This article is extensively modified from the original published by Fujifilm on 3 Sep 2021. It was written for the XF 33mm F1.4 launch project.
Video preface: I delivered an official promo video here, but did an extended / director’s commentary cut for Fujifilm Nordic’s X Summit “After Party” on 2 Sep, which has me talking about my impressions on the new lens. I was meant to have been a live guest at this event, but had just returned from hospital a few hours before it began, hopped up on post-surgery drugs (the legal kind!) and not in any condition to face the public, so I put my 15 minute segment together a few days before. Watch it here:
Onto some impressions of the new 33mm, and a boat load of photos.
Hearing about the new XF33mmF1.4 R LM WR, felt like Christmas in July.
There was excitement. Here after all, was the much debated, long awaited successor to the 35mm, that original, beloved classic Fujinon lens. And one that came with a real 50mm field of view on the X Series APS-C bodies.
There was lots of impatience. Once I heard about the project, I just wanted to get my grubby paws on the lens, and NOW. The wait was interminable, the “gimme gimme gimme” anticipation when you know you have a solid present waiting under the tree.
But there was also a bit of apprehension. The original 35mm has a decade of mythology around it in Fujifilm gear circles. Many have described it with words we use for experiences rather than things, like “magical” and “soulful,” and possessing that “special sauce.” I was fairly sure the new 33mm would be a great lens. But I did wonder: would this reincarnation really live up to its legend?
The classic XF 35mm F1.4
I’m in my tenth year of using the classic XF35mmF1.4, which I got with the X-Pro1 in 2012. For several years, this kit was the only camera gear I owned. I’ve since used this same lens on the X-Pro2 and X-Pro3. I know this lens like no other glass I’ve ever used. Read a 7 year retrospective I wrote for Fujilove Magazine in 2019, here.
A small gallery of XF 35mm shots over the years, on various X Series bodies:
It’s been around the world for many years, and had its fair share of rough handling. It no longer auto focuses very well… at times, not at all. It flares all over the place. Its focus and aperture rings get stuck regularly, and bits of the lens are starting to detach. But it’s still going, despite everything.
My old XF35mmF1.4 has seen better days. It entered my life at a pivotal time, and has been through a lot with me. At this point, it’s something of an inanimate family member. The glass I always have in my bag, whether I need it or not…. because if none of the other lenses work, this one always will. I dread the day I have to replace it. I like this original copy, it’s full of dings and dents, much like its owner.
So…. all that to say, when I finally got the new XF 33mm F1.4 in hand, it was both Christmas in July, and oh-god-oh-god-please-let-it-be-good.
XF 33mm F1.4
Luckily for me, the new lens was completely Christmas-standard.
Main highlights with this lens for me:
1. Weather resistance — This is always nice to have, particularly given the torrential storms that we have here in Singapore. I really enjoy shooting in the rain, but must admit that my heart skips a beat or three, when I’m out without WR gear, umbrella, raincoat, or anything to keep the water out, in a deluge. Rain won’t do me any harm, but electronics don’t stand a chance against a sustained wall of water, like we frequently have here.
2. Blazing fast autofocus — Fast AF. For real. The new 33mm focuses with an internal linear motor, and it is snappy AF. In the few short weeks I had this lens, I shot all kinds of things with it. Children, puppies and lots of photos from moving trains, buses and cars, trying to mess up that autofocus with erratic movement, in all kinds of light conditions — reflections, direct sun in lens, messy artificial lighting and so on. Trying to get it to miss, hunt, mess up… something. It didn’t. With the X-Pro3, the 33mm nails it every single time. Fast AF folks; fast AF.
3. Bokeh — The bokeh on this glass is mouthwatering. I mean, jesuchristo, that gorgeous, buttery graduation from the in-focus to very out-of-focus areas is the kind of thing troubadours sing songs about (they would, if they were gearheads, I promise you). I drooled. You will too.
4. Sharpness — I have never in my life talked about a lens’ sharpness. I’ve never been particularly bothered about how sharp lenses are, as all Fujinon glass is plenty sharp for what I do. Well, I’m about to retract that now. I spent many an hour in post, zooming in, agog at how cut-crystal the detail on fine hairs of sapling stems and the like are. This lens resolves minute detail with mind-blowing clarity and definition, at close range, and at distance.
5. General performance & handling — Fujifilm said at this X Summit, that it is preparing the X Series for the next decade of product evolution. It’s quite evident that a lot of investment has been made in this incarnation of key prime lenses. Unlike the old 35mm that I’d picked up in 2012, with its quirks and kinks, the new XF 33mm delivers. This is a professional’s lens, one you snap onto your camera and get to work with.
Of course, the image quality we expect from Fujinon lenses hits all the marks. Fantastic contrast and colour rendition. Superb tonal graduation. Tick, tick, tick. My most-used lenses for stills are almost exclusively the older Fujinon primes (before WR was a thing) and the supreme responsiveness, speed, and accuracy of the new 33mm’s autofocus takes me aback in all the good ways.
Build-wise, this lens is a fair bit larger and somewhat heavier than the original XF35mmF1.4. But it doesn’t feel that way while you’re using it. It balances nicely on the X-Pro3, and if anything, the longer, stouter barrel makes for more comfortable grip and operation. Anyone with large hands is likely to appreciate this.
The new XF33mmF1.4 is faultless. The perfect 50mm glass we’ve been waiting for. A worthy successor to the legendary XF35mm.
But enough talk. Here are pictures. Enjoy!