The Fujinon 35mm f1.4 is one of Fujifilm’s oldest lenses for the X-Mount system. With the fast f1.4 aperture and the 50mm field of view, the lens is very versatile and it’s especially great for portrait and people photography. While showing some age by today’s standards in terms of autofocus and the technical characteristics, the lens still has some of the most unique character of any modern lens to date.
|Focal Length: 35mm (53mm for APS-C)
Focus System: Auto
Aperture Blade: 7R
Aperture: f1.4 – f16
Elements: 8 Elements 6 Groups
Coatings: Multi-Coated Super EBC
Minimum Focus Distance: 11.02″ / 28 cm
Filter Threads: 52mm
Weight: 6.6 oz / 187 g
Pros: Amazing rendering, good sharpness, very rich vibrant bokeh, small and light.
Cons: Some CA, Slow AF in low light or when using CDAF in AF-C mode, not weather-sealed, noisy so not good for video, some CA, some field curvature.
Fujinon 35mm f1.4 Review | Impressions
The Fuji 35mm f1.4 is a lens I’ve had for some time now and but really got around to reviewing. I did a comparison between the Fujinon 35mm f1.4 and the 35mm f2, but now since the XC 35mm f2 is on the market, I think a full review is worth the time to showcase the uniqueness of this lens because a lot of people don’t fully understand it.
The XF 35mm f1.4 is a lens that you just have to use. You can’t look at charts, you can’t look at specs, you have to just use it, then you’ll understand.
On the technical side of things, like sharpness, distortion, CA, etc. this lens is just ok. I think most review sites would give like a B- or something. However, some of this was by design and the lens was left less than perfect in favor of the look. . . So they say.
This is a lens designed to produce a very classic look that was in-line with Fujifilm’s sort of original ethos with the X-Pro 1. It has field curvature, it has softer corners, it has fewer elements and has distortion. All of that in favor of the look. The classic, retro rendering. Great micro-contrast interesting focus falloff. That’s what it’s all about.
Here are some images that really test the technical performance. As you can see, there are some issues with some CA, some fringing, but the images have a very nice pop to them and they feel like they just have a ton of detail with great tonality and sharpness. That’s the look, love it or hate it, that’s what this lens is about and nobody else makes a modern AF lens like this.
This lens, the Fujinon 56mm f1.2, and the Fujinon 90mm are my three favorite lenses by Fujifilm and if I could have only three of their lenses, it would be these three. But actually, that Fujinon 60mm f2.4, also has a special look and is the lens I use for all my product shots and should not be ignored.
Understanding The Autofocus
When the XF35mm f1.4 was originally designed, it didn’t need to do much. AF on the X-Pro 1 was just in its infancy, there was no Eye-AF and AF-C was unusable. As a result, this lens has what feels like an outdated focus system. It’s not that the focus motor can’t throw the element quickly, it can, the problem is the communication with the camera is slow so tracking and shooting in AF-C will produce a delayed communication. It mostly affects CDAF autofocus from what I can tell since CDAF is what engages to make all those little quick micro-adjustments.
I personally don’t have an issue with the autofocus of this lens. Once you know it, you work with it. I still shoot AF-C on this lens, but it thrives with AF-S. So if you’re a photographer that still like shootings AF-S, you’ll likely not have too many issues with this.
I know there is so much emphasis today about AF tracking and AF speed and Eye AF and animal eye AF, but honestly, it’s fine. This obsession with insanely fast autofocus performance everyone has today is not really a metric that’s relevant to casual everyday photography and I wouldn’t worry too much about it unless you need the lens to do something extremely specific.
Obviously, if you’re shooting very fast action, this shouldn’t be your go-to lens, but it’s absolutely amazing for casual day to day photography and it’s lenses like this that really keep me in the Fujinon system. As you guys know, I have a nice lineup of Z lenses but man, I just have this thirst and this urge, this deep-seated desire to use these Fujinon lenses. Nothing else is like them.
Still, my biggest complaint about this lens, and the xF35mm f2, is they are a bit too expensive for what they are. This is sort of the dangerous line Fujifilm runs where you can get more modern performing full-frame Sony and Nikon lenses for pretty much the same price or cheaper. So you definitely don’t want to buy APS-C to save money, you’re buying it for the unique image quality you get from the small package. Keep that in mind.
Build quality is good. Fujifilm likes doing their lenses with the aluminum outer barrel which is fine. Feels good in the hand and is fun to use.
Some of their early models like mine have issues with very loose focus rings, but they’ve improved that over the years without actually doing an official refresh of the lens. It seems like they’ve made little micro improvements to the system, they even updated the lens caps so now the system feels good and complete.
The 35mm f1.4 does beg to have a lens hood. I keep the metal square hood on mine and with this lens hood you can still use the lens cap. On the XF 18mm, you can’t fit the lens cap into the hood and you have to use the god awful rubber cap that goes over the hood that you will probably lose in three days. The XF35 also comes with the rubber hood, but I wouldn’t bother with it.
It’s a two-barrel focusing system, so the front element does bounce around as it’s focusing which is not really a big deal.
It’s not weather-sealed and the aperture rings do click but both the aperture ring and the focus ring are by wire.
The base of the lens is made of steel like with the XF 35mm f2.
This lens does have some field curvature so the edges and corners will appear softer if you’re shooting a flat surface. I use to get excited when lenses have perfect corner sharpness, but honestly in the real world that makes no difference in some most situations. As long as the corners hold up at f5.6 or when you focus on them, then the lens is great and it will totally be usable for landscape or reproductive work.
How important is sharpness?
It’s important but it’s definitely overemphasized as THE metric that defines a lens. I’ve found that if you shoot a lot at night at high ISO, or if you like to apply grain to images it really makes no difference between have a super sharp lens or just a sharp lens.
Anyway, the 35mm f1.4 is sharp. Edges and corners are a little softer until about f2.8 but for the most part, it’s a great lens to shoot wide open with or stopped down.
Here is a sample from the X-T100 at f5.6. Plenty sharp.
Center sharpness is good.
Edge sharpness is fine and better when stopped down.
Corner sharpness is pretty good and but better when stopped down.
Distortion is mostly cleaned up with build-in profiles.
Vignetting shows until about f2.
Very minor CA as with most prime lenses, but there is some longitudinal CA in the out of focus foreground and background. Again you can see some more samples in those beach shots above. You can see sometimes there is red or green fringing on the bokeh.
Bokeh – Technical Look
Bokeh has an interesting behavior on the 35mm f1.4. Because Fujifilm allowed a fairly strong field curvature this causes some interesting character to the way the bokeh can render on close and medium distant objects.
There is a little bit of green fringing on some of the bokeh balls in some situations. There is also some pretty strong cats eye.
Fujinon still uses glass for the aspherical element on these older lenses and this often causes onion ringing in the bokeh. The glass has to be polished and ground down and this process naturally leaves behind some ridging. I think this is why all the big designers are moving over to polycarbonate aspherical lenses since they can be molded or pressed into shape with zero flaws. I honestly think Fujifilm could benefit from this since a lot of their lenses do have sloppy bokeh balls. It’s sort of the one flaw I see people talking about the most.
The XF 35mm f1.4 does not have bad onion ringing to it, but it does have some skin to the outer layer of the bokeh balls but as you can see from the samples above, it’s not really an issue and you’ll only see it if you’re really looking for it.
You can also see how the bokeh curves so you will get some cat’s eye effects in the corners when wide open which you can see in some of the samples above.
Art & Character
Now that you know what this lens can and cannot do, how does it perform in the real world?
Hopefully, this lens really shows people that there is way more to a lens than technical specs. There is a magic that can happen with the right formulas that is far more important than just technical specs.
That being said, some technical performance is important and a lens that performance with consistency and reliability in some professions and some situations can be more important than the art & character. So this is something that you always have to keep and mind when building out your kit.
Color & Bokeh Rendering
The color rendering of this lens is just awesome. It has such a great contrast and such nice clarity. The images just punch you with so much detail and tonal information and the colors and bokeh always feel so deep and rich.
Then there is that field curvature working to an advantage. It tends to push the center background further than the edges to create this illusion of even more depth. It’s weird how it works and very unique to this lens but you can really see it in a lot of the shots. This is a look you will not get with the 35mm f2 by the way. Even if you stop down both at f2, this lens still has some magic that lens doesn’t have. Although the XF35mm f2 does do contrast and clarity a little better.
This is the big thing you always get from Fujifilm primes. I don’t think they’ve made a prime yet that doesn’t perform well here. Again, this is why I shoot Fujifilm. I have several Canon, Sony and Nikon lenses now and none of them perform this way. Except a few of the Zeiss lenses for the Sony system.
But man, this is it. This is one of their best most classic rendering lenses.
Fujinon 35mm f1.4 Review | Bottom Line
Should you still buy this lens even though it’s not perfect and doesn’t have perfect sharpness and perfect animal eye AF tracking magic?
If you really want to experience what the Fujifilm system is all about, this is the lens you have to have.
It’s not the best lens in the world technically, but it just has so much character and produces a truly unique look that will leave you completely addicted.
Autofocus can be a little clunky in low light but it’s more than fast enough for tracking simple motions as you can see from all my photos of my kids. You probably don’t want to use this lens for video shooting with on an on-camera mic since it does make some noise, nor is it really built for video shooting.
Fujinon 35mm f1.4 Sample Photos
Fujinon 35mm f1.4 Sample photos are taken with various cameras over the years. I’ll try to update this, next time I do a deep dive in my catalog. I’ve also improved my color editing over the years so I’ll try to update things. I was using VSCO and Mastin a few years ago and I’ve since built my own that have a film style to them. If you’re interested, get on the newsletter at store and I’ll probably do some coupon for newsletter users when the preset packs are available, as I work out the kinks in the system.