After taking the plunge into the Fuji mirror less system, i had a hard time deciding what would be my standard "go=to" lens. My X-E2 kit came with the 18-55 F/2.8-4 lens, which is much more than a standard kit lens, but I felt like I was still missing something in my photos. I wanted a lens that gave some more punch when paired with the X-E2. In researching what lens to purchase after the kit lens, I kept coming across the Fujinon XF 35 F/1.4. I went ahead and took a chance on it. Everything I had read and all the sample shots I had seen really impressed me. After taking it on a couple of trips and carrying it around with me as a daily lens I have not been disappointed. I also updated from the X-E2 to the X-T1 during that time, but the results of this lens on both cameras is just amazing. Anyway, I decided I would do a quick review on the Fujifilm XF 35mm F/1.4 lens after having some time with it. If you've ever read anything about this lens then you're probably familiar with all the positive takeaways. This one won't be very different.
Like the 60mm F/2.4 featured in my last review, the 35mm F/1.4 was one of the original lenses introduced by Fujifilm when its mirror-less system was announced. The 35mm focal range equates to about a 52mm range on a full frame camera. The lens itself is small but sturdy. The construction is metal and feels solid, even for it's size. It comes with a strangely shaped rectangle lens hood, which I never actually use. That's just a minor side note. It really doesn't impact the use of this lens, I just don't like the way it looks. It sits perfectly on my X-E2 so I imagine if you own any other Fuji camera it will sit perfectly as well. Like most of the first lenses introduced with the mirror-less system from Fuji, the lens is super comfortable to carry around. I honestly sometimes feel like there's not even a camera on my shoulder when I shoot with this lens. That's excellent news if you're a street photographer because that is who this lens was designed for. It's also a great portrait lens in my opinion. I know the focal length might not be ideal for some of you out there, but it really does perform well. Besides, I'm of the thinking that if you have a 35mm or a 85mm lens in hand for portrait work, it doesn't really matter. Move closer or further away from your subject. Right? Ultimately it's a matter of what works best for you.
One thing I don't like this lens for is landscapes. Now, I know what you're thinking "Andrew you just stated that focal length shouldn't matter in portraits, what's so different about landscapes?" That would be an excellent counter point, and I would just say again that it's really an issue of personal preference. For me, it never feels right trying to use this focal length for landscape shots. It might have something to do with the fact that I've always shot wide when I do landscapes. It's how I learned and it's what I prefer still. The opposite could be said if you started shooting landscapes at the 35 (52) mm focal range. You might just prefer that. Just look at the shot above of the Austin skyline. That photo is not going to win any awards, but it's a nice enough photograph. Basically, if you want to use this as a landscape lens you can and you will probably get great shots with it. I mean, you could use a 300mm for landscape shots. Do what works best for you, not what is considered the status quo. For me, I just like using a wider focal length for my landscape shots.
Now, about the performance of this lens. It can really be summed up in one word: SHARP. At its max aperture of 1.4 it's really sharp and creates really rich bokeh. You start to lose some of that sharpness when you stop down to F/5, but even then it's still relatively sharp. Anything from that range of 1.4-5 is going to be plenty sharp for anything you'll want to do. The 1.4 aperture also allows for excellent shooting in low light. If you're an events photographer then this lens will be perfect for the challenges indoor lighting can provide. If you shoot concerts this one is probably ideal, especially if you're fairly close to the stage. I use this on a X-E2, so I imagine the low light performance is even better on an X-Pro 1 or the X-T1. If you're going to use this in well lit situations, then you probably won't see much of a difference between the X-E2 and those cameras. The auto-focus is fairly fast, nothing to get excited about, but definitely better than the 60mm. If you're the frequent traveler, really consider this lens as the one you take on your next vacation. Put it on an X-E1, X-E2 or X-Pro 1 and you're set. It will pack very light and not put a burden on your neck or shoulders. The 35mm range is perfect for almost all shots you'll want to get on a vacation.
To sum up: this is the ideal go to lens for the Fuji system. It's light, fast, sharp and of course has a versatile focal range. If you're looking to build a versatile Fuji system, I would go ahead and sell the kit lens that came with your camera purchase the 35mm and pair it with the 10-24mm F/4 and the 55-200mm F/3.5-4.8 lenses. That will cover pretty much any situation you'll ever be in. One area this lens is not intended for: action photography. Unfortunately, that has been the one mark against Fujifilm since their mirror-less system hit the market. The current lens/camera combinations don't really produce a great action photography setup. Fujifilm can't compete with Nikon or Canon in that department. Not at the moment at least. I don't shoot action, so this has never been an issue for me. As I stated in my introduction, this brief review of the 35mm is similar to others that heap high praise onto it. If you're looking for for a lens to do general street photography and portrait work, go ahead and pull the trigger on this one. It's still pricey, but it's one of the more affordable Fuji lenses on the market. Some more sample images are below.