Fuji’s X100S vs. the FUJINON XF 23mm ƒ/1.4

Fuji’s X100S vs. the FUJINON XF 23mm ƒ/1.4

UPDATE: This comparison was made between the X100S and the X-E1, but the comparison applies to the X100T, X-E2, and X-T1 just as well as the cameras have the same lenses and sensors.

Introduction

This article has so far been the most popular of my comparisons on Fuji vs. Fuji by a wide margin. Fuji fans are clearly interested to know one of two things:

  1. Should they buy a 23mm f/1.4 or spend a bit more and buy an X100S.
  2. Should they add the 23mm f/1.4 to their kit if they already own an X100(S).

Before testing the 23mm f/1.4, I’d have said #1 was a valid question, with #2 being a problem only for those with money to burn. Now that I’ve used both the X100S and 23mm f/1.4 extensively, I can say without hesitation that both are equally valid. The 23mm f/1.4 is that good, and the X100S is interesting enough to have along side it. Of course you can get along just fine with one or the other. Choose whichever suits your needs better.

Specifications

X100S 23mm f/2 XF 23mm f/1.4
Announced January 7, 2013 September 5, 2013
Released March, 2013 October, 2013
Price (MSRP) $1299 $899
Lens Construction 8 elements in 6 groups
1 aspherical glass molded lens
11 elements in 8 groups
1 aspherical element
35mm Equivalent 35mm 35mm
Angle of View 63.4˚ 63.4˚
Aperture Range f/2 - f/16 f/1.4 - f/16
Focus Range 0.5m (10cm Macro) - Infinity 0.6m (28cm Macro) - Infinity
Filter Size 49mm 62mm
Includes Camera Yes Camera sold separately

If you’d like to purchase one of these lenses, or anything else for that matter, please consider using one of the Amazon affiliate links below. The price is the same for you, but a small percentage of the purchase price goes to me, which helps keep this site going. Thank you.

Handling

There are definite pros and cons to each lens in the handling department. For the FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 there’s a proper focus scale which makes zone focusing much easier. With the X100S you’re forced to either look at the LCD or peer through the viewfinder to see where you’re focused.

The size of everything makes it easier to use. The focus ring is much wider and the aperture ring is easier to get at without accidentally changing focus as happens easily on the X100S. There’s also the option of setting the aperture in ⅓ stop increments via the aperture ring which some people appreciate. I never use anything other than the full stops so it’s actually more of an inconvenience for me. With the X100S you need to set a full stop aperture, and then fine-tune it via the rear toggle. I wish there was a way of disabling the toggle, actually. It can become a nuisance when your aperture accidentally gets changed.

Fuji Fujifilm X100 X100S X100T X-E1 X-E2 23mm f1.4.jpg
The 23mm f/1.4 is large enough that it doesn’t let an X-E camera sit flat. It’s also enormous next to the X100S.

The 23mm f/1.4 is large enough that it doesn’t let an X-E camera sit flat. It’s also enormous next to the X100S.

Mmmm... depth of field markings. 

Mmmm... depth of field markings. 

Size is also the FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4’s biggest con. The X100S is much smaller at just barely over half the depth, and considerably lighter, by 205g. The 23mm f/1.4 protrudes from your camera enough to get you noticed. Nobody’s going to mistake this for a point and shoot. It’s also heavy. While the X100S has a much more dense feel to it, especially compared to an X-E body, it’s the lightest way to get to a 35mm equivalent with a Fujifilm camera. The 23mm f/1.4 can also make and X-E camera feel a little bit front-heavy. One-handed operation becomes tougher. This is less of a problem on the X-T1.

x100s_vs_xe_xt_23mmf1pt4

Fujifilm X-T1 

Since the Fujifilm X-T1 has become my camera of choice, I’ve added comparisons of the X100S and the 23mm f/1.4 X-T1 combo. The 23mm f/1.4 was really made for the X-T1. It’s not so large that it props the body up and the weighting of this body and lens combination is absolutely sublime. If you have an X-T1 already, the 23mm f/1.4 will be even tougher to pass up—unless size is absolutely critical—until that X100T makes an appearance.

Fuji Fujifilm X100 X100S X100T X-T1 23mm f1.4.jpg
Fuji Fujifilm X100 X100S X100T X-T1 23mm f1.4.jpg

Sharpness

Below are images comparing lens sharpness. I’ve isolated f/2 and f/8 so you’re not wading through countless images and crops. The 23 comes out very much on top and the story is the same at the other apertures. There seems to be a lot of flare happening on the X100S image, which is surprising. Hoods were used for all of these test images. Perhaps I’ll run this test one more time to be sure, but I think the sharpness can be accurately gauged anyhow.

Equally interesting are the distortion characteristics of each lens. I encourage you to click to enlarge the gallery below and then arrow back and forth between the images. The difference is huge.

FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 vs. X100S @ f/2

FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 vs. X100S @ f/8

Crops

As mentioned, there is a huge difference in distortion with this lenses. This made it difficult to align the crops. Another thing I’ll note, particularly in the FUJINON XF 23mm @ f/8, the X-Trans sensor is having no trouble rendering detail in the greens of the hedges in the background.

The FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 shows it’s strength here. It’s noticeably sharper, shows much less distortion, and doesn’t exhibit the flaring issues the X100S seems to be.

Bokeh! (and Sharpness)

The items of interest here how the X100S’s f/2 lens stacks up against the FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 at f/2, and how much of a difference f/1.4 on the 23mm makes in out-of-focus rendering. I’ve chosen a rather bland subject matter, but I hope it illustrates the characteristics of the bokeh of each lens in a situation that pushes the dynamic range to the limit.

X100S vs. FUJINON XF 23mm @ f/1.4 and f/2

The FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 is sharper at f/2 and f/1.4 than the X100S is wide open. Note that the 23/1.4 shows a ton of CA on the stems of the flower just behind the flower that’s in focus. This test was done on an X-E1 though so it’s possible that with my X-E2’s Lens Modulation Optimizer might take care that Update: Testing and further research shows it does not. LMO is all about eliminating the affects of diffusion. By f/2 it mostly gone. The X100S does a much better job of correcting CA than the X-E1. This is to e expected given how tightly integrated the X100S and its fixed lens are.

The bokeh from both lenses here are pleasing enough to my eye. Getting up to f/1.4 does make a noticeable difference though.

There’s some good stuff in the next frame that helps with making a comparison, like the windows of the house and the rear lights on the car. Again, opening up to 1.4 makes a noticeable difference, but only if you’re switching back and forth between the images quickly. Towards the edge of the frame, the X100S gets a little more “nervous” and isn’t quite as pleasing as the FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4. You need to be peeping pretty hard to notice this kind of difference though.

Bees

Another close focus comparison. The FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 is sharper wide open than the X100S is. Stopping the 23mm f/1.4 down to f/2 sharpens it up even more. This is definitely one area where you get your money’s worth with the interchangeable prime.

Light orb or “bokeh ball” rendering.

These shots were handheld. Not much to see here, really. The 23mm f/1.4 renders bokeh balls ever so slightly smoother, but the X100S does remarkably well.

Close Focus

The X100S is capable of focusing much closer than the FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 because of how close the lens elements are to the sensor. The images below illustrate just how big a difference it is. To capture these images, each camera was set to Macro mode, and adjusted focus manually to the closest setting. I then slowly dragged the tripod away (or, in the case of the X100S, pushed it closer) until focus peaking made the blue of the speaker cone shimmer. They were shot at f/16 in order to get as much in focus as possible. Particularly with the X100S, at a distance like this, depth of field is razor-thin.

Conclusion

Overall, the FUJINON XF 23mm f/1.4 outperforms the X100S in my tests. This is to be expected given the lens retails for 70% of what the X100S does at the time of writing. The X100S holds its own though and things like the built-in ND filter, leaf shutter, and close-focus capabilities might make it worth taking over, or in addition to the 23mm f/1.4. My X100S won’t be going anywhere.