Today I’m taking a look at the second lens in Fuji’s compact f/2 prime range, the 23mm f/2 R WR. This lens joins the existing 35mm f/2 R WR, and recently announced 50mm f/2 R WR, creating a trio of small weathersealed lenses with good optical quality. The 23mm f/2 fills the classic moderate wide-angle niche, with a field of view equivalent to a 35mm lens on a full-frame camera. Since the faster 23mm f/1.4 R was released in 2013, Fuji shooters have been hoping for a slightly slower and much smaller alternative for better handling and further size reduction. It’s here now, so let’s see how it performs.
Construction and Handling
If you’ve handled the 35mm f/2 from Fuji, you’ll have a very good idea as to the construction and feel of the 23mm f/2. The lens looks almost identical to the 35mm f/2, but is slightly longer. The narrow profile and light weight means that the 23mm f/2 takes up minimal space in the camera bag and can be carried all day long without a second thought.
The lens, like almost all XF lenses, has a completely metal exterior, with finely ribbed focus and aperture rings. The build quality is top-notch from an exterior perspective. The lens is very solid and there are no loose parts anywhere. The aperture ring on the 23mm f/2 has that same wonderful geared feel that the 35mm f/2 has, providing excellent tactile feedback when changing the f-stop. The focus ring is freely spinning, but well damped for accurate manual focus.
Fuji abandoned the tiny screw-in hood that came with the 35mm f/2 in favor of a bayonet mounting plastic hood that provides some protection from stray light while staying very small. If you own both lenses, you’ll be pleased to know that the hood from the 23mm f/2 will fit on its 35mm brother just fine. The down side to this hood design is that the lens cap clips on the outside of it, rather than recessed into it, which makes the lens a bit longer than it needs to be when packed for storage. Still, with such a small lens, this is really nitpicking, and overall I prefer this lens hood to the one that comes with the 35mm.
The XF 23mm f/2 does carry the ‘WR’ tag for weather resistance, indicating that the lens is sealed against intrusion of dust and moisture, and the rubber gasket that surrounds the lens mount made good contact with the Fuji X-T2 I used for testing.
The 23mm f/2 is a very fast focusing lens, and the stepping motor used in the lens is effectively silent as well. As such, the lens locks focus quickly, surely and quietly, making it an excellent lens for discreet shooting. A lot of street shooters enjoy the field of view a lens such as this provides, and I’d imagine many will want to pick one of these up for the compact size, angle of view, reasonably fast aperture and speedy AF.
I didn’t have any autofocus issues in my time testing the lens. Overall, the lens locked very quickly, even in lower light, and accuracy was quite good.
Given the excellent sharpness wide open on the 35mm f/2, I had high hopes for the 23mm f/2, and for the most part, they were met. Wide open, at moderate to far focus distances, the lens starts out reasonably sharp in the center, with a bit of softness as you get towards the edges. Stopping down yields very sharp images across the entire image frame.
The one caveat is shooting at wide apertures in the close-up range. This includes shooting from the rather impressive minimum focus distance of 8.6″ to around 3 feet or so. At these closer focus distances, the lens shows some softness. It’s not bad, and decent prints can still be made, but it won’t yield critical sharpness in these conditions. Given how good the 35mm f/2 is in these conditions, it’s a bit of a letdown, but not necessarily a deal breaker.
Color, Contrast and Chromatic Aberration
The 23mm f/2 yields images that have great contrast right from f/2, and the contrast profile stays consistent throughout the aperture range. Color response is also excellent, with rich color that matches the other prime lenses in the Fuji lineup.
The 23mm does display just a touch of lateral chromatic aberration, but it won’t be visible in the vast majority of images and is easily corrected. Longitudinal CA can show when shooting high contrast subjects at wide apertures, with a bluish background fringe and a magenta foreground fringe. It’s not terrible, but it is noticeable, so some images may require some correction if it bothers you.
With environmental portraiture, being able to blur the background is often a desirable trait. The 23mm f/2 is fast enough to give that nice blur on closer work, but it’s not quite fast enough to provide a lot of separation on a bit more moderate and distant subjects. That said, in those closer situations, the bokeh from the 23mm f/2 is very nice. The blurred areas are evenly illuminated and have a nice soft falloff that yields nice and creamy backgrounds. Specular highlights are nice and even as well, with only a slight outline surrounding the blur discs. I find the overall look very pleasing. Some nervousness can creep into the background when focusing at medium distances of around 6-10 feet, but it’s not bad.
Distortion, Flare and Vignetting
In the great merry-go-round of Fuji’s distortion correction, you’ll find that some lenses are very well corrected optically for distortion, while others rely heavily on software corrections. The 23mm f/2 is one of the former lenses, as almost all distortion is handled optically, and the result is excellent, distortion-free images. Lines remain straight and linear. The image below has had some perspective correction to remove keystoning, but no optical distortion correction has been performed.
While essentially my entire testing period was filled with clouds, and therefore I didn’t get to test the lens against sunlight, I did shoot quite a bit among bright streetlights, and the 23mm f/2 performed quite well against bright light. Little to no ghosting was visible in my shots, and veiling flare was also very well controlled. Only when placing a bright light source at the very edge of the frame, did I notice a green ghost shoot into the frame from the edge. Some minor ghosting can be seen with light sources near, but not quite at the edge, but they’re still well controlled. Overall a very nice performance. It’s also worth mentioning that the 9-bladed aperture makes for excellent light stars when stopping down, producing beautiful 18 pointed stars around light sources when shot at smaller apertures.
While vignetting is also corrected for in the built-in lens profile, some residual vignetting is visible at wide apertures. Uncorrected, it’s rather pronounced, so the correction will increase noise a bit at the edges, especially at higher ISOs.
In all, the 23mm f/2 is a good performer optically, but not without its flaws. It doesn’t quite match the optical prowess of the 35mm f/2, but will still produce very nice images in most any situation.
- Solidly built with full metal exterior
- Sealed against dust and moisture
- Excellent feel on the aperture and focus rings
- Decent sharpness wide open and quite sharp stopped down
- Excellent color and contrast
- Pleasing bokeh
- Great control of flare
- Very low distortion
- Fast, quiet and accurate autofocus
- Reasonably priced
- Sharpness wide open is only average at closer distances
- Some minor chromatic aberration is visible
The Fuji 23mm f/2 WR is a lens that a lot of people have been waiting for, as a cheaper and smaller option to the excellent 23mm f/1.4. The lens looks very similar to the other f/2 weather-sealed prime, the 35mm f/2 WR, and it handles and feels the same as well, both of which are good things. The overall optical quality is quite good, but it falls short of exceptional. The faster f/1.4 lens is a superior optic, but this f/2 lens also costs half the price, at a very reasonable $449. For the extra cost of the f/1.4 lens, you also gain a stop of light and shallower depth of field. I think that this stop of light is actually fairly important on a wide-angle lens on an APS-C camera. The ability to isolate your subject is harder on the 23mm f/2, requiring closer focus distances to make an impact vs its faster brother. I do think street shooters will appreciate the slightly faster autofocus and the very compact design of the 23mm f/2.
For the cost of the lens, I think it’s a good buy and an easy lens to recommend, but those seeking the best 35mm equivalent for Fuji will likely want to save up for the 23mm f/1.4. The 23mm f/2 is a good effort from Fuji and will be a nice fit for a lot of Fuji shooters.
As a side note, I shot the 23mm f/2 on the Fuji X-T2: the review on that camera should be coming shortly!
Middle Falls, Hocking Hills – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/8, 10s
Night Joggers – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/2
Frozen Falls – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/8
Night Fence – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/2
Atrium Roof – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/2
Scioto at Dawn in January – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/8, 12s
State Street – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/2
Ohio Tunnel – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/2
Cooking – Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR @ f/2