The new 35mm F2 has big shoes to fill, we cut our teeth on the original 35mm F1.4 released along-side the XPRO1 when the Fujifilm camera system was first introduced. The 35mm F1.4 lens made some of our most iconic portraits and won us a seat at the Fujifilm X Photographer table. We were never disappointed with the optical quality and have several fine art prints of the work produced by the lens hanging on the wall at home. It has a way of rendering the world which knocked the final nail in the DLSR coffin.
As with all our reviews, we do not bother with test charts, we are only interested in real world performance. If a lens does not produce the goods while we are at work, or falls behind, we will not be making room in our bag.
The 35mm F2 is surprisingly understated; it is small on a Fujifilm camera body and with the two tier focus and aperture dial aesthetic, handles intuitively. It is definitely not an eye brow raising lens and will not attract allot of attention, making it that much easier to grab a shot unnoticed.
The 35mm (~50mm full frame equivalent focal length) provides a very versatile field of view, which is only limited by your imagination. If you were to buy only a single lens, you could not go wrong with a 35mm. We frequently get asked which lenses to buy, and while we do understand it is dependent on your interests, we typically recommend,
- 23mm F1.4 paired with a56mm F1.2
- 35mm F1.4 / F2
If your budget stretches as far as multiple lenses, we could be here all day going over the different options, and even throw zoom lenses in the ring. But if you are starting out and want to experiment with shallow depth of field, a 35mm prime lens will get you a front row seat.
We had the editor sample lens for a week and threw it in the deep end. Towards the end of the review period, we had enough confidence in its performance, so we left the rest of the kit back at the office; only carrying the XT1 and 35mm bolted to the front with a spare battery in the pocket (just incase).
It was a pleasure to use and went everywhere we did. It never felt a burden and simply delivered. Although we did not test the weather sealing directly, anyone who has had the opportunity to explore New Zealand's west coast will be able to appreciate the unforgiving landscape. The sand and inevitable sea salt are the elements a camera system has to stay on top off without packing a sad.
The west coast is one of our favourite places in New Zealand (especially Muriwai) and offers a diverse setting for gear reviews. It helps to keep things fresh and stops our creative mojo from going stale.
The only negative with its performance is the distortion. It was not something we noticed until we did the urban rounds and spotted some bowing around the corners of the frame. Metal beams went wobbly and brick work looked like it was stacked by a drunk. The level of distortion we noticed came completely by surprise, it is not something you would expect from a standard focal length which has been kicking about since the beginning of photography. It must be a side affect of the small form factor, and potentially the entry level price!
As a side, the XT1 camera we were using for the lens review was updated to include support for the 35mm F2 (firmware version 4.1). It is possible that future releases will address the distortion and correct it automatically in camera. Also keep in mind, distortion is not a major issue, it can be easily corrected during your post production work flow.
One of the standout optical qualities of this lens is the bokeh, if you can forgive the distortion, there is really nothing else to complain about. Even at F2, you can get really creamy backgrounds and the closer you get to your subject, the more pronounced the bokeh becomes. Bokeh quality shines in the highlights on the handlebars of the motor cycle, no 'onion rings' or aberrations from the harsh New Zealand sun are anywhere to be found. The bokeh quality is definitely up there and will give the more expensive lenses a run for their money.
We had the pleasure of listening to Blue Steel perform another round at the prestigious Langham hotel in Auckland and threw a pretty nasty low light situation at the lens. The smoke machines were casting a beautiful haze throughout the room, but the reduced contrast makes it that much more difficult for a camera and lens combo to snap the scene into focus.
The 35mm F2 performed admirably in the smokey, dim lit scene. The new motor technology (also found in the 90mm and the 50-140mm) worked a real treat and took the challenge in stride. And when compared to the original 35mm F1.4, it doesn't have that annoying front lens element bob during focusing (the lens focuses internally).
As a whole the new 35mm F2 is a great little lens, it will definitely produce the goods but struggles with distortion (easily corrected in post). Someone new to the Fujifilm family will love the lens, those who already have the F1.4 variant will probably struggle to justify the replacement (unless you require the weather sealing). As a walk about town and travel lens this is definitely a strong contender, and its versatility is only limited by the adventures you chose to share.
Thanks to Nick Depree (www.ndepree.com) we also have some awesome BTS material to shares.