The Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR is a weather resistant compact X-mount lens that weighs a scant 6.35 oz (180 g) and produces beautiful images. With a full frame equivalent 35mm focal length, the XF 23mm f/2.0 is the perfect do-it-all lens option for travel, landscape, and street photos while on the go. This lens also works very nicely for candid family photos and has been my primary walk-around lens since I purchased it. The XF 23mm f/2.0 isn’t as fast as Fuji’s 23mm f/1.4, but it is lighter (by 4.3 oz), smaller, $450 cheaper, is weather sealed, and has much better autofocus. These are the main factors that pushed me to purchase this lens, and I will be detailing my mostly positive experience in this review.
Construction and Handling
The Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2.0 is my fourth Fuji WR lens, and rounds out my set of ‘Fujicron’ lenses alongside the XF 16mm f/2.8, XF 35mm f/2 and XF 50mm f/2. Just like the XF 16mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2 and XF 50mm f/2, the XF 23mm f/2 is exceptionally well built. The XF 23mm f/2 has a premium feel in the hand, and performs like lenses two and three times more expensive. The aperture ring is smooth and sturdy, providing satisfying clicks at every stop when adjusted. Like the other Fujicrons, the aperture ring always stays put when coming in and out of my bag. I don’t use this lens in manual focus much, but the focus ring is buttery smooth and responsive.
The Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2.0 is a lens I use for hiking, travel, and everyday shooting. This means it spends most of its life susceptible to weather, dusty hiking trails, busy city streets, and a fast moving toddler. The weather resistance on the XF 23mm f/2 has proven to be very effective when paired with my weather resistant Fuji XT-3. I’ve used this lens in rain, snow, and the dusty deserts of Southern California without issue.
Fujifilm rates this lens down to 14°F which is a great feature for travelers and outdoor enthusiast. This focal length makes for a lens that will be used quite a bit outdoors, so it is nice to have the peace of mind knowing that it was designed for such pursuits.
The weather sealed metal body of the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 houses 10 optical elements in 6 groups, and has 9 rounded diaphragm blades. This combination has proven to be very resistant to flares and ghosting when shooting in harsh light, and provides pretty decent bokeh for a wide lens.
The XF 23mm f/2 has a 63.4° field of view, and a full frame equivalent 35mm focal length. From my experience, the 23mm f/2 feels like a 21mm lens, and shoots a little wider than other 35mm lenses I own.
The minimum focusing distance is around 8.66 inches or 22cm, but the lens is very soft across the frame when focusing close at wide apertures.
The Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 has no image stabilization and neither does my Fuji X-T3. When paired with the IBIS of the new X-T4, the XF 23mm f/2 will gain 6.5 stops.
The lens hood for the XF 23mm f/2 is a tiny piece of plastic which doesn’t offer any real coverage, but does provide a little protection. This is similar to the mini lens hood that comes with the XF 35mm f/2, and nothing like the big lens hood found on the XF 50mm f/2. I shoot with this hood on for protection on most outings, but find the lens performs just as well without it.
The Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 has a metal bayonet that is just as solid and sturdy as the rest of the all metal lens. Just like my other Fujicrons, the build of the XF 23mm f/2 leaves very little to be desired, and gives me a lot of confidence that it will last a very long time.
The autofocus on the XF 23mm f/2 is speedy, accurate, and quiet. This is the same performance I’ve experienced with my other Fujicrons and a major reason I picked up this lens instead of the older XF 23mm f/1.4. I’ve been using the 23mm f/2 for street photography, candid family photos, and and for walk-around shots, and have yet to be disappointed with the autofocus performance. The XF 23mm f/2 has a silent inner focus system that uses a stepping motor to achieve these great results, and is also a great option for video (which I rarely shoot).
Size and Weight
The Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 comes in at a lightweight 6.35 oz (180 g) and measures 2.36″ x 2.04″. The size and weight of the 23mm f/2 balances perfectly on my X-T3 and is one of the main reasons I find myself using this lens so often.
Specs and Stats
Dimensions: 2.36″ x 2.04″
Weight: 6.35 oz (180 g)
Filter Thread: 43mm
Focal Length: 23mm (35mm on full frame)
Aperture: f/2 – f/16
View Angle: 63.4°
Minimum Focus Distance: 8.66″ (22 cm)
Image Stabilization: None
When evaluating the sharpness of the Fuji XF 23mm f/2 I have to separate things by focus distance. The minimum focus distance for this lens is listed at 8.66″ (22 cm), but the 23mm f/2 is hardly usable at that distance when shooting wide open. For the images below, I set the 23mm f/2 10 inches away from a topo map. Shooting wide open at f/2, the Fuji XF 23mm f/2 is soft and hazy at the center of the frame. Things get a little better at f/2.8, and really sharpen up by f/4.0. By f/5.6 the center is crisp and very sharp.
The center softness I found shooting wide open at a close distance is not found when focusing on a subject farther away. I can shoot wide open on subjects a few feet away and the center of the frame is razor sharp. The image below is a 100% crop of an image shot at f/2, and you can see how much sharper the results are when compared to the close focus sample.
To evaluate corner and edge sharpness, the images below show the top right corner of a topo map. Shooting wide open at f/2 from 10 inches away, the corners are soft, fuzzy, and smeared like the center. The corners and edges improve at f/2.8, and by f/4 and f/5.6 things look much better.
Just like the center of the frame, the corners on the XF 23mm f/2 are much sharper when shooting a subject from a distance.
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.
The autofocus on the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 is fast, accurate, and silent. This is great for video, and nice for photos. This lens also works very well with the face recognition mode on my Fuji X-T3. I don’t shoot a lot of portraits with this lens, but it is nice for candid shots and environmental portraits.
In AF-S, the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 quickly locks on to my desired target with a near perfect hit rate. This is perfect for landscapes, or when shooting slow moving subjects at narrow apertures.
In AF-C, the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 performs equally well and does a great job of locking onto moving subjects. In AF-C, the focusing is smooth, silent, and accurate.
Bokeh and subject separation aren’t lens qualities that rank high for me on a 35mm focal length lens, but I know I’m in the minority on that. When cross shopping the XF 23mm f/2 against the older 23mm f/1.4, I realized how many people were using the f/1.4 version for portraits, food photography, and other applications that showcase the f/1.4’s pleasant bokeh. For this reason, I thought it would be worth posting a few photos from the XF 23mm f/2 for those of you that are interested. I thought the max aperture of f/1.4 on the older XF 23mm would provide a much shallower DOF than the max of f/2 version, but the differences aren’t really that great. There 23mm f/2 really holds its own here.
Before I go further on bokeh, I’ll say as I always do: I see bokeh in two ways, It’s either a compliment to the photo or its a distraction. I’m not interested in onion rings, cat eyes, aberrations, or astigmatisms, and steer clear of technical evaluations of bokeh. To get a good test of my compliment vs distraction evaluation, I’ve selected a few sample photos with busy backgrounds. In these photos and others, I find that the out-of-focus area compliments the subjects nicely, especially for a wide angle lens like the XF 23mm.
Real World Performance
Real world photo samples are what drive every one of my lens purchases these days. I’m sure there are people out there making decisions based on charts, graphs, and brick wall photos… but I’ve yet to meet one in person. It’s important for me to see how a lens performs in situations that are similar to how and where I shoot. I also like to see photographers post photos using a style of shooting I’d like to learn from. 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 compliments their style of shooting. 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 23mm f/2 in the situations I’ve used it most: environmental portraits, street, travel, and landscape. Obviously there is a lot of crossover in these categories, but I will try to organize my photo samples as best as I can below.
For candid head shots and environmental portraits, the Fuji XF 23mm f/2 has been a stellar performer. The center and edge softness when focusing on subjects close to the lens is something I’ve learned to work around, and that’s my only real complaint with the 23mm f/2. The center and edge sharpness on subjects further than 2 feet is superb, and the bokeh is good enough to keep from being too distracting.
Street Photography and Architecture
The 23/35mm focal length sits next to the 35/50mm focal length as the most popular for street photography. One of the major reasons the 23mm (35mm full frame) focal length is so popular, is that it can be used for many different shooting needs. It’s just wide enough for landscapes and architecture, but is also tight enough for portraits and separating a subject from the background. The 23(35)mm focal length also plays nice with faces and lines, and is free from the major distortion found in wider focal lengths. Finally, the 23(35)mm focal length is very close to how we see the world, making composition a natural extension of our eyes.
The XF 23mm f/2 has been a fantastic walk-around lens for street photos and architecture, with minimal distortion, beautiful Fuji colors, and the ability to capture the world as I see it.
Travel and Landscape Photography
Landscape and general travel photography is the area that I use this lens (and all my camera gear) most often. The XF 23mm f/2 is a compact and lightweight lens, which is perfect for shooting photos on the go. The maximum f/2 aperture is fast enough for handheld indoor shots, and the optics are mostly distortion free after Fuji’s processing. With the center and edges tack sharp from f/4 onward (as long as I’m not close focusing), I’m able to use this lens for wide landscapes, buildings, street food, candid portraits, and much more.
The 35mm (23 mm APS-C) focal length hasn’t always been one of my favorites for everyday shooting in years past. I’ve always preferred a wider 24mm-28mm for landscapes and travel or a tighter 50mm for street photography and portraits. The field of view on other 35(23)mm lenses has left me feeling like I was in ‘no man’s land’ at times. Too far away and too close at the same time. My experience with Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2.0 has completely changed my opinion on this, and is one of the major reasons I now own a Fuji X100v as well.
At $450, the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 is very fairly priced when you consider the performance, build quality, and size. If you’re looking for a multi-purpose lens for landscapes, travel, and candid portraits, this is a tough lens to beat. The poor close focusing sharpness is my only major knock on this lens, and it could be a major issue if you do a lot of food photography or close portraiture. For my use, it is an easy issue to work around.
If you’re like me, and like to travel with multiple prime lenses for varied situations, the 23mm f/2 makes for a great addition to a travel trio or four pack. I’m very happy that I’ve now own all four of Fuji’s ‘Fujicron’ lenses, as the 16mm, 23mm, 35mm, and 50mm cover just about every shooting need I’m likely to encounter.