I recently jumped all-in on a camera system switch from Sony to Fuji. My main focus in doing so was to decrease the size and weight of my overall setup. As soon as I sold all of my Sony gear, I set out to fill in my lens lineup. As a photographer that primarily shoots landscape, I started with a few wide angles, but knew I needed a nifty-fifty for travel and street. For an equivalent 50mm focal length on Fuji’s APSC bodies, my three main options were the Fuji 35 f/1.4, Fuji 35 f/2, and Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8. After a lot of online research, the Fuji 35mm f/2 won out for its weather resistance, fast and silent autofocus, size, and value. This lens was my daily driver on a recent trip to Thailand, and is the Fuji lens I reach for most from the 8 I’ve recently acquired. In this review, I’ll be covering my overall impressions on the build and construction of the Fuji 35mm f2, as well as taking a look at image quality with a ton of samples.
Construction and Handling
The first thing I noticed when taking the Fuji XF 35mm f/2 out of the box was the premium feel and solid construction. The solid metal lens is incredibly well balanced and just feels premium in my hands. This is a stark departure from the chintzy plastic Sony and Samyang FE lenses I’ve used at the same price point. The metal manual focus ring is butter smooth with just the right amount of resistance. The aperture ring clicks nicely and doesn’t budge unexpectedly like my Zeiss Touit 12mm and Fuji XF 14mm.
The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 is weather sealed which is one of the major selling points of this lens over the Fuji XF 35mm f1.4 and Zeiss Touit 32mm. As an outdoor and travel photographer that takes 99% of my photos outdoors, the weather and dust sealing is critical. Living is Southern California, I don’t have to worry about too much rain or humidity, but dust in the deserts and mountains can be a nightmare. I can’t even begin to count the time I spent cleaning my Sony sensor and removing dust spots in post. The weather sealing of this lens combined with the sealing on my X-T3 make for a very resilient outdoor combination.
Fujifilm rates this lens down to 14°F which is another great feature for travel. I’ve used this lens with the X-T3 down to 28°F, and have had no issues at all. I also shot with this lens on some very humid days in Thailand, where I was going from a dry air conditioned room to a humid and muggy outdoor setting. This can cause condensation to build up on cameras, but I never had any issues.
The weather sealed metal body of the Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 houses 9 optical elements in 6 groups, and has 9 rounded diaphragm blades that produce a very pleasing bokeh. The maximum aperture of the lens is f/2 which is fast, but not quite as fast as I’d like. The speed of the Fuji 35mm f1.4 in certain shooting situations would be much nicer.
The 35mm focal length of the XF 35mm f/2 provides a 44.2° field of view, and a full frame equivalent 53mm field of view. The minimum focusing distance is around 14 inches or 35cm. Combine that with a 0.135x magnification ratio, and you won’t be doing much macro, but it is a very capable lens for detail shots of objects close to the front element.
The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 has no image stabilization and neither does my Fuji X-T3. I was a little spoiled by the IBIS in my Sony A7rii and A7riii, but I’m still very happy with my handheld and low light shots using this lens and system.
The lens hood for the XF 35mm f/2 is so small that it almost seems useless. I’ve shot with and without it and haven’t noticed much of a difference in harsh lighting situations with directional sunlight. It does offer protection to the front element though, so it’s nice to have in crowds or while hiking.
The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 has a metal bayonet that is just as solid and sturdy as the rest of the all metal lens. From front to back, the 35mm f2 leaves very little to be desired, and gives me a lot of confidence that it will last a very long time. This is in stark contrast to similarly priced lenses I’ve reviewed for the Sony FE system, namely the Samyang 24mm and 35mm.
The autofocusing on the Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 is ultimately what pushed me to purchase it over the Fuji 35 f/1.4 and Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8. Fujifilm clocks the autofocus lock at speeds up to 0.08 sec. I’m not sure how fast the autofocusing is in reality, but do know that it is not just fast, but quiet and very accurate. I spent hours in Thailand shooting moving subjects in the street, and was astonished at my keeper rate. The combination of the XF 35mm f/2 with my X-T3 hit the intended target nearly every time I hit the shutter. This was a big deal for me coming from Sony’s fantastic autofocus, as I didn’t feel like I was sacrificing performance with the smaller setup.
The XF 35mm f/2 has a silent inner focus system that uses a stepping motor to achieve these great results. Fuji’s older f1.4 lenses focus with a telescoping front element that is much louder and less accurate according to the many reviews I’ve read. The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 also gives users the option to manually focus using its dampened metal focus ring.
Size and Weight
The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 comes in at a svelte 6oz (170g) and measures a tiny 2.36 x 1.81″. This small and compact lens balances perfectly on my X-T3 and is less noticeable while shooting street photography when compared to my longer Sony Zeiss 55mm. The XF 35mm f/2 also rides along nicely in a jacket pocket or my camera bag when I bring it along as a secondary option.
Specs and Stats
Dimensions:2.36 x 1.81″
Weight: 6 oz / 170 g
Filter Thread: 43mm
Focal Length: 35mm
Aperture: f/2 – f/16
View Angle: 44.2°
Minimum Focus Distance: 13.8″ (35 cm)
Image Stabilization: None
The XF 35mm f/2 is certainly a robust lens in a small and lightweight package, but none of that matters if the lens doesn’t also deliver on image quality. Having now shot with the XF 35mm f/2 in a wide range of settings, I’m happy to say that the image quality it produces is on par with the top notch build.
One of the things that has impressed me the most with the Fuji XF 35mm f/2 is the center sharpness. Coming from a Sony a7riii with lenses like the Zeiss 55mm and Batis 18mm, sharpness is a lens quality that matters a lot to me. It doesn’t matter if I’m shooting landscapes, architecture, or people, I want my images tack sharp.
Shooting wide open at f/2, the Fuji XF 35mm f/2 exhibits a touch of softness at the center when focusing on subjects up close. This can be seen in the map images below. Things sharpen up from f/2.2 to f/2.5, and are razor sharp from f/2.8 on. When shooting wide open with subjects at a distance, the lens is tack sharp from the get go. You can see this sharpness in the portrait below the maps.
The images below are showing the bottom left corner of a topo map. Shooting wide open at f/2, the corners and edges are soft. By f/4, things get a little better, and by f/5.6 the softness is relegated to the extreme corners. The centers are very sharp here and that sharpness works its way all the way out to the edges of the image. Since it is only the extreme corners that appear soft, I assume this might have something to do with the built in lens profile that corrects for vignetting.
It’s tough to test for vignetting with Fujinon lenses since the RAW files and jpegs are processed with a built in lens profile that removes it. I’ve read that you can remove these profiles with editors like Iridient Developer. As a photographer that is already using Lightroom and Capture One, I’m going to pass on a third piece of software and just live with the built in corrections.
Fast and accurate autofocus is critical for my style of photography where I’m tracking my toddler around the park, capturing street moments in a city, or documenting life at the local farmers market. In almost every photo opportunity I’m engaged in, I’ll only have one opportunity to get things right. As I mentioned above, the XF 35mm f/2 absolutely nails it in the autofocus department with fast, silent, and accurate performance in almost every situation.
The Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 pairs very well with the face recognition mode on my Fuji X-T3. When shooting spontaneous street portraits, I don’t always have time to set a focus point, so this feature is critical. I also like to isolate my subject on the street by shooting close to the maximum aperture of my lens and not around f/8 with everything in focus like some street photographers. The accuracy of the Fujifilm XF 35mm f/2 in my experience has been superb.
I’m going to start my review of this 35mm’s bokeh by saying I’m in no way a bokeh snob. I’m not interested in onion rings or cat eyes, and really only view bokeh in two ways: It’s either a compliment to the photo or its a distraction. In almost every photo I’ve taken with the XF 35mm f2 containing bokeh, I feel like the quality of the bokeh is pleasing in that it compliments the overall composition and image. The only time I feel the bokeh is distracting is when I have a busy background behind my subject that is close in distance to my focus point. In these cases it would be nice to have a shallower depth of field to blur things a little bit more. This might be a case where the XF 35mm f1.4 would have the edge over the XF 35mm f2, although I’ve read the two are close in this regard.
Real World Performance
Something I’ve noticed when reading reviews of lenses and watching review videos on YouTube is that some reviewers publish content without addressing real world settings and situations. Some readers might enjoy charts and graphs with a few photos of brick walls and sharpness charts, but I don’t find them all that useful. As a landscape photographer that spends most of my time on hiking trails, it helps me a lot to see photographers of street, studio portraiture, real estate, etc., talking about how the quality of a lens pertains to their specific craft. I’ve learned a great deal from these reviewers and am very grateful that they take the time to share their experience. For that reason, I want to cover my personal experience with the Fuji XF 35mm f2 in the situations I’ve used it most: travel, documentary, street portraits, posed portraits, and handheld low light. Obviously there can be a lot of crossover in these categories, but I will address each one separately below.
Travel and Documentary Photography
Having visited 24 countries, I’ve taken quite a few photos around the world. Up until recently, I was more of a casual tourism shooter while in cities and spent most of my time shooting trails and treks while hiking. In the last few years, I’ve been getting much more serious about documentary and travel photography with a narrative, something that captures the essence of what it was like to be in a location. I always felt a bit out of place without knowing where to start with my Sony, but since switching to Fuji, my documentary photography while traveling has really come to life.
I’m very new to the world of street photography and in a lot of ways am still finding my feet. I find myself being drawn to take more street photos with my Fuji system than I ever did with my Sony. There is something special about feeling the tactile knobs and buttons while quickly capturing a resolute everyday moment. When I return home from a trip, it is usually my photos from the street that best convey what it was like to be in the moment.
The Fuji XF 35mm f/2 works very well as a street photography lens as the focal length allows for a lot of versatility. It’s just wide enough to capture a street scene, but also close enough to snap scenes that are more intimate. The autofocus is the shining feature for street though, as the fast and accurate autofocus of the XF 35mm gives me a ton of keepers at the end of each day.
ISO 250 | 1/80s | f/2.5
35mm is a versatile focal length for real life portraits. It’s tight enough to allow for a headshot without completely invigilating the subject’s personal space, yet wide enough for environmental portraits that incorporate the surroundings. The Fuji XF 35mm f/2 is tack sharp in the center and pairs well with Fuji’s face/eye detect autofocus for an admirably high hit rate. The colors, contrast, and overall skin tone rendering are also worth mentioning. This is one of those Fuji advantages that I didn’t really appreciate until I started shooting with the X-T3 and XF lenses. The bokeh on the XF 35mm is smooth and pleasant, without being a distraction. I don’t shoot a lot of portraits, but this lens has done a great job when called upon.
Low Light Handheld
The one area the Fuji XF 35mm f/2 struggles a bit is shooting low light shots handheld. The maximum aperture of f/2 paired with my IBIS free X-T3 gives a lot of ground to my old full frame Sony with IBIS and f/1.8 lenses. I know the X-H1 has IBIS and the rumored X-T4 will as well, so things might be better in the future. As of right now, the f/2 is just a bit too slow for some of the shots I’ve tried to take. At dusk/dawn or at night with lots of street light, the lens does well enough. I just don’t have the same keeper rate as I do when shooting in good light.
The Fujifilm XF 35mm f2 has turned out to be the ultimate travel lens. It is small, light, has great autofocus, and works in a wide range of shooting situations. The XF 35mm is built like a tank and is weather resistant which makes it suitable to take anywhere. At $400, the Fujifilm XF 35mm f2 offers a ton of value and is a ‘must buy’ for anyone with a Fuji X camera.