The XF 33mm F1.4: A Legend Reincarnated

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:

If you’d rather skip the reading, you get to listen to me go on about the new XF 33mm at Fujifilm Nordic’s X Summit After Party on 2 Sep.

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.

X-Pro3, XF 33mm F1.4. Singapore 2021

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

Guys enjoy the sunset on the mountain. Sulaymaniyah, iraq, Kurdistan. X-Pro3, 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.

Mmmmmmm… the new 33mm on the X-Pro3. Shoutout to Simplr Straps for the camera strap, and my friend Matt for the waxed canvas F-5 XB Domke that was my default backdrop for these gear photos

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.

X-Pro3, XF 33mm F1.4. Singapore 2021

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.

X-Pro3, XF 33mm F1.4. Singapore 2021

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.

X-Pro3, XF 33mm F1.4. Singapore 2021

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.

X-Pro3, XF 33mm F1.4. Singapore 2021

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!

X-Pro3, XF 33mm F1.4. Singapore 2021

20 Comments

  1. I’m trying reaaally hard to not desperately want this lens. You’re not helping :D I too have had the 35/1.4 a long time, and while the AF speed doesn’t usually bother me, when I DO need it, I really feel the lack. The ugly red flare splotches when shooting towards bright light have occasionally ruined some otherwise good pictures, too, so hopefully the 33 is better in that regard. It’s awfully tempting…

    1. If you’re looking for an upgrade at the same focal length, definitely try this one out for a couple of days. If you’re a 35 F1.4 owner, you’re guaranteed to enjoy this baby. It’s marvellous.

  2. Glad to see your take on this lens! It’s an interesting lens, but I’ve also been kind of sceptical after seeing the first few reviews. Maybe it’s not very different from the 35/1.4 after all? You’ve rekindled my interest. But you also show that the photographer is more important than the lens. You photograph reflections like no one else. The first image in your blog post is excellent – but you’ve made similar spectacular images with the 35.

    1. It feels like a wholly different lens to me. Similar focal length, but different enough in size and handling and optics that you’d never mistake one for the other. If you need that extra boost in quality and performance, it’ll give it to you. If you don’t… Well it’s nice to play with 😁

  3. Great post and amazing images as always, Charlene. I didn’t think I needed this lens but well, you’ve changed my thinking on the subject completely. Always happy to see you on the airwaves of You Tube etc. too + that Fujifilm supports Women Photogs. Keep going + thank you always for the amazing inspiration! (Also, I’d love to know if you do alot of post-processing on your images — they are ALL so beautiful)!

    1. Hey Linda, thank you! And yes, Fujifilm has supported me staunchly since 2014 (when I became an ambassador), and I love them unabashedly for it. Very proud to be associated with a brand looking for alternate perspectives.

      On the post processing question: hmmmmm, I guess “a lot” is subjective, depending on what your own post prod regimen is like. Some of these photos I worked on for no time at all, some of them I’ve dug into for 10 minutes, and others I tweak a bit every time I fire up lightroom. Don’t ask me which ones though, I can no longer remember! All depends on how I’m feeling about it that day.

  4. Wonderful review and video, Charlene. This sounds amazing and I might be tempted to replace my 35mm 1.4 which I thought I would never do. Thank you so much. Also good wishes for your recovery. I’ve had two major knee surgeries before arthroscopic procedures were performed and am doing well. I know you will too. Thank you, as always, for everything! Cheers from Tennessee

    1. Yep, I’ll survive this. Had something similar done to the other knee some years ago, so I know it’s a question of time and patience and a bit of luck. Thank you for your week wishes Terry!

  5. Thank you Charlene, I always love reading your reviews. As an X-Pro3 and 35mm F1.4 user myself, did you find the new 33mm lens has retained the ‘character’ of the original?

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