XF 23mm F2 long term Review

IMAG0463

This photo was taken with the HTC 10


Presentation:

I bought the Fujifilm XF 23mm F2 during Christmas time as my first Fuji prime on the X-T10 after using the XC 16-50 (reviewed here).

My favorite time of the year for taking photos in my country Lebanon is during the ski season meaning from December to April, I tried the XC 16-50 for my 1st ski day and even if the results were good I was somehow a bit deceived, that’s why I got the XF 23mm after reading the high sharpness results at lenstip.com. This was on paper the best lens for landscape photos.

It’s obviously smaller than the XC 16-50 zoom as well as lighter, while the XC is already the smaller and lighter zoom lens for X Trans cameras!

The design can be weird at first, being larger on the mount side than on the edge, but like some people already said, it’s somehow like Leica design. What I liked is that not only it doesn’t go against the Retro look of the X-T10/20 and X-T1/2, it even reinforce it.

Specs wise, this lens limits are f2 to f16, fast enough for brighter photos and a shallower depth of field. No OIS though.

It also has WR (Weather Resistant) which is an advantage for WR bodies like X-T1 and X-T2 as you can avoid damages during a heavy rain a desert dust storm. On an X-T10 for example which is not a WR sealed body, it will reduce dust and water entries on the lens end only, so the protection is limited.

The lens hood is very nice, very small yet capable against vertical sun rays. It doesn’t make the lens much bigger like it’s the case with other lenses.

Photo taken with the HTC 10

IMAG0464

This photo was taken with the HTC 10


 Sharpness:

The XC 16-50 II bundled with my X-T10 (and now with X-T20) was certainly sharper than the Nikkor 18-105mm I have on the Nikon D90, but still I couldn’t get the ”professional” results I wanted, be it Street, contextual portraits or landscape. There is this small thing that is missing. The prime lenses usually give you this small extra picture quality that make all the difference, and the Fuji 23mm f2 is no exception. In fact this lens is so sharp ”out of the box” that it needs much less sharpening in Capture One (talking about Raf post processing) than the XC 16-50 II.

From f2 to f3.6, the sharpness is great, perhaps not the sharpest compared to Fuji lenses that are twice or 3x the price, but certainly plenty sharp to give you satisfactory results.

32288415482_32578cd754_o

f2  ISO-200 1/125

33005909411_d5976a3bb4_o

f2  ISO-200 1/100

32310283890_29affced62_o

f.3.6  ISO-200 1/4000

Starting f4 the sharpness is already very high.

31443268944_7e9fa17fef_o

f4   ISO-200  1/4000

The sweet spot is between for sharpness is between f5.6 and f6.4 where it’s tremendously high in a way you can see details you couldn’t with naked eyes,  I can say f7 and f8 are also crazy sharp and these are the ones you will mostly use for landscape.

32025730126_afb88899a7_o

f6.4   ISO-200 1/3200

31931443416_bf896e5af8_o

f8  ISO-200 1/3200

f9 to f11 are still very sharp but you can feel you are losing some details due to diffraction, that’s why I recommended f7 and f8.

DSCF3406

f10  ISO-200 1/2500

f12 to f16 are usable of course but diffraction become a problem.

Note: From f2 to f3.6 if you take photos at very close range (under 25cm), you will lose a bit of sharpness, but still very good for small to medium prints.

Corner to corner sharpness is brilliant at all apertures.


Now let me add what also affect details: Microcontrast!

These hidden details that are in the shadows, textures and any edges (a paint drop on a wall, a snow trail,…). The XF 23mm f2 has a great amount of microcontrast and they will help boosting your photos from a plain good looking one to a ”3D” full of life one.

Microcontrast can be unveiled by using the Clarity tool in Capture One and other Raw editors.

DSCF2395

Before Clarity (Microcontrast not revealed)

DSCF2395 1

With Clarity (Microcontrast fully enabled)

DSCF2432 3

Out of the box, no Clarity (microcontrast not revealed)

DSCF2432 2

With Clarity (microcontrast fully enabled)

It also help compensate the small loss of sharpness at f2 to f3.6 at very close range (10 to 25cm) as it will boost up details.

Here an example where microcontrast is useful for close-up photo at f2:

DSCF2550[1]_1

f2 at 15cm without Clarity boost

DSCF2550[1]_2

f2 at 15cm but with Clarity (Microcontrast)

I will post a mini tutorial about Clarity and Microcontrast later!


Distortion:

The Fujinon XF 23mm f2 has no distortion at all.

Some are saying it’s hardware corrected and others will say it’s software corrected in the camera itself, but I tend to think it’s hardware based as with Raf (RAW) in Capture One there are not a single correction.

deswt


Auto Focus:

The 23mm f2 AF is very precise, very fast and very quiet.

It’s even more ”intelligent” than other lenses like the XC 16-50, it knows which subject is more logical to focus on and at an incredible speed.

Bad or missed focus are very rare.

Low light AF like any other lenses will suffer some times but it’s still better than most lenses I tested.


Low light performance:

This Fujinon lens is perhaps not the fastest XF lens (16mm f1.4 for example) but at f2 it’s very bright and capable for low light situation without a tripod.

You won’t get the OIS to let you win some additional light stops but the advantage of a fast aperture lens like this XF is that it will give you the opportunity to shoot in low light and with moving objects or people as the shutter speed doesn’t have to be slowed down.

You will definitely get very nice results with f2 on this lens if you are not a tripod lover like me (I use tripod in some very specific situations like astro-photography or low light landscape, but I don’t carry it everywhere I go) specially coupled with the amazing low noise high ISO capabilities of the X Trans sensors.

DSCF2171

f2  ISO 800 1/100


Bokeh:

Bokeh with the 23mm f2 is naturally amazing.

At f2 of course the shallower depth of field is excellent and will give you great bokeh effect if you focus on a near subject, it’s also very good all the way up to f5.6.

It’s so easy to get good looking bokeh photos that it’s like if the 23mm f2 was a cinema lens.

32870100153_be73b198e3_o

At about 40cm with f3.6

32580929201_a813f96fbe_o

At f5!!

31047809724_7a44fc85ee_o

at 40cm with f2

 

On a negative note for some people, it will have ”onion” rings with bokeh balls, I am saying for some people because for me personally it really doesn’t bother me, and even with one of the most expensive and most praised lens for its bokeh the XF 16mm f1.4 it also have onion rings. Personally I loved the way bokeh balls pop up in background so easily.

31888253075_3096828dd8_o

From 30cm At f2, you can see onion rings on bokeh balls


Astrophotography

I will add into this section later in July when I will be in my summer house with 60% less light pollution and of course a stronger visible Milky Way.


Resistance to flare

This prime lens is quite resistant to flares, I rarely had problems with the infamous annoying purple rays coming from flares, and all of them where when the sun was in the upper left or right corner. The given small hood is efficient but in some situations you will have to add your hand when the sun is exactly above you.

32883732422_a0680737c7_o

Sun in the front is not a problem


Conclusion:

I was searching for the perfect prime solution for me and I have found it.

The 23mm (35mm Full Frame) is a fantastic versatile choice, the only time I felt in need of a zoom was only one time when I wanted to shoot a snowy forest 1km away, but for 99% of my photos the 23mm is the most adequate size. Bare in minds that some people proved that this 23mm f2 is indeed a sort of 21.5mm compared to the XF 23mm f1.4 and 18-55 zoom lens. It helped me get memorable photos during my ski days, shooting landscapes, for street and with perceptual portraits.

I recommend using Raf to get the full potential of this lens (and with any Fuji lens)

What I liked:

+ Incredibly high sharpness from f5.6 to f8

+ Very good sharpness from f2 to f5.6 and f9 to f16

+ Very fast, precise and silent AF

+ High levels of microcontrast

+ Bokeh is smooth and easy to get

+ Low light performances

+ Weight, size and look.

+ Weather Resistant

Negatives:

– Bokeh ball with onion rings (but not negative for me and many photographers)

– Not the best performer for very close objects (under 25cm) at the range of f2 to f3.6 but you can compensate with revealing the full high levels of microcontrast.

Price can be judged high for some but compared to the 16 or 23mm f1.4 or any other quality XF lens it’s at a very logic price.

Should you buy it?

Well if you want a versatile lens with crazy good results then of course yes!

You can’t go wrong with this lens if you want it for either street,landscape, conceptual portraits, portraits, bokeh…or for all of them like me.

Please leave a comment or questions

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s