Waiting for the train, Colombo, Sri Lanka

The Fujinon XF 35mm F2 | A Lens With A Certain Flare

Charlene fujifilm gear 67 Comments

I’ve had the new XF 35mm F2 lens from Fujifilm on loan for the last month, while Flemming and I were in Colombo, Sri Lanka. There’s nothing quite like taking new gear (to say nothing of the mind) for a spin in a fresh destination.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this lens. Plenty has been written about what a great lens the new 35 is, but new gear is usually met with a certain level of frenzy. I’m not a nit picker when it comes to gear, particularly since Fuji X-series gear is never bad. I already own the XF 35mm f1.4, which was for 2 years, the only lens I had to put on a camera. It’s endured some questionable treatment, and still works fine.  So I wasn’t sure how much difference a slower, showier update would make.

Well, I was pleasantly surprised.

All pictures in this post have something to do with the railway, as I spent most of my time in Colombo either riding the trains or walking around them. Both the X-T10 and X-T1 were used with the 35mm F2.

Size, weight, shape, rings

Fujifilm X-T1, Xf 35mm f2 | 1/280 sec, f2, ISO 200

Fujifilm X-T1, Xf 35mm f2 | 1/280 sec, f2, ISO 200

It’s smaller and lighter than the old 35.

When I consider gear, size and heft is a priority. Airline carry on limitations are a part of my life, so reductions in this area always sit well. Regardless, the new 35 is reassuringly metal and solid despite its lightness. The focusing and aperture rings have just the right amount of torque, and movement is silky, so it was a pleasure – practical and tactile – to use, and there was neither a fight to change aperture or focus, nor did I lose the last setting to accidental rotation. It is also a funky looking thing, bringing (intentionally, I assume) Leica’s old Summaron 35 to mind. I have no strong feelings about the shape of this thing, but unfamiliar with its dimensions in the beginning, the smaller circumference of the focusing barrel made it easy to find and use in a hurry, so it was effective!

Weather sealing

Wading through the river that is usually the laneway to our apartment in Colombo

Wading through the river that is usually the laneway to our apartment in Colombo. Fujifilm X-T1, XF 35mm F2 | 1/320 sec, f2, ISO 2000

Boy, weather sealing is nice. The first couple of weeks in Colombo, Flemming and I were constantly caught in heavy rain. I had the 35 on both the X-T10, which is not weather sealed, and the X-T1 which is, and nothing suffered.

Autofocus

Catching a tuk tuk home in the rain. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Fujifilm X-T10, XF 35mm F2 | 1/170 sec, f2, ISO 5000

Catching a tuk tuk home in the rain. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Fujifilm X-T10, XF 35mm F2 | 1/170 sec, f2, ISO 5000

In this respect, the new F2 blows the old 35 f1.4 out of the water. On the X-T1, the autofocus is blazing bloody fast. And accurate. I spent my entire time in Colombo shooting its trains in a variety of conditions, and as long as there was some kind of non-vertical edge for it to lock on to, it snapped in focus with satisfying speed.

Owing to the internal focusing motor, it’s also totally silent, which is fantastic for anyone doing street or documentary work. I was enough of a spectacle myself in Colombo, so was exceedingly grateful for any respite in this area.

Optics

Colombo Fort Train Station. Fujifilm X-T1, XF 35mm F2 | 1250 sec, f2, ISO 800

Colombo Fort Train Station. Fujifilm X-T1, XF 35mm F2 | 1250 sec, f2, ISO 800

Contrast, color, tones, definition… this thing rocks in all areas of image rendition. I shot with it at F2 most of the time, and it is tack sharp wide open. Its bokeh is far more pleasing to my eye than that of the old 35, possessing a smooth butteriness the 35 F1.4 doesn’t quite have.

Flaring

Fujifilm X-T10, XF 35mm f2 | 1/120 sec, f2,ISO 50000

Fujifilm X-T10, XF 35mm f2 | 1/120 sec, f2,ISO 50000

Flaring is not something typically desirable in glass, but this is what makes me want to own this lens.

All the other stuff above I could take or leave, but I’ve never had a lens that flares as downright cinematically as this one. Those distinct diagonals and ghosting that appear when it is pointed at strong, directional light sources are simply gorgeous.

The arrival of the train. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Fujifilm X-T1, XF 35mm F2 | 1/105 sec, f2, ISO 5000

The arrival of the train. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Fujifilm X-T1, XF 35mm F2 | 1/105 sec, f2, ISO 5000

The city awaits. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Fujifilm X-T10, XF 35mm F2 | 1/80 sec, f2, ISO 5000

The city awaits. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Fujifilm X-T10, XF 35mm F2 | 1/80 sec, f2, ISO 5000

The city awaits. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Fujifilm X-T10, XF 35mm F2 | 1/80 sec, f2, ISO 5000

The city awaits. Colombo, Sri Lanka. Fujifilm X-T10, XF 35mm F2 | 1/80 sec, f2, ISO 5000

Fujifilm X-T10. XF 35mm F2 | 1/150 sec, f2, ISO 5000

Fujifilm X-T10. XF 35mm F2 | 1/150 sec, f2, ISO 5000

Other reviews

If you haven’t read them already, Kage Collective mate Patrick LaRoque shares his thoughts on the 35mm f2, and fellow Nordic X-Photographer Jonas Rask reviews the new 35 extensively here.

My thanks to Fujifilm Singapore for lending me a copy of this lens to try out.

Colombo Fort Train Station. Fujifilm X-T1, XF 35mm f2 | 1/320 sec,, f5.6, ISO 800

Colombo Fort Train Station. Fujifilm X-T1, XF 35mm f2 | 1/320 sec,, f5.6, ISO 800

Comments 67

  1. The train station photos are fantastic especially under those lighting conditions. I wish we had those
    stations here in the States but they do not exist anymore. I agree that traveling light is a priority now
    that is why the 35 F2 and the underrated 27 F2.8 are now my favorite travel lens combo for trips.

    1. Post
      Author

      Those train stations are marvelous, Pauly. And people were walking all over the tracks, around the trains while they’re moving. I come from orderly first world societies where there are fences to save us from ourselves, so that was quite something.

      If I didn’t already have the old 35 f1.4 I’d be getting this. It’s a great little lens.

  2. Was the autofocus also accurate on the X-t10? Or is the X-t1’s autofocus more reliable with this lens?

    1. Post
      Author

      It was definitely accurate on the X-T10. AF was noticeably faster on the X-T1, but my firmware was updated to support it.

      My X-T10 is still running on pre-production firmware.

  3. I think those flare photos have finally convinced me to sell my 35/1.4 and get the f/2 lens. Had been unable to decide before now but that flare is so cool!

    1. Post
      Author

      Sell the good old 1.4! Oh my, Andy.

      I will say that flare is something special though.

  4. Pingback: Fujinon XF 35mm F2 R WR -Reviews | Elly van Veen

  5. Oh, no! I just got the 56 and thought I had stopped lusting :o( But seriously, really beautiful images as always, Charlene – and as wet with you there as it is with me here… at least your rain will be warm(er).

    1. Post
      Author

      Ah you finally got the 56! Good stuff 🙂

      The new 35 might be worth adding to your bag at some point in the future i reckon. Not a bad price for a great lens… just sayin’ 😉

      And thank you, as always.

    1. Post
      Author

      Not a problem at all Elliott. Glad you got something out of it. Enjoy the new 35 🙂

  6. Ahhh I cannot sell my 35/ 1.4 because I am saving for the X-T1 :-). Need a big brother for the X-T10. I do love the flares though like all have mentioned. Really enjoy the low light captures! Something about the Hi iso’s have always scared me, maybe I have to give it a try.

    1. Post
      Author

      Just do it, Rick! The X-T1 handles ISO 6400 remarkably well.

      Happy saving 🙂 Will you get yourself a new body in time for Christmas?

  7. I’ve had the lens since its release. It stayed on my X-T10 since coming out of the box, replacing the 27mm pancake. It has been a good investment in my gear. I also like the starburstsong I get with it. I, too, love it’s size and focus speed, especially compared to the 27mm. Happy travels and shooting!

    1. Post
      Author

      “starburstsong”

      What a great description, Monte 🙂 I’m going back to the 27 after I return this baby. That is the ultimate of small, light lenses…. although I will miss this mad flaring.

  8. Pingback: The Fujinon XF 35mm F2 | A Lens With A Certain Flare | Charlene Winfred

  9. I passed up on a super deal on a 1.4 a couple of months back and was kicking myself..whilst happily shooting with my 27mm. Then I got a little spare cash and bought this f2.
    It’s awesome! Seems like a black hole for light, which might explain your flaring.. Never had a lens which sucks light into it like this one.
    One 27mm is now for sale.
    Love, love your photographs (found via instagram.)

    1. Post
      Author

      Fantastic, Grant! I absolutely love how light spills in this lens.

      Nooooooooooo, don’t sell the 27! The 27 is awesome! I’m never giving mine back!

  10. Heh, I’m a one camera one lens kinda guy..so the 27 has to give way to the new star of the show. It’s doubled the focus speed of my trusty XE1 so it’s worth it just for that. And weather proofing is nice for the Malaysian humidity :).

    1. Post
      Author

      Ah, fair enough!

      Do you live in Malaysia? That’s just across the….well, causeway 🙂

  11. Yup, ex-pat Brit, lived in KL for the last 10 years. Know Singapore like the back of my hand too. 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      Indeed! I’m frequently in Singapore. If you want some company to wander around with the next time you’re in town, drop me an email.

  12. Wow, beatufiul images – love the train shots! Yeah, I wasn’t going to buy this lens, I already had the 35mm f1.4. Actually loved that lens, despite all the noise (actual audible focusing noise – sounded like someone was falling down some stairs every time I focused – not really that bad, but…) and not that fast of AF, especially in low light. But despite all that I loved the image quality.

    Then I heard so many photographers talking about the new f2 version, so I decided to check it out. Wow! Huge difference, really glad I tried it. I agree with you on all the points you stated. Very nice review.

    Again, great shots, Charlene!

    1. Post
      Author

      I love the old 35 f1.4. It’s still my go to lens – this few f2 is a loaner, so it’s not like i have a choice, heh.

      It is remarkable how different it is despite the identical focal length though.

      Thank you again 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      I’d say at least as good, Jim. I’m almost tempted to say it’s better, as I’m very partial to the silkiness of its bokeh. The way it renders light to dark graduations is also very smooth and beautiful, which I suppose also accounts for how great the light spillage from strong sources like headlights are (lots of examples above). I just don’t get as good looking results from the 1.4.

      If I didn’t already have the 1.4 I’d pick this over it in a heartbeat, especially considering it’s a couple of hundred bucks cheaper, depending on where you buy from.

  13. Pingback: 2015 in Pictures | charlene winfred

  14. Do you have an opinion how this lens would perform on a X-E2, and in comparison to the 18-55mm lens set at 35mm

    1. Post
      Author
  15. Amazing review and photo’s you touched on points other reviews seemed to omit. Which film simulation did you use for the train photo’s at night? They look almost magical.

    1. Post
      Author

      All Astia I believe. That’s the film simulation I use for just about everything.

  16. Thanks again for a nice review and images. I had the 35mm 1.4 and traded it for the 23mm 1.4 and then re purchased a 27mm which I had sold earlier and now the 35mm 2.0. So I decided to keep the 27mm and the 35mm 2.0 because the rendering is so different and have them in a collection which is now the 14,27,23,35,56. The 27mm remains a great lens not only for how good it is but how unassuming it is to the street.

    Keep up the great work and happy new year.

    1. Post
      Author

      “how unassuming it is to the street.”

      That’s exactly what I love it for. Nice stable of lenses you’ve got there Elliot. Happy New Year to you too 🙂

  17. I stumbled across your review and absolutely love your photos. I’m replacing my X-E2 with an X-T1 and love the fact that Fuji is giving us a weather sealed version of the 35 to go along with it. Great review and wonderful shots. Thanks for doing what you do!

    1. Post
      Author

      The new 35 is great. I haven’t honestly touched my old 1.4 since I got my hands on this one. Enjoy your new kit, and thanks for stopping by 🙂

    1. Post
      Author

      This 35 is beautiful, Alain. In both looks and image quality. Thank you for visiting my site 🙂

  18. Hi Charlene,
    Thanks a lot for the review, your pictures are just amazing, and you are obviously used to hear that! 😉
    I just wanted to ask: All tests I can read are done either on Xt1 or Xt10. Regarding the Autofocus speed, I’m just wondering if on a Xpro1, (my actual camera) the 35mm f2 will still be faster in focus than the 35mm f1.4.
    If that is the case, then ok, I can sacrifice a few stops and stay at f2.0, but have a considerable increase in speed focus.
    Your advise will be precious since I’m travelling in 10 days to Norway, and I’m ready to buy one or the other lens!
    Cheers and all the best from France!

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Mika, I’ll say first that I’ve never used the new 35 on the X-Pro 1. It is considerably faster than the f1.4 version on both the X-Pro 2, X-T1 and X-T10, so I would assume that it would be significantly faster on the X-Pro 1 as well. I would be surprised if this is not the case.

      I would suggest going into a Fuji dealer with your X-Pro 1, and trying them both out. A good dealer will be able to go into the finer points of both lenses too.

      Enjoy your trip to Norway! I’m very jealous 🙂

    2. Hi Charlene!
      Thanks a million for your answer, it was obviously the right move and the right approach.
      I did tested yesterday night both objectives at a Fuji Retailer, having already made my choice to the f1.4…
      But in the end, the f2.0 transformed my lazy Xpro1 Autofocus in a machine of speed and precision!
      And again, I’m back to the beginning, hesitating like crazy, on which one I should purchase! I hate those guys at Fuji, why haven’t they just pimped the f1.4 autofocus up??? 🙁 (most probably to torture hesitating guys like me…)

      Thanks anyway for your support, I’m still not knowing which one to choose, and I will still have to go through an intense thinking today!

      Mika
      https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikashen/albums

    3. Post
      Author

      Heh, don’t agonize too much. I doubt you’ll regret either. They’re both amazing lenses in their own right. Good luck!

  19. Good! I finally bought the f2.0. I made the choice of reason, since I privilege a bit the speed on the light… I’m in Norway in few days, and in Indonesia in 4 weeks, I can’t take the risk to miss anything 🙂
    Thanks again, your wise view helped me really a lot.
    Cheers!
    Mika

    1. Post
      Author
  20. Hi Charlene
    great review and I love your images.
    I am thinking of getting one of these for my newly bought Xpro1
    I hope it speeds up the auto focus some more!

    1. Post
      Author

      I think it should be, Mark. It’s faster on every other camera body I’ve tried it on. Have fun 🙂

  21. Hi Charlene, are you based in Perth? Given how harsh our light is between full sunlight and dark shadows are here in WA, I’m assuming the 35mm f2 would handle the contrasts beautifully?
    Thanks for the great review. Also wonder if you’ve done a similar review of the 16mm f1.4?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Wayne, I used to live in Perth, but I haven’t been back since last year, so I haven’t used the new 35 there. That being said, I’ve used this lens in light that is similarly contrasty and it’s been great for me.

      No I haven’t done a review of the 16mm. I barely use wide angles, and certainly not for my personal work – the 16mm is a heavy lens compared to the little ones I carry.

  22. Hi Charlene, thanks for the review. Your images are inspirational. If got the xpro2 and 1.4 on order. Your review and beautiful images makes me wonder…. Lenstip found noticeable barrel distortion on the f2 that is software corrected as opposed to the optically corected 1.4. Have you noticed any negatives as far as this is concerned? If not the f2 (apart from aperture) seems superior. Wondering if I should cancel 1.4 for f2. It seems you would go for the f2 if you didn’t have the 1.4? Please confuse me further 😉

    1. Post
      Author

      I’m no engineer, Pierre, so unless these things present themselves to me, I don’t go looking for them. I haven’t noticed any distortion in the new 35 that I haven’t noticed in the f1.4 version. I’ve read that many reviews myself which say the f1.4 version is better than the F2 version for one technical reason or the other, but for the kind of shooting I do, they might as well not exist.

      Right now, if I had to buy another 35, I’d pick the F2 for the following reasons:

      1. It’s significantly cheaper than the F1.4 version.
      2. It’s significantly lighter than the F1.4 version (while they’re both relatively light lenses, I have back troubles, so any reduction in weight makes a big difference)
      3. The way the new 35 handles with tonal graduations is smoother to my eye. Can’t argue with that.

      I should also say that the lens I reviewed above was #23 off the production line. All that beautiful flaring I love so much is most likely a defect in the coating… every other review I’ve read does say that the flare control on this lens is great.

    2. Thanks for the advise Charlene, I am getting the f2. Looks like a great little lens. Can’t wait!

    3. Post
      Author

      Damn, looks like I didn’t do a good job of confusing you 😉 Enjoy it Pierre! 🙂

    4. Don’t worry, I’m more or less always confused 🙂 This lens is tack-sharp and renders beautifully in all light conditions. Like your images, it’s got magic…. 😉 Thanks for the recommendation!

    5. Post
      Author
  23. Pingback: Hartor wild camp and Shavercombe Waterfall - Foras Imaging

  24. Hi Charlene
    Sorry for the basic question but I am new to all this. I noticed many of the above photos are shot with the lens wide open at f/2. At that wide of an aperture how do you get so much depth of field? Where were you focusing?

    1. Post
      Author

      And we’re both from Singapore! It’s a small world.

      My thanks, Mr Brown 🙂

  25. Pingback: Fuji 35mm F2 | Blog by Fred

  26. Hi Charlene,

    I love your pictures. They have a lovely soft quality to them. The clinical, hyper shapness of modern lenses lent me towards using vintage lenses for many years, but your photo’s manage to retain the almost analogue softness and that’s made me very interested in this lens. I wondered how you achieved this, do you have all sharpening in the camera turned off? Do you manual focus? The two ‘Colombo Fort Train Station’ pictures in particular are absolutely wonderful (what film simulation is that?).

    Thanks,

    Alex

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey Alex,

      The default simulation in my camera is Astia, but I shoot in RAW so color, contrast etc is normally tweaked. It’s always set to manual focus. I think most of this softness has to do with my not caring about how in focus my pictures are though. I too dislike the uber pin sharpness of the latest and greatest gear, so I pre-focus and move (recompose / shift my resting foot / breathe differently). At F2, that pretty much guarantees nothing is hyper focused.

      I’ve been looking into using vintage lenses for the same reason though! What lenses do you use?

    2. Hi Charlene,

      Thanks for getting back to me, and very interesting.

      I mostly use Minolta lenses, I really like the colours and the late MC versions are beautifully built in all metal with really weighty glass. I like the 24mm particularly but also have a couple of the M-Rokkors and find the 90mm f4 (based on the Leica Elmar-C) is a brilliant lens. It’s tiny for the focal length and the build/feel is wonderful and can be got cheaply. I also have the 40mm but it’s actually a bit too small with the focus tab for me. I really like the Meyer-Optik Lydith 30mm. It’s super cheap and has a lovely rendering with a wonderful colours. Its sharp but there is nothing clinical about it whatsoever. It’s only 3.5 but that doesn’t bother me, I’ve used it at night and I don’t mind having some grain like noise etc, especially on the Fuji system. If you mainly manually focus it makes a lot of sense to try older lenses but it can swiftly become an addiction! Some adapters add a lot to the heft of the camera, unless it’s m mount which has a really thin one but you’re lenses are significantly more expensive.

      I’ve been very tempted to try this lens however, I have an X-T1 and the reviews re. the differences in rendering of the two 35mm lenses is a bit a sparse. It seems as though the 1.4 possible renders a little bit nicer but it’s hard to tell from reading so many online reviews and forum pieces! It certainly appears manual focusing on the f2 is nicer?

    3. Post
      Author

      You’ve certainly given me some food (or lenses, as the case may be) for thought!

      I honestly couldn’t tell you which lens renders better. The F2 has smoother bokeh, which I think you would notice if you compared the 2, but otherwise, it’s really hard to say. There are heaps of people who can argue the rendering case for either of the lenses. I can’t tell the difference personally – either is plenty good for what I do!

      For me, the F1.4 is nicer to use if you manual focus a lot – I find the barrel easier to grip than that of the F2. The F2 is much faster at autofocusing than the old 1.4. Aside from that, it comes down to personal preference and the results that stem from how you use them.

  27. Hello Charlene!
    Thanks for this review.
    I still don’t know which lens to bring between this 35mm f2 and the 27mm, it will be mainly for landscape (mountains,ski trips…) but I would not say no to experiment bokeh eventually. Many people are saying the 27mm was considered sharp 2 years ago but now that the 35mm f2 (and 23mm f2) are out they are ”way” sharper. My budget is not fantastic, I will buy either one as a used.
    So which one will make a (good) difference with my actual xc 16-50?

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Jeff, I have to admit your question stumped me. For several reasons:

      1. I’ve never used the 16-50, so I can’t make a comparison.

      2. For me, the fundamental difference between the 35mm, 27mm and 23mm, is focal length. Bring the lens which will give you the focal length you want/need/like to work with.

      3. I simply have nothing to say about sharpness. If all you desire out of a lens is perfect pin sharpness, then find a reviewer who has done the comparison. Fujinon lenses are all pretty good. Some of them are better than others depending on what you’re after, but none of them are bad enough that they should affect your work significantly, unless you do specialized work that relies on certain lens characteristics.

      I’ve used the new 23, both the 35s and the 27 personally and professionally and will continue to do so until I no longer like their particular focal lengths (which I doubt will ever happen). So I’d suggest you decide on a focal length you like the most, and go get the best one for your budget.

  28. Hi Charlene, these are gorgeous images! I bought the 35 f2 along with Xe2s and compared to your images, the ones that I’m getting are not even close haha. I can’t seem to get these sharp images that I see from other reviews. Even if I have it on similar settings as yours (aperture, shutter speed, ISO) specially in low light situations like at that train station. Are these sample shots straight out of the camera Jpegs? Or processed to taste? Thanks in advance.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hey TJ, mine are always processed. But I don’t do any additional sharpening. The lens is self is satisfyingly sharp I find. I manually focus most of my night time shots (if you pixel peep you may discover that some of them are not as sharp as they look compressed, because my eyesight isn’t great), but it may be that you need to fiddle around with it bit more and work around its focusing quirks with your body, or bring it back to the shop and get them to have a look at it. Have fun!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *