I have been using a prototype of this lovely lens for just over a month now and I have to say I have rather fallen for it. This is a problem as I already have and love the XF10-24mm! When I first received it, I wasn’t entirely sure what I would use it to photograph, but it quickly became apparent that this lens, despite being a relatively large prime, is extremely flexible.
Size Similar to the XF23mm F1.4, this lens is slightly larger, I suspect this is partly due to the inclusion of weather resistant sealing (WR) which I am very happy about. Aimed at a variety of photographers, many of which will be working outside, the added reassurance of WR is very welcome when combined with the X-T1 which is also WR (not that I have actually had any issues with a non-WR lens or body before while in the field). Note that the filter size is 67mm, compared to 62mm for the XF23mm and XF56mm lenses. This is slightly annoying as it would be nice to only have one set of thread filters to carry around for this trio. But I prefer this slight problem to not having WR.
Auto Focus This is quick, as quick as the XF23mm which is no slouch. I haven’t ever got frustrated with this lens when it comes to auto focus, which can’t necessarily be said for all Fujifilm X-Series lenses (he types reminiscing about his love/hate relationship with the XF60mm F2.4). The inclusion of the focus clutch mechanism for autofocus is a welcome inclusion on this lens. I wish the XF56mm had this! Another big feature of this lens is the minimum focusing distance, it is very very close (sorry I don’t know the actual distance), here is a real life example of a lantern bug which is about 5cm long.
Another example, getting up close and personal with a python.
A lot of the work this lens was used for was in dark, flat conditions (as you would expect with the features of this lens) and it performed very well. I used a rather unique set up to obtain the pygmy elephant photos and this resulted in using the constant focus mechanism of the XF16mm/X-T1 combo, it hit the money everytime as I moved around these fantastic animals.
Image Quality I can’t really comment on this too much as I was using a prototype version of this lens. But I will say that I am very happy with how the pictures turned out, from the sharpness and clarity to bokeh and colour. I am 100% certain that the production versions of this lens will be absolutely stellar!
Lens Comparison One of the issues with this lens is its competition! You now have the likes of the XF14mm (previously owned and loved), the XF10-24mm (currently own and adore) and the XF16-55mm (a different kind of beast which produces fabulous image quality). Though similar to all of these, it has one distinct advantage.. F1.4. This is awesome. Having used it in a variety of locations and lighting conditions, the ability to stop down to this F Stop is fantastic, allowing me to freeze moving subjects (like elephants in the undergrowth). Combined with the generally very good high ISOs of the X-Series cameras, this makes for a superb low light, wide angle set up. For me this doesn’t replace my current XF10-24mm, it actually complements it (I think this is the G.A.S talking) – when photographing elephants, I found that the OIS on the XF10-24mm was invaluable, especially with the zoom flexibility for unpredictable wildlife. But when the light levels dropped below a certain level where it could no longer freeze slow moving subjects, then I would use this lovely lens. As for the XF14mm, well this is like its big brother, sure it doesn’t quite have the same wide angle of view but for me this is more than made up for by the 2-stop advantage (F2.8-1.4). The XF14mm is a beautiful little lens, I think it is important to state that it is quite a bit smaller than this lens, which might be more important to some photographers. Compared to the XF16-55mm F2.8 – This is quite a difficult comparison, despite sharing the same focal length and WR feature, it is a bit of an apple and oranges comparison. As the zoom is designed to be a go-to, always on the camera lens to complement the likes of the XF50-140mm F2.8 for a great two lens set up. Despite the XF16mm being not exactly small, it is significantly smaller than the XF16-55mm which is the only lens in the X-Series line up where I have thought it is quite big for the features.
Verdict I knew that I would find uses for this lens, but I didn’t realise how many. A lens type that I never seriously considered investing in before, now I feel this is firmly a part of my set up! This can probably be attributed to my evolving photography style as I am seeking to get closer, more intimate pictures of my subjects instead of shooting solely with telephoto options. It is big, it is relatively heavy, but it works very well on the X-T1, giving a nice overall balance. I hope that in due course I’ll be able to use a production version of this lens and see its true image quality. Yes, the camera bag is getting bigger/heavier and decisions need to be made as to which lenses I need, to prevent lots of overlapping. But one thing is for sure, I will find it very hard to not have this in the bag, unlike say the XF16-55mm and the XF23mm (because of the X100 series only) which I am still unsure of carrying regularly. For me, I found this lens inspired me to get creative (a common trait I find when using primes) and as a result I set up shots that I wouldn’t have normally considered, like the star trails below. When I’m not out in the jungle, I would love to simply carry around this, the XF23mm and the XF56mm with an X-T1. By now you must already know my thoughts about this lens, but if you have skipped to the bottom I’ll spell it out – this lens is fantastic! In due course I’ll try and put together a more considerable review of this lens and some other equipment I am using during my current trip to Borneo. In a few weeks time I am doing another exciting trip exploring some mountainous areas where this lens will again find a lot of use.