I have to admit that I rarely shoot with 50mm or 24x36 equivalent lenses. I had the XF 35mm F1.4 already twice in the past. Loved the way it rendered. Sold it. Twice. I bought the TCL-X100 for my X100T. Really (really) like the backgrounds wide open. Almost never use it. Let's face it, 50mm is not my favorite focal length. Don't ask me why. Either I stay around 20 - 30mm or go for 85mm and further. Unlike many photographers around me, Fujifilm's announcement of their XF35mm F2 WR didn't make me jump onAmazon.com to pre-order it.
Nevertheless when Fujifilm France offered me the opportunity to test it I immediately said yes. I'm glad I did. As usual, if you're looking for graphs and/or pixel peeping type of feedback you're on the wrong site.
I had a week to test the lens. However, the pictures you will see below were all taken during an evening in Zurich (Switzerland). I shot all the pictures at f/2 in Auto ISO. As you can imagine, most of them ended up being at ISO 6400. The JPGs below are from RAF files which were edited in Capture One Pro 8 and then sent to Photoshop in order to apply Totally Rad! Replichrome presets. I mostly fine tuned the toning. I didn't tweak the sharpness. However for those of you who would rather see un-tweaked JPG files, I put the pure RAF to JPG files (all settings to 0) at the end of the page (you will find additional pictures too - all exif information are available with the pictures).
Time to tell you what I think about the lens. I would say this: unless you really need to work/shoot at F1.4, go for the F2 version.
First because it is cheaper. Also Fujifilm is improving the finish of their lenses every time a new model comes out and this particular lens is no exception. I found the rings (aperture, focus) to have the right smoothness (not too strong, not too soft nor too loose) which means that I could easily manually focus when the AF wouldn't lock on the subject because it was too dark outside. I never found the F1.4 version to be great with manual focus. This F2 version nails it.
Sharpness? Look at the samples. As I already mentioned, they were all taken at F2 and they look incredibly sharp to me. I find the F2 version to be even sharper than the F1.4.
Color rendition? It is similar to the F1.4 version. Take it as a positive comment since I always liked the way the lens rendered colors (which is also why I think many photographers keep their 1.4 version - despite being one of the first lenses in X-Series).
Bokeh? Usually I find the bokeh of Fujifilm lenses to be too busy. In this case I would rate the XF35mm F2 amongst the better lenses in the lineup - slightly smoother than the F1.4. Smooth but without being overcrowded.
Autofocus? I used it in conjunction with the X-T10 and couldn't complain about it. Sure in complete darkness or with very little light sources available the AF would struggle but overall I was pleasantly surprised. In normal light conditions it is extremely fast and I couldn't tell the difference between this lens and my trusty XF 16-55mm F2.8.
Weight? A dream. Especially compared to the X-Series zooms I use. Combined with the X-T10 it felt like having an X100T around your neck. Did I mention that it is weather resistant? Yep! It is! This little extra alone will make a lot of X-Series fan rush on this sucker.
As always the choice to buy a new lens depends on many factors. If you don't need F1.4 specifically I would suggest you save a few dollars and benefit from the latest improvements Fujifilm implemented in this great piece of glass. I can't help thinking it would make an ideal kit lens for the future X-Pro2 (this is just me thinking out loud when reading the rumors on the web; don't ask for information I don't have any).
JPG converted RAF without any settings applied in Capture One Pro 8 (including EXIF).
Click here to download all the files (.zip - 167 Mo)