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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.