It’s no secret that Fujifilm makes great lenses. It has made lenses and imaging technology for decades and for multiple industries such as broadcasting, cinema, and even medical applications. When Fujifilm introduced the X-mount back in 2012, they used their expertise to create an entirely new line of excellent lenses for their mirrorless system. One of the first lenses released in that lineup was the Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R. It’s useful 53mm “normal” field of view and fast aperture made it a popular choice for those who got into the Fujifilm X series. It was part of the original lens trinity released with the X-Pro 1 (alongside the XF 18mm f/2.0 and the XF 60mm f/2.4 Macro, both of which I have reviewed).
The XF 35mm f/1.4 is probably best known for its beautiful rendering. Photographers have even said there is “magic” in this lens. It seems that Fuji hit it out of the park on their first try and made an instant classic. However, this lens was not without it’s issues. During the early days, the AF was quite slow due to both the lens and the camera bodies. Over the years, however, Fujifilm has released firmware updates to improve the lens performance. The X-Mount bodies also got increasingly better through firmware and hardware improvements.
I’ve been a Fuji X user for around 5 years now and counting. For many years, I never considered getting the 35mm 1.4 despite all the great things I’d heard about it. I wrote it off as ‘old tech’, referring to it’s old AF motors. I was also big on the weather sealing, which this lens does not have. I ended up getting the XF 35mm f/2.0 WR, which improved upon the ‘shortcomings’ of the 1.4. I enjoyed the f/2 very much but quite honestly, I didn’t know what I was missing.
The 35mm f/1.4 wasn’t even on my radar until 2018 when I got the Fujifilm X-H1 and made this video with my friend Dylan Goldby. He mentioned that the lens really performed well on the X-H1. I got curious and gave the lens a try. A few weeks later, I was the proud owner of one. I absolutely love this lens. It was one of those “where have you been all my life” moments.
What I like:
1. Rendering – this is reason enough to get this lens, IMO. There’s just something about how this lens renders the world. The right mix of sharpness and dreaminess. That special sauce. This lens is beautiful.
2. Fast aperture – The low light performance is excellent with this lens, both because of the fast aperture and the subsequent ability to shoot at lower ISO’s. Add the shallower DOF and pleasant bokeh and you have a winner. Quite honestly, it’s hard to go back once you’ve started shooting at f/1.4.
3. Size and weight – this lens is feather-light and compact. At 187 grams, there’s no excuse not to take it with you.
4. Much improved AF performance on newer bodies – on the X-H1, AF is blazing fast. Even continuous AF and face tracking are very good. The lens seems to have similar performance on the X-T2 with firmware 4.10.
5. Highest performance IBIS with X-H1 – on Fuji’s spec sheet, the 35mm f/1.4 can get 5.5 stops of image stabilization with the X-H1 body. I haven’t done any scientific tests, but it certainly feels damn good. The fast aperture and in-body image stabilization makes this lens and the X-H1 a monster combination for hand-held low-light shooting. Big props to Fuji for not forgetting about this classic lens and breathing new life into it with the new bodies and firmware.
6. Second-hand price – the retail price of this lens is considerably higher than the f/2 version. However, second hand prices are currently very good at the time of writing, hovering in the mid $300 USD range.
What can be improved:
1. AF motors – the 35mm 1.4’s AF motors are much louder than the current ones that can be found on the f/2 primes. This makes the 1.4 less than ideal for continuous AF in video, as you might be able to capture the motor sound.
2. Weather sealing – the 35mm 1.4 doesn’t have weather sealing, which is always nice to have when you’re out shooting in inclement weather.
3. Quirky hood and cap – this is really nitpicking, but I’ll mention it. While I actually like the look of the squarish hood. It’s quite flimsy and the corresponding rubber cap that goes on the front of the hood keeps falling off. It’s a minor annoyance and I keep the hood on most of the time regardless.
Compared to the 35mm f/2
While the 35mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/2 WR lenses will obviously be compared due to their similar focal lengths, I have come to the conclusion that comparing the lenses is like comparing apples and oranges. Until Fuji can make an f/1.4 lens that has fast motors and weather sealing AND that magical rendering, I believe there will be a clear line between the two. Here’s my simplified take on the comparison: You want fast and practical? Get the 2.0. You want beautiful? Get the 1.4. Both lenses are excellent.
It’s probably just a matter of time before Fuji releases a version 2 of this lens. I can’t say when that will be and honestly, I don’t really care. The original XF 35mm f/1.4 is a gem and I believe it will continue to stand the test of time. This lens has become a staple in my working kit as well as my street and travel photography setup. Yes, I’m a few years late to the party, but I’m glad I made it.
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Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 Sample Images