Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Fujinon XF 14mm review - the best Leica lens Fuji ever built ;)



I have spent a few weeks with the new Fuji XF 14mm f2.8 R lens. I had heard good things about it, yet it was not love at first sight for me.

Testing the Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 R in the real world
Testing the Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 R in the real world...

And that is not to say that it is not a pretty lens. It is very attractive looking and the markings for the DOF indicator clearly separates it from the rest of the current Fujinon XF lens lineup.


Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - my X-Pro 1's birthday present
Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 R lens


But the timing for getting the XF 14mm was a bit off for me. I had just finished some intense testing of the Samyang 8mm f2.8 fisheye and absolutely loved the 180° field of view and image quality. And my main lens for the X-Pro 1 has been the light and very compact XF 18mm f2 for the past year. Compared to the XF 18mm the XF 14mm is big (41mm/1.6" vs. 58mm/2.28") and heavy (116g/0.26lb vs. 235g/0.52lb).


Fujinon XF 18mm f2 vs. XF 14mm f2.8
Fujinon XF 18mm f2 vs. XF 14mm f2.8

Will I be using the XF 14mm enough to justify the purchase? After all it is currently the most expensive X-Mount lens made by Fuji. And in the end it is only 4mm wider than the XF 18mm and even one stop slower.

Anyway, I now had the lens in my hands and did what I always do when I get new gear – I attached it to the camera, emptied my camera bag and locked all other lenses and camera bodies into my closet. The best way to get familiar with new gear fast is to use it intensely and exclusively.

So I went out on my first stroll with the new lens. But when I stepped out of my door I felt an unfamiliar strong pull on my camera strap (which I lug across my shoulder like a messenger bag). Not only is the XF 14mm heavier, it also sticks out longer to change the weight balance a bit into the “uncomfortable” department. Additionally, I do not like the style of lenshood that the XF 14mm requires. The XF 18mm and 35mm lenses have small and unobtrusive square lens hoods. But this is the Tulip style lens hood that draws much more attention and makes the camera look bigger than it is – not good for a stealthy aspiring street photographer.


Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 vs. XF 18mm f2 with lens hoods
Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 vs. XF 18mm f2 with lens hoods

The 14mm lens will equal the field of view of a 21mm lens on a full frame camera. So the 90° field of view should be perfect for landscape and architecture. And while I have gotten really used to the 27mm full frame equivalent field of view of the XF 18mm lens, I could clearly see the added benefit of a 21mm equivalent field of view of the XF 14mm lens. You can get closer and still get everything in the frame.


Dampfschiff St. Georg Hamburg - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
Wide angle lenses allow you to get closer to avoid having other photographers / tourists in your picture ;)

Hamburg Telemichel und Messehallen - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
Hamburg Telemichel and Messehallen - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1

A quick check on the MacBook Air brought the first surprise: It does not show distortion - not even on the RAW file! Wow! For a wide angle lens like this, I’m impressed!

I also made myself familiar with the manual focus mechanism of this lens and it works pretty much the way I would have wanted it to. It is pretty comfortable to switch into the MF mode directly when you pull the focus ring back. No need to set the MF switch manually. And it goes right back to AF when you push the focus ring back to the forward position. Very smart! But it comes with one drawback: You can not automatically prefocus with the AF-L button in manual mode. The AF mechanism seems to be completely decoupled from the gears when in MF mode. And when in AF mode you can’t turn the MF focus ring as it is locked.


Elbtunnel - Underneath the Elbe River - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
 Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 @ f4 ISO 3200

Car Elevator Elbtunnel - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
Car Elevator Elbtunnel - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1

Zone focusing has worked well for me with the XF 14mm and it raises the question, why many modern lenses don’t get these useful markings any more?


Hamburg Frühlings DOM 2013 - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
14mm gave the perfect 90° angle to capture this chairoplane

The manual focus is still focus by wire on the XF 14mm but it is the best feel of all the XF lenses I have tried so far.

Flying on the chairoplane - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
 Zone focus with DOF indicator on the lens worked well

The autofocus feels about as fast as the one in the XF 35mm and not quite as snappy as the XF 18mm. The 58mm filter thread is a bit unfortunate compared to the 52mm of the XF 18mm and 35mm, but physics has it’s laws about front element size...


Rollercoaster panning - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
Roller coaster panning - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1

The lens handles flare pretty good for a 14mm wide angle lens. It shares the same lens hood with the XF18-55mm zoom lens. That is convenient for people who own both lenses and only want to bring one lens hood. But it also raises the question if the zoom lens gets the maximum sun protection on the wide end if the cover area is enough for an even wider 14mm vs. 18mm lens?

Backlight and flare test with the Fuji XF 14mm lens - Fuji X-Pro 1
Backlight and flare test with the Fuji XF 14mm lens - Fuji X-Pro 1

This brings me to the image quality. As always I do not test my gear in lab conditions. Others who are much better at this already do plenty of these tests. For me it is important to see how the gear behaves in normal shooting situations. And here the lens performs stunningly well! Sharpness and contrast are already very good wide open at f2.8 and gets even better (especially in the corners) at f4 - f5.6 range. I hardly shoot beyond f5.6 if I don’t have to. But I tried some daytime long exposures with a ND1000 filter and aperture up to f16 to get a slow shutter time. IQ is still good but you loose some sharpness due to diffraction beyond f11 – like with most other lenses, too.


Hamburg Alster Architecture - Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8 - Fuji X-Pro 1
 XF 14mm long exposure: 15s - f16

Space Odyssey 2013 - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
XF 14mm long exposure: 15s - f16

There is a bit of vignetting wide open at f2.8 (corrected on the JPG files, visible on RAW) and it decreases slowly when you stop down. Nothing out of the ordinary for a wide angle lens, though. But the vignetting has not spoiled any of my images so far.

Hamburg Alster Fountain Rainbow - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
Hamburg Alster Fountain Rainbow - I even added some extra vignetting on the top of this image!


If you have followed my blog, Flickr stream and Twitter feed long enough, you know how important bokeh is to me. So how does the XF 14mm handle the out of focus blur?


Take Courage! - Fujinon XF 14mm - Fuji X-Pro 1
 Take Courage! Get closer than you normally would to get a smooth bokeh

Hamburg Bokeh Sightseeing with the giraffe, Fuji XF 14mm and Fuji X-Pro 1
My Hamburg Bokeh Sightsseing series benefits from the XF 14mm wide angle lens

After tons of photos in all different lighting situations I am nothing short of impressed. I hear a few complaints about the price of this lens. And at a MSRP of EUR 899,- / USD 899,- it does not generally appear to be a bargain for a Fujinon XF lens at first sight. But imagine you could buy a Leica 14mm f2.8 lens for this price – you would not think twice. And from my image quality point of view I would say that the XF 14mm is the most Leica like wide angle lens I have tried so far.
If you take a look at it from this point of view the lens is almost a bargain! :)

Positive:
+ Great image quality, color and contrast
+ DOF scale on the lens
+ Handles flare well
+ Value for money!

Neutral:
o Normal wide angle vignetting
o 58mm filter thread vs. 52mm on XF18 and 35mm
o 1 f-stop slower than the XF 18mm lens

Negative:
- Bulky lens hood (also obstructs OVF on X-Pro 1 quite a bit)
- A bit too big and heavy for my taste

If you have any further questions leave a comment below or Twitter me @HamburgCam 

And if you liked my post I am always happy if you spread the word and retweet, like or google +1 it :-) 

19 comments:

  1. Thank you for very helpful practical review and sample photos! I wonder could you add some impressions about how well the XF 18mm lens performed for you? It is considered to be the weakest lens in the XF line, but many people may benefit from your practical assessment of the 18mm lens. Thanks! Vladimir.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your kind feedback Vladimir!
      I have been thinking about a XF 18mm review. It has been my most used lens with my X-Pro 1 over the past year and I really like it. There are a few drawbacks to the lens but the benefits outweigh them multiple times for me.
      I will most likely do a X100s review next, but keep the XF 18mm in mind for a future review - it deservs it :)

      Delete
  2. Hi,

    Thank you for the great review.
    I'm going to buy the x-pro1 and i was wondering from your experience what is the most useable Lens from top to bottom ? I can't buy all the range at once :(
    Thank you very much
    Marc

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Marc! You know that the right lens for me might not be the right lens for you. I would have to know what you'll be photographing most in order to give a vague suggestion to you.

      But if I could only have one lens for my X-Pro 1 it would currently be the XF 18mm f2! Most versatile and compact prime lens for the X-Mount in my oppinion. But the XF18-55mm covers a nice range and seems to have great image quality, too.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for your insights. How does the sharpness compare with the Samyang 8mm? Any views on comparing both this and the samyang. I currently have the samyang and its a great lens, sharp (sharper than my canon 15mm fisheye) and really small. I am not sure whether I want to add this lens into my arsenal

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You know that I am more of a "real world use" reviewer than a hardcore pixel peeper, right? ;-)

      The Samyang 8mm f2.8 is truly a fantastic lens for the low price. But it is also quite differnet to the XF 14mm. We have a 180° uncorrected FOV on the one and 90° perfectly rectilinear corrected 90° FOV on the other lens.

      The 8mm is a creative fun lens, but the XF 14mm is a serious every day work lens.

      But I have been thinking of a review between all current XF-Mount wide angle lenses that I own (8mm, 14mm & 18mm).

      Would you be interested in that?

      Delete
    2. Definately! can I suggest to include also a comparision if we correct the distortion of the 8mm to replicate the 14mm.

      Delete
    3. I would be interested in a comparison between the wide angle prime lenses. I'm currently considering the 8mm for its price and I already own the 18mm.

      Delete
    4. As a soon-to-be convert to X-system... Yes please! (with sugar on top))

      Delete
  4. I don't think it is Leica-like at all. It is a very good lens and my comment is not meant in the sense that it is any better or anyw worse. But what stands out of Leica lenses are the colours. Again: they are not better or worse but they seem to be very distinctive. I have regularly browsed through mFT images and immediately saw that some pics had to be shot with a Leica lens (most of the time this was the f1.4 25 mm). I don't see those colours here so I see no Leica singature.

    I do see a very ncie and well built lens. I do not own a Fuji camera, but congrats with the fine cam and lens and thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughts on this matter. For me Leica lenses alsways stand out to be very sharp and contrasty even at the wides aperture that the lens offers. And here the Fuji XF 14mm looks very Leica like to me.

      The bokeh is the next optical quality that stands out for Leica lenses. And here I think that the XF 14mm also shows a very smooth bokeh (the Fuji XF 35mm on the other hand is more busy and not very Leica like).

      The most neglectible quality of lenses is the color reproduction to me. After all we have digital cameras, sensors and a little computer inside the camera that does the color management. So color is just an interpretation of what the sensor and software make out of it. I would not put too much importance on this as Leica, Olympus, Sony, Fuji, Nikon, Canon all interprete the colors a bit differently even with the same lens attached...

      Delete
  5. I have this lens right now but sadly, I haven't shot with extensively as I would have liked. You are spot on with your assessments though and I feel the same way about the size and heft of the lens. The biggest peeve I currently have is the hood as well, specially when using it with the OVF - it covers a considerable amount in the frame. Even though I have the EVF, the reason I bought the X-Pro1 over X-E1 is the OVF itself.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, this is my biggest issue with this lens but I am slowly adjusting and geting used to it. But I guess if they made it more compact the optical quality might have suffered.

      Delete
  6. Hi, I have the 18-55 and I'm wondering how much better the 14 is vs the 18-55 at 18mm?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry, but I can not say as I don't own any Fuji XF zoom lenses. But the mere difference of 4mm wider focal length is quite noticeable!

      Delete
  7. Hi, I have been enjoy your work.
    Have you compared this lens with voigtlander 15mm ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No, unfortunately I do not own the Voigtländer. But simply the convenience of AF is a clear advantage for the XF 14mm for me.

      Delete
  8. Thanks for the excellent review which is much appreciated. I have an XE-2 on trial with the intention of replacing my D300 system. One thought I had was keeping the Nikon 10.5 and using it on the XE-2 with a lens adapter. Any thoughts?

    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been using my X-Pro 1 with a Canon EOS and an Olympus OM adaptor and they work good except for the lack of Aperture control on the EOS lenses.

      http://fujixfiles.blogspot.com/2012/07/fuji-x-pro-1-and-canon-ef-lenses.html

      http://fujixfiles.blogspot.com/2012/07/fuji-x-pro-1-and-olympus-om-zuiko-lenses.html

      But if you're after really wide angle I would go for the Samyang 8mm f2.8 lens!

      http://fujixfiles.blogspot.com/2013/03/ultra-wide-angle-fisheye-lens-on-fuji-x.html

      Delete