Yet Another Good 35mm Equivalent: We Review the Sigma 23mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary for Fujifilm X Mount

Yet Another Good 35mm Equivalent: We Review the Sigma 23mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary for Fujifilm X Mount

Some say it’s the best focal length. I certainly believe so. And while the options for an equivalent 35mm lens for Fujifilm cameras have been scarce, there are good ones out there. Does this one fit well? Does it stand out? Is it better than some Fujifilm offerings? I’d say it’s worth trying.

Where Does It Fit?

Fujifilm users have had a few options in terms of 23mm lenses for their X-Mount cameras. There was the original XF 23mm f/1.4 R which came out back in 2013, a mere year after the first X-Series camera. And it was ok for the time, but it was slow by today’s standards. Three years later we got the much smaller and much faster XF 23mm f/2 R WR with a weather-resistant construction. Whenever I shoot a wedding, a documentary, or an event, this lens captures roughly 70% of my images. But the f/2 aperture was not enough for many, while the AF speed and lack of weather-resistance of the original f/1.4 was rather unsatisfactory. That is one of the reasons why Fujifilm released an updated version in February 2022 called the XF 23mm f/1.4 R LM WR. This new lens came with a refreshed design, a fast linear motor, and weather resistance. It is not too expensive either, but it is not cheap. Many opt for the cheaper f/2 option instead, regardless of its optical downsides.

Fairly compact

Well, now we’ve got a new contender fighting for the spot of the go-to 35mm equivalent for the X-Mount coming from Sigma in the shape of their new 23mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary. It’s slightly larger than the Fujifilm’s f/2 version, yet it has a brighter aperture of f/1.4. It does not offer the linear motor of the top dog, but the stepping motor is considerably faster than the original and keeps up with modern AF systems. Combined with a very pleasant price tag it is most definitely worth trying out and considering. So how was it?

Decent Build, Not Fancy Though

As is customary with Sigma, the body of the lens is made of dark gray plastic, as opposed to the black metal of Fujifilm’s XF glass. It helps keep the cost and the weight down, yet it does feel well built in hand. It will scratch easily if you’re not careful, but it should last you a good while unless you abuse your gear a lot. My XF 23mm f/2 R WR has seen a lot of action from being buried in the snow to withstanding my full weight after catching my fall in the trenches of Ukraine’s Donbass frontline over the last seven years, and it does not look even remotely new, yet it still works flawlessly. I can’t with 100% certainty say that the Sigma would survive the same amount of drops, hits, and abuse. There’s only one way to find out, and that is to use it for a long time, which I unfortunately couldn’t.

Its dimensions are pretty decent for such a bright aperture, while the weight is kept to a very manageable 340 grams. It’s not a lens that would drag your camera down, nor would it attract a ton of attention if you prefer to shoot inconspicuously and candidly. The manual focus ring is large and rubberized for easy gripping if you prefer focusing this way. One feature that I deeply miss on all of Sigma’s Fujifilm X lenses is absent here as well: the aperture ring. It is a shame to have to lose such a feature.

The design is simple, nothing too fancy, and unfortunately the exact same as the other DC DN lenses in the lineup. It just does not fit the look of Fujifilm bodies as well as the original lenses. If you like to look at your camera and enjoy the carefully designed, beautifully built cameras Fujifilm makes, you might want to try this out first before you buy. The materials and the color just feel like it is not made for Fujifilm cameras at all. That is, however, a simple nitpick, as most of us care mainly about how the lens performs instead of how it looks.

9 rounded aperture blades for pleasing bokeh

Stepping Up

First and foremost, the lens performs pretty damn well when it comes to autofocusing speed and accuracy. Granted, the XF 23mm f/1.4 R LM WR does outperform it due to its linear motor, but I’d say it keeps up more than enough with the smaller XF 23mm f/2 R WR, which utilizes a stepping motor, same as the Sigma. The aperture consists of nine rounded blades for a pleasing bokeh, same as all the other Fujifilm options. Nice to see Sigma has not cheaped out on the diaphragm in this regard.

There was an occasion or two when the lens missed focus by a few centimeters when tracking a subject moving quickly towards the camera but having used an X-T5 for over a year that is something I encounter every once in a while even with original glass. It could be attributed to the camera, as well as to the focusing motor. Hard to tell and something to think about when planning on using the lens. Considering the price, however, the AF performance is more than decent.

Image Quality Is Up There

I’ve tested the lens on my Fujifilm X-T5 with its high-resolution sensor, meaning the images captured every single bit of detail as well as the lack thereof. Overall, the lens resolved the 40 megapixels pretty well. There was an occasional color aberration here and there, but only in rather challenging situations when shooting wide open. Apart from a few outliers, the images were sharp, full of detail, and with minimal color inconsistencies. In terms of the minimal focusing distance, it is the weakest of the three mentioned lenses with the ability to focus from 25 centimeters with a considerable difference in image quality, though. As mentioned above, the f/2 version of the 23mm lens does struggle with detail when shot wide open if you focus within the first meter. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never found it an issue, and I was more than happy with the resulting files, but it was not up to par with other Fujifilm lenses. And having tested this Sigma, I have to say it performs better than the Fujifilm in this regard, even with a wider aperture of f/1.4. It's a difference only noticeable by pixel-peepers, but present nonetheless.

Nothing fancy but it does the job well

What I Liked

  • Compact size
  • Low weight
  • Decent AF performance
  • Sharp images
  • Pleasing bokeh

What I Disliked

  • Lack of aperture dial

Which One Is for You?

The lens pretty much completes the APS-C lineup of Sigma’s f/1.4 lenses. Now, we get to choose between 16, 23, 30, and 56 millimeters. All are fairly compact, affordable, fast, and competitive. Having three very good options of a 23mm lens for the X-Mount can only be a good thing. Do you want the best one with the fastest AF performance and best image quality? Go with the current XF 23mm f/1.4 R LM WR. Do you want to save a bit of money but still get the same bright aperture while not sacrificing much AF speed or image quality? Get the Sigma as long as you’re ok with the plastic design and lack of an aperture ring. I’m going to stick to my XF 23mm f/2 R WR, as it is the smallest of the bunch, metal, has an aperture ring, and performs pretty well. But I am most definitely glad for Sigma getting involved in the X Mount. You can purchase the 23mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary here.


Ondřej Vachek's picture

Ondřej Vachek is a Prague based independent documentary photographer and photojournalist with multiple journeys to war-torn Ukraine where he covered everything from the frontline in the Donbass to the civilian life adapting to the new normal. Avid street photographer with love for writing and storytelling.

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These Contemporary lenses have nice optics. But having only a "weather sealed mount" is lame. It is disappointing that Sigma isn't making Art lenses for X-mount. I supposed they can hit a certain price point with this level of build quality. Fuji users are exactly the folks who want Art type lenses. Sigma really needs to up the ante with higher grade lenses for APS-C cameras.

Not just Art series. I'd welcome the I-Series with the small form factor, metal build, and aperture ring. Those would fit Fujifilm bodies nicely. And not to mention the Nikon Zf/Zfc.