I've own several 35mm equivalent (mirrorless) lens and this Fujifilm 23mm f/1.4 is the best of them all.
Prior to getting this lens, months ago, I sold off the Fujifilm X100.
I've been waiting for this lens since I bought the X-Pro1 back in March 2012. It's well worth the wait. This could be my favourite 35mm shooter.
Design and build
It has terrific build quality. It's bigger than the 35mm f/1.4 lens (shown right in photo above) but not significantly bigger.
It weighs 300g which is not too heavy but will make the camera front heavy. It's a weighty combination with the camera, but much lighter than DSLRs with the 35mm equivalent lens.
This lens comes with a distance indicator and a depth-of-field scale on the barrel. You have to pull back the focus ring to reveal that. Once the focus ring is pulled back, the camera automatically goes into manual focus mode. The focus ring is smooth to turn.
The filter size is rather big at 62mm.
The petal-style lens hood included is huge. In the X-Pro1 OVF, it blocks off 1/8 of the frame at the bottom right. It can be an issue because there are three focus cross hair there. I bought a third party metal hood (the round kind) and it blocks off even more. If you're shooting with EVF, then there's no blocking, of course.
External aperture ring goes from f/1.4 to f/16 with three increments for one stop.
Usually, I get a 4X ND filter for lens that are f/1.4. But with the X-series camera, which high-ISO isn't a problem, I chose to go with a 8X ND filter instead.
Just for fun, I put the Voigtlander 17.5mm f/0.95 lens for comparison. The Voigtlander is 540g. Even though the weight of the Fujifilm lens is much lighter, the build quality is still top notch.
The image quality is sublime. It's definitely as good as the 35mm f/1.4 lens.
At wide open f/1.4, the optical performance is close to perfection. It's sharp centre to edge, images are contrasty, has low to no vignetting, slight to barely noticeable chromatic aberration (colour fringing). It's seriously good. Easily deserves 5 out of 5 stars.
Bokeh is nice creamy in most situations. I've read online some comments saying that bokeh can be busy. I see that sometimes especially with foliage in the background. Creamy and busy seems to be a bit contradicting but it really depends on what you're shooting. I don't really have an issue with it.
This is the lens to get for wide angle subject isolation. Sure depth-of-field might not be as shallow as full frame, but it's more than satisfactory, as least for me. With this lens, you can have people standing in front of a blurred background, if that's your kind of photography. So, yes, it's a fantastic lens for event and street photography.
I don't have any sharpness comparison chart done yet, but I'll definitely put some up in the future.
AutofocusAutofocus is snappy, not instantaneous though. Speed is rather similar to the 18mm and 35mm lens.
Focus is internal so there are no moving parts on the lens. You can heard the lens while it focus too, which means that noise will be picked up during video recording.
Manual FocusTo engage the manual focus, you pull back the focus ring. There's no need to turn the focus switch with this lens.
The fly-by-wire manual focus is quite well implemented. It's very responsive and you can control the focus pull well. With focus peaking, manual focusing with this lens is effortless.
Thing to note again is the noise that it generates while focusing. Not loud, but still audible.
ParallaxThere's not much parallex error unless you focus on close subjects.
The OVF frame line coverage is 100%. The lens does block off a bit of the view on the bottom right. Nothing to worry about.
Minimal focus distance (in macro mode) is around 15cm.
ConclusionThis lens is a wonderful shooter when used with any of the X-series lens.
The 35mm field of view is great for general purpose, but I can say that for the 18mm lens as well. The f/1.4 is the winner here giving you that extra one stop.
I use this lens for street and event photography and it serves me very well.
Personally, I feel that this is one of the essential lens for Fujifilm. It's expensive but definitely worth the money. Compared to DSLR 35mm lens, this lens is light and does not compromise on the portability of your camera setup. If I have to buy only one lens, this is the one I'll get,
If you've used the X100 before, which people say packs a wonderful lens, well, the 23mm f/1.4 lens is better in every aspect except the weight. It's also better than every one of the Micro Four Thirds lens I have that can shoot at or close to 35mm field of view. This 23mm f/1.4 lens is SIGNIFICANTLY better. I've not used full-frame 35mm lens before but I never will because of their size and weight.
It's definitely value for money. Most highly recommended.
Overall 4.5 out of 5 stars.
At a glance
+ Well built
+ Aperture ring on lens
+ Sharp wide open
+ Internal focus
+ Good implementation of fly-by-wire focus
+ No vignetting
+ No chromatic aberration
+ Dreamy bokeh
+ Comes with lens hood
- OVF Frame lines coverage not 100%. Photos will be larger
AvailabilityFujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4 R lens is available on Amazon at www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EZ8BEXK
Be sure to check out more reviews on Amazon.