Fujifilm XF23mm f/2 R WR lens

      Photo Review 9

      In summary

      The XF 23mm f/2 R WR weather-sealed lens has a  compact, lightweight design and support for high-speed autofocusing, enabling users to take pictures spontaneously and making it ideal for snapshots and general picture-taking.  It’s also compact enough for travel photography, although it lacks built-in stabilisation.


      Full review

      Announced in late August 2016, the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 R WR is a wide-angle lens that is designed for mirrorless cameras that use Fujifilm’s proprietary X-Trans CMOS sensor. Similar in size and design to the XF 35mm f/2 R WR, which we reviewed in February 2016, it features the same compact metal exterior and weatherproof sealing.  


      Side view of the Fujinon XF  23mm f/2 R WR lens, black version. (Source: Fujifilm.)

      The optical design is also similar, with ten elements in six groups, including two aspherical elements. The positions of these elements are shown in the optical diagram below.


      The optical diagram of the  Fujinon XF  23mm f/2 R WR lens, with the aspherical elements shown in light blue. (Source: Fujifilm.)

      A nine-blade iris diaphragm closes to a circular aperture for attractive bokeh. The lens also benefits from Super EBC (Super Electron Beam Coating), which reduces ghosting and flare.

      Like the XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens, it has a faster sibling in the XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens, which we reviewed in December 2013 and is larger and more expensive. That lens weighs 300 grams and its minimum focus is 60 cm, whereas the f/2 lens weighs only 180 grams and will focus to 22 cm.

      The review lens is normally supplied with front and end caps as well as a petal-shaped lens hood. A ‘cloth wrapping’ similar to the one supplied with other lenses in this suite is also provided.

      Who’s it for?
      Fujifilm’s lens portfolio already contains a prime lens covering the same moderately wide angle of view, which is equivalent to 34.5mm in 35mm format. However, the XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens is 63 mm long with a diameter of 72 mm and a weight of 300 grams, which makes it significantly larger and heavier than the f/2 lens.

      The XF 23mm f/2 R WR lens is also roughly half the price of the faster lens, making it attractive to photographers who don’t need the speed but prefer a lighter, more compact load. It will also appeal to price-constrained shooters.

      The 63.4-degree angle of view is suitable for a wide range of subjects from landscapes to group portraits as well as still life and street photography. The f/2 maximum aperture is fast enough to be used for creating images with a reasonably shallow depth-of-field and working in moderate low-light conditions.

      Its compact, lightweight design and support for high-speed autofocusing, enable users to take pictures spontaneously, making it ideal for snapshots and general picture-taking. It is also compact enough for travel photography. But it lacks built-in stabilisation, a feature also absent from Fujifilm’s X-mount cameras.

      Build and Ergonomics
      Fujifilm’s XF 23mm f/2 R WR lens is very well built, with a robust aluminium-alloy barrel and a metal mount. Its design is similar to the XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens  and also the XF 50mm f/2 R WR which was announced in January 2017 (which we haven’t reviewed). Like those lenses, it is offered in black or silver, as shown below.  


      The two colour options for the Fujinon XF  23mm f/2 R WR lens. (Source: Fujifilm.)

      The 23mm f/2 lens has the same array of weatherproof sealing rings in areas that might allow the intrusion of dust or moisture, including around the front element, inside all moving adjustment rings and at the interface between the lens and the camera body. The illustration below shows where they are located.  


      This diagram shows the location of the weatherproof seals in the lens.  (Source: Fujifilm.)

      The focusing ring is just under 15 mm wide and located at the front of the lens barrel, 8 mm behind the bayonet mounting for the lens hood. An 11 mm wide band of fine moulded ribbing encircles the leading edge of this ring.

      The dedicated aperture sits just behind the focusing ring but stepped outwards by a band that carries the aperture settings. This ring is roughly 22 mm wide with broader ribbing to provide a secure grip. Click stops in 1/3 EV increments provide a reliable way to adjust aperture settings between f/2 and f/16. Beyond the f/16 mark there’s an A position for automatic aperture selection.

      The lens is supplied with a 15 mm wide plastic lens hood that clips onto the mount at the front of the barrel but only extends roughly 8 mm beyond the leading edge of the lens. It does the job ““ but only just.

      It’s almost impossible to attach a filter without removing the hood, although the lens cap can be fitted when the hood is in place. A more substantial vented metal hood, the LH-XF35-2, which is also compatible with the XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens, is available for around AU$90.

      None of the lenses in the f/2 series comes with distance or depth-of-field scales and they also lack an infrared index.  The focusing ring has no mechanical connection with the lens elements so it rotates freely when no power is supplied from the camera. With power, turning focusing ring moves the elements electronically, via a ‘fly-by-wire’ system that (typically) offers little tactile feedback.

      Autofocusing is controlled by a stepping motor that is housed within the lens. All focusing is internal, which means the front element does not rotate, making it easy to use angle-critical filters like polarisers and graduates.

      The metal mounting plate is surrounded by a rubber flange that keeps out dust and moisture. Ten gold contacts inside the mount marry with similar contacts in the camera to enable electronic signals to pass between the camera and the lens.

       Focusing is fully internal, driven by a stepping motor that moves the focusing group of lens elements noiselessly. The front element of the lens doesn’t move, making it easy to use angle-critical filters like polarisers and graduates. Manual focusing is driven electronically through the camera body via a similar ‘fly-by-wire’ system to that in the 35mm f/2 lens, which provides very little tactile feedback.

      We found the review lens focused both quickly and accurately with the phase detection AF system in the X-E3 camera, moving between close focus and infinity almost instantaneously. However, the closest focusing distance of 22 cm was unsuitable for photographing small subjects since the maximum magnification is only 0.13x.

      As in the X-Pro2, the joystick on the rear panel makes it easy to position the point or area of focus. Push this lever in and you can adjust the size of the focus area by turning the rear command dial just above it.

      Like the XF 35mm f/2 R WR lens, the XF 23mm f/2 R WR lens was shown to be a good performer in our regular Imatest tests. Centre resolution peaked at around f/4, where it was well above expectations for the camera’s 24-megapixel sensor.

      Resolution remained above expectations  from f/2.2 through to f/6.4 in the centre of the frame and was only just below expectations at maximum aperture. Diffraction kicked in at around f/8 and resolution dropped quite sharply between f/8 and the minimum aperture of f/16, as shown in the graph of our test results below.



      Lateral chromatic aberration was also well controlled  and remained in the lower end of the ‘negligible’ band throughout the tested aperture range. We saw no evidence of coloured fringing in any of our test shots. In the graph below, which shows the results of our Imatest tests, the red line marks the boundary between negligible and low CA.


       Because the X-E3 provides in-camera corrections for vignetting and distortion we assessed these factors be looking at ARW.RAW files, which were converted the test shots into TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw, our preferred converter. We found the lens showed no significant rectilinear distortion, even in uncorrected raw files.

      Slight vignetting detected at the widest aperture in raw files continued through to f/4 but had largely disappeared by f/5. In-camera corrections for both distortion and vignetting are applied automatically to JPEG   files.

      We found some veiling flare when a bright light source was included within the image frame but little evidence of flare and ghosting when the light source was excluded. Backlit subjects were generally handled very well.

      With a minimum focusing distance of 22 cm, this lens is not well suited to close-up shooting, although it can be used for close-up shots of large enough subjects. The f/2 maximum aperture combines with the nine-bladed iris diaphragm to produce smooth and attractive bokeh for a wide angle lens. Some outlining of highlights occurs when the lens is stopped down below about f/4.5.

       The XF 23mm f/2 R WR lens provides an attractive alternative to Fujifilm’s older 23mm f/1.4 lens, which we tested on the X-E2 camera (the predecessor to the camera we used for testing the 23mm f/2 lens). Despite a jump in resolution from 16 megapixels in the X-E2 to 24 megapixels in the X-E3, the new lens is at least a match for its faster sibling and, in some areas, a better performer.

      The f/2 lens benefits from the latest technologies as well as being weather-sealed. It is also sharper at its widest apertures, although not necessarily so at the edges of the frame, where the f/1.4 lens has a slight advantage.

       A quick check on Australian online photo specialists’ websites show it can be had for roughly AU$600, whereas the faster lens is almost double that price.  B&H has this lens listed at US$449, which converts to AU$574.50. Adding the lowest shipping price of AU$27.83 takes it over $600, which means it’s not worth shopping off-shore once currency conversion and shipping costs are accounted for.  



       Picture angle: 63.4 degrees
       Minimum aperture: f/16
       Lens construction: 10 elements in 6 groups (including 2 aspherical elements)
       Lens mounts: Fujifilm XF
       Diaphragm Blades: 9   (rounded aperture)
       Focus drive: Stepping motor with internal focusing
       Stabilisation: No
       Minimum focus: 22 cm
       Maximum magnification: 0.13x
       Filter size:   43 mm
       Dimensions (Diameter x L): 60.0 x 51.9 mm
       Weight:  180 grams
       Standard Accessories: FLCP-43 front cap,   RLCP-001 rear cap, lens hood, wrapping cloth

       Distributor: Fujifilm Australia; 1800 226 355; www.fujifilm.com.au



       (based on JPEG files from the Fujifilm X-E3)












       Vignetting at f/2.


      Rectilinear distortion.


      Close-up; ISO 200, 1/1800 second at f/2.


      Close-up; ISO 200, 1/280 second at f/5.6.


      Veiling flare caused by strong backlighting; ISO 100, 1/350 second at f/5.6.


      Flare produced when a bright light source is within the image frame; ISO 400, 1/1000 second at f/7.1.


      Moderate backlighting; ISO 200, 1/320 second at f/5.


      ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/8.


      Crop from the above image showing centre sharpness.


      Crop from the above image showing edge sharpness.


      ISO 200, 1/125 second at f/16.


      Crop from the above image showing detail resolution at the minimum aperture.


      ISO 200, 1/100 second at f/6.4.


      ISO 250, 1/1500 second at f/5.6.


      ISO 200, 1/500 second at f/4.5.


      ISO 200, 1/80 second at f/8.
      Additional image samples can be found with our review of the Fujifilm X-E3 camera.


      RRP: AU$699; US$449.95

      • Build: 8.8
      • Handling: 8.7
      • Image quality: 9.0
      • Versatility: 8.7