The Fujinon XF23 F2 WR Review

So...my last post was about how the X100T could be the only camera that you ever need. Well the XPro2 fitted with FujiFilm's newest masterpiece (spoiler alert) could change all of that.

As the classic focal length for reportage and street photography, this lens fills a much needed gap in the Fuji line-up. I mean, yes the 23 F1.4 exists and is unbelievable from an IQ perspective (and I love the focus clutch), but the size of it prevents me from choosing it over the X100T most of the time. 

I used to have a conundrum when I would go out to either take the 16 F1.4 or the 35 F2 (or both, but then I need to take a bag). This lens help solve that as it covers such a wide spectrum of needs from landscape to environmental portraiture. Paired with the XPro2, this baby is still small and discrete enough for street work, but allows me to have all the benefits FujiFilm gifted us with the XPro2 (cough...acros...cough).

The build of this lens is as you would expect. Metal and glass, and some more metal. If you have spent any time shooting with the new 35 F2, then you will be right at home this little guy fitted to your Fuji set-up. It is a tad longer, but it actually makes it feel nicer in the hand when using the manual focus ring (which is smooth as molasses...but less sticky). The aperture is, how do I say it...pleasantly clicky...and still not sticky.

The provided lens hood does the job, but looks a bit weird. But, it turns out the 35 F2 metal lens food fits! All you have to do is make sure the FujiFilm text is showing rather than the 35 marking (it doesn't make any difference imaging wise...it only satisfies my slight OCD).

Now let's get to my other favorite parts (I have a lot of favorite parts). The auto-focus on this things is quick...like DSLR quick. Compared to the X100T it is leaps and bounds better. It honestly could mean making the difference between getting the shot in the street photography world. The 35 F2 is fast, and I dare say this might be faster. But from a real world perspective, both are great and it is hard to tell.

The images that come from this lens are superb. This thing is tack sharp from center to edge. Distortion is corrected via software, rather than optically (like the 23 F1.4) but FujiFilm's engineers have done a stellar job with the in camera corrections. IQ wise, I still think the older 23 F1.4 wins, but for the size, the weight advantage and being nearly 45% cheaper, this lens takes the cake.

The one con is that wide open at short distances, we get a little bit of mushiness in our images. I was really hoping this lens wouldn't have that issue, since we have been dealing with that issue on the X100 series since they came out. But, you win some, you lose some, and this lens is definitely winning.

Last, but certainly not least, is the weather sealing. I mean, I live in Los Angeles, CA, so rainy days are far and few between. But since this thing has been stuck on my camera for the past month, if I were to travel any where (Seattle, Portland, the underwater city of Atlantis) and only bring one lens, the WR moniker on this thing makes it the easy choice.

Now that I have told you my biased impressions of the lens, let's conclude. If you own the X100T and a interchangeable lens Fuji, should you buy this? Yes.

But what if you own the 23 F1.4 version? Should you buy this lens then? Well that one is trickier. If faster auto-focus, stealthiness and weather sealing are what is important to you...then yes. If not, then keep what you have. The 1.4 version is one of the best lenses ever and is beloved by many. But, personally, the F2 is the one going in my bag.

 

Why the X100T could be the only camera you need...

Ever since I started photography at the ripe old age of 25, I have always admired the look of "THE Photographer".  You know the one. A giant DSLR swung by the side with a thick, ornate neck strap. A backpack carrying a tripod, and thousands of dollars worth of lenses. They looked cool, professional, and I imagined all of them were getting published somewhere. That is what I wanted to be, a pro.

It didn't hit me until I actually picked up one of these behemoths, how much you got noticed, how much your neck hurt, and just how all around obtrusive they were. My Nikon, bumped into more people throughout the day than a 9 year old who just drank 3 sodas at a birthday party. I thought being noticed was what I wanted...I was wrong.

When I carried around the DSLR, no one acted candid, they acted frightened..like I was pointing a gun at them rather than a lens. They would often hide their faces, or turn their backs to me. I have soooo many pictures of people's backs.

Now I am not saying these cameras do not have their place. They create beautiful images with their amazing, large full-frame sensors. They have incredible auto-focusing capabilities, and they have the ability to swap out their lenses so you can achieve the look you are going for (so do non DSLR's...but shhhh...). However for Street Photography, I found them close to useless. I got better composed shots on my iPhone.

Enter the X100T. First off let me say, what a beautiful little creature. It looks straight up out of the 60's. It is a Hipster's wet dream. It's not tiny, but it could pass for a larger point and shoot, and this is where I think it's biggest strength lies...it's discreteness.

1. Discreteness.

This is, in my opinion, the name of the game when it comes to street photography, and photographing people you don't know it general. People have what seems to be a 6th sense when a camera is pointed at them. This camera dilutes that sense. Remember what I said earlier about looking like a pro with a DSLR? This camera makes you look like a tourist, and that is a good thing. It's non-threatening, it's pretty, and it can capture some amazing candid moments because people do not know it is there, or if they do, they do not seem to care. Which leads me to my next topic, size.

 

2. Size.

This Fuji in particular is a mere 5.0 x 2.9 x 2.1 inches. My hand is bigger than that. It is not pocketable (unless you are wearing those jeans from the 90's) but it is relatively light and easy to carry (without bumping into people). It is also really easy to carry out of the house, which is my favorite part. While I love my X Pro 2 to death, I find getting everything together and taking it with me is a little bit more troublesome than I would like (and that thing is small for a mirrorless camera). I take the X100T with me everywhere. On a day time walk, to work, even to the bathroom (joking).

Have you ever been driving home from work and seen a sunset which blew your mind and you said, I wish I had a my nice camera with me...well...now you do!

 

3. Fixed Lens

Now some of you may argue with me here, and say, but the whole point of  swapping lenses is the be able to adapt to your needs as a photographer. To that I say you are absolutely correct, but hear me out. Remember what I said about the portability above? Well imagine leaving the house and grabbing your X100T, then deciding on what lens to take, only you can't make up your mind and end up taking 3, and your backpack. Now you are no longer traveling light my friend.

The other beauty of the fixed lens is that it makes your process as a photographer more creative. You have to compose shots differently when you can not zoom or switch out your prime lens. If you can't get close to a subject, you have to find a different way to get a viewer interested in what you are looking at. It's makes the whole process more artistic in my opinion.

And having a full frame equivalent of 35mm is not the worst focal length to be stuck with :) Not too wide, but not too narrow/tight either.

P.S. Fuji offers some converters as well to simulate different focal lengths. 50mm and 28mm are the current offering. 

 

4. The Image Quality

Now you may be thinking that with all these size perks, you are giving something up in terms of image quality. Heck no, Tech no. This thing packs a punch. Sure, it may only be 16MP, sure it may be APS-C, but seriously, the straight from camera JPEG's that come out of this things, are some of the best looking images I have ever seen. Perfect sharpness, perfect contrast, and oh boy the colors! Fuji has alway been known for their colors, but with this camera, and the Classic Chrome profile selected, you get some amazing shots that just tug at your soul.

 

5. The little things.

The other things that this camera offers that are not necessary but amazing.

Dead silent electronic shutter. Seriously, I can not hear this thing when shooting, let alone my subject

Next is the built in ND filter. Yes, that is right, it has a 3 stop ND filter built in! You can take "short" long exposure photos mid day.

The Wifi is great. Especially for people like me to love to Instagram and have no patience to wait until they get home to upload and edit. Transfer photo from camera to phone, upload the Lightroom mobile, post to Insta. Boom, now you have millions of followers, all because of this camera...ok maybe a bit of an exaggeration. 

Built in flash. Yes it has a leaf shutter and ability for HSS, but if we are taking the portable route, this flash actually works very well (the X Pro 2 does not have built in flash which is another reason I take this camera EVERYWHERE).

And finally, chicks dig it. I swear, more people have asked to see the camera than the photos I took on it. I am married so I can't utilize it's full potential, but to all my single brothers out there, buy one...(honey, if you are reading this, I am joking...kind of).

 

6. What I would like to see next...

Ok what I love is above, what I think they could improve upon is below.

Weather proof the damn thing...seriously. If I want to take this everywhere, it needs to be able to do so. Rain, shine, snow, hot, cold...get me some seals on this bad boy.

Would love to see the X Trans 24.3 MP Sensor on the next iteration.

Lens..I think the lens should stay the same. It needs to be sharper at wide open though. f4-8 is where this kit really shines. 

And I know it will never happen due to size, but I have to say it anyway. It would be awesome if they could get 1.8 out of this thing, just to please us bokeholics.

Thanks for reading my incoherent and very biased review.

Love,

Paul