One thing that many prosumer level camcorders lack is a wide angle lens. Most have a built in zoom that will range from 30 to 300mm equivalent. Mirrorless and DSLR camera do not have such constraints. The availability of good quality wide angle lenses makes them attractive to photographers and filmmakers alike. Fuji in recent years has made a real name for itself in the mirrorless arena.
Enthusiasts and pros alike are finding the benefits of their compact size and great image quality real draw. One area that Fuji has lagged behind is in is video. That has been recently addressed with the release of the Fuji XT2. The XT2 has been widely praised for its 4K video capabilities as well as its image quality. So what about a Fuji wide angle lens for video and stills? Today we are going to look atone such option, the Fuji XF 14mm f2.8
The Fuji Build Quality.
Perhaps the first surprise is it’s size. As the previous owner of a Nikon 14-24mm the XF14 is tiny by comparison. It’s size however does not diminish it’s build quality. As in much of Fuji’s X range of cameras, the design looks and feels very retro. It is very reminiscent of a good manual prime lens from the 1980’s. It has a solid metal barrel and strong tactile rubber for the focus ring. The similarities do not end there either.
The lens has two other features that hark back to the days of film that are sadly missing from many of today’s lenses. A depth of field scale and an aperture ring. The aperture ring is unusual in that it has indents for 1/3rd stops giving you a lot of control of the exposure. These indents however do seem to be a little loose. Thus can make it is easy to knock the aperture ring to another setting.
The aperture itself goes from a very nice f2.8 down to f22. The f2.8 aperture is on a par with the best equivalent DSLR wide angle lenses. Used carefully the aperture is wide enough to get a shallow depth of field.
At the other end of the scale, f22 will give you massive depth of field, however being as this lens is solely for APS-C size sensors you should be aware that at f8 and above your will start to see the effects of diffraction. At one end of the aperture ring we have a red A. Putting the aperture on this setting gives priority to the shutter, the camera’s meter dealing with the aperture. Again this is a welcome throwback to the days of film cameras.
The APS-C sensor is also a factor in the field of view of this lens. Because of the sensor’s crop factor of about 1.5x the 14mm gives us an equivalent field of view to a 21mm lens on a full frame 35mm sensor, slightly more if shooting 4K video. This, in my opinion actually makes the lens more usable than for example a 14mm on full frame, which can seem, in many cases, too wide.
The XF14mm has an interesting manual focus mode. On all other Fuji lenses, manual focus is set from the camera body, on the 14mm, however it is set by sliding the focus ring back. The lever on the camera body will not have any effect on this lens. I find it a fast and instinctive way to move to manual focus, however, this inconsistency with other Fuji lenses could lead to confusion in the field.
The Fuji Optical Quality.
The XF14mm is a sharp lens. Without having to work too hard you get ultra sharp contrasty images straight out of the camera. Whilst many lenses have a sweet spot in the aperture range, the XF14 seems consistent from about f4 through to f11. At f2.8 there is just a little softening at the edges and beyond f11 we start to feel the effects of diffraction. In use, I would say that this little Fuji lens is sharper than the 14-24mm Nikon, one of the wide angle benchmarks.
As you will know, all lenses have some inherent distortions in them. Typically this is barrel/pin cushion distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. These days those issues are all easily correctable in post production using lens correction software.
Fuji however has taken a different approach to this, building in the lens correction algorithms to the camera itself. This works both for Jpeg files and for RAWs. The upshot is that the XF14 displays virtually no distortion or color fringing. This makes image look very sharp straight out of the camera leaving the photographer to concentrate on the exposure elements of post production.
It should be noted however that if you are using camera profiles in, for example Lightroom, these should be switched off, as it will be attempting to correct an already corrected image.
For any photographer using or contemplating the Fuji system, the XF14mm is a must have lens. It is a great performer and very useable for both stills and motion. There is an alternative, the 18mm pancake, however other reviews suggest this lens is not as sharp as the 14mm and of course, it is not as wide, giving an equivalent of around 27mm field of view. The XF14mm is not a cheap lens, it is however an excellent lens and should provide you with excellent images and video for years ahead.