Photographs allow us to relive our travel memories for years to come. Whether you’re a full-time photographer or simply enjoy photography as a hobby, picking your camera and lens is an important decision.
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If you’re looking to add to your travel gear, and you needing a great lens, I’m sure the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 r WR lens has popped up on your radar.
I’ve owned the Fuji XF 23mm f2 R WR, for a year now and taken it with me to Jamaica and throughout Europe and thought it time I did a review on one of the best Fuji lenses for travel.
It’s one of three in Fujifilm’s weather-sealed Fujinon f2 series, the 23mm is compact, lightweight, and quite good looking, too. This smaller, newer 35mm focal length equivalent has found a home in many a travel photographer’s gear bag, including mine.
Fujifilm 23mm f2 Lens Review
But is it right for you?
As with most lenses, the 23mm f2 has its own pros and cons. This Fuji 23mm review is aimed at helping you better understand the lens and where it outshines other lenses. There is also a comparison to the Fuji 23mm f1.4 at the end, for those who are contemplating which one to get.
Tip: If you’re still looking at your options, take a look at my review of the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 lens.
Fuji 23mm f2 – At a Glance
Before we get too deep in this review, here’s a brief overview of the pros and cons of the Fuji 23mm f2.
Lightweight and compact
Weather and dust resistant
Quick and silent autofocus
Wide field of view /wide-angle
Not optimal when shooting close up
No image stabilisation
Bokeh is good but not great
Image sharpness fades at the corners
Note: Convinced this is the lens for you already? Get your Fujinon XF 23mm f2 WR lens here.
If not, keep reading, and you’ll get a much more in-depth explanation of the lens.
Fuji XF 23mm f2 Features
The first thing many people look at when choosing a new camera lens is the features. This allows you to know what you’re working with and provides an excellent base for comparison against other lenses.
Below is a breakdown of the 23mm f2 features, and an explanation of how each one makes this lens the gem that it is and why I love it.
Fuji 23mm f2 Review – Sturdy Handling / Built Quality
The Fujinon 23mm f2 lens is slimmer, and lighter than other Fujinon lenses, making it a more comfortable option to use on smaller cameras. And without any unnecessary parts and pieces, the lens is slim and fuss-free.
With its metal exterior, the lens is sturdy and feels like it’s been made out of quality material. The lens hood and cap are both made from plastic, but metal lens hoods can be purchased as extras and replace the plastic ones.
There are some complaints that the cap pops off the lens, and so some people have opted to remove the lens hood altogether. This is most likely dependent on personal preference, but the option is there to either keep it on or leave it off.
Fuji 23mm f2 Weight and Compact Size
As mentioned above, one of the biggest pros of the Fujinon 23mm f2 is its convenient size. It’s small and compact, which makes it an ideal travel lens. It attaches easily to your camera without adding any unnecessary extra bulk.
The lens weighs just 180g so it’s lightweight as well. This makes carrying it with you while sightseeing busy city streets all day a breeze.
It’s important to note that while the lens is smaller than most, and weighs very little, thanks to its length, it may be top-heavy on some cameras. This depends on the camera you’re using it with, though. I use my Fuji 23mm with my old Fuji X-T2 and the new Fujifilm X-T4 and find that this lens body combo is the perfect match.
Fujifilm 23mm f2 Review – Weather Sealing
The 23mm f2, much like the other lenses in the series, is built to be weather and dust resistant. So it can withstand being in light rain or strong winds. It can also shoot in temperatures of up to -10°C, making it the perfect accessory on any winter trip.
The weather seal on the f2 allows for great outdoor shooting. You can whip it out and take romantic photos in the soft summer drizzle, or get amazing shots of snow falling in the streets.
XF 23mm f2 Review Lens Construction
The f2 WR lens has 10 elements in 6 groups. It contains two aspherical elements that are part of the focusing group. The aperture has 9 rounded blades, with its closest focusing distance of 22cm. It also has a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.13x.
The exterior has a manual focus ring, with no clear stop markings, and an aperture ring which is marked in ⅓ of a stop increments.
Fujinon 23mm f2 Review Price Range
The 23mm f2 from Fujifilm is actually incredibly affordable. At a cost of around £429, it’s much cheaper than other Fujifilm lenses.
The lower price makes it an excellent travel lens for beginners since you’re not investing large amounts of money while you decide if photography is the hobby or career for you. It also makes for a splendid gift for avid travellers and travel bloggers.
Fujifilm 23mm f2 Image Quality
Now the important stuff – how good are the images taken by the lens? Let’s break it down it into smaller sections.
Fujifilm 23mm f2 Lens Autofocus
The autofocus on the Fuji 23mm lens is one of its best features. It’s exceptionally quick so you can snap moments in a heartbeat. And it’s silent – a big plus for street photography.
If you’re using the lens with a camera such as the Fujifilm X-Pro2 or X-T2/X-T3/X-T4, the lens autofocus combined with the phase-detection AF system produces accurate focus in just 5 seconds!
This Fuji prime lens has no manual focus switch, so the only ways to switch to manual mode are either in the menu or on the camera’s body – for the cameras that have this functionality.
The 23mm f2 X-series lens does have a free-spinning manual focus ring. This ring has no real hard stops, so you can’t really tell which stop you’re on.
Fuji 23mm f2 Sharpness
This is perhaps where the f2 falls short – but only slightly. To get really sharp photos of anything close up, you’d have to stop the lens down to f4. This can be a bother to photographers looking for great quality, and quick snaps.
This lens has fantastic centre sharpness, but it starts to fade a little in the corners. This isn’t often a major issue for street photographers, though, and sometimes isn’t even that noticeable. Most of the time, if you play around with f-stops, you’ll find the ideal sharpness for your subject.
Fujifilm 23 f2 Review Glare and Flare
The lens hood is added to stop flare, but even without it, the lens doesn’t let much flare into your images which is a great positive.
While you may find some glare when shooting at bright lights, it’s not much and won’t affect your average photography.
Colour and Contrast
You’ll get some incredible natural colours and contrasts with this lens. But Fuji does focus a bit more on sharpness for this range, so it’s not as natural as some other lenses. Nevertheless, the 23mm f2 lens is arguably the better of the series when looking at micro-contrast and colours.
Fuji 23mm f2 Bokeh
Out-of-focus rendering, otherwise known as the bokeh effect, can be a deal-breaker for travel photography. So how does the 23mm f2 fare in this?
The f2 offers simple, yet pleasing bokeh. While it’s not as smooth as the bokeh you’ll get from other lenses in the Fuji range, it works perfectly for street photography and travel photography.
Who Is The XF 23mm f2 Best Suited To?
Given the silent focus, incredible sharpness, and great bokeh, the Fujifilm 23mm f2 is perfect for street photography. It’s also great for travel photography and, of course, bloggers on the go, like me.
The f2 shines the best when shooting from a distance, which allows photographers to get stunning street pics and dynamic travel images without needing to get too close. So you won’t have to explain to passers-by why you’re standing so close to them while trying to snap a picture of your new favourite coffee house.
If you’re a professional photographer, with years of experience, then this lens may not do your skills complete justice. But for enthusiasts and travel bloggers who need something light and quick for sightseeing photography, this is ideal.
Fuji 23mm f2 sample images
Fujifilm XF 23mm f/2 R WR vs. XF 23mm f/1.4 WR
Before the XF f2 came out, the 23mm f1.4 was the star of the show. This older and bulkier version is quite similar to its newer brother, with relative features. This often makes the two comparable for prospective buyers.
But how do they compare, and is one better than the other?
While the 23mm f2 lens does travel and street photography great justice, the f1.4 is a better option for photographers who shoot more architecture and portraits. Here are a few more comparisons.
The Fuji 23mm f1.4 is not weather-resistant like the f2, so your shooting environments are more limited. This doesn’t mean you can’t use the f1.4 outdoors, but in unpredictable weather, it may not hold up as strong as the f2.
The Fujinon 23mm f1.4 is definitely heavier, weighing a total of 300g, so it may not travel as easily as the f2. It also makes handling the f1.4 somewhat harder than the f2. And carrying it around on city walking tours much less comfortable.
However, it’s a little shorter than the f2, so it juts out from the camera just slightly less. This also means that the f2 can make certain cameras top-heavy, whereas the f1.4 is less likely to cause any top-heaviness.
When looking at the field of view, the f2 provides a bit of a wider view compared to its counterpart. It has slightly better colour and contrast than the f1.4, but it’s not as noticeable in most cases.
However, the f1.4 provides slightly sharper images than the f2. So for photographers who are shooting more granular images, or need more details, the Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 is better. For the average street photographer, the difference is minuscule, and not quite worth the much higher cost of the f1.4 lens.
The f2 is nearly half the price of the f1.4, so unless the latter specifically calls to you, a pretty penny could be saved by getting the f2.
You’ll be able to own your own Fuji 23mm f1.4 for around £500. So it’s a better option if you’re looking for something a bit more technical, and have a larger budget.
If you plan on doing videos I think the Fuji 23mm f2 for video is better than the f1.4, due to its lack of hunting when filming. The younger lens is able to lock on to a subject quickly with recording video will I find that the older model tends to hunt a lot and captures a lot of video out of focus.
The f1.4 is also great for portrait photography, especially in studios. The extra bokeh may provide stunning shots of events such as weddings as well.
Overall, the differences in performance between the f2 and the f1.4 are tiny. The price difference is larger, however. As is the weight.
The f2 will work perfectly as an everyday lens and is better for those who are just starting out or who don’t shoot as a profession. The f1.4 is a larger investment, but worth it for professionals – Buy the Fuji 23mm f1.4 here.
Fuji 23mm Lens Review Recap
This slim, hardworking, affordable lens is compatible with all Fujifilm X-Series interchangeable system cameras. It’s perfect for beginner photographers, ideal for bloggers, and is a must for street photographers.
It’ll have you itching to get outside and snap photos of people, buildings, and opportune moments. Thanks to its slim feel and no-fuss build, it’s also perfect for throwing (gently) into a backpack to take on adventures.
When comparing it to its older and bigger brother, the f1.4, the differences are small – except in the price. Wondering how to get your hands on one?
Buy the 23mm f2 Fujifilm lens here and start snapping your very own travel photos.