It’s the lens, stupid! – Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 R review

In the days of film, serious photography was the territory of either professional photographers or dedicated amateurs. Nowadays, everyone is a photographer, often with themselves as the subject. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary’s most popular word of 2013 is “selfie.” But we don’t look to selfies for great quality. It’s not always about composition, light or subject – very often it is all about the camera.

We all fall into this trap sometimes. In the pre-digital era it was normal to use the same camera for years or even decades without needing to buy a new one. The digital revolution changed all that. Almost every year a hot new camera comes along that makes all the previous gear irrelevant. We get pumped up when we get the latest device, only to want one with new features a few months later. For example, have you got a panoramic ball camera yet? 

However, there is one thing that hasn’t changed since the days of film. Those who have been true practitioners of this craft know that it is not the camera. To paraphrase a famous election slogan, it’s the lens, stupid!

In the last few years the rise of mirrorless cameras has meant that several new camera systems have appeared on the market. The design of cameras differs but most photographic gear offers similar image quality. The main difference between the systems is the quality of lenses. Yes, you read it right. Those who sing the praises of their newest toys in online forums should first take a look at the quality of the lenses. The lens is as important (if not more so) than the camera or sensor. How often do you see an expensive camera bonded with a cheap, poor quality lens?

As you know, I have used Canon and Nikon for many years but about two years ago I switched to Fuji X-system cameras. There are many reasons for this change of heart but the main reason was that I wanted the superb calibre of Fujinon lenses.

It all started with the Fuji X100, a game-changing camera with a premier, built-in lens. Then we got the Fuji X-Pro1 with new line of lenses – all of them very bright and super sharp. Despite their relatively young X-camera system, Fuji has already introduced two standouts – XF 35 mm F1.4 and XF 14 mm F2.8. We own them both and consider them one of the best lenses on the market. It is not that the rest of the Fuji lenses are not good but these two are just extraordinary pieces of glass.

The latest addition to the X-series line-up is the XF 23 mm F1.4. The first thing that struck us about this lens was its size. It is even larger than a wide-angle XF 14 mm. When attached to the Fuji X-Pro1 it feels bulky but solid. Its build quality is superb with all-metal mounts and a high-grade barrel. The focus ring is nice and smooth. The only let down is a plastic hood, which feels cheap.

One of the most important features of this lens is the traditional aperture ring on the lens barrel. This attribute allows a photographer to have a special connection with the lens when shooting. It not only enriches the photographic experience but let’s you indulge in the process of image creation. Kudos to Fuji for going this route!

While physical attributes may or may not appeal, image quality is something everyone wants and this lens delivers! Attached to our Fuji X-Pro1, this lens produces razor sharp, three-dimensional imagery. We have been shooting with the best professional-grade glass from Canon (L) and Nikon (ED). We are familiar with Zeiss and Leica lenses. But this Fuji lens is among the best. If you own the Fuji XF 35 mm F1.4 you already know the potential of this lens in the right hands.

Like other Fuji X-series lenses, it is corrected for distortion. The resolution is great at 1.4, gets very strong at 2.0, and becomes heavenly between 5.6 and 11. For me personally, the 23 mm focal length is a sweet spot. If I were to choose one focal length to shoot with, that would be it. Not only does it allow you to capture beautiful landscapes and work on documentary photography and streetscapes but you can go ahead and take some creative portraits with it.




We own the Fuji X100s, which sports a lens with the same focal length. The question arises – if you already own the Fuji X100/s should you get the XF 23mm lens?

If there were no financial constraints – our answer would be YES and YES again. The beautiful bokeh (blurring) produces gorgeous, creamy images; extra light allows you to shoot in a much darker environment. However, if you have already spent thousands on your gear and for the sake of a happy marriage you need to pause, the small portable Fuji X100/s with a capable F2.0 lens should do the job.

Finally, I hear some people complaining about the price. I found the camera to be quite a bargain for what you get. In the last few years, there has been a tsunami of new lenses, especially for mirrorless cameras. Unfortunately, most of the lenses are very poorly made, slow and poor quality (I guess the price is right). Therefore I am very glad that Fuji decided to put a lot of effort and dedication into equipping the Fuji X-series cameras with superb quality lenses. Those who really care about photography will cherish the lens for many years to come. Cameras will come and go but exceptional lenses will stay.

After all, it’s all about the lens, stupid!






When I started writing this review, I wanted to deliver a technical Grand Tour with charts and technical data about this lens. I found there are already plenty of technical reviews, really well done, on the Internet (here, here, here and here). Therefore, I decided to spend my time shooting with the lens to show you what it does. All images in this review were taken with the Fuji X-Pro1 paired with the XF 23mm F.1.4 R lens. 







and some from the Vancouver Christmas Market.







© Olaf Sztaba Photography. All rights reserved.

81 thoughts on “It’s the lens, stupid! – Fujinon XF 23mm F1.4 R review

  1. Hi Olaf
    i love the photos you’ve made in this post

    are you using any additional filter to take those beautiful pictures? specially the ones in the lake?

  2. Really lovely pictures – thanks for the review. Going to buy an XT-1 and trying to decide primes ( and which ones) or zoom.

    Christine , London ( Uk)

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  6. Have just stumbled across your reviews of the Fuji lenses. I’m a new XT-1 owner and purchased the 56 mm as my first lens. Am now looking at the 23 mm 1.4.

    Would you consider letting up peek into your camera bag?? I think I know what we’d find as far as camera and lenses, but what about accessories and gadgets?

    Love your blog and your images. You’re truly an inspiration.

    1. Matt,

      Thank you for your kind words and welcome to the Fuji family. The 23mm F1.4 is a very good choice for your second lens. In fact, my usual setup when I photograph events/people/general is the X-T1 + XF 56mm & X100S (23mm focal length). Regarding my camera bag; it is very small and simple. We usually don’t use any filters, accessories or gadgets. The only exception is the IceLight & an inexpensive reflector ( Kasia and I love working with natural light and keep our photography simple. If you are looking for more information we are working on a short gear guide. It should be up on our website shortly.

      Thank you for visiting and please let us know about your experience with your new X-T1/lenses.



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  8. i own the fuji x100s and the fuji xt1 with the 56mm, and three zooms. i have been lusting after the leica m240 with 35mm summicon lens for the last five months but two things have since brought me to my senses–your review of the fuji 35mm and the fact that it is now $200 off at B&H. Thanks!!

  9. What’s Taking place i’m new to this, I stumbled upon this I’ve found It positively helpful and it has aided me out loads.
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  10. Thank you very much for your inspiring writing. It was the last straw for my decision.
    Now I am already a happy owner X Pro 1, 18,23 and 56 mm lenses. Some dealers in Europe now to the X Pro 1 a free 18 mm lens. It also helped. Not as great as the other two, but is very good.
    I always saw the world in two major focal, 35 and 85 mm (equiv.). 28 is a bonus for my streetfoto.I was very afraid to go back. From fullframe 5DMk.II with five “L” lenses to a smaller APS-C.
    I work in the service Canon, I could always advance their lenses tested. But not this time …

    In your review you use the exact words that fear was gone. Thanks again. Already in your camera bag I carry only the essentials.

    A selling my EOS equipment still remaining funds. Maybe for 14mm ???
    One of the few good decisions thanks to you, keep it up, I’ll definitely be back.
    …despite the fact that almost do not speak English, as you surely know. I hope you will forgive me

    with respect
    Vítek Lomoz

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  15. thanks olaf for the review. I sold my leica M9 and summicron 35mm asph to get an easy cheap combo with xpro and 23 mm…..Quality is for me equivalent, i am doing black and white only….and this evs make me abble to see through in black and white, and in square format ! what a dream. Yes this camera is light, but I will be able to upgrad with 1/3 of the price of the M leica….and not be stress to hit the camera or the lens.

    The 23mm is very sharp, easy to manualy adjust with peaking. just two remarks: the grip take a lot of dust, and the sun shade is so ugly that I through it in the bin immediately.

    Last, but not least, as an ex big fan of Hasselblad, I always consider Fuji as one of the best of the best, just behind Leica.
    Remember, Fuji is bulding all the Hasselblad lens and the body since the H2.

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    you can be a great author. I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will often come back down the road.

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  19. Hey. I was wondering where the boat pictures were taken? Is it in port coquitlam, and if so where abouts?


  20. Hello, nice post and pictures. I’m planning to buy an X-Fuji camera and lens, I like to shoot portraits and I would like to start Street Photo so which one may you suggest to buy? X-E1 and 35mm, or X-E2 and 23mm. Thanks for your time.

  21. Thank you for your review. I am a fan of the Fuji 35 mm f/1.4 as it the lens I find to come closest to the quality of a Leica Image at a fraction of the cost. I recently purchased a Sony A7 with a 35mm f/2.8 but found that it does not come close to the magic of the 35mm f/1.4 of the Fuji XE-1. I am planning to return Sony gear for the Fuji XE-2 with the 35mm f/1.4 again.

    My question is: does the image made with the 23 mm f/1.4 come close to that of the 35mm f/1.4 ( Magical Lens)?

  22. I love your blog. Thank you for taking the time to document all of this for us. I enjoy reading it and seeing the wonderful captures you take with the X-series cameras.

  23. As usual, amazing and beautiful photos, and I don’t throw that around usually.
    Could you write a blog post on your B&W conversion process? They really have an amazing look to them.

  24. Thank you for sharing great review and great photos. I really like a photo of a cabin.
    Can I ask you if the photos are SOOC jpeg or RAW? I would like to the settings of the camera if they’re SOOC. Thanks,

  25. I changed my Contax G2 for the Fuji X Pro 1, because the camera is the real heir to the Contax from form and function, and the lenses have the same outstanding quality ! I always hate when it is called “nostalgic” it is just no nonsense and focused on Quality. Thanks for your very good review an pictures.

    1. Satake-San,

      Thank you for your kind words and for sharing my blog entry on your Facebook page. We have been enjoying your cameras and lenses a lot and we are looking forward to your future products (especially Fuji X-Pro2 & 56mm F1.2 lens).



  26. Darn! Why did I read your excellent review?

    I own the X100S and X-E2 with the 18-55, 55-200 Fuji zooms and the 12 and 32 Zeiss Touit primes. I carry both cameras on vacations because they weight nothing compared to my Canon 5D Mark III Kit.

    After reading your review, I feel compelled to buy the 23 for my X-E2.


  27. A great review and marvelous photos. 23mm is really tempting me, but for now I will go for the 18/35mm tandem, with the x-e2. I lost my X-E1 in a London’s cab a month ago and I’m anxious about new gear… as much as my pocket with the future bills of them.

    By the way, great gallery at 500px, I enjoyed a lot.

  28. Dear Olaf, really beautiful pictures, and a good review! I´ve been shooting with a Fuji X-E1 pus 18-55 for a year now, really like it a lot but still cling to my Canon. Now I´m thinking about diving deeper into the Fuji-System. Could you please tell me which settings (pre&post) you used for your black & white photos? Best regards from Germany, Fabian

    1. Fabian,

      We also like the 18-55 lens – it has a great zoom. Kasia did a lot of photography in Africa with this lens. You can take a look at our older posts.

      Re settings: We processed our images in Iridient Developer (highly recommended) and then used Silver Efex Pro for B&W images.

      All the images from the Vancouver Christmas Market are JPEGs straight from the camera.

      Thanks for visiting.


  29. The more I work with the X-Pro1 and what I call the ‘dream team’, the XF14mm and this one, the XF23mm, the more I fall in love with them. The best shots I made in more than 35 years of photography. Next step forwards, the XF56mm F1.2. Make it the best portrait lens even, Fujifilm.

      1. Olaf (and everyone) –

        Iridient is brilliant but Mac only (no problem fro me); PhotoNinja is even better and works on Mac and PC. The RAW handling is superb and the color is amazing.

  30. Dear Olaf, again words of wisdom, it’s the lens, stupid! I’m myopic so have to wear spectacles, and use that as an example of the importance of optics. If people would take a little bit more time before taking a picture, and afterwards looking at them, they would realize what lenses do. Great photos and review.

    1. Guillaume,

      You are right – in this instant world, pausing before pressing the shutter button is too much for many people. However, good photography requires just that.

      Thanks for your comments.


      1. You have to pause because the focus is soooo sloooow it will be OOF. I am disappointed with it on my XP1. All of your samples are of things that do not move. Try street shooting with people.

      2. Larry,

        You are right, the focus is slower than most of SLRs but it has never been an issue for me. I have been doing some street documentary projects and shooting kids. Will present some photos in our upcoming blog entries.

        I truly enjoyed some of your photographs. Great work.


  31. I am really conflicted about this lens–35 has been my go-to focal length for a long time with my Canon gear, but now I have switched to a Fuji X-E2 and X-E1, and love the 18mm and 35mm, and the spacing is just right. In a way, they function for me as my 35/85 combo used to, just a little wider. Thanks for the review and the images–I really enjoy the way you compose things!

  32. You’re making it difficult for me to resist this lens… Will probably pick it up after the Christmas rush. It certainly looks very good. Great photos in your review.

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