Fujifilm XF 23mm f1.4 R LM WR review
Written by Gordon Laing
The Fujifilm XF 23mm f1.4 R LM WR is a wide-angle prime lens for X-mount mirrorless cameras. Announced in September 2021, it delivers mild wide-angle coverage equivalent to 35mm on full-frame, while the bright f1.4 focal ratio provides plenty of opportunity for shallow depth of field effects. Meanwhile the LM and WR in the title refer to linear focusing motors and weather resistance. In my video review below I’ll show you everything you need to know about the new 23 and how it compares to Fujifilm’s other 23mm lenses, but if you prefer to read the written highlights, keep scrolling!
The XF 23mm f1.4 R LM WR becomes Fujifilm’s third 23mm lens for the X-mount system, replacing the original XF 23mm f1.4 from September 2013. Like a lot of Fujifilm’s older lenses, the original 23 may have been shorter than the new one, but lacked both the linear focusing motors and weather-sealing, plus with almost a decade between them, the optical design was showing its age. That said, you may bag a bargain while stocks last with the original model costing around $824 or 629 pounds at the time I made this review.
Meanwhile the more recent XF 23mm f2 R WR was launched in 2016 as a smaller, more affordable alternative, losing a stop of aperture but gaining weather resistance and still on sale for around $449 or 415 pounds. As R lenses, all three 23’s sport manual aperture rings, but none have optical stabilisation. There’s also third party alternatives available, most notably the Viltrox 23mm f1.4 for around $329.
So Fujifilm’s latest 23 is the most expensive of its siblings and in this review I’ll show you what it’s capable of, make some direct comparisons against the original 1.4 and compact f2 models, and ultimately help you decide if it justifies the asking price.
At 67x78mm and weighing 375g, the new 23 1.4 is longer but a little narrower than the original model and a little heavier too, but the difference in heft isn’t anywhere near like the new 33 1.4 versus the old 35 1.4.
Here’s the latest XF 23 1.4 LM WR in the middle, joined by the original XF 23 1.4 on the left, and now the compact XF 23 f2 on the right. The f2 lens measures 60x52mm and is almost half the weight of the new model at just 180g. If you have one of the smaller Fujifilm bodies or simply desire the least obstructions through an X-Pro optical viewfinder, you’ll feel most comfortable using the smaller f2 lenses.
Put the latest 23 and 33 1.4 lenses side by side though and you’ll see Fujifilm’s current premium lenses share very similar build, size and styling. Notice how Fujifilm’s latest lenses also lack the retractable manual focus clutches of the early f1.4 models in the series.
To put the 23’s in perspective, here’s the latest version mounted on an XS10 body. Working backwards from the front, there’s a 58mm filter thread, a smooth free-spinning motor-assisted focusing ring, clicky aperture ring with a lock for body-based control, and a rubber grommet to seal the mount, again lacking from the original but included on the f2 version. Here’s how it looks with its supplied petal lens hood fitted.
Next for the original 23 1.4 which has a larger 62mm filter thread. In autofocus the outer ring is locked, but like some other older XF lenses you can pull the ring back to reveal focus distance marks and turn it for manual operation. There’s also a clicky aperture ring, but unlike the latest model, it’s not lockable in the A position for body-based control, and this lens also lacks weather-sealing at the mount. And here’s how it looks when fitted with its lens hood.
And finally the compact XF 23 f2 with the smallest 43mm filter thread, a free-spinning manual focusing ring and a dedicated clicky aperture ring, again lacking the locking option in the A position, although at least this lens does have sealing at the mount. And here it is with its tiny hood.
Ok, now for my tests, starting with focusing on the XF 23 1.4 LM WR mounted on an XS10 body and using a central AF area in AF-S mode. Here the Linear Motors are driving the focusing system quickly, quietly and confidently, and while there is a brief contrast wobble at each end to confirm, it happens so fast you barely notice it.
Next for the original XF 23 1.4, still respectably quick almost ten years later, although in person the motors are audible compared to the newer LM version.
And now for the compact XF 23 f2 which again is pretty quick and I should also note, essentially silent in operation. So the LM focusing on the latest model may arguably be the fastest, but not by a significant margin.
Next for movie autofocus, starting with the latest XF 23 1.4 LM WR, using a central AF area and in continuous autofocus. Here the refocusing between the bottles is smooth and silent with no overshooting or wobbling to confirm, although like my other tests with X bodies of the same generation, there’s often a pause between pulls as if it lacks the confidence to complete the process in one step. You can see this most here when focusing back to the closer bottle.
Next for the original XF 23 1.4 which I thought might show its age here, but is actually delivering similar performance to the newer model, albeit with more audible motors. In fact it seems more confident when pulling focus back to the closer bottle, almost eliminating the slight hesitation seen a moment ago.
And finally the XF 23 f2 again not a World apart from the other pair for movie autofocus, although interestingly this time with a little wobble to confirm when pulling towards the closer bottle.
Next for focus breathing, starting with the latest XF 23 1.4 manually focusing from infinity to the closest distance and back again. Sorry for the wobbly view, but the important part is the magnification change, which here is pretty mild. Just a very small reduction in the field of view as you focus from the furthest to the nearest.
Now for the original XF 23 1.4 again manually focusing from infinity to the closest distance where this time the magnification actually reduces as you focus closer. So the opposite effect to the new 1.4, but similar in terms of the actual amount of change. This means when focusing both lenses on a very close subject, the newer one will deliver a larger subject.
And finally let’s switch it for the compact XF 23 f2 and as I turn the focusing ring from infinity to the closest distance you’ll see virtually no change in the magnification. So in terms of focus breathing, none of the 23s are bad, but the cheapest 23 f2 is actually the best-behaved of all with essentially no change in magnification.
Right now for sharpness across the frame with a distant subject, and as always I’ve angled the view so that details run into the corners. I’ll start with Brighton Pier, photographed with the latest XF 23 1.4 LM WR, here wide-open at f1.4 and when you take a close look in the middle the lens is resolving a tremendous amount of fine detail, as you’d hope for its age and price.
For comparison let’s put the latest lens on the left, and the compact 35 f2 on the right, both at their maximum apertures. Note I also tested the original 23 f1.4 on the same day side-by-side, but it delivered a poor result with the aperture wide-open in this test, so I suspect it may be a bad copy. That said, don’t underestimate how much sharper a new lens can be compared to an older one, and that’s clear here with the latest 23 1.4 being visibly crisper in the middle than the 23 f2, even opened to f1.4.
Close the 1.4 model to f2 to match the aperture of the compact lens and it improves a little further still, although there’s little to be gained in the middle of the frame of the new lens by stopping it further to f2.8. That said, the compact f2 lens on the right has improved a little closed one stop to f2.8, but still falls behind the premium model on the left.
Returning to the 23 1.4 LM WR image wide-open once again at f1.4, let’s head into the corner where you’ll see the lens remains pretty sharp with only a little darkening due to vignetting. Introduce the XF 23 f2 on the right and you’ll see how the cheaper lens is noticeably softer in the corners than its pricier and newer sibling. Close the 23 1.4 LM WR to f2 and its result improves a little with a mild boost in sharpness and a lifting of the vignetting. Close both lenses to f2.8 and you’ll see the cheaper 23 f2 on the right may reduce its vignetting a little, but remains way behind the latest 23 1.4 on the left.
This is partly down to the premium model having a flatter field as in these distant examples I’m focused in the middle. Focus the compact f2 lens in the corner and you’ll enjoy better sharpness in that region, albeit subsequently at the cost of softer detail in the middle.
Next for a portrait test, starting with the latest XF 23 1.4 LM WR wide-open to f1.4 where you can see it capturing a sharp subject with an attractive blurred background.
I’m going to switch this image for one taken with the original 23 1.4 just for a quick comparison as while I believe there may have been a problem with my copy, ruling out close examination, you can still get an idea about rendering differences here. I’d say the two lenses are quite similar in rendering here, with the older one maybe a little softer, but not much between them in the blurred areas. The details were way softer here, but again I’m suspecting a bad copy.
So let’s make a closer comparison between the latest 23 1.4 LM WR on the left and the compact 23 f2 on the right, with one stop of aperture between them. Here you can see the shallower depth of field from the 1.4 lens on the left as you’d expect, but possibly as striking is the resulting busy-ness of the bokeh from the 23 f2 on the right.
Taking a closer look at their subject details shows the 23 1.4 on the left is tremendously crisp and contrasty, versus a softer result from the 23 f2 on the right. Viewed in isolation, the 23 f2 on the right isn’t bad, it’s just that the newer 23 1.4 on the left is noticeably crisper.
In terms of their background rendering, the latest 23 1.4 on the left is again not only creamier, but manages to avoid the busy-effect of the 23 f2 on the right. So a clear lead to the new lens here.
To better reveal any differences in rendering, here’s my close-up bokeh ball test shot from the same distance with all three lenses. Let’s start with the latest 23 1.4 LM WR wide-open at f1.4, then switch to the original 23 1.4 where the bokeh blobs are similar in size but a little less elongated, and finally for the compact 23 f2 which not only has smaller blobs, but also the least symmetrical or circular shapes towards the edges.
Now for a closer look at the latest 23 1.,4 on the left and the compact 23 f2 on the right as again I’m eliminating the old 23 from close examination due to a potentially bad copy. Obviously the shape of the blobs is much different, and I’d say the f2 model on the right is also exhibiting more outlining and clearer textures within, although the premium 1.4 on the left doesn’t manage to avoid these artefacts entirely.
The latest 23 does however have one more benefit, focusing closer than either of its earlier siblings, so here it is now moved forward to the minimum focusing distance of 19cm versus 22 on the f2 model and 28 on the original. To be fair, my side-by-side comparisons were taken at a distance of 28cm to include the old model on a level playing field, so the biggest difference will be between the old and new 1.4 versions, although the new 1.4 still focuses 3cm closer than the f2.Check prices on the Fujifilm XF 23mm f1.4 R LM WR at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!