A review of the Fujifilm XF 14mm Lens

For this blog I want to take a real-world look at the 14mm XF lens for Fuji’s X-Series.

Please click on the images to view them in a Lightbox.

Similar to my ‘review’ of the X-Pro1 for Urbexing (here) this won’t be a technical analysis of MTF charts or an examination of the extent to which the lens vignettes. These can be found in depth here (DPReview) or here (Lenstip). This blog aims to look at how and why I started to use the 14mm for virtually every shot I take.

When I got my X-Pro1 almost a couple of years ago (time flies when you are having fun), I purchased the full kit, i.e. the 18mm, 35mm and the 60mm. The 35mm was, for me, the one... So sharp wide open, which made it a low-light beast. The 18 was getting some usage and the 60 often sat at home... alone (despite it’s fabulous optics).

My kit now comprises of the 14, 35, 60 and 18-55mm zoom. Whenever I go out shooting of late my bag contains just the 14mm attached to the camera and the 35, which sits in the bag 95% of the time. The 60 and zoom stay at home, but at least now they have each other. 

I have thought about selling them but have kept them for two reasons: 

1) You take a substantial hit on used gear.

2) In my head there will be a ‘rainy day’ scenario when these two lenses will come into their own. I’m still waiting patiently for that day to come...

Genuinely I could live with just the 35 (for family/personal shots) and the 14mm. Nothing else, nada, ne rien, 何も.

Let’s start with the obvious. This lens has beautiful optics - images are sharp and distortion free at any aperture. The lens is optically corrected too - to such perfection that the Leica engineers would be proud of themselves if they’d designed this lens. It makes you want to go out and shoot with it…

So when I first started using the 14mm I was finding my images just had too much in the shot. There were too many distracting elements and often the subject was difficult to identify. I quickly came to the conclusion that the difference between the 14 & 18mm lenses are huge. I kept at it and discovered two things which made a big difference:

Shooting Square Format - Opting for 1x1 means that a third of the image is removed (that’s complex maths for my feeble mind) which in turn eliminates a third of extraneous objects from the image. This leads to a distillation of the subject matter. Good.

Getting Closer - The second ‘technique’ I employed was to get much closer to what I was shooting. With the 14mm, you get about 90 degrees FOV (although obviously less in square format) which can lead to too many elements in the final image. By getting closer to the subject, in my mind, gives more impact to the shot.

The optical viewfinder of the X-Pro1 is far from ideal when using the 14mm. The whole advantage of using a ‘rangefinder’ OVF is that you can see outside the framelines, but you can’t actually see the framelines at all when using the 14mm. Using the EVF is therefore a must. More importantly when using the EVF, it is easier to alter the angles of the camera so that  the verticals and/or horizontals are parallel. It is very easy to accidentally have a ‘keystone’ effect with such a wide angle lens, so this accuracy is important. What’s more, should I get home, open the files and find the image is more skewed than expected there’s a quick fix. Lightroom 5 has a magic button that corrects tilted and slanted images. Ideal. Kids of today don’t know how easy they’ve got it…

One of the many things I love about photography is the ability to alter how we see everyday objects. This may be by taking advantage of the smaller dynamic range of a camera in relation to our eyes, or freezing time with a fast shutter speed. In the case of the 14mm, the way it amplifies the acuity of angles is one of it’s most appealing features for me. Tantamount to all of my recent Flickr images are taken with this lens, so much so that I consider it to be a hallmark of my style. I occasionally read magnetic reviews of the 23mm and have considered putting it on my lust-list, but I realise I have no interest in it whatsoever. This lack of appeal from any other lens or camera system is solely due to the irrepressible mojo of the XF14mm.