This post is by Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com) from Articles: Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com)

The Fujifilm XF 23mm F2 R WR is a very compact, portable, wide-angle prime lens for Fujifilm X-mount cameras.

Recent Videos

It makes a great walkaround lens and is well-suited for uses like travel and street photography, as well as things such as moderately wide landscapes and environmental portraiture.

The XF 23mm F2 R WR carries a list price of $450.


Index:


Key specifications:

  • Focal length: 23mm (35mm-equivalent)
  • Aperture range: F2 – F16
  • In-lens stabilization: No
  • Filter thread: 43mm
  • Close focus: 0.22m (8.7″)
  • Maximum magnification: 0.13x
  • Diaphragm blades: 9
  • Hood: Included, plastic
  • Weight: 180g (6.4oz)
  • Optical construction: 10 elements in 6 groups, two aspherical
Fujifilm X-H2 | ISO 125 | 1/220 sec | F 4
Photo: Mike Tomkins

All images edited in Capture One with manufacturer’s corrections applied. Adjustments limited to white balance, exposure, highlights, shadows, white and black levels.


Buy now:

$449 at Amazon

$449 at B&H

$449 at Adorama


How it compares

Although it has quite a few rivals that are at least in its ballpark, the XF 23mm F2 is a lens with no direct competition, either from Fujifilm or third parties. Unlike every other X-mount option at this focal length, it opts for a slightly less bright F2.0 maximum aperture instead of the more typical F1.4.

That means you’ll need to use up to a one-stop longer shutter speed to maintain a similar exposure level, or you’ll need to accept a lower exposure and increase the ISO. It also won’t give you quite the same potential for bokeh-licious backgrounds when shooting up close. However, the narrower aperture is the special sauce, making this lens much more travel-friendly than the F1.4 alternatives.

Below, we compare the XF 23mm F2 against its AF-equipped F1.4 rivals:

Fujifilm XF23mm F2 R WRFujifilm XF23mm F1.4 R LM WRSigma 23mm F1.4 DC DN | CTokina atx-m 23mm f/1.4Viltrox AF23mm F1.4 XF

Price (MSRP)

$450$900$549$499$329
Optical construction10 elements, 6 groups15 elements, 10 groups13 elements, 10 groups11 elements, 10 groups11 elements, 10 groups
Special elements2 aspherical2 aspherical, 3 ED2 aspherical, 3 SLD2 Low-dispersion2 ED, 2 high refraction index
Aperture blades99999
Aperture controlLens ringLens ringControlled from cameraLens ringLens ring
Weather sealedYesYesYes, mount onlyNoNo
AF driveDC corelessLinear motorStepping motorStepping motorStepping motor
Minimum focus distance / max magnification0.22m (8.66) / 0.13x0.19m (7.48) / 0.2x0.25m (9.9) / 0.14x0.30m (11.8) / 0.1x0.30m (11.8) / 0.1x
Filter size43mm58mm52mm52mm52mm
Diameter x Length
(no hood)
60mm x 51.9mm (2.36″ x 2.04″)67mm x 77.8mm (2.63″ x 3.06″)65.8mm x 79.2mm (2.6″ x 3.1″)65mm x 72mm (2.6″ x 3.1″)65mm x 72mm (2.6″ x 3.1″)
Weight180g (6.4oz)375g (13.1oz)335g (11.8oz)276g (9.6oz)260g (9.2oz)

The eagle-eyed will note one intentional omission, as Fujifilm itself has offered two different 23mm F1.4 lenses for X-mount. Considering their identical pricing and the lack of stock for Fujifilm’s earlier XF 23mm F1.4 R, it has largely been replaced by the newer 23mm F1.4 R LM WR model, even if it’s not officially discontinued.

Had we included the original Fujifilm 23mm F1.4 R on the list, though, it would be the nearest OEM option in terms of size and weight, even if still larger and heavier by two-thirds. It would also prove somewhat hobbled by stepping motor-driven autofocus and a seven-bladed aperture.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 200 | 1/240 sec | F2
Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Like all other rivals, the newer XF 23mm F1.4 R LM WR opts for a nine-bladed aperture instead. Its linear autofocus motor should give it an edge in AF performance, and a more complex optical formula portends better image quality, too. In turn, it’ll also focus closer than every rival for a higher maximum magnification and the potential for creamier bokeh.

Both OEM alternatives are double the price of the XF 23mm F2, though, which is pretty standard pricing for lenses that can let in twice as much light. If you want a closer value proposition, you’ll need to consider third-party glass. Sigma is the most expensive third-party option, costing 22% more, while the Viltrox is 27% cheaper than the Fujifilm F2.

But there are some tradeoffs to going with one of the faster third-party optics: they’re heavier and largely skip on weather sealing, so it depends on what your priorities are.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 200 | 1/180 sec | F2.8
Photo: Samuel Spencer

Sigma does include a seal, but only at the lens mount. Its 23mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens is the largest, heaviest and priciest third-party option, but also the most optically sophisticated and closest-focusing, roughly matching the Fuji 23mm F2. It also lacks a physical aperture control on the lens barrel, something provided by every other lens in this comparison.

The Viltrox AF23mm F1.4 XF is the most affordable option by some $120. It’s also the lightest alternative to the 23mm F2, although it’s still some 44% heavier. Tokina sits somewhere between the Sigma and Viltrox in price, although closer to the latter as it appears to share the same optical design (though possibly with different coatings, firmware etc.)

Speaking of Tokina, note that there’s also a renamed PLUS version of its lens. This is identical to the standard variant except for a higher price tag and a bundled lens cloth.

Back to top


Handling

Fujifilm’s XF 23mm F2 R WR lens isn’t just smaller than its F1.4 rivals; it’s also an extremely compact lens in its own right. By itself, it measures just 52mm (2.0″) long with a 60mm (2.4″) diameter, and the included lens hood only adds another 8mm (0.3″) to the length.

Despite its solid, all-metal construction, the XF 23mm F2 tips the scales at a svelte 180g (6.4 oz), making for a great walkaround lens. The plastic hood adds just another 8g (0.3 oz), which isn’t enough to notice in hand.

The all-metal exterior and nicely damped lens rings help to lend a premium, quality feel.

Thanks to the compact size and minimal weight, balance will not be an issue even on the smallest X-mount camera bodies. And with just two control rings and no buttons, switches or other protrusions, it’s about as clean and simple a design as you could hope for.

The frontmost control ring is for manual focus adjustment and, thanks to Fujifilm’s by-wire focusing, spins smoothly and without limit in either direction. Nearer to the body mount, the aperture ring has clear markings for full-stop adjustments and a gentle click detent at every 1/3-stop position.

Attaching the plastic lens hood only adds fractionally to the lens’ size and weight.

This detent is soft enough that I found myself occasionally skipping slightly past my intended aperture or stopping between detents, but a firmer click stop would be noisier and slower to adjust, so I didn’t find this overly concerning.

Nor should you be too troubled by the elements while shooting with the 23mm F2. Comprehensive weather-sealing, not just at the lens mount but also as needed to seal control rings on the barrel.

The weather stayed dry throughout my own shooting, but Fujifilm says that this lens is designed to handle both light rain and dusty environments, so long as it’s mounted on a similarly-sealed camera body.


Autofocus and focus breathing

Typically, autofocus performance tends to be less of an issue for wide-angle lenses, and that’s certainly true of the XF 23mm F2. Its DC coreless AF motor delivers very swift, consistent, and confident focusing, and I had no issues even in relatively low light levels.

In my testing, autofocus was nearly always very quick, even with extreme changes in focus distance. Focusing is also pretty much silent, so if you disable any camera beeps, it won’t distract your subjects in the least.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 200 | 1/125 sec | F 2
Photo: Rishi Sanyal

This lens is also free from focus breathing, so it won’t distract your viewers with shifts in focal length as you tweak focus or use it to shoot video.


For videographers

Fujifilm isn’t aiming its 23mm F2 lens at videographers, but it could prove useful for video capture. As I mentioned earlier, the focus drive mechanism is quick, confident and essentially silent. Even when controlled manually, the focusing step size is small enough not to be bothersome.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 200 | 1/180 sec | F2
Photo: Rishi Sanyal

The only major downside from a videography perspective is that aperture adjustment isn’t stepless or silent, meaning changes will be visible (and possibly audible) if made while recording.


Image quality

Its portability is the real attention-grabber, but this lens also delivers a solid performance on the image quality front, especially in terms of its crispness and lack of distortion.

Sharpness

Stopped down a bit, this shot is pretty crisp all the way out to the corners.

Fujifilm X-H2 | ISO 125 | 1/8 sec (tripod-mounted) | F 5.6
Photo: Mike Tomkins

Detail-gathering is a key strength for the Fujifilm XF 23mm F2 R WR, which is excellent news. Even when shooting wide-open, images are crisp in the centers, improving only slightly when stopped down to F2.8.

Corner detail is also pretty good, even when shooting wide-open, although it’s noticeably less crisp here than in the centers. You’ll want to stop down a little more for the crispest results, achieved around F4.

That said, we’re looking here at more typical shooting distances. Although probably not the most frequent use-case for the lens, if your subject is near its minimum focusing distance and you’re shooting wide open at the same time, things can get rather soft across the frame. You’re best off stopping down a little or shooting further from your subject.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 400 | 1/25 sec | F2
Photo: Samuel Spencer

I didn’t notice any significant issues with field curvature, either. The plane of focus is relatively flat, so I didn’t see a significant improvement in corner detail if I placed the autofocus point there instead.

Distortion and vignetting

Another strength of the Fujifilm 23mm F2 is its relative lack of distortion. Only very slight barrel distortion is present, which isn’t just being corrected in software. The same is true of Raw images processed without any manufacturer corrections, so this is down to the optical characteristics of the lens instead.

Sadly, the same isn’t true of vignetting. Relatively strong vignetting is present in Raws shot with the 23mm F2 R WR, and even with Fujifilm’s corrections applied in processing, vignetting remains quite noticeable when shooting wide-open.

Fuji’s 23mm F2 exhibits only the slightest amount of barrel distortion.

Fujifilm X-H2 | ISO 125 | 1/160 sec | F2
Photo: Mike Tomkins

That said, just stopping down from F2 to F2.8 helps significantly and the issue is entirely resolved by F5.6. The vignetting that remains after Fujifilm’s Raw processing also has a relatively gentle falloff, which isn’t unattractive and could be a positive for some subjects.

And, of course, should it bother you, the remaining vignetting is also pretty easy to correct in post-processing.

F2F2.8F4F5.6F8

Here, we see a comparison of vignetting levels at five different apertures. Note that these comparisons are being made after Fujifilm’s default vignetting correction has been applied. The real vignetting levels before processing are even higher!

Photos: Mike Tomkins

Bokeh

Although it won’t offer quite the same possibilities as its F1.4 rivals when it comes to bokeh, the Fujifilm 23mm F2 can nevertheless deliver some deliciously blurred-out backgrounds.

Given the tendency for wide-angle lenses towards greater depth of field, you’ll need to get quite close to the lens’ minimum focusing distance of just over 20cm (∼9″), should you want the best background separation. But since this is a wide-angle optic, it’s probably best used for wider portraits rather than closely-shot and tightly-cropped ones, putting you in a bit of an either/or situation. Also, as mentioned above, shooting close-up and wide-open isn’t this lens’s strong point.

Although it could be tricky to get a lot of background separation other than for nearer subjects, the good news is that backgrounds never feel busy when sufficiently blurred. The transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas with this lens is quite pleasing, too.

Specular highlights also deliver very nice, rounded bokeh balls when shooting wide-open. Stopping down just a little, though – even just as far as F2.8 – you quickly notice flat spots forming on the bokeh balls and starbursts starting to form on the brightest highlights.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 250 | 1/60 sec | F2
Photo: Rishi Sanyal

While I sometimes noticed a little fine onion ring patterning on specular highlights, this was never strong enough to be objectionable. I did notice a tendency towards a brighter ‘soap bubble’ ring around bokeh balls.

The lens does create some cat’s eye bokeh, which is caused by the obstruction of incoming light by the lens barrel itself and leads the bokeh balls to become squashed on one side, leading them towards more of a cat’s eye shape.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 1600 | 1/60 sec | F2
Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Lateral and longitudinal chromatic aberration (fringing)

Although lateral chromatic aberration – often called LaCA – isn’t an issue for the Fujifilm 23mm F2 R WR, I found it prone to its similarly abbreviated counterpart, LoCA, or longitudinal chromatic aberration. That’s a pity, as LoCA is by far the more bothersome of the duo to tame in post-processing.

The good news, though, is that it’s pretty easy to solve before you ever get to the processing step in the first place. Stopping down to F2.8 improves the aberration significantly, and it’s largely gone by the time you reach F4.

F2F2.8F4
Here, we’re looking at 100% crops with three different apertures. Notice the blue and red halos on either side of the focal plane and how they have all but disappeared by F4.
Photos: Mike Tomkins

Flare, ghosting and sunstars

As I noted in the handling section, Fujifilm includes a very compact and lightweight plastic lens hood in the product bundle for the 23mm F2. This feels less high-end than the rest of the lens, but it definitely helps when you need to shoot at an angle where the sun might be starting to impinge on the front lens element.

Not surprisingly, given its shallow depth, it only moderately extends the range of angles you can shoot while keeping the lens shielded. Fujifilm would have had to make the hood much bulkier were it to have been any more effective, though, so that’s certainly understandable.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 200 | 1/90 sec | F11
Photo: Samuel Spencer

So what happens when you have to shoot nearer to the sun? Well, it turns out that the lens is pretty resistant to flare even when shooting very close to (or directly into) the sun. Catch it at the right angle, though, and it will accompany its relatively minor glare with some quite bright and colorful ghosts.

The good news is that you can get quite nice sunstars if you stop down. The aperture’s nine blades give 18-pointed sunstars that can have fairly long and crisp rays. The ghosting, if present, sometimes muddies these a bit with colorful streaks in between the main sunrays.

Fujifilm X-T2 | ISO 800 | 1/200 sec | F11
Photo: Rishi Sanyal

Conclusion

ProsCons
  • Very compact and lightweight
  • Affordably priced for OEM glass
  • Premium build with weather-sealing
  • Very swift, accurate and silent autofocus
  • Pretty crisp images, even wide-open
  • Excellent detail levels across the frame if stopped down a little
  • Minimal distortion
  • No focus breathing
  • Decent background separation when shooting up close and wide-open
  • Great resistance to lens flare
  • Shooting subjects close up at F2 can result in slightly soft images
  • Noticeable vignetting at the widest apertures, even after manufacturer corrections
  • LoCA is noticeable, especially at apertures wider than F2.8
  • Bokeh balls show some soap bubble effect and start to lose roundness by F2.8
  • Prone to cat’s eye bokeh

The Fujifilm XF 23mm F2 R WR is a lens with quite a bit going for it, but perhaps one of the key factors is the lack of a direct F2 rival. If you want to shoot with a prime lens on a Fujifilm camera at this focal length, your other options are much bulkier, heavier lenses. (And most have less capable autofocus and weather-sealing, too.)

Sure, you trade away a stop-worth of maximum aperture, but in exchange, you get a trimmer and lighter lens, not to mention one that’s more affordably priced than all but one of its F1.4 rivals.

However, what if having a faster aperture is a priority? In that case, the Viltrox lens can get you there for more than $100 less, albeit with some of the above-mentioned caveats, and it’s about 30% lighter than Fujifilm’s own 23mm F1.4 lens. It’s still more than 40% heavier than (Read more…)