Little Review, Little Lens - Fujifilm XF 23mm f2

Xpro-2 with 23mm f2 - iPhone 6 Plus

I've been using the Fujifilm XF 35mm f1.4 for years, I love the way it renders and found the autofocus to be more than fast enough for what I usually shoot. However, every once in a while I would encounter an unsolvable problem with that lens... the focal length. Sometimes it felt just too long. Don't get me wrong, I love that focal length, it allows you to get a bit closer without getting too close to your subject. But I was finding myself in situations where sometimes I just couldn't step backwards, such as sitting at a table, or the threat of falling off a cliff. 

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f2.2, 1/40, ISO 200

So I decided to pick up the Fujifilm XF 23mm f2. I figured the weather resistance and small size would go well with the X-Pro2. This is going to be a real world review, I'm just taking pictures, no charts or graphs to show sharpness. I'll show you photos that I took, and I'll give you my opinion so you can make yours. 

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f4, 1/2500, ISO 200

The focal length of the lens feels more versatile than the 35mm, and with the 24MP of the X-Pro2, I could crop in a little bit more if I needed that extra reach without losing too much detail. This was handy as the first week of getting used to the lens had me cropping quite a bit. And for portraits, you really do need to get closer. I can see why people really like the 50mm equiv. focal length for street photography, with a 35mm equiv. you really need to get up in peoples faces to isolate them. 

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f8, 1/750, ISO 200

Before I got this lens, I was hearing a lot of reports about how it resolves very soft when wide open, focusing on a close subject. In the first couple of weeks I made sure to stop the lens down when doing exactly this to make sure I didn't run into this issue. 

Close focusing, X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f4, 1/160, ISO 200

I usually shoot the Fujifilm XF 35mm 1.4 wide open, even more so with the X-Pro2 because of its high possible shutter speeds. So I decided, next time I take the 23mm f2 lens out for a day of shooting, I'm going to leave it on f2 and not even touch the aperture ring. Would the lens be too soft to be used most of the time at f2? Does it always need to be stopped down? I had an opportunity to answer these questions as I got to go sailing on a windy day. It turned out to be pretty exciting as I even got to test out the lens and camera's weather sealing capabilities! Let's take a look. 

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f2, 1/12000, ISO 200

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f2, 1/10000, ISO 200

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f2, 1/4700, ISO 200

Even with subjects focused closely, the sharpness is acceptable. Just from memory it isn't as sharp as the 35mm f1.4 wide open. However, I really like the look. 

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f2, 1/18000, ISO 200

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f2, 1/22000, ISO 200

The above two photos are really something I would usually shoot stopped down, but of course I wanted to keep it at f2 for this review. There is some heavy vignetting on the corners, so stop it down if it bothers you. Below are more shots with the lens from my recent trip to the Philippines. 

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f5.6, 1/620, ISO 200

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f7.1, 1/850, ISO 200

X-Pro2 + 23mm f2, f5, 1/750, ISO 200

Juanita's Kitchen, Food and Product Photography

ISO 1000, f5, 1/75sec.

Imagery is a necessary and important component of building brand resonance and brand equity. We want our imagery to tell a story, to express brand meaning and engage with our consumers to solidify brand relationships. Photos are a huge part of brand imagery so it's integral that they suit the brand. 

Juanita's Kitchen's brand imagery feels homestyle and rustic, so I needed to take photos and process them to fit that aesthetic. I'm going to go through a few of my Lightroom settings to show how I processed the photos to get the look and feel I was after. 

Gear used for the shoot: X-Pro2 + XF35mm f1.4 (50mm FF equiv.), Lightroom CC 6, VSCO Film Pack 1. 

I used the VSCO film preset Kodak Portra 800++ (sometimes 800 HC) as a starting point and made tweaks after applying the preset. However, the stock preset settings look like this:

 
 
 
 

This preset works well for a number of reasons: 

  • The slight decrease in highlights prevent the light from being too white on the food and blowing out the detail 
  • The increase in shadows brings out detail on textures from tortillas 
  • The slight bump in saturation pulls out a little more green from parsley or lime

Also, looking at the tone curve, we are lifting the blacks to give it that tiny bit of film-like haze. In other words, the blacks aren't totally black, more like a very dark brown. 

One of my favourite things about the Kodak Portra presets is the grain. As most of the photos were taken between 1-4PM on a cloudy Melbourne day using only natural light, I was already on ISO 800-1000. X-Trans sensors are very clean high ISO performers, so I wasn't going to get that nice Fujifilm grain. Without the grain, I felt the photos looked a little too clean. The addition of the grain from the presets looked great and really added a lot of texture to the polished stone table, food, and glossy jars. I found that adding grain to glossy textures really helps to move away from a clean and polished look. Juanita's Kitchen is homestyle cooking, I didn't want the photos to feel like they were trying to be fine dining. 

ISO 1000, f5, 1/60sec.

ISO 1000, f5, 1/110sec.

The leaf imprints in the stone table really made the product shots more interesting. ISO 1000, f3.2, 1/80sec.

ISO 1000, f5.6, 1/20sec (not hand held).

I also had a few photos that I wanted to put on Instagram right as they were leaving the kitchen during service. Not having enough time to process in Lightroom, I Instead transferred the photos from the X-Pro2 to my phone, and using the VSCO cam app I picked a filter, made some cropping tweaks, a few colour adjustments and they were ready for social media in a couple of seconds.

ISO 2000, f4, 1/70sec. C2 filter on the VSCO cam app. 

ISO 2000, f1.4, 1/680sec. C2 filter on the VSCO cam app. Was in a rush to get the photo so settings were far from optimal, could've been much sharper. Definitely didn't need to shoot this at f1.4 or 1/680sec, but it still looks great on Instagram! 

The shoot was a great learning experience as I have never really shot products before. Getting photos in the kitchen during a service was also a very interesting experience. Next time I would really like to experiment with some studio lighting just for more control. 

ISO 800, f3.6, 1/70sec.

ISO 800, f4, 1/70sec. 

ISO 800, f4, 1/70sec.