If you’re thinking of building a Fuji system with prime lenses today, here is what I recommend you get. My recommendations are intended to “future-proof” your system where possible, so some kits include forthcoming lenses that I presume to be of a certain level quality, until I have a chance to test them.
This will also be a shameless affiliate link page. I will endeavour to keep the links to a minimum on my main content pages—obnoxious ads frustrate me as much as anybody—but they truly will help keep this site going, and won’t cost you a dime. The more affiliates links are clicked, the more gear I get my hands on to test. I have plans to do a lot more testing.
Ultimate Prime Kit
This is the kit I can’t wait to complete and carry around in my Billingham Hadley Small. You could do a lot worse than this 3-lens setup.
Body: FUJIFILM X-E2 or FUJIFILM X-T1
While Fuji has been undeniably awesome about supporting users of older camera (including discontinued cameras), the advantages the X-E2 has over any other body available today can’t be overlooked with only one exception. Tripod-hugging landscape photographers who shoot RAW can do just as well with an X-E1, X-Pro1, or any other of Fuji’s bodies that have a 16MP X-Trans sensor in them. The benefits the X-E2 afford in autofocus speed and its Lens Modulation Optimizer are nullified by the use of a tripod, and shooting RAW, respectively.
With the FUJIFILM X-T1 officially a real thing now, it’s impossible not to have it on the consideration list for just about any shooting style. It has features that will be of value for everyone. It all comes down to whether or not those features are worth $300 more to you.
For me, especially now that I’ve used it, there’s no question. Weather-sealing and the EVF along are enough for me to make the jump, but the ergonomics are also fantastic. The shutter release sit nicely under my index finger and the front dial sits under my middle finger. This is even better than my D700 where I needed to move my index finger up and down from the shutter to the dial.
FUJINON XF 14mm ƒ/2.8 — You simply can’t go wrong with the 14mm f/2.8. It’s sharp, focuses quick, and has all the necessary focus markings on it. The only possible alternative (before the 10-24 comes out, but we’re talking primes here) is the Zeiss Touit 12mm ƒ/2.8. I hope to do a thorough comparison of the two lenses, but by almost every account I’ve seen, Fuji’s 14mm f/2.8 is not only considerably less expensive than the Zeiss, the build is better (yes, the aperture ring is loose on some copies, but not all), handling is better with a proper zoom ring and depth of field scale, and it delivers sharper images. There’s really no reason to opt for the Zeiss unless it’s absolutely critical you get the extra 2mm in width.
FUJINON XF 23mm ƒ/1.4 — This lens is incredible. It’s sharp, it’s fast, it produces great bokeh, and the handling is outstanding. The only alternative worth considering is to buy an X100S, which covers the same 35mm equivalent. The advantage here is not having to switch lenses as often. You can have either of the other two recommended lenses mounted on your interchangeable lens body, and 23mm always at the ready via the X100S. The disadvantages are a noteworthy difference in image quality, slightly slower operation as compared to the X-E2 (slightly faster compared to the X-E1), and some differences in how the two cameras operate. The former can be a big deal when image quality is paramount, and the latter can be a big deal when speed is. Zone focusers will also appreciate the 23mm ƒ/1.4 for its engraved depth of field markings, but they’re also sure to like the size and silent operation of the X100S. Not to mention the added discretion of the new black version.
FUJINON XF 56mm ƒ/1.2 — It’s true this lens isn’t even out yet, but based on early accounts and what we’ve seen from the 14, 23, and 35, I’d put money on it being stellar. One could opt for the 60/2.4, but this is the “Ultimate Prime Kit” after all, so let’s go all out.
Now that I’ve had my hands on it, I want it even more. I’ve got a pre-production unit in my posession now so I won’t be able to do my usual Fuji vs. Fuji comparisons, but impressions are coming soon, and a comparison between it and the 60 is sure to come once I have my very own 56mm ƒ/1.2.
What about the 35mm ƒ/1.4?
In fact, the 35 occupies the space in my bag that will soon be taken by the 56mm ƒ/1.2. It’s an outstanding lens as seen in my comparison with the 18-55mm. But the 35mm ƒ/1.4 isn’t different enough from the 23mm ƒ/1.4, which will absolutely not be removed from my bag. This way I’ll have a superb wide angle, fantastic 35mm, and a beautiful medium telephoto. I’m pretty excited.
The Compact, Travel Prime Kit
While the Ultimate Prime Kit above isn’t outrageously priced, especially relative to a comparable DSLR prime kit, you could do very well with less money, and you’d find yourself with a kit that’s smaller and lighter as well.
FUJINON XF 18mm ƒ/2 — This lens hasn’t been getting a lot of love lately, but my testing shows it’s still worthy of praise. It sits nicely between the 14 and 23 in focal length at roughly a 28mm equivalant, a stop quicker than the 14, but slower than the 23. It’s ridiculously small, and with that comes the loss of depth of field markings, and the pull-ring for manual focus. For those who want to pack small though, the 18mm ƒ/2 is a great wide-angle choice.
FUJINON XF 35mm ƒ/1.4 — This lens has been called a “gem” many times, and for good reason. It’s small, light, and crazy sharp. At an equivalant focal length of just over 53mm, it’s an ideal complement to the 18mm ƒ/2.
Optional: FUJINON XF 60mm ƒ/2.4 — Your focal range can be rounded out by the 60/2.4. Called a macro lens, it makes an excellent portrait lens at a medium telephoto equivalant of just over 90mm. It will be the largest and heaviest lens in your kit, but it’s a bit smaller, and quite a bit lighter than the 56mm ƒ/1.2.
The Landscape Photographer
Landscapers, long exposure nuts, and tripod huggers (of which I am one) have slightly different needs then the casual shooter, and all but the most hardcore of street photogs.
FUJIFILM X-T1 — I’d strongly consider [the
rumoured now confirmed X-T1] with it’s weather sealing which is alleged to be announced on January 28th. Honestly, being able to set up my tripod for a long exposure of a waterfall in the rain is the only thing I miss about my Nikon days. If you need to buy today, almost any of the 16MP X-Trans sensor cameras will work for you. EVF refresh rate doesn’t matter a whole lot, nor does having the fastest of fast autofocus. Spend to your budget.
FUJINON XF 14mm ƒ/2.8 – You’re gonna want the 14mm f/2.8 for sure. It’s super sharp and suitably wide. 21mm is considered the perfect landscape focal length by many. Again, it’s engraved depth of field marking is a boom for hyper focal shooters.
FUJINON XF 23mm ƒ/1.4 – To that end, the 23mm f/1.4 is also worth adding to your bag if you don’t mind the tighter FoV. Some find 35mm a little too tight for landscape work, but any focal can be made to work with careful composition.
FUJINON XF 10-24mm ƒ/4 – Another option that has yet to hit the market, it’s sure to be a landscape photographers dream. And yes, this lens is a zoom, not a prime, but what landscaper could resists an Ultra-wide angle zoom like this? Depending on how it performs, it’s absolutely possible one could buy this lens and leave the 14mm ƒ/2.8 at home. Time, and my forthcoming tests, will tell. [And if you’re in the Toronto area, you can also get a sneak peek at the 10-24mm ƒ/4 at this month’s FujiTuesday.]
It’s worth noting that the X100S could be the perfect long exposure camera if you really like the 35mm focal length. With it’s built-in 3-stop ND filter, and the addition of a 10-stop ND filter (which is relatively cheap due to its size, and adorable) you can cut the light reaching your sensor by 13 stops with a single piece of glass. This puts the X100S high on the list if you can get enough of silky water. The romantic notion of having a single camera with a fixed focal length is also compelling. In time, you’ll see your images before you put your tripod down.
The Street Shooter
Street photographers are a special breed. Really, just about any camera can be used for street photography from DSLRs for the wannabe paparazzi, to an iPhone for the Instagramers (VSCO is better, just sayin’). Fuji has, or soon will have, virtually every kind of street photographer covered.
FUJIFILM X-E2, Black – For people who need quick focus and a responsive EVF in lowlight in a rangefinder-style body, there’s really only one option you should consider today aside from a black X100S.
Again, the X-T1 is also an option with an even more responsive EVF and improved high ISO capability. It comes with different ergonomics though and more of a DSLR look. Believe it or not, that can make a difference in how comfortably strangers are with you taking their photograph.
The X-T1 is the only option for those willing to shoot in the street no matter the weather conditions. The care one would need to take with the X-E2 in rain or extreme cold simply isn’t a factor with X-T1.
So many options. For the zone focuser, a 14mm ƒ/2.8 and 23mm ƒ/1.4 are for you with their engraved depth of field markings. Yes, the other lenses give you depth of field calculations on the LCD, but there’s something about being able to have a quick glance down to check your focal range without looking at the LCD or into the viewfinder that can’t be beat.
For the auto-focuser, take your pick. The lenses above work great, but you could also go compact and wide with the 18mm ƒ/2. You’ll lose a little image quality compared to the 14mm ƒ/2.8, but it’s negligible, particularly for street shooting. The 18mm ƒ/2 is also just wide that you can have someone in frame without them knowing it. The 35mm ƒ/1.4 makes a nice option for shooting from a little further away. The 56mm ƒ/1.2 will let you stay even further away, although the size of that lens might get you noticed more.
No mention of street photography would be complete without talking about the X100S. The new black X100S is pretty darn close to being the ideal street photography camera, assuming you like 35mm. The only thing it’s missing for me are those glorious depth of field markings.
The Portrait Photographer
Admittedly, portraiture isn’t really my bag—despite having done some paid portraiture work—so I’ll keep this short and sweet since it’s easy. Pick a 16 MP X-Trans body (probably and X-E1/2 or X-Pro1), buy a 35mm ƒ/1.4 and wait for the 56mm ƒ/1.2. Yes, you could get a 60mm ƒ/2.4, but I have 3 words for that: One. Point. Two. I’m actually waiting for the 56mm ƒ/1.2 before doing another portrait session I’ve been asked for.
I’d add a 35mm ƒ/1.4 and an 18mm ƒ/2 to cover off the focal range.
And there you have it! After extensive testing and even more real-world shooting, those are Fuji vs. Fuji’s (mostly) prime kit recommendations. I hope to keep this as up to date as much as possible, and lots more content is sure to be added as Fujifilm execute their latest roadmap update. I have a sneaking suspicion that those two constant ƒ/2.8 aperture zooms are going to have something in common with that weather-sealed X-T1.
It’s a good time to be a Fuji fan.