In Search of a Travel Lens: We Review The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R

In Search of a Travel Lens: We Review The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R

With ever-increasing lens choices from both first-party and third-party manufacturers, how do you know what lens is going to be right for you and your needs? Articles such as this on Fstoppers and YouTube videos all help in your search, but how do you narrow your search to the best lens for your requirements?

All photographers use their lenses differently. This pertains to their artistic eye and compositional elements. So, when you see or read a review, you have to remember that the resulting image is due to the photographer's eye and not the lens. You'll get the same sharpness and quality that the lens brings, but the compositional elements are that of the photographer. This, I am sure, you will know, and I only mention it for those just starting out in photography, as we all have been there at the beginning, purchased a lens because of the reviews and images, only then to find it doesn't exactly suit our requirements.

Lens Considerations

For myself, I am looking for a compact, lightweight prime travel lens for the X-T5, and to be honest, I do have a few lenses in mind, but I don't want this to cloud my judgment. I am not a travel photographer, but I wanted a versatile and discreet prime lens that I could carry all day, so the search was as wide as possible to take in as much information and relatable experiences as I could. I made a list of requirements and set off reading reviews and watching videos.

  • Compact
  • Lightweight 
  • Prime
  • Large aperture
  • Autofocus
  • Versatile
  • Weather-sealed
  • Affordable

These were the criteria that the lens had to have, and you will have noticed I omitted sharpness, simply because that is a given. With these considerations noted, it was time to start the search.

Beg, Borrow, or Steel

To start with, it's not a typo. I'm referring to an all-metal construction of a lens and not plastic simply because a metal lens is more durable. If the price range is agreeable, it should be weather-sealed to protect it in inclement weather. Fortunately, my colleague kindly loaned me his Fujifilm XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens while he tried my Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, so now, it was time to photograph various subjects while out to see how it performed in all situations. Although it's not weather-sealed, the focal length would allow me to see if this suited my requirements.

Build and Handling

This small and compact lens is an all-metal construction and weighs a mere 187 grams. There are 8 elements in 6 groups and a minimum focusing distance of 0.8 m and 28 cm for normal and macro, respectively. A minimum aperture of f/1.4 to a maximum of f/16 should cover all bases for a variety of subjects, from separated background bokeh portraits and detail shots, to full-depth location and street images.

The 35mm APS-C lens is equivalent to 53mm in a full frame and has a 52mm diameter filter thread. The aperture ring has the same audible click as other Fuji lenses, yet feels slightly looser than its more recent counterparts. This, I can only assume, is due to the age and use of the lens, and this doesn't affect it in any way, as I never knocked it out of the aperture setting once. The focusing ring is damped just enough to allow for manual focus, with good friction on the knurling allowing for manual fine-tuning.

The lens looks and feels right at home on the X-T5 and is discreet, which is something I was also seeking in a travel lens. This lightweight and compact combination was perfect for all-day carrying. Yes, I could simply attach a quick-release camera strap, but as I don't have one presently, this will have to suffice for now.

Not a major point, but I was quite taken with the rectangular metal lens hood he had purchased for the lens. This is very easily removed and, when attached, keeps the lens cap firmly in place. The lens does come with a lens hood when purchased.

Performance

Normally, my main focus is landscapes, and I currently have my two lenses for that, so shooting random subjects, in my mind anyway, will allow me to see how a lens performs for every situation and surface texture. If it performs well here, I'll then narrow it down to see how it works for wider landscapes. Well, this lens performs beautifully and is sharp.

Every subject matter I photographed returned great results at all apertures. It even performed better than some of the more modern lenses I've had the opportunity to try, so straight away, I was very impressed. The minimum focusing distance of 28 cm is very useful for the finer details, and the lens produces buttery-soft bokeh at the widest aperture.

The images below were captured during various outings to see how the lens would react in different lighting conditions, and it never let me down once. Each shot was quickly captured in a type of run-and-shoot scenario where if something caught my eye, it was photographed. This, I thought, would best test me and how I would use the lens. The lens worked great.

What I Liked

  • Compact
  • Sharp images
  • Wide aperture
  • Fast focus

What I Didn't Like

  • The lens isn't weather-sealed ,but apart from that, it worked flawlessly.

Final Thoughts

If you are considering it for your Fuji camera, you would be purchasing a fantastic lens. The images are sharp, the focus is fast, and although it isn't weather-sealed I wouldn't let that dissuade you from considering it. This is a fun lens to use, but it also combines that fun with incredibly sharp images. The lens is versatile, compact, and unobtrusive, so it's a win on all counts. Is this the travel lens I am seeking? Well, unfortunately not, and that is simply because now that I have had the time to try it, I realize that I am after a slightly wider focal length, so will now be looking at prime lenses around the 23mm range to accompany my XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens.

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8 Comments
Zac S.'s picture

Are any of these photos edited?

Gary McIntyre's picture

Apart from a basic balancing of the images and film simulations applied to 3 of the images no.

Paul McMurrick's picture

Slightly odd article, as your conclusion is that you want a shorter focal length anyway. I would have expected that anyone writing a lens review would already be familiar with the concept of their fav. walk around focal length. Anyway, I am sure your comments on the 23 1.4 will be pretty similar. Fabulous Fuji prime and unlike the 35mm you reviewed, the autofocus is fast and quiet (the 35mm is quite a buzzbox)

Gary McIntyre's picture

My primary lenses are wide and zoom for landscape so I'm looking for a carry-around prime. Fortunately, my colleague had this lens for me to try which I'm glad I did or I may have parted with my money only to be disappointed. I'm looking at the 23 f/2 now so I may rent that for a few days.

Paul McMurrick's picture

Gary consider having a look at the 1.4. The image has real character, it is not too heavy and feels very balanced on any of the mid sized Fuji bodies. I have the original lens and love it

Gary McIntyre's picture

Many thanks Paul I'll see if I can get my hands on one to try out, appreciated.

Pedro Pulido's picture

This is the lens from the fuji x system with the most character by miles! It is annoyingly slow (understandable for such an old lens) but when you get it right, it can be magical. Still, to this day, my favourite lens for fuji cameras.

Larry Clark's picture

This seems to be an odd choice for review with the X-T5. The 35mm f/1.4 was one of the three original lenses introduced 10 years ago with the X-Pro1. My own copy was purchased about a year later when I got an X-Pro-1 -- once Fujifilm had increased the lens lineup sufficiently to justify purchase of the camera.

Most striking for this review is the selection of a lens that Fujifilm doesn't consider optimal for use with the 40MP sensor. The XF 33mm f/1.4 R LM WR or XF 35mm f/2 R WR would seem to be the obvious choices. That also covers the "requirement" for weather sealing.

The apparent looseness of the 35mm f/1.4's aperture ring is likely not a result of use. That aperture ring has always been the most loose of all my Fujifilm lenses.

And the square lens hood is not just an interesting quirk -- think "optical viewfinder".

The biggest advantage of the 35mm f/1.4 in 2022/23 is the plentiful supply of them on the secondary market.

Continuing your quest for compact carry-lenses, spend some time on the spec pages for XF lenses. There is a whole group of prime lenses in the 60mm to 65mm lens body diameter range -- starting at 14mm. Also included is one zoom. You can get several of them and then make up nice 2-lens or 3-lens kits for whatever the day's shooting is likely to encounter.