Continuing on with the quick and dirty series of posts regarding various Fujinon X series lenses and testing StupidCrap™ I'll skip the 23mm options for the moment and talk about 35mm. I wanted to do that based on the last post regarding 18mm. You can read the disclaimers about how close-up I am, etc there.
The Extreme Corners
Starting off with the extreme corners let's take a look at the 18-55mm XF zoom at 35mm vs the much praised 35mm f/2 WR. Everyone just loves that lens and has nothing bad to say about it. The internet agrees, it's just the bee's knees. Download or open in a new window and look at all the pixels if you want.
Hey, WTF??? how can this be? The 18-55mm on the left and the 35mm f/2 on the right. Wait there's more… I accidentally gave the prime even more advantage by shooting it at f/4.5, a third stop less than the 18-55mm. So we have the prime a whopping 4 1/3 stops down from wide-open and the zoom a measly 1/3 stop or thereabouts down. The corner performance is clearly not as good as the kit zoom in this range. Yes I made like a dozen shots refocusing each time. Very consistent results. Go ahead I dare you to find anywhere in the many focal planes where the prime is great compared to the zoom.
This is pretty much what I rant and rave about when it comes to the 18mm f/2. That lens gets no respect. The internet echo chamber derides it due to it's "corner performance" over and over and over (I suspect most of that comes from arm-chair quarterbacks that don't even own it). Sure the 18mm performs like a traditional prime and the absolute corners never quite equal the center. Guess what, the 35/2 is pretty much the same. I tried to explain even Fuji tells you this in their MTF charts a while back. I'm not seeing anything Fuji doesn't see in their design, it's not a "bad copy". I don't even believe in "bad copy", at least not at the rate claimed on-line.
Maybe the 35mm cleans up in the corners when not used close? Maybe I'll test that but I don't really care as I care about subjects that are usually way under 10 feet away. You get my point right? Why the complete and utter non-objectivity when it comes to the 18mm/2 vs the 35mm/2? Ones a dog and ones just fantastic? Right…
Take a look at the 18mm in the extreme corners vs the 23mm/2. Be careful, this is apples vs. bananas due to the vast difference in field of view and magnification and DOF at the same subject distance but what the hell, let's look anyway.
Wow, the 18mm gives one the impression it's "better". Again apples vs. tacos but still if you didn't get my point before maybe that will help? End Rant!
Moving on to the center. Not a big story here pretty good on both the zoom and the prime, actually great at f/4.
If one looks closely at this taking all things into account and possible micro-variations in exact focus plane of each. One might give the edge to the prime. Very slight and really nothing to worry about one way or the other in real world pictures. The not-so-big story is that the zoom in the middle ranges is actually quite good near wide open rather than the prime being sub-par at two stops down. You'll have to take my word for it but it's about the same one stop down and a bit "worse" wide-open attempting to consider the complete lack of depth of field. This close there's virtually none at this magnification.
The Big Difference — Bokeh
While I personally think that the 18-55mm zoom is not in any way bad. It's actually far more acceptable in terms of overall look in transition and OOF areas than many zooms I've had the displeasure to use but in this case the 35mm f/2 WR trounces the 18-55mm. Not in every single way but definitely when you take a look at highlight rendering.
I skipped the 23mm because I wanted to make the 18mm/23mm f/2 point. I also skipped it because the trend for Fuji lenses is that the lower priced f/2 lenses really don't have quite the same holy-shit factor in most cases as the much-much larger, sometimes larger aperture, high-priced lenses. You'll clearly see that in the next installment when we look at the 23mm f/1.4
I wanted to say that because way way back in Leica land it used to be that the cheaper f/2 Summicrons typically out performed the much more expensive, much larger f/1.4 Summilux varieties in all but maximum aperture speed. Seems the new term on the block is
Fuji-cron for the smaller, cheaper f/2 versions. Kind of implying that they may share the same characteristics beyond the maximum aperture and the lower cost. In my experience they generally don't when it comes to absolute performance. This isn't bad, I like a lot of the smaller lenses just because they are smaller and they are very very good but so far in my experience the one characteristic they don't share is absolute optical performance.