What is known as the most versatile focal length because it offers an angle of view like the human eye? Which lenses are the most difficult to choose as an amateur photographer? Let’s talk about Fujifilm’s 35mm Prime Options.
Perhaps you bought your first Fujifiilm camera. And perhaps the camera came as a kit with the 18-55 or 16-80 kit lens. And if you are a beginner you maybe heard that a prime lens is usually faster and is also great for improving your photography skills. And then you also heard that about the “Nifty Fifty”, a lens with a 50mm focal length, and that it renders images that closely match the true perspective of the human eye.
And indeed, in the old days of analogue photography (where I come from) these 50mm lenses were the kit lenses, that usually came together with your camera. Like the old Nifty Fifty of my Minolta SLR, the Rokkor ƒ1.7. In the Fuji-X system we are using an APS-C sensor, so a 35mm corresponds most closely to the 50mm in full format. And just like all other camera manufacturers, this is the focal length for which Fuji has the most lens options. I own two of them myself, namely the 35mm f1.4, which was released in 2012 wich costs around 600€, and the newer 35mm f2 from 2015 for around 400€. First of all: They are both excellent lenses that I really enjoy using. But both have their advantages and disadvantages, which we would like to talk about in a moment.
But I also don’t want to hide from you the third option from Fujifilm: The XC 35mm f2, a lens that corresponds to my XF 35mm f2, except that it lacks an aperture ring and is completely made of plastic. In return, it’s price is for the tight budget, because it costs less than 200 €. I didn’t try out this lens yet because I’m a fan of the aperture rings. But if you don’t mind, take a good look at it. Everything I tell you about the XF 35mm f2 regarding Speed and Image Quality should also apply to the XC variant.
Let’s first talk about the similarities: In my opinion, both lenses deliver great image quality. I took enough pictures with both of them on different cameras to be able to say that with full conviction. In all of the reviews that I have read, both are considered to be absolutely sufficiently sharp over their entire aperture range and provide only a few distortions and aberations. Both have an aperture ring with clicks, both have a minimum aperture of ƒ16 and both housings are made of metal.
Next, I’ll talk about the pros and cons of the individual lenses, at the end I’ll briefly summarize the differences between the two. Let’s let the older lens take precedence and start with the ƒ1.4
XF 35mm ƒ1.4
- The 1.4 is of course very fast and offers many options for separating the object from the background. Along with my 56mm ƒ1.2, that makes them my favorite portraits. ƒ1.4 is a whole f-stop faster than ƒ2, but more on that later.
- It is very easy to use due to its comfortable size, even for my rather large hands.
- The lens hood is made of metal and is very beautiful.
- This lens just takes great pictures with a certain magic that I can’t explain technically.
- 28cm closest focus distance
- The biggest disadvantage of the lens is it’s slower and louder autofocus in comparison to the f2. More on that later.
- At over € 600, the lens is still not a small purchase that you should think about well if the budget is limited.
- The lens is not weather sealed.
- The size is great, but a disadvantage in the OVF of the X-Pro3 because it is even visible in the frame.
XF 35mm ƒ2
- Very reliable and fast Auto Focus
- Lighter and more subtle, for streetphotography
- Weather sealing
- cheaper, around € 400
- Smaller. In fact so small, that it does not affect the frame inside the OVF of the X-Pro3
- “Only” ƒ2
- Aperture and focus ring very small and difficult to use
- “Silly” lens hood, this is why i Bought this beautiful metal lens hood from hope, that also fits the 23mm f2.
- 35cm closest focus distance
The first thing you may notice when trying out: 35mm is obviously not exactly the same as 35mm, because we get a little closer with the f2 lens without moving the camera. With f1.4 we get one whole stop more Shutter Speed. Usually the bokeh balls look very nice on both versions, but in general the background is creamier on the 1.4.
If you set everything to manual and have a look at the result with a wide open aperture you will see that the f2 lens delivers a significantly darker image. Technically a full aperture stopp less means half the light is able to hit the sensor or film. That of course is a lot when you do low light and available light photography.
And this is something that has to be said in general. I did some direct comparison with some photos for you and the 1.4 offers a much softer, creamier and less irritating bokeh wide open. Well somehow the higher price has to be justified… anyway, the f2 is not bad at all.
Fujinon 35mm ƒ1.4
Fujinon 35mm ƒ2
The best way to see the comparison of the AF performance is of course in my Youtube video. But one thing is clear: Both lenses work on the X-T3 from firmware version 4.0 with improved autofocus. But: The f2 variant is clearly ahead here. The older 1.4 glass cannot really keep up here, neither in video mode nor in stills. This point clearly goes to the small WR lens.
Wich 35mm for what?
Street shots made with the XF 35mm ƒ2
First of all: I really like the 35mm focal length in street photography. In the meantime I have learned to work with the 23mm of the X100V or even the 16mm and to get close, but sometimes I feel better with the 35mm. Well, for Street both lenses are a good choice in terms of focal length for me.
If I go out on a nice, bright day and know that I don’t want to cut out my object too much from the background, then I definitely take the 35mm f2 with me. It offers an excellent look and great sharpness with smaller apertures. And it’s just so fast and reliable with autofocus that I can do without zone focusing, which is rather difficult to use with 35mm anyway. In addition, dirt and splash water can’t harm me because it’s a WR lens and I have to carry less weight with me. The absolutely perfect balance on the X-Pro3 rounds it off, while on the X-T3 it almost seems a bit too small. In street photography I neither use the focus ring very often, nor do I keep adjusting the aperture so that the small rings don’t bother me very much.
Street shots made with the XF 35mm ƒ1.4
If I go out at night or have a special idea with a particularly blurred background in mind, then the 35mm f1.4 will definitely go into my camera bag. In such cases I also adjust a lot, for which the haptically clearly better rings of the ƒ1.4 are more suitable.
Portraits made with the XF 35mm ƒ1.4
With portraits, the choice is very simple: 35mm ƒ1.4
I really can’t explain the magic that creates the look of the pictures with this lens and I was relieved to find that other and much better photographers also have a hard time with it. But that’s the way it is.
Nevertheless, I was annoyed once before about a missed focus on the eye and wished for the AF performance of the f2 lens. The f2 is really not at all unsuitable for portraits, but since I now have the choice, it is unfortunately always only second. I can therefore recommend it unreservedly for beginners and it has also opened the curtain for portrais with this focal length for me. Pros, on the other hand, supposedly even come into the Fuji-X system because of the 35mm ƒ1.4, so the choice should be clear here.
Portraits made with the XF 35mm ƒ2
For my everyday photography, I always had both lenses on the camera alternately. If it has to be fast, like with my children, the f2 is my first choice. If I want to separate more, I always use the ƒ1.4. Both deliver wonderful image quality, each with its own character, great colors, beautiful bokeh and great contrasts. On vacation, where I usually don’t want to wear so much, the f2 would have a slight lead here, especially since I hardly have to worry about the sand on the beach. But anyway I usually only take my X100V with me on vacation, so I’m very happy with that.
Let’s make it short:
In terms of the total number of points, the 35mm ƒ2 actually won. More than sufficient for almost all occasions, much faster and smaller and weatherproof. Since it also costs 1/3 less than the 1.4 variant, I can only give a clear recommendation to buy it.
Nevertheless, I was magically attracted by the ƒ1.4. I had it here for testing at the time and I really had no intention of keeping it. But after my first portrait shoot with it, I was immediately hooked. The look of this lens is unique and very well known, I can only agree to all the lovers of this lens and recommend a purchase if you need the larger aperture for low light or mainly want to do portraits.
But as you know now: I have both lenses. I always wanted to part with one of them, each time for different reasons. But I couldn’t because both have their certain advantages and I use them on different occasions. Sometimes it’s not that easy to decide which one to take with you. Then I face the tough decision again.
But I hope I was able to help at least some of you with a decision for one of these great nifty fifties.