Saturday, June 24, 2017

First Impressions: Fujifilm GF 23mm F/4 R LM WR Lens

Fujifilm GFX 50S w/GF 23mm f/4. 1/125th sec f/4 @ ISO 3200. Classic Chrom. TJ Schneider of The Shop Vancouver
Back in the film days I was never a fan of the 18mm ultra wide angle focal length. I didn't trust it. The major manufactures would make 21mm prime lenses, or 21-35mm zooms; but rarely would they go to 18mm. The only brands who would go that wide was 3rd party manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, etc. I don't think there's anything wrong with the focal length, it's just the number seemed too.... even? Yes both 18 and 21 is divisible by 3 (sorry, I'm nerding out a bit), but the 21mm focal length just felt... better. The Fujifilm XF14mm, the WCL-X70 (for the X-70), the Ricoh GR-21,  Leica 21mm F/1.4 Summilux Asph, these are all 21mm equivalent (or actual) field-of-view lenses. I trust this focal length. But 18mm ultra wide? The APS-C equivalent is a 12mm, a focal length that Fujifilm does not make, but Samyang/Rokinon does... see the pattern? So when Fujifilm announced the GF 23mm f/4 lens instead of a GF 27mm f/4 (yes I did the math), I was a bit surprised. Would I dare test this unusual (for a major manufacturer) focal length prime lens for the GFX system? If so, would I enjoy shooting with it? Because of my experience shooting with the XF10-24mm zoom lens, I can safely say I am indeed reviewing and enjoying this crazy (good) prime lens for the GFX system.
GFX 50S with GF 23mm f/4. 1/200th sec f/4 @ ISO 1600. Classic Chrome. Richard Sixto
The first thing I noticed about the GF 23mm is it's crazy big and crazy heavy. It's only slightly lighter than the GF 32-64mm f/4 zoom lens, but has a larger 82mm filter thread. Not only that, this 9 aperture blade prime lens has a complicated 15 element in 12 groups design, including 2 aspherical elements, 2 extra-low dispersion elements, and 1 Super ED element. What does this all mean? I don't have an engineering background but I think it means this is a pretty powerful lens! The lens is sharp, the micro contrast is awesome, distortion is well controlled, slight vignetting wide open, absolutely no chromatic aberration. This is a very nice lens. According to Fujifilm, this lens is ideal for architectural, landscape and interior photography. It's well built and hefty enough for outdoor use, and the field-of-view is perfect for indoor photography. I did play around a bit with shooting buildings, but my main interest is in portraits and street photography.

GFX 50S with GF 23mm f/4. 1/160th sec f/16 @ ISO 400. Classic Chrome.
GFX 50S with GF 23mm f/4. 1/1000th sec f/5.6 @ ISO 800. Classic Chrome
This lens is tricky for shooting street and portraits, but if you're careful and you can get in close, it's a lot of fun. As much as I was testing the lens, I was testing myself to push the limits of what I can do with this lens and the GFX camera system. If you want to take close up of people, put them as close to the centre of the frame as possible, or you will start to distort the perspective. Because this lens is ultra wide, shooting at f/4 was fine even for close ups, although ideally f/8 if you want to make sure everything is tack sharp and in focus. You're not going to get crazy shallow depth-of-field with the 18mm field-of-view (unless you're super close) so there's no point trying to shoot wide open; unless you're watching your shutter speeds or your ISO. I found indoors at f/4 and ISO 3200 I was getting over 1/100th of a second. Since there is no image stabilization with this lens, you need to be careful of motion blur from the subject, or hand shake from yourself. Stabilize yourself and make sure you capture your subject at the decisive moment. Yes I could have safely shot ISO 6400, but I prefer the look of ISO 3200 for indoors.

GFX 50S with GF 23mm f/4. 1/640th sec f/8 @ ISO 400. Classic Chrome. 
This isn't going to be a full review of the GF 23mm f/4 lens. I've only had 2 full days of shooting with it and I'm still getting use to the focal length (as well as the size and weight). I also want to take this lens and shoot more architectural images, as well as landscape, something this lens was intended to be used for. At the same time, I don't want to be stuck using a lens for what it was intended for. That's boring. This is photography, not medicine. It's okay to mix and match and experiment. It's a bit big and heavy for street, but it works. Environmental portraiture, why not? Just remember, the closer you get, the more interesting the image becomes. Moreover, the GF 23mm f/4 lens has won me over to this field-of-view. I am happy to say that I am no longer suspicious of the 18mm lens. Stay tuned for a long term review of this weird, big, heavy but amazingly fun and high quality lens. Who knows, maybe I'll try vlogging with it. Thanks for visiting and happy shooting!

GFX 50S with GF 23mm f/4. 1/60th sec f/4.5 @ ISO 3200. Classic Chrome. 

Check out my latest video review of the GF 23mm f/4 R LM WR lens!

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