Monday, 2 March 2020

What a Little Gem

Leaves Like Ribbons 
Fujifilm X-T1, XC 35mm f2

The Fuji XC35/2 truly is a little gem.

Prior to its introduction, Fuji had arguably the best mid-speed crop normal in the XF 35mm f2 R WR LM, one of its famous Fucjicron series. It wasn't all that cheap (or notably expensive), but was optically very good, all-metal, weather sealed and extremely fast focusing, the only real wart being its distinct focus breathing. Compared to the competition in f1.7-f2.4 DX normals, only the Olympus 25/1.8 really stands out for performance, and it wasn't sealed and is extremely clinical. The Panasonic is softer, although has a lovely rendering in part because it just isn't that sharp at f1.7, the Nikkor is a solid all-round performer but doesn't stand out anywhere, the Sony A mount is cheap & adequate, the Sony E mount is unique in that it's IS but is arguably a worse performer than the A mount other wise and the Pentax is dog slow at f2.4 and while optically good, it doesn't deliver any advantages for the speed loss. Canon doesn't make a midspeed normal in either EF-S or EF-M mounts (they do have a well regarded 32/1.4 for a cost comparable to the less expensive f1.4 options though). Zeiss of course also does a 32/1.8 in their Touit line for E and X mounts, but it's silly expensive and aside from the Zeiss signature, it's a middle of the pack performer.

And then Fuji goes and stuffs the XF35/2WR's optics and focus motor into a cheap plastic barrel for $199USD. Half the price of its close sibling, the XC35 is every bit as good optically and shares the very fast focus performance. It gives up the metal build, the aperture ring and the sealing to achieve that price, but also loses an ounce/29g from an already lightweight lens.

After a couple hundred frames with this lens, I can pretty much say already that if you shoot X mount and don't have the XF35/2WR already, you should buy the XC35. If you're looking for a 35, the XF does deliver an experience worthy of its cost, but the XC35 is so cheap that it's a viable bag lens (ie a normal or wide normal that is cheap to buy and can always be in the bag for emergencies). Of the other mirrorless mid-speed normals, only the Panasonic 25/1.7 can also be a real bag lens (the other lens I'd recommend for that is Canon's dandy 22/2 in EF-M mount), while the classic Nifty 50's, Canon's two f2.8 Pancakes and Nikon and Sony's DSLR mount 35/1.8's all fit that bill for DSLR's.

The XC35 handles well, has a great focus ring (manual focus on this lens is a pleasure) and delivers both optical and AF performance as good as anything else in X mount. I do miss the aperture ring from a handling perspective, but other than that it's pretty much all win.

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