The Bottom Line
I'll cut to the chase; Quite simply the Fujinon 14mm XF is likely the best super-wide angle lens I've ever owned. That's saying a lot considering how many I've owned over the last three decades. I've owned the "best" from Nikon, Leica, and a few other brands. I've vacillated back and forth on a few favorites. There have been some I've loved and a few I've hated. In each case there was at least one thing that bothered me about the one's that fall into the loved category.
I can say the Fuji 14mm is the best because there is absolutely nothing about it that bothers me at all. That's crazy since something bothers me about just about everything else on the planet.
- Image quality, check. Fantastic. As far as I can tell just as good as my Leica 21mm lenses.
- Size and weight, check. Just right.
- Look, as in how it renders overall and especially out of focus areas or focus transitions. Absolutely gorgeous. I've never had that in any super-wide. I thought it might be impossible.
- Speed, check.
- Minimum focus distance, check. You can focus this super close. What's the point of a wide angle that only focuses at 3 feet?
What's not to like? I cannot think of anything.
I'm shocked that I've used the 14mm as much as I have. I thought it would be more of a specialty lens for me. I'm especially shocked at how much I've used it on the Black/White project. I didn't start out that way but ever since I just shot with it for the first time on this project it's been a regular occurrence.
More than a regular occurrence, so much so that I put it away on purpose for the last series of approach experiments I did. I was worried that somehow I was becoming enamored with it in a way that didn't suit the project. I wanted to make sure that where and how I was putting the 14mm to use really fit. It does, at least in my estimation here and now.
All of these images were the first time I used the Fuji super-wide prime on the Black/White project. One of the double edged swords of going wide is that the tiniest moves make huge differences. A foot is like a mile, a degree or two and boom everything changes wildly. I happen to like that and find it useful. I guess that's why I work close and wide compared to most sane people for any given task.
You can see I even attempted framing some fragments with the 14mm. Some may even work but I think I'll stick to 18mm to 35mm for most of that kind of treatment for the project. Not all but most. Even that might seem a little wide but I know background context will be important based on my experiments so I want to err on including a bit too much rather than none based on my experiments so far.
For Fuji X-System owners I consider this a must have lens. Just get one. You may even find a used one for rock bottom cash at the moment. I'm guessing since I've read so, so much about people planning on ditching their 14mm for the newer 16mm. While I'm sure that's a fantastic hunk of glass as well I don't see how one lens has to do with the other. As you go super-wide a tiny numerical difference is bigger than you think. I don't consider the 14mm and 16mm to be anywhere close to the same perspective. I never considered 21mm and 24mm to be the same thing on 35mm either.
I'll probably end up with both lenses at some point but for now I don't see using both the 18mm and the 16mm and the 14mm for this project. The 18 is more suitable for framing some fragments really close and the 14 is more suitable for images with a ton of context while maintaining that 2 to 3 foot intimacy I prefer for this project.
Fuji XT-1 14mm