Unlike the world of the DSLR, the mirrorless ecosystem is not awash with what could be regarded as ultra wide angle lenses. One that does stand out is the Fuji XF 14mm f2.8. It was released originally as a companion to the Fuji X-Pro1 but will fit any of Fuji’s current interchangeable lens models including the XT1. These cameras use an APS-C sensor which means when we add in the crop factor, the 14mm gives an equivalent filed of view of 21mm. Of course, the major advantage of being designed for an APS-C sensor is that the size can remain more compact than an equivalent full frame version.
Equivalent field of view is 21mm. Photo by Jason Row Photography
When you unbox the lens, the first thought that may spring to mind is retro. The lens is very reminiscent of older Nikon and Canon manual focus lenses of the 70’s and 80’s. It has an all metal body that feels solid in the hand yet surprisingly light. On the top front of the barrel is a beautiful etched depth of field scale, something that is sorely missing from modern lenses. At the camera end of the barrel is another item that is often missing from DSLR lenses and that is a real, clicking aperture ring. This is a feature of the Fuji X system, a return to being able to adjust the aperture from the lens, something to this photographer at least, just feels right. The aperture ring features 1/3rd stop clicks, giving you the ability to fine control exposure. However, to me, these indents are not solid enough, it is easy to knock the aperture ring from its current setting.
The maximum aperture itself is a very respectable f2.8, more than enough for the types of photography that this lens will be used for. Minimum aperture is f22 although as with all APS-C sensors you need to be aware of the potential for diffraction from f8 and above. The last stop on the aperture ring is a red A. Setting this means that the camera will take care of the aperture setting in either shutter priority or program mode.
The XF14 has an interesting manual focus system. As with all Fuji lenses, the manual focus is not a mechanical system, it is coupled to servo motors electronically moved the lens elements. In practice, whilst not quite as tactile as mechanical focus, it is still easy to obtain sharp and accurate focus. Unlike other Fuji lenses, manual focus is engaged by pulling the focus ring back. This not only overrides the AF/M switch on the camera body but further reveals a focus distance scale to compliment the depth of field scale. Whilst easy to use, it is odd that Fuji has this inconsistent design when compared to it’s other lenses.
Of course the real test of a lens is it’s image quality. I do not have access to complicated set ups that allow me to minutely determine a lenses resolution at every aperture. Rather, what I do have is real world experience, using the lens in the field.
The image quality from this lens is simply superb. It is on a par with if not exceeds the Nikon 14-24 f2.8 both in sharpness and contrast. Not only that, it maintains that image quality throughout the aperture range with only the very slightest softening at f2.8. Beyond f8, as we have mentioned diffraction plays an increasingly significant part but even at minimum aperture images are very usable.
The lens is very sharp at all apertures. Photo by Jason Row Photography
Another outstanding feature of this lens is it’s virtual lack of distortion. This is due not only to the optical design, but also to the fact that Fuji runs a lens correction algorithm on every shot, including RAW. This virtually eliminates barrel and pin cushioning as well as chromatic aberration.
One issue that is not so well controlled is vignetting, this can be quite obvious on bright, plain areas of the image but is correctable in post production.
Lens flare can also be an issue, using the supplied petal style hood can help but shooting into or near the sun will introduce some flare.
Distortion is well controlled. Photo by Jason Row Photography
When moving to the Fuji X series from Nikon, one of my biggest concerns was whether there really was a replacement for my beloved 14-24mm. Whilst not a direct replacement as it is a prime lens, the XF14mm f2.8 has become even more of to go lens than the Nikon. Its compact size, outstanding image quality but most of all that beautiful aperture ring, go towards making this one of the best lenses I have ever owned.