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
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.