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Design

The XF 14mm is solidly-crafted with an all-metal barrel, and distinctly reminiscent of the compact primes of manual focus SLRs or rangefinders. The manual focus ring rotates smoothly with positive end stops, and offers perhaps the most convincing facsimile of mechanically-coupled operation that we've yet seen from an electronically-driven 'focus by wire' design; in this view it's set to the manual focus position. The aperture ring is a different story, though; on our sample the click-stops are distinctly loose (similar to the 35mm F1.4).

Compared to original three XF-mount primes

Left to right: XF 14mm F2.8 R, XF 18mm F2 R, XF 35mm F1.4 R, and XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro

Here's the 14mm lined up alongside Fujifilm's existing X-system primes. With its finely-ridged manual focus ring and aperture ring marked in whole-stop increments, it follows most of the same design cues, the main difference being the addition of distance and depth-of-field scales. In terms of size it sits somewhere between the 35mm F1.4 and 60mm F2.4 Macro, and the entire lineup will fit in a small bag.

Manual focus mechanism

The XF14mm features a manual focus system somewhat similar to that on the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12mm F2 ED for Micro Four Thirds (and for that matter quite a few SLR lenses from the likes of Tamron and Tokina). The focus ring has two positions - pushed forward the lens is in autofocus mode, and pulled back towards the camera it's in manual.

To engage manual focus you pull the focus ring back towards the camera. This also uncovers the distance scale, allowing the use of zone focus techniques.

Unusually, the focus ring is solidly locked when set to the autofocus position, and doesn't rotate. Switching to the manual focus position drives the lens to the last-used manual focus distance, which means you can't use this as a method of locking autofocus.

Manual focus on the 14mm offers a far better tactile experience than Fujifilm's other lenses. It's still electronically-driven, but behaves much more like a mechanically-coupled lens, with hard end stops at each end of the range along with a distance and depth of field scale. The focus ring is smooth, well-damped, and responsive, without any sense of the lag that sometimes comes with focus-by-wire.

One point worth noting is that the 14mm offers no mode in which both auto and manual focus can both be used. With the ring pulled back only manual focus is possible, and when it's pushed forward, only autofocus is available. At this point, operation is dependent upon the position of the camera's focus mode switch as follows:

 
Body switch 'S'
Body switch 'C'
Body switch 'M'
Focus ring set to auto
AF via shutter release
Continuous AF
AF via AF-L button
Focus ring set to manual
Manual focus only

This means that you still get the choice of autofocusing using either a half-press of the shutter button, or by pressing the AF-L button on the rear. But as usual for Fujifilm, when using the AF-L button the camera gives no visual focus confirmation, and no parallax-corrected AF frame in the X-Pro1's optical finder. What's more, with the 14mm the camera doesn't even indicate the focus distance it's set. To get focus confirmation you either have to enable operational sounds (meaning the camera will beep quietly every time you press a button), or click-in the rear dial to see a magnified view. This is something Fujifilm really needs to fix.

Autofocus

The 14mm uses a rear focus design, and is one of the fastest-focusing of the XF lenses. It's still not super-quick, but then again for many of the practical applications of a wideangle prime, AF speed isn't especially important (landscapes and buildings are rarely in a hurry). Typically for contrast-detect AF systems, focusing is almost invariably accurate, with none of the front- or back-focusing problems that can afflict SLR systems. As always, though, it must be noted that focus speed and accuracy is dependent upon a number of variables, including the camera body used, subject contrast, and light levels.

Change in angle of view on focusing (focus breathing)

Lenses' focal lengths are specified at infinity focus, and almost all change their angle of view as they're focused closer. Like most primes the 14mm gets less wide at close focus distances, but the effect is very small and certainly not worth worrying about.

On the camera

The 14mm isn't a particularly large lens - in practical use it feels much the same as the 35mm F1.4. The layout is entirely conventional, with the aperture ring close to the camera body and the focus ring at the front. Anyone used to 'traditional' camera operation will feel right at home, once they've got used to the dual-position focus ring.

One less-obvious advantage of the 14mm's focus ring design is that, when locked in the AF position, it offers a proper grip for taking the lens off the camera. The original three primes offer very little fixed area on their barrels, and are oddly difficult to remove from the camera without changing the aperture setting in the process.

Lens body elements

The lens uses Fujifilm's all-electronic XF mount, and is compatible with X-system cameras only. Both focusing and aperture setting are driven electronically.
The filter thread is 58mm, and does not rotate on autofocus. It's surrounded by the bayonet mount for the lens hood.

The relatively large diameter of the filter thread in relation to the front element means that 'thick' (8mm mount) polarisers can be used without fear of vignetting.
The bayonet mount, petal-type hood is shared with the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4.0 R LM OIS zoom. It's made of plastic with a matte finish on the inside.

It may not be as pretty as the rectangular metal shades supplied with the previous primes, but it's far more practical, reversing neatly for storage (see here for an image).
The focus ring is metal and has a finely-ridged 17mm-wide grip. It rotates 120 degrees from infinity to 0.18m. It's smooth and well-damped, making manual focus a breeze.

When pushed forward into the AF position the ring locks solidly in place, which also means it doesn't rotate on autofocus.
The aperture ring is positioned towards the rear of the lens barrel, close to the camera body. It's marked in 1-stop increments from F2.8 - F22, with (rather loose) clicks every 1/3 stop. There's also an A position that's used to set the aperture automatically in Program or Shutter Priority modes.

Viewfinder views (X-Pro1)

Here's the view through the X-Pro1's optical viewfinder with the 14mm attached; the corner brackets indicate the approximate field of view. The lens protrudes substantially into the lower right corner of the view.

In manual focus mode, no distance scale is shown - you're supposed to use the one on the lens.
Here's the EVF view of the same scene, showing the full field of view that's actually captured by the lens. It's somewhat wider than the OVF, and because the subject is relatively close here, there's clear parallax error. With distant subjects this isn't a problem.

In AF mode, the distance scale reappears in the viewfinder.
Not surprisingly, attaching the hood blocks the viewfinder even more.

With the shutter button half-pressed, the focus distance is indicated by a red line, and the depth of field as a white bar on the scale. Here it's 1m-1.5m at a focus distance of ~1.2m and F8.
One oddity is that the scale on the lens doesn't match that shown in the viewfinder, but predicts rather greater DOF, consistent with most SLR and rangefinder lenses. This is because it's calculated using a more-conventional value for the circle of confusion (~0.02mm at the sensor).
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Comments

Total comments: 5
edwaring

Just a correction... you said:

"One point worth knowing, though, is that there's no way of combining auto and manual focus"

If you shoot in manual mode with the AF-L button set to lock it it becomes a one touch AF button. One touch and the camera will focus and lock on whatever is in the focus point. The lens remains in manual focus though so you can correct, zoom in to check focus using the wheel etc without changing any settings. This is my preferred way of shooting with the Fuji cameras for all lenses.

0 upvotes
andywhoa

What camera did you do this review with? When I attach my XF14mm to my X-T1, the focus distance display disappears from the camera's display. However, in your review, it is still present.

3 upvotes
BarnET

It may be good if DPreview would include the camera used in AF conclusion.
And also with the firmware version. The XE-1 used to be very sluggish in AF. But with the firmware made big improvements

0 upvotes
Indulis Bernsteins

If there is one thing that anmnoys me with Fujifilm lenses it is the sloppy aperture clicks, which make it too easy to bump out of your setting. It would be an easy thing to fix, but each new lens has the same problem.

2 upvotes
Stephen Scharf

Andy,
Nice review. Though, I have to take exception with the slowish AF performance comment. I find that my XF14 is actually quite snappy with respect to AF performance, probably the fastest of all my XF lenses. For example, I've shot professional drag racing and Indy Car pit lane action with it on continuous focus at 6 FPS with excellent results.

Comment edited 30 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Total comments: 5