I wanted to buy this lens since I got my Fujifilm X-E1 over an year ago, but at that time I decided, despite my legendary hate against zoom lenses, to buy it with the Fujinon 18-55 f/2.8-4, just because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be stuck with just one focal length at the begin. And to be honest I didn’t dislike that lens that much, it was overall very sharp, very well build and light at the same time, a good lens. But, I just can’t stand zoom lenses, and after 6 months I sold it to buy the Samyang 12mm, and I didn’t regret it. Actually, the only regret I had was not to buy the Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 R straight away since the very begin.
But if you buy out of the kit, it’s not supercheap, especially if you don’t plan to spend bags of money as I already invested a lot of money on the Canon system, as for me the Fuji X-E1 was just a small camera to carry around. So, spend more than 500 euro for that lens, it was a bit too much for me.
But then last Xmas, while I was waiting for my flight home at the airport, I saw that Dixons Travel had this lens on an insanely low price: €319. Almost half of the normal price you can generally find it in any store. It was like if it was saying “Buy me, pleeease”, and I couldn’t say no.
And since then I think I did took off from my camera twice, and not for long, as I simply love it.
The field of view compared to a 35mm full frame camera is 52.5mm (35mm x 1.5 crop factor), which it makes this lens a normal focal length, which is generally good for street photography and for portraits, obviously the 23mm is better for street, and the 56mm is better for portraits, but none of them are good for both the cases, and compared to those lenses the 35mm is pretty versatile and can be used in various situations, apart from sport and wildlife (then guys you really need a long telelens for those areas).
If there’s something you can’t really say is that Fujifilm’s lenses build quality is shit. You just can’t. I think that brand like Canon and Nikon should really learn from them how to build quality, especially in that price range, if you compare any Canon non-L Series, they are not even close to Fujifilm quality. I had two Fujifilm lenses, and I saw the 23mm f/1.4 R, and they are built like tanks, incredibly well crafted, sturdy, and at the same time they are still quite lightweight. To me, used to Canon lenses, having a lens build in this way for that price, yes even the full price, it looks like a little miracle to me. It’s mostly made with metal and very strong plastic, it gives you a sense of sturdiness that I don’t even get with the Canon 35mm f/1.4, which costs 3 times this lens.
The aperture is smooth and I do really like the clicky feedback, and the focus, even if it’s quite useless as it’s not an actual manual focus as it’s a focus-by-wire, which it means that it simply control the AF motor, it works well enough, but if you are a manual focus guy, it might be tricky to use this lens, and it would be pretty hard to zone focus without relying on the focus distance in the viewfinder.
Even the lens hood is made out of metal.
And there’s another thing to add. This lens was one of the very first lenses that Fujifilm released when they came out with the Fuji X-Pro1 about 3 years ago, and since then they improved the build quality of their lenses, just look the Fuji XF 23mm f/1.4 and the XF 56mm f/1.2, they are next to perfection.
The only thing I think this lens miss, it’s the zone focus scale, which is kinda handy if you do street photography.
This probably is the only weakness of this lens, the AF speed. It’s not slow, but it’s not even fast, I can say that it’s in the “okay” zone. For general purposes, for street photography, it’s decent enough, but I’m not sure if I would use it for a gig for example, as it might miss a good number of shots. Again, it was one of the first lenses they released, so I think it’s kinda acceptable that it’s not blazing fast.
Now, if you see the review on Photozone (http://www.photozone.de/fuji_x/746-fuji35f14), which is definitely more technically accurate than mine, you can clearly see that it’s not a perfect lens, is soft on the corners at full aperture (but in that price range I doubt that you can find a lens that it’s not) and in the center is almost decent. There’s also a bit of vignetting, even if it’s not that bad, and when you shoot wide open I don’t really mind some vignetting, but overall it’s very easy to fix it.
But once you stop down to f/2 things get much sharper, and it reach the peak of sharpness between f/4 and f/8, while at f/11 diffraction kicks in and the overall sharpness decrease, but even at f/16 it’s still pretty good, and if you don’t watch your pictures at 100%, the photos still “feel” very sharp.
But to give you a better idea, I took 3 photos for every full stop, with the camera mounted on a tripod and shoot with a timer, and then picked the sharpest one out of the 3.
All the pictures where shots in RAW format and then simply converted in JPG from LightRoom 5, no additional sharpness or any other edits were applied, these photos are just RAW to JPG, that's it.
And for every picture I cropped the top left corner and the center of the image, as shown in the picture down here:
Down here you can find all the cropped photos.
ISO 200 - f/1.4 - 1/4000 of a second - Center of the image
ISO 200 - f/1.4 - 1/4000 of a second - Corner of the image
ISO 200 - f/2 - 1/2000 of a second - Center of the image
ISO 200 - f/2 - 1/2000 of a second - Corner of the image
ISO 200 - f/2.8 - 1/1000 of a second - Center of the image
ISO 200 - f/2.8 - 1/1000 of a second - Corner of the image
ISO 200 - f/4 - 1/500 of a second - Center of the image
ISO 200 - f/4 - 1/500 of a second - Corner of the image
ISO 200 - f/5.6 - 1/250 of a second - Center of the image
ISO 200 - f/5.6 - 1/250 of a second - Corner of the image
ISO 200 - f/8 - 1/125 of a second - Center of the image
ISO 200 - f/8 - 1/125 of a second - Corner of the image
ISO 200 - f/11 - 1/60 of a second - Center of the image
ISO 200 - f/11 - 1/60 of a second - Corner of the image
ISO 200 - f/16 - 1/30 of a second - Center of the image
ISO 200 - f/16 - 1/30 of a second - Corner of the image
As you can see at f/16 is almost as good at f/2.8.
The lens suffers a bit of chromatic aberrations until f/4, which is kinda common for a lens with this aperture, but they can be easily corrected in post production with just one click, so for me it's not a big deal.
And overall the lens is not that bad even wide open, the center is decent enough, and it's far better than many other lenses I've tried with this fast aperture, I bet that my beloved Canon 50mm f/1.4, nor even the superb Canon 35mm f/1.4 L, can be that sharp at full aperture.
- Center already decent wide open, sharp from f/2, and very sharp from f/2.8
- Nice contrast and bokeh
- Build like a tank
- AF is decent, but not super fast
- No focus distance scale
- Focus-by-wire, which is a disadvantage only if you are into zone focusing.
This lens is not perfect, the AF is not super fast and the border quality wide open is not great, and if you are a pixel peep these things might count for you, but nevertheless I love this lens, it's light and perfectly build, the bokeh is pretty good (I didn't test it as it's very subjective and if you really want to see the tests for the bokeh, just simply go to the more detailed review on Photozone), and once you stop down to f/2 it's already pretty sharp.
Obviously this is not a super technical review, these are just my thoughts on my daily use of this lens, but for what I can see this is a great little lens, and I really enjoying using this lens, so I can highly recommend this lens.
High Res Files
Here you can download the files at full resolution if you want to check the entire files:
- 1/4000 @ f/1.4
- 1/2000 @ f/2
- 1/1000 @ f/2.8
- 1/500 @ f/4
- 1/250 @ f/5.6
- 1/125 @ f/8
- 1/60 @ f/11
- 1/30 @ f/16