Is the smaller and lighter 23mm f/2 R WR XF a match for the older but faster 23mm f/1.4 XF R? Michael Topham finds out
Fujifilm XF23mm f/2 R WR review: Image Quality
The question many Fujifilm X-series users want to know the answer to is how well this new lens performs up against the 23mm f/1.4 XF R.
To find out we took a series of comparison shots at the coast with both lenses set to the same aperture. An early inspection of our images told us that XF 23mm f/2 R WR was producing fractionally sharper results in the centre at f/4 than those captured with our three-year old sample of the 23mm f/1.4 XF R. Further testing throughout the day at different aperture settings confirmed the results we were getting with this newer lens were indeed fractionally sharper, as illustrated in the magnified view of the image above.
Back at the studio we analyzed our lab tests to double-check these matched our real-world findings, which they did. The level of sharpness the lens resolves at the edge of the frame and in the centre is almost identical at f/2. Sharpness in the centre of the frame improves when the aperture is closed down and peaks between f/4 and f/5.6. Corner sharpness also gets better when you stop the lens down from f/2 and reaches its optimum at around f/5.6. To locate the sweet spot between centre and corner sharpness on this lens you’ll want to use it at either f/4 or f/5.6. The impact of diffraction does soften overall sharpness a little – most obvious when the lens is used at its minimum aperture of f/16.
Our tests also show that the corners appear approximately 0.5EV darker than the centre at f/2 – a fraction more than 0.4EV figure we recorded on the 23mm f/1.4 XF R at its maximum aperture. Vignetting can be traced at f/2.8, however it’s not overly offensive. By the time you stop down to f/4 you’ll notice the corners appear no darker than the centre. Chromatic abberations are handled well by the lens, with only minor fringing observed along some high-contrast edges.
A close inspection of our distortion chart reveals that it handles distortion admirably much like the older 23mm f/1.4 XF R. The amount of barrel distortion is so negligible you won’t be aware of it in real-world shots, with the camera’s in-camera processing correcting it automatically in JPEG files. Unlike some other manufacturers, Fujifilm delivers the correction for raw files via lens-specific metadata. This is accessed automatically by the Raw converter you use to correct or mitigate common optical phenomena. It’s the reason you won’t find Fujifilm lenses listed under lens profiles.