This is the second lens I purchased when I got into the Fujifilm system. I bought it second hand altogether with my X-Pro2 because the seller gave me a good pack price. I must confess I didn’t know much about the reputation of this lens, so this was a total surprise for me when I started to see the great results I got from it. It’s quite difficult, for me at least, to explain exactly why this is a unique lens in the Fujinon lineup. Many people describe it as “magic” which of course is quite a relative and personal way to describe its character. As this is one of the first lenses issued for the X system by Fuji (around 2012 I think) you can find countless reviews of it, quite a lot more technical than this one you are reading now. Fujifilm even dedicated a special page and promo video to it last year as it turns out it has become quite a classic one on its own (they even dubbed it “The Original”).
By today standards one could call it an “old” lens. The fact is that it lacks some technical refinements that will not make it suitable for you if you plan to use for video shooting or fast action photography. For that kind of use, auto focus turns out to be too noisy and unreliable.
What will it give you ?
What do I mean by character ? Well, it would be that the lens technically has some kind of imperfection that makes it unique in the way it renders the image. It’s a positive kind of flaw, one that works in the benefit of aesthetics. Older lenses, because of their technical limitations, usually have more character to them. On the other hand modern lenses are very good technically but get a sort of “clinical”, technical perfection that makes them more predictable and linear in their rendering. On the other hand, some people find those newer lenses more “boring”.
The character of the lens sometimes depends on the exact alchemy by which the inner lenses “filter” and process the light :
- Special light rendering
This 35mm does something special with the light. Again, it’s quite difficult to describe, but a few images hopefully will help to illustrate what I mean.
- Excellent colour rendering
Colours come out vibrant and contrasty.
- Beautiful portraits
WIth a 35mm focal length you never can go wrong when shooting people close and personal. This lens is plenty sharp and has plenty of contrast, so your portraits pop-up in a beautiful way.
- Gorgeous bokeh
If you are into bokeh, this lens delivers. It’s smooth and creamy, it’s delicious !
- Low light performance
WIth a maximum aperture of f/ 1.4 you are sure to get the shot on whatever conditions you are, where ever you are and at any moment of the day or night.
- Outstanding black and white results
When you choose to shoot black and white you really want a lens that renders perfectly all the subtleties and delicate tones of light. You get precisely that with the 35mm f1.4 R
What it won’t give you
- Quick, silent and perfectly accurate auto focus although when used with a modern X camera like the X-T4, X-Pro3, X-E4 etc.. it works pretty well (even for Street) if you don’t use it in hi-velocity demanding situations.
- Absolute sharpness across the entire frame (like with the latest F1.4 lenses issued in 2021 like the 18mm, 33mm and new 24mm) although this lens is plenty sharp enough where it needs to be really !
- Weather protection. This is an old “R” lens, unlike the newer “WR” fast ones issued this year.
This is a fantastic lens, probably one of the best of the X system. It already has special place in the lineup and it is bound to become and remain a true classical lens, one that will not be re-emplaced by the all new 33mm f.14 WR , both will co-exist with their unique qualities, (unlike the old 24mm F1.4 R which has been replaced by the new one).
For my style of photography and use (street, travel, documenting) I find myself favouring the 35mm (full frame equivalent) field of view. This 50mm (f.f equivalent) is a bit to narrow for my taste, but this is a lens I constantly find myself going back to, because it is such a joy to use and the images it produces have truly something special to them that is very hard to describe. I hope the ones I put will help you to have an idea of what this special character is.
It is certainly a piece of gear that will always find a place in my bag and that I surely won’t sell as long as I stay in the Fuji X system.