The World’s Quickest Lens Review - Fuji XF 23mm 1.4R

The World’s Quickest Lens Review - Fuji XF 23mm 1.4R

So here is probably the shortest review on a lens in the history of photography. Ready? Do you own a Fuji interchangeable X series camera? Yes? Go buy this lens. That's it. Not sure what else you need from me. The new XF 23mm F1.4 from Fuji is a BEAST. This thing renders stunning images and just gets out of the way. If you grab one lens before you go out to shoot all day, this is the one you’ll want. If you really want more detail, read on, otherwise, just go buy this thing and have fun.

Can a lens make you a better photographer? Of course not. But - a lens that is built beautifully, performs near flawlessly and produces great image quality can certainly grease the cogs. 

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_6 ISO 3200 f9 1/60

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_2 ISO 2000 f1.8 1/60

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_3 ISO 200 f2.8 1/2500

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_9 ISO 400 f2 1/3250

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_8 ISO200 f1.4 1/320

I took the lens out on the cold streets of New York and threw what I could at it - this thing chewed it all up and asked for more. All images here just captured on the fly, no sharpening in post. I know it's hard to see close up detail on these shots, so I've cropped a couple at 100% .


There are two simple reasons to love this lens:

First, the focal length is ideal to cover a huge range of subjects and situations. Whatever you happen to be shooting, this has pretty much got you covered. Landscapes, street scapes, even some close up work and portraits. This thing covers the lot with it’s 35mm full frame equivalency. It’s no wonder the X100 and X100s come with the fixed 23mm (35 equivalent). It's faster than the lenses on those bodies though - wide open, this lens yodels from the mountain tops.

Secondly, and more importantly, this lens is beautifully crafted, operates brilliantly and delivers outstanding image quality.  It’s like the holy trinity. Yes it’s $899 plus tax but in terms of value – it scores big. When I look at the price of a new Canon 35L – which is a great lens for sure – it doesn't give the same warm glow of value that this XF 23mm does.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_1 ISO 400 f2 1/60

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_7 ISO 400 f2.8 1/200

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_10 ISO 400 f2.8 1/500


So is this the perfect all day, every day prime? Consider this. Last month I had a couple of weeks with this lens, as well as the XF35mm and XF18mm while I tested them for the new XE-2 review I posted last month. At full frame equivalent, the XF 35mm is equivalent to about a 50, the XF 18mm is like a 28 and this XF 23mm is like a 35 or thereabouts.

When I looked back over the EXIF data for the shots I’d taken, I’d taken three times as many with the 23mm than the next closest lens. For me, that was pretty crazy.  When I go out on the street and shoot, I’ll usually shoot 50mm full frame equivalent (which should have meant I was reaching for the XF 35mm). I was consistently shooting a totally different focal length to my normal comfortable happy place. Something weird was going on.

When I sat down and thought about what it was, I realized it was basically three things about the lens gave me a warm stirring in the loins and had me coming back for more, over the other primes I had access to.

1). Fast AF; zone focus-able

First, the lens is a superb match for the XE2 body – I wanted fast AF speed and it delivered. If you want to zone focus, you can use the depth of field and distance markers on the barrel. Pop the focus ring back and you automatically switch in and out of manual focus. I shot entirely with AF to test the speed on the XE-2, and it still was snappy enough to keep me out of trouble.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_13 ISO 400 f2.5 1/200

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_14 ISO 200 f3.5 1/3000

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_15 ISO 200 f4 1/320

2). That Sweet 35

Second, I started to really love the focal length and the superb image quality I was getting. It was opening up the world and giving me a wider range than what I could normally cover with a 50mm equivalent, for a mix of street scenes and buildings, as well as people and portraits. For portraits, even when I pushed in, it still have me some of the environment which my 50 just couldn't get. To get more of the scene, I didn’t have to pull so far back either. It’s just like a sweet spot that it just hits that’s hard to describe. Coupled with the great IQ, I was like a kid in a candy store for the first time in my life, I couldn't stop using this thing.

This is more of a facet of the focal length than the lens per se – but, think about this. With a small mirrorless camera, the point is you want to go lean and light. Even with these small primes barely taking up any weight or size in a bag, I still preferred a one camera, one lens approach. You also might not be able to afford every prime in the range, so you might be thinking about which one lens to pick. After spending some time with the 23mm, I’m taking that over the 35mm I thought I was going to buy when I put in an order for my XE-2.

The 23mm was my one lens I kept gravitating to.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_16 ISO 640 f1.4 1/60

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_17 100% crop

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_19 ISO 400 f2.2 1/2000

3). Image Quality To Blow Your Socks Off

Third – and really critical to the mix - the image quality coming out of the lens was so impressive that I didn’t want to take it off the camera. That’s not to say the performance of the other Fujinon lenses aren’t good – but this thing was just rendering things beautifully, it’s a beast.

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_20 ISO 6400 f3.2 1/50

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_21 ISO 400 f3.2 1/140

Fstoppers_Davidgeffin_geffinmedia_fuji_xf23_lens_22 ISO 200 f1.4 1/320



What can I say about this lens that other more technical reviews haven’t already said? Not a lot but there are a few key features that are worth summarizing:


- Distance and DoF indicator on barrel - allows you to manually pre-focus

- Sharp – even wide open, generally sharp center to edge, no real vignetting, and chromatic aberration generally minimal

- Bokeh is smooth and sublime

- Snappy focus – when paired with the XE-2, this thing zips

- Build quality – all metal mount and quality barrel.

- Minimal lens distortion thanks to optical instead of digital correction

- Focus ring is buttery smooth but not loose

- Aperture ring on barrel connects you to the lens – nice clicks, smooth rotation. Feels intuitive.


- Size and weight – way heavier than the other lenses I've been used to on the XE-2. Still nothing compared to those DSLR primes you've got currently though.

- Lens hood is huge (a problem only for OVF users on the XPro1, as it will end up blocking part of the frame). The XE2 only has an EVF – but I still ditched the hood – just too big , protruded way too much and too conspicuous.


So there you have it. If you’re wondering about this lens – don’t; just work out how you can afford it then go and buy it.

As for me, it hasn’t made me a better photographer, but it has opened my eyes to how I see the world around me. If a lens can do that and still help me get the shot I want – I’m sold.

The new XF 23mm F1.4 R is available now priced at $899

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I've been dying to get my hands on this lens anyway, so thanks for nothing! I honestly believe once I get this thing it will be on my camera at least 75% of the time. Greatest review, ever.

David Geffin's picture

haha thanks Dave :)

By the way, i'll see that 75% and raise you another 15. Oh yes my friend, if I was anything to go buy, expect it to be on the camera a lot longer than a paltry 75% of your time!

Thanks for this review. I think My 5DMk3, 50L and X100 will make way for the X-T1 and this lens as well as the upcoming 56mm f/1.2. And I will have some change.

David Geffin's picture

you're welcome TZ, let me know how you get on with the new gear, will be interested to find out

Nice!! I enjoyed reading this. Do you plan to review the new Fujifilm XF 56mm f/1.2 R lens?

David Geffin's picture

thanks Atle. Funny you should mention that :) I've just requested to get hold of it - we'll see but I'd love to take the 53mm out on the streets and run some street portraits with it.

Cool. Looking forward to it!

Jon Sharman's picture

THEY'RE MAKING A 53mm TOO?!?!?!?! ;-)

David Geffin's picture

typo - should have read 56mm

Good review, lovely images! The 35mm (on FF, or equivalent in this case) is my normal lens. 50mm doesn't let me include enough environment ... you saw the light! I think this lens on one body + the 18-55 or upcoming 16-55 on a 2nd body would cover 80% of my needs. And weigh about as much as one D800 and 27-70!

David Geffin's picture

thanks Pat, I did indeed see the light brother, hallelujah! Shooting this lens was almost TOO much fun, couldn't stop with the thing. That 2 body set up you discussed sounds ideal and very tasty, push the button my friend :)

FYI all links in this article are "mailto:" - may want to fix that.

Great review tho!

David Geffin's picture

hi Vlad, glad you enjoyed the review, and thank you for the feed back on the links, much appreciated.

I currently own the 35MM 1.5 with my XE-2... articles like this gets me going about the 23MM. I'd love to have the wider range but couldn't pull the trigger... until you mentioned it's better IQ too! How is the build quality compared to the 35MM?

David Geffin's picture

Superb. It's like - imagine the difference between a 50mm 1.2L and 50mm 1.4 USM (i shoot Canon) if that makes sense. Thing is built like a Sherman tank but more importantly - performs like a Ferrari! Ok that makes no sense whatsoever, but hopefully you get what i mean?

I get the built like a tank reference haha but not the Canon 50mm 1.2 vs 50mm 1.4. I've shot both and honestly at f 2.0 and higher, they both performed brilliantly and not enough for me to pull the trigger from the 1.4 to the 1.2.

David Geffin's picture

The analogy was meant with regard to build quality only :)

I bought the lens. It's amazing. That is all.

David Geffin's picture

Enjoy brother (sounds like you already are ;) )

Hi Dave!
I have a X-E1 and already have a Minolta 35 2.8 / 55 1.7 with a Lens Turbo. (manual focus)

My question is, what should I buy next: This glorius Fuji 23 1.4 (eq. ~ 35mm) or a 60 2.4 macro (eq. ~90mm )?
Im like to do streets photography and a lot of food photography.

Greetings from Germany,

David Geffin's picture

Guten tag Nguyen, great question - and honestly - no idea!

If you shoot more street than food, get the 23. If you do more food, and close up of food on the plate, like filling that frame with luscious dishes of gourmet goodness, get the 60. If you want to do more environmental food, with wider table, multiple dishes, accoutrements like table settings etc then you may want the 23 - it still lets you get close, but won't give you that macro detail of the 60.

The choice my friend, will come down to what you shoot the most of. Perhaps go to Lightroom and check your focal lengths and see what you generally shoot most - it might help. Or buy both ;)

I normally shoot a Canon DSLR and want to make the switch to the Fujifilm X-series. Where I live the 23mm 1.4 and the X100s costs roughly the same amount of money. So my question is: If the focal length is as attractive as you say, why not just get the X100s and get the compact form factor and hybrid viewfinder along with it?

David Geffin's picture

Because you can't change lenses on the X100S and I want to be able to do so, that's the only reason.

2 yrs ago I was fortunate enough to visit NYC. Debated whether or not to take a Canon 1ds MK2 with 28-70 f2.8 and all it's size which would have been a carry on or a Canon G10. I opted for the latter and kept it in my jacket pocket. I used the two custom settings for a 35mm equivilent lens and the seco
nd for an 85ish equivilent. 99% of the images I shot were with the 35mm setting. Quality was very good-made some nice prints which hang in my house today. I always wanted a smaller camera but with better quality than the G10 and found it in the Fuji x100s (wanted the x100 but that sticky aperture thing so I waited)-it's a brilliant camera in all categories-suits my needs for a walk around camera. The optical viewfinder is awesome. As is the picture quality. If a 35mm focal length is to your taste just opt for an x100s and you wont look back-guaranteed.....

Tank you for the advice. :)

I have this gem just a few days, but it is really fantastic. I shoot nudes and around 30 or 35mm is my favorite and most used focal lenght, so I am pretty happy that this one is my main lens now!
Great review

David Geffin's picture

Thanks Jiri, glad you enjoyed the review but more glad you're enjoying the new lens!

Thanks for your review.
i am a pro photographer and i am starting to use the X system.
i have a 23 1.4 on my XPRO1, yes it's a good lens but really i can't talk about outstanding.. at 1.4 (at least my copy) it's good in the center but soft in edge and i would say poor in the extreme corner.. using it outside in strong natural light at full apertur it render the most bright pats almost as dreamy.. looking at ephotozine graph shwhoing its sharpeness it's just "fair" in the edges so i think that tha corners are poor.. even looking at photographyblog, the tiles at 1.4 in the edge (using a scene with a soft light) are really dreamy at 1.4... do you have some images showing the quality of your copy at at 1.4 near the edge/corners in strong light ?? thanks in advance.

David Geffin's picture

Thanks Marco. I actually thought the 23 was good center to edge, although i don't shoot wide open all the time, i usually stop down a bit which, as you know will improve edge performance. I'm not sure what you mean by "dreamy" either, this isn't something i witnessed.

thanks Dave. when i say "dreamy" i mean i can see a "glow" around the brighter parts of the image.. it remember a lot my Canon 50 1.4. i don't know if you still own the 23mm lens, but if it's the case i really would appreciate to see some more 1.4 shoot with edges in focus, to see if i got a lemon , or that's normal for this lens. at the same time i bought a 14mm 2.8, and yes for the 14mm i would say outstanding lens :) looking at dpreview samples at 1.4 like this (look at upper left corner) it seem consistent with my copy, some "glowed" highlight, CA, soft edges (yes that area is not really in focus but for sure it's "mushy" if compared to details in the center at same distance) thanks again dave. Marco