(Fuji X-T1, with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens, 7 image stitched panorama, provia)
Fuji Canada was kind enough to send me a review copy of the new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens the week it was released, but then a funny thing happened: Life took over, in a big way. Friends with illnesses, unexpected travel, work, teaching assignments. Now, a month later, there are already many excellent reviews about this lens online.
When first planning this review I had planned a side by side comparison with the original Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens, but that has been done brilliantly by our friends at Fuji vs. Fuji.
I was going to go in depth about several of the technical details, but that was already done in the article noted above, and also in reviews like this excellent one from Jonas Rask.
I’m not going to re-hash what has already been written so well by my peers, but I am getting asked a lot of questions about this lens by readers of this site so where did this leave me?
The truth is that I am a storyteller with my photography. It is what I love to do, and the gear I review and use day to day needs to contribute to the stories I want to tell. Rather than nerd out on details, let’s use a photo essay I recently shot as a vehicle to discuss this amazing new lens. First though, a quick re-cap on some important points:
- Price: The new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens retails for $399 USD at the time of this writing, as compared to $599 for the original 35mm f/1.4 lens (when there are no rebates offered). That is an excellent price for a lens of this quality.
- The new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens is weather sealed. When combined with the weather sealed Fuji X-T1 this gives you a beautiful combo to use in inclement weather.
- The new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens is a little smaller and lighter than it’s predecessor.
- The autofocus on the new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens is leaps and bounds beyond the original lens. Leaps and bounds in both speed and in its silence.
It is hard to talk about this lens without comparing it to the original Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens. That lens, one of Fuji’s original three for the X series, has that “something special” and has legions of die hard fans because of that. The image quality from it is amazing. The autofocus… not so much. From what I can tell this new 35mm f/2 lens does not replace the original, but exists (for now at least) as another option in Fuji’s ever growing line of amazing lenses. The question is, can it live up to the original 35mm f/1.4 lens that is so loved?
Let’s get on with our story and look at some pictures taken with this new lens, with a critical eye to handling, autofocus speed and accuracy, and of course image quality. All images in this post can be clicked to view larger.
The photo you see above is Fort Langley, a National Historic Site of Canada located about an hour outside of Vancouver, British Columbia. Fort Langley was a trading post established in the 1800s, was the birthplace of the colony that became the province of British Columbia, and in 1923 became a Historic Site of Canada.
Visiting the Fort is a leisurely and educational experience. The staff are in historic wardrobe, and are well versed in the history of the fort. You can wander at your own speed and, for more information, take in an audio tour.
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/3.2, 1/125th, ISO 1250, classic chrome)
One of the first people I visited when I arrived on site was the blacksmith, who was already working. The morning sun pushing through the smoke cast gorgeous rays of light as you can see in this photograph:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/4, 1/250th, ISO 1250, classic chrome)
Two things jumped out at me right away when I began shooting: First, the new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens handled this scene beautifully. The second thing was the autofocus speed of the lens. The new 35mm lens locked focus instantly every time, which as many of you know is a different experience than using the original 35mm f/1.4 lens, especially in low light like this.
The colour rendition was accurate and vibrant:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2.8, 1/250th, ISO 1600, classic chrome)
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2.8, 1/250th, ISO 1250, classic chrome)
Much has been said about the new lens being an f/2, versus the original 35mm lens being an f/1.4. When the lens was announced a lot of people were lamenting the one stop difference. I shot portraits of several of the employees at f/2 to see what the subject isolation and bokeh looked like:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2.8, 1/250th, ISO 640, classic chrome)
It is different, but it is a very pleasing bokeh in my opinion.
The Fort has several buildings that serve as storehouses. While inside I shot this scene:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2, 1/125th, ISO 250, classic chrome)
I shot this at f/2 to continue testing out the depth of field the lens provided. For reference, the point of focus is on the latch on the window.
While shooting in the storehouses I found myself impressed with the “macro” capabilities of this lens. Fuji’s official specifications list the minimum focal distance for the new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens as 35cm. In practice, I found myself able to get significantly closer to subjects. Here is one of the furs that is next to the window in the picture above:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2, 1/125th, ISO 320, classic chrome)
Here is another photo from within the same storehouse, shot from about 20cm away from the bucket, with the focus on the metal studs:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2, 1/60th, ISO 2000, classic chrome)
Moving from the storehouse I went to the “big house”. This building was home to the Fort’s managers and was reconstructed in 1958. It was here where the proclamation establishing British Columbia was signed:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/4, 1/30th, ISO 3200, classic chrome)
The upstairs of the big house is an open floor plan:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/4, 1/60th, ISO 3200, classic chrome)
…which also included many opportunities to shoot detail shots like this one:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2, 1/60th, ISO 2500, classic chrome)
And this mural:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2.8, 1/80th, ISO 200, classic chrome)
When I entered the servant’s quarters there was hard morning light streaming through a window. I was impressed with how well the lens handled the contrast:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2.8, 1/150th, ISO 200, classic chrome)
I’d like to finish this review with one final portrait, of an employee sitting in beautiful window light:
(Fuji X-T1 with the Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens. Settings: f/2, 1/60, ISO 1000, classic chrome)
To my eyes the background looks great. Would it be different at f/1.4, or if this was shot with the 90mm? Sure, of course it would. I think this lens could easily be a go to lens for environmental portraiture though. It is sharp, even wide open at f/2.
The 35mm focal length on a full frame (50mm equivalent on a crop sensor) is not one I use often. My go to kit usually includes the Fujinon 10-24mm for landscapes and cityscapes, the 56mm f/1.2 for portraiture, and my beloved Fuji X100t for virtually everything else (and some of the above too). I do own the original Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens, however, for those times where that focal length is needed.
In order to describe how I feel about the new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens, I think it best to refer back to my Fuji X-T10 review from earlier this summer. In that review I wrote:
“If I was beginning to build a Fuji interchangeable lens system today, the Fuji X-T10 would be my starting point. For my needs it is the perfect balance of size, functionality, and price.”
I loved the Fuji X-T10. If I didn’t already have an X-T1 I would buy the X-T10 without hesitation. True story. That is exactly the way I feel about the new Fujinon 35mm f/2 lens, for the following reasons:
- The image quality is superb, on par with the amazing quality we have come to expect from Fujinon lenses. It is nice wide open at f/2, but stopped down a little to f/2.8 it is gorgeous.
- The autofocus, even in low light conditions, is much improved over the original Fujinon 35mm f/1.4 lens.
- The ability to focus at close distances is very good.
- The lens is weather resistant.
- The lens is priced $200USD cheaper than the 35mm f/1.4 version. It is an EXCELLENT lens at that price.
Fuji fans know there is something special about the original 35mm lens. Honestly though, unless the f/2 versus f/1.4 difference in speed is a deal breaker for you I can recommend this new lens without hesitation. It really is that good.
Oh, and if you are in Vancouver, try to get out to Fort Langley. It is a great way to spend a day!