • No distortion/very little chromatic aberration/hardly any vignetting
  • Top class build quality
  • Manual aperture ring on the lens – something I love about all XF lenses
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Pinch-type lens cap
  • Included lens hood

Negatives:

  • Slightly noisy AF motor
  • Lens rotates just a bit, when focusing
  • Focus hunting tends to make the AF system feel slower than it is – and makes it slower than it could be
  • Aperture ring feels just a bit loose
  • Images are slightly soft in the corners when shooting wide open – typical of such a lens, and rarely a problem with the type of shots you’d take with this lens, but I had to point it out anyway

Conclusion

Like I said before, one of the reasons the X-series is such a good choice if you’re going mirrorless is the awesome selection of lenses. The great (and growing) set of zooms, the already-fantastic selection of primes, and the planned future for the line in terms of lenses, makes this THE most exciting brand of compact system camera you can find on today’s market. That’s what I think, at least. And it’s not just about Fuji releasing all these lenses – it’s about how good they are. They’re just amazingly high-quality pieces of glass that are mechanically and optically brilliant. And the XF 35mm is no exception


It’s fairly compact, it’s extremely well built, and it takes photographs that are of really good quality: sharp, distortion-free, colorful – thanks to the X-Trans sensor too – and with lovely bokeh. At $599, it’s not too expensive either. It’s a very important part of the X-series mirrorless line – so if you’ve already got yourself an X-E1 or X-E2 with the XF 18-55mm, I highly recommend this as your next lens

Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 Lens on Amazon - Fujifilm XF 35mm F1.4 Lens on B&H Photo

And that’s it for today. Please leave a comment, as always – and if you’re buying this lens, please use my links! I hope you enjoyed this review. Until next time

By Heshan Jayakody
All content in this post is my own
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Discussion

19 Responses to “Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 R Lens: Review”

  1. Ooh I’ve heard a lot abotu this lens. Nice nice. Looking forward to seeing the sample pictures! :) But it looks very sharp, especially in the center, and I love that. I’m sure you can get beautiful bokeh at f1.4!

    Posted by Bell | February 6, 2014, 17:36
    • Yeah, it’s a great lens – sharp too. It’s really great for all sorts of photography – especially street shots, and night shots! Look out for the sample pictures, I’m uploading a collection very shortly :)

      Posted by pixelogist | February 7, 2014, 16:42
  2. 35mm is like a standard 50 on a film SLR, isnt it? it is what I’m looking for my street work, I think this will be just right, giving the human eye-type of field of view?

    Posted by Jurg | February 11, 2014, 07:29
    • Yes, it gives a field-of-view that is equivalent to about 56mm on film/full-frame cameras. It does work great for street photography, especially if you’re used to this focal length. And the images are beautiful! Very sharp and lovely colors

      Posted by pixelogist | February 12, 2014, 16:15
  3. A good selection of prime lenses are so important in a camera system, no? Thank goodness Fujifilm has this collection. THis XF 35mm looks stunning

    Posted by Tees | February 16, 2014, 07:54
    • Absolutely. Good zooms are necessary too, but most people don’t realize the importance of prime lenses when getting into a new system. Fujifilm wins hands down in this area when it comes to mirrorless camera systems

      Posted by pixelogist | February 18, 2014, 09:45
  4. Comprehensive review as always, pixelogist :) Very interesting to read. How much did you get this lens for? I’m wondering if its better to wait for that 56mm prime lens that everyone is talking about

    Posted by Baz | February 17, 2014, 16:37
    • Thanks, Baz! This lens goes for around $699 by itself – although I got it with the X-E1, for about $1100 for the kit. The 56mm f1.2 is a great lens, by the looks of things, but it costs about $999, and its a prime lens – completely different from this 18-55mm standard zoom. If you feel you can do with a prime, and its fixed focal length, and that you can live without this zoom (for now, at least), that would be a very good option too

      Posted by pixelogist | February 18, 2014, 09:48
  5. im trying to decide between the 35mm and the 60mm. the macro option of the 60mm is tempting. then there’s this new 56mm that everyones talking of.

    Posted by Charlie | February 18, 2014, 08:14
    • Well, the focal length of this and the 60mm are completely different. So you can’t really compare the two. If I had to call it, I’d say get both, haha. Or get the one with the focal length you find you really need at the moment. Remember that you multiply the focal length by 1.6 to get the effective field of view on something like the X-E1/2 or X-Pro1, so the 35mm is more like a standard 50mm prime, while the 60mm works out to around 90mm, and is suitable almost solely for portraiture and macro work. The 35mm is much more versatile. Being much faster, the 56mm f1.2 is even better for portraiture, but it’s not a macro lens

      So yeah, it all depends on which kind of lens you really want, and what you need it for. They’re all really good!

      Posted by pixelogist | February 18, 2014, 09:51
  6. My XF 18-55mm makes a bit of noise when focusing, although most reviews said it should be silent. So now I’m worried as to how loud the XF 35mm will be, if it is louder than the ‘silent’ XF 18-55?? Is it really going to be an issue?!

    Posted by Dutch | March 4, 2014, 07:32
    • Well, the XF 18-55mm makes a tiny click when you press the shutter button – is that what you mean? Because I don’t believe that’s the focus motor making the noise – that could be the aperture opening up to focus, and then stopping down to your setting, before shooting. It could also be your OIS – maybe you could try it with OIS turned off?

      The XF 35mm is not loud at all. It’s just louder than the 18-55mm, as the focus motor on the 18-55mm is silent. And as it tends to hunt a bit, there’s a bit of extra movement, which results in a bit of extra noise. Nothing to worry about – but if you ARE worried about it, I suggest you check it out in a store before buying it :)

      Posted by pixelogist | March 4, 2014, 08:43
  7. Thanks for the review!

    Have you had a chance to compare the 35mm focus speed to the 23mm OR on the X-t1 body? I wounder if it gets any faster. — also do you have the latest firmware installed ?

    Posted by goldensocks | March 9, 2014, 08:19
    • Hi, yes my lens came with the latest firmware already installed – so I couldn’t tell how much it improved things, but it’s definitely at its best right now

      I have used the XF 23mm f1.4 a couple of times, on my X-E1 body, and AF speeds are similar to this one. Maybe a bit faster, but not significantly so. It’s a bit quieter than the XF 35mm though, thanks to the new AF motor (although still not the near-silent LM)

      With the X-T1 (which I haven’t yet had the chance to properly test), I expect all lenses to focus significantly faster. You see, I believe that the average AF performance of the X-series is mostly due to the camera bodies, and not the lenses. And since the X-T1 is supposed to pack in a far superior AF system to the previous X-series bodies, I expect ALL existing lenses to perform much better on the X-T1. I’ll update as soon as I get the opportunity to test it properly :) Cheers

      Posted by pixelogist | March 9, 2014, 08:33
  8. Great review. This lens looks very sharp – and the perfect focal length for a first prime, for me (or anyone else). Haha. Great price too

    Posted by Xavier | March 19, 2014, 07:29
    • Thanks :) You’re right, 35mm (50mm equivalent) is an ideal focal length for anyone buying their first prime, and at around $400-500, it’s not too pricey. Even for more experienced photographers who want to check out a new system like the X-series, having a good collection of primes is a must, and Fuji has got most focal lengths covered now, including this very important 50mm-equivalent

      Posted by pixelogist | March 19, 2014, 07:35

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