Fujifilm XF33mm F1.4 First look review – the next chapter of evolution

There are not many things in life we will wait a decade for, and a successor lens to the XF35mm f1.4 R lens is a wait that took Fujifilm close to a decade to fulfil.

*I am assuming so with no scientific or legal basis and pray that Fujifilm do not release a XF35mm f1.4 II later or I will have to eat my words.

The XF33mm f1.4 R LM WR announced 2 September 2021

As one of the original trio of X-mount lenses, the XF35mm f1.4 R has consistently maintained its own cult-following. Despite showing its age in its lack of weather-resistance, slower and noisy autofocus, the XF35mm f1.4 R is typically mentioned as the ‘classic’ standard of Fujifilm X-mount lenses, with a dash of fairy dust in its rendition.

Fairy dust in a lens? That must be the XF35mm f1.4!

source: Fujifilm fans

However, the XF35mm f1.4R was designed to work with a 16 megapixels sensor in 2012, and Fujifilm has since moved to 26.1 megapixels in 2021. Many and me inclusive, were looking forward to an updated version like the XF18mm f1.4 R LM WR .

Fujifilm X Summit where Fujifilm’s Head of Product Planning, Takashi Ueno confirmed the cancellation of the XF33 f1.0

When some of us had our hearts broken by Fujifilm’s confirmation that the rumoured XF33mm f1.0 would be cancelled for the XF50mm f1.0, I had surmised that would conclude our search for a modern interpretation of the XF35mm large aperture series, until I heard along the vine that a XF33 f1.4 was confirmed and would I want to test it.

And so, here is the XF33mm f1.4,

Section 1: the Technicalities
Section 2: Performance and Handling
Section 3: Does this mean the end of the road for the XF35mm f1.4?
Section 4: Conclusions

Section 1: The Technicalities

For consistency, I had done this review on the X-Pro3, the same camera where I will share samples of the XF35mm f1.4 from

Straight off the bat, the name XF33mm f1.4 R LM WR (XF33mm f1.4 for short) implies that this piece of optics comes with a physical aperture ring (R) , and it’s autofocus is powered by linear motors (LM) that debuted in the XF90mm f2 to ensure fast quiet and accurate auto-focus. WR means weather-resistance, a criteria for any lens that is likely to spend a lot of time on the streets.

XF35mm f1.4 and XF33mm f1.4

Like the XF27mm f2.8 II, the XF33mm f1.4 comes with a ‘lock’ for when the aperture ring is set to the ‘auto’ position, ensuring that the aperture ring does not get knocked out of position accidentally. (see image below) One simply depresses the orange button to unlock the aperture ring to move out of Auto-aperture mode.

The XF33mm f1.4 sports a 58mm filter diameter, comes in at φ67×73.5mm and weighs 360 grams. For comparison, the XF35mm f1.4 weighs 187 grams.

Part of the reason for the increase in size and weight is there is a lot of glass packed in this piece of excellent optics with 15 elements in 10 groups, including 2 aspherical and 3 ED elements. (XF35mm f1.4 has 8 elements in 6 groups)

Minimum focusing distance is at 30cm.

Left XF35mm f1.4 – Right XF33mm f1.4

But let us be frank, you didn’t come here to find specification tables which you can find on Fujifilm’s website, so now done with the necessary, let us proceed into the next section.

I realised the XF18mm f1.4, XF27mm f2.8 II and the XF33mm f1.4 all share the same design DNA and that cannot be a coincidence.

Section 2: Performance and Handling

‘Modern, robustly built, tack sharp, silent and very fast focusing with minimal optical aberrations and creamy bokeh’ forms the vocabulary one can describe the XF33mm f1.4 but to me after testing it as a XF35mm f1.4 owner, I can say that: 

The XF33mm f1.4 will be a lens I will enjoy shooting with, a lens I will want to create memories out of moments.

X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
100% Crop

The XF33m f1.4 like the XF18mm f1.4 sibling follows a tested formula which gives excellent clinical results (clinical meaning will look good on the charts that some users rave over).

X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4

Beyond simply a larger maximum aperture, the XF33mm f1.4 is tack sharp and resolves excellent details wide open with a distinct ‘pop’ in the images. I was hard pressed to find any sources of aberration with my review copy and sharpness wise, the older XF35mm f1.4 is simply unable to match the XF33mm f1.4.

Progress is inevitable.

X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
100% Crop

One can always pick at the X-mount being a APSC-sensor system, but then this opinion is obviously incomplete. Because what completes the equation is the quality of optics and it is clear that Fujifilm here has stepped into its next lap where they are looking at pushing their X-Mount beyond the current 26.1 megapixels and these lenses are the ones which will have the resolving power, linear motors for autofocus speeds to match the next generation of Fujifilm X-mount sensors.

X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4

As a user who was blessed enough to be testing both the GFX50S II & GF35-70mm f4.5-5.6 right before the XF33mm f1.4, I must confess here to the possible chagrin of others that I found much more joy using the XF33mm f1.4 on my X-Pro3. Somehow, the image output and the performance of this set-up hits the sweet spot for me, especially in how much faster and more reliable the XF33mm f1.4 auto-focuses.

X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4

Section 3: Does this imply the end of the road for the XF35mm f1.4?

Simply, No.

After testing the XF33mm f1.4 I can say that like the XF18mm f1.4 and XF18mm f2 duo, the XF35mm f1.4 and XF33mm f1.4 are lenses representing the classical and future of X-mount, with the current releases focusing on top-notch clinical excellence, where auto-focusing speed, weather resistance and resolving ability are priorities versus a more classical image rendition in the first generation of Fujifilm lenses.

Some older samples from the XF35mm f1.4 on the Fujifilm X-Pro3 (same camera I tested the XF33mm f1.4 on)

X-Pro3, XF35mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF35mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF35mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF35mm f1.4

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you see it), some users might even end up owning both lenses, because each of them have their own unique characteristics. It is like owning a vintage car with quirks which you enjoy driving for sentimental reasons and at the same time having a modern performance car for its ability to deliver.

Character vs Clinical excellence – both have their own arguments.

X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4
X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4

In fact, I was told by a most reliable source that the XF35mm f1.4 R and the XF33mm f1.4 will be sold side by side, as each of them is expected to draw their own user crowds.

Conclusions.

Fujifilm X-Trans has stayed in the 16 to 26.1 megapixels range since it’s inception. The next step is probably a X-Trans sensor that goes beyond this and for this to be ready, more modern renditions of the lenses are necessary. In fact, Fujifilm claims the XF33 f1.4 and soon to be available XF23mm f1.4 R LM WR can resolve up to 40 megapixels and I see that as a huge hint of a megapixel jump in the next X-Trans V sensor due in the X-H2.

Starting with the XF18mm f1.4, the XF33mm f1.4 now and the XF23mm f1.4 R LM WR in November, these three lenses form the vanguard for the next generation of X-mount. The XF33mm f1.4 is important for me because it has the potential to be an everyday lens with its approximately 50mm focal length. 

X-Pro3, XF33mm f1.4

In this sense, it is simply likely that I will end up adding either the XF33 f1.4 or the XF23 f1.4 R LM WR to my repertoire of lenses.

Between the XF35mm f1.4, XF33 f1.4 or even the upcoming XF23mm f1.4 R LR WR, which one will you choose?
Share in the comments below.

Disclaimers:

1. The Fujifilm XF33mm f1.4 R LM WR was loaned from Fujifilm Asia Pacific and returned.
My thanks and appreciation to Mr. Keitaro So, Divisional Head of Fujifilm for providing the loan.
2. The XF33mm f1.4 R LM WR was running firmware 1.0.
3. All samples shared were from RAW and edited to my preferences.

8 Replies to “Fujifilm XF33mm F1.4 First look review – the next chapter of evolution”

  1. Hi Keith, this is a release that has gotten me excited. I can’t wait for the XF23mm to be released soon.

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    1. Hi Johnson, yup, the improvements this round are pretty significant, especially when we compare them to the now pretty aged first generation f1.4 lenses. I’m considering getting one between the XF23mm f1.4 R LM WR or the XF33mm f1.4 and it’s not easy to decide.

      Like

  2. Excellent writeup as always Keith, the XF33mm seems to be significantly larger than the XF35mm, on the X-Pro3 was the balance still good?

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    1. Hi! Thank you for dropping by. The XF33mm is indeed heavier than the XF35/1.4, however do note that it is still around 360g, a relatively light lens. On the X-Pro3 one thing is I’ll as always fully recommend using an additional grip and the XF33mm does indeed ‘extend’ longer than the classic XF35/1.4 for better balance.

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