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
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.
Starting f4 the sharpness is already very high.
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.
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.
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.
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:I will post a mini tutorial about Clarity and Microcontrast later!
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.
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.
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.
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.
I could try astrophotography during summer time.
I am pleasantly surprised by the 23mm f2 capabilities with astrophotography, even though it’s not wide enough for a landscape photo with the Milky Way, I successfully shot a portrait mode photo with a mountain and the Milky Way, the fact that the XF 23mm f2 is not actually a true 23mm (compared to other Fuji lenses) but more a 21.5/22mm helps a bit with wideness.
Here a photo taken using my Milky Way and light pollution photography tutorial
Of course you will not be able to shoot distant nebula or galaxies (you will need a telescope or a +400mm lens for that) but for Milky Way and specially in portrait mode results are impressive.
Levels of ”coma” and ”astigmatism” are very acceptable and more pronounced on the borders, so you won’t have too much stars distorsions.
At f2 there are enough light to make sets of ISO 800 and 10 to 13 seconds photos, so you won’t get too much noise like at 3200 and 6400 ISO and no stars trails you usually get with photos that are 15 seconds and slower.
Photos are sharp enough too at f2 in astrophotography.
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.
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
– 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