20
Jan
2013

Using the XF14mmF2.8 R

by Rico Pfirstinger

Fujifilm kept their promise and started delivery of the new XF14mmF2.8 R wide-angle prime lens on January, 19. Many customers all over the web have already received their lens on Saturday, and I am one of them. So how’s the lens doing? Most of you will already have looked at my pre-production sample pics or may have read about how well the lens is optically corrected, so let’s focus on using the lens on your existing X-Mount camera.

14mmF2.8_R_FUJINON XF Lens

Updating the camera firmware

Let’s start with finding the new camera firmware that’s required to make all features of the lens work properly. It’s rather old school: The box contains an SD card (2 GB in my case) holding camera firmware upgrades for both the X-E1 and X-Pro1, named FWUP0001.DAT and FPUPDATE.DAT, respectively. Just insert the SD card into your camera (the card should be write-protected by default), then switch it on while pressing and holding the DISP/BACK button. Now follow the instructions on the display to update the camera body firmware. The new firmware versions supporting the 14mm lens are 1.03 for the X-E1 and 2.02 for the X-Pro1. Both versions will soon be replaced by a another upgrade from the global Fujifilm website, though.

A recent Fuji guideline recommends not to have a lens attached to the camera while updating the camera body’s firmware. This is a reversal from previous policy and was specifically issued for the XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS kit zoom lens, but I guess it won’t hurt to follow this new procedure with all current XF lenses.

Lens hood

You may have noticed that the hood that comes with the new 14mm lens is the same that’s coming with the kit zoom, so they are fully interchangeable. If you have space constraints in your equipment bag, you can just bring along one hood for both lenses, as you probably won’t be using both of them at the same time.

Focus ring

A unique feature of the 14mm lens is a new focus ring with engraved distance and DOF (depth-of-field) markings and hard stops at each end of the manual distance scale. In order to use the focus ring and see all markings, it has to be unlocked by sliding the ring backwards. Once you do so, the lens and the camera will automatically enter manual focus (MF) mode. Slide the ring forward to relock it. This returns the lens and the camera back to the mode that’s set on the camera’s own AF mode selector dial.

Please note that the AF-L button will not focus the lens with One-Press-AF when the focus ring of the lens is set to MF mode. However, you can still use One-Press-AF by setting only the camera to MF and leaving the focus ring of the lens in its AF position. Personally, I find this a bit complicated and would like to be able to use One-Press-AF when both the camera and the lens are set to MF.

Distance and DOF scales

With this new 14mm lens, you get two different distance/DOF scales indicating the depth-of-field and focus distance of a shot. Apart from the conventional “digital” distance/DOF scale in the camera’s viewfinder or LCD, there’s also an “analog” scale engraved in the lens. However, the digital scale in the viewfinder will disappear once you set either the lens or the camera to MF mode. This means we are getting no more distance or DOF readings while we are looking through the camera viewfinder or at the LCD.

This is the lens in MF mode, showing the analog distance and DOF readings. Yep, it really looks like in the old days…

DSCF6405

But wait, there’s more! The digital and analog DOF scales do not match. While the digital scale is still based on the camera’s established, very conservative circle of confusion (CoC) of about 0.005mm, the analog scale on the lens barrel uses a less strict CoC of about 0.01mm. The digital version of the scale is still available in both AF modes (AF-S, AF-C), but it disappears once the lens or the camera are set to MF mode.

Manual focus and “focus peaking”

When you enter MF mode (by sliding the focus ring back, or by selecting MF on the camera, or both), you can use the magnifier tool by pressing the camera’s command dial (aka thumb wheel). Turn the dial to the left or right to choose between a 3x or 10x magnification level. The 3x option offers a “poor man’s focus peaking” feature, as it crisply outlines edges of objects that are in focus. This feature isn’t really new (it was part of the X-Pro1′s version 2.00 firmware update), but it doesn’t work equally well with all focal lengths and magnification levels. However, it does work well with this 14mm lens and the 3x magnification option of the magnifier tool. So use it to your benefit, and don’t worry: It works just as fine with the EVF in the X-E1 as with the less sophisticated EVF in the X-Pro1.

Using the OVF

Speaking of the X-Pro1: The 14mm lens is compatible with the optical viewfinder in the X-Pro1! It just fits the full (aka 85%) frame of the OVF, and the lens is also supported by the camera’s AF field parallax correction when used in AF mode. Consider this when you are thinking about whether to buy this lens or the upcoming Carl Zeiss 12mm AF lens. With quite some certainty, the latter won’t fit into the optical viewfinder’s field of view.

Handling and usability

Using the XF14mmF2.8 R in manual focus mode may be a mixed bag for some users: While most will appreciate the “traditional” focus ring with its hard end stops and engraved distance and DOF markings, offering two different DOF displays based on two different circles of confusion may, well, confuse some less-experienced photographers. Of course, many users have asked Fuji for a less conservative DOF scale (especially for zone focusing purposes), so this was obviously a deliberate decision to accommodate such wishes.

Since there are no distance or DOF indicators displayed in the viewfinder or LCD once the lens or camera are set to MF, you have to use the readings that are engraved in the lens. That may be hard to accomplish while you are busy looking through the viewfinder trying to frame a shot, and the engraved numbers could be difficult to read in dark surroundings. So from a usability standpoint (and admittedly not being much of a zone focus guy), I’d be just as happy with the 14mm being a “conventional” XF lens like the previous models. But that’s just me.

Manual focus with the focus ring is still “fly-by-wire”, meaning there’s no helicoil. That said (I’m already hearing the moaning from the usual suspects), manual focusing feels smooth and direct. Quite obviously, Fujifilm meant this lens to be used for zone focusing in MF mode. This is how it works: Preset a suitable aperture, focus distance and DOF on the lens barrel, then forget about focusing while framing the shot in the viewfinder and hunting for the decisive moment.

Auto focus works pretty fast (no surprise at 14mm focal length), even though it’s only powered by a traditional AF motor with low noise emissions. Like the kit zoom, I’d consider this lens to be very well built and a joy to operate and handle. It’s light-weight, and it delivers stunning results. This, of course, is the most important aspect.

Happy shooting, and have a nice week!

PS: I have just added a few more samples to my RAW converter comparison.

Rico Pfirstinger studied communications and has been working as journalist, publicist, and photographer since the mid-80s. He has written a number of books on topics as diverse as Adobe PageMaker and sled dogs, and produced a beautiful book of photographs titled Huskies in Action (German version). He has spent time working as the head of a department with the German Burda-Publishing Company and served as chief editor for a winter sports website. After eight years as a freelance film critic and entertainment writer in Los Angeles, Rico now lives in Germany and devotes his time to digital photography and compact camera systems. His book “Mastering the FUJIFILM X-Pro1” (Kindle Edition) (Apple iBook Store) (German version) is available on Amazon and offers a plethora of tips, secrets and background information on successfully using Fuji’s X-Pro1 and X-E1 system cameras, lenses and key accessories.

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  • chris

    Thanks.
    Coultd you give please the Fuji’s link , about a recent Fuji guideline recommending not to have a lens attached to the camera while updating the camera body’s firmware.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      I am not aware of a web link, I am only aware of the guideline that was issued last year, announcing such changes in future user manuals (once the existing copies ones run out, so it can’t be THAT urgent). I suspect there could be instances where a body firmware upgrade that is going terribly wrong could also affect the lens, so removing any lens while upgrading the body would be a sensible precaution. Of course, this is all speculation on my part, and I never experienced any upgrade problems while there was a lens attached. Admittedly, I also don’t usually remove the lens, cuz I’m a lazy bum.

      As Rene already stated, the new guidelines apparently have already made it into the little firmware upgrade manual that comes with the SD card. Admittedly again, I have overlooked that manual while unpacking my lens. So thank you, Rene, for mentioning it. It looks like my deduction was correct and Fuji wants us to remove all lenses (not just the kit zoom) when updating the camera body firmware.

    • Alex

      Chris,

      Here is the link:

      http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/firmware/x/xe1/index.html

      See point 3 under .

      Regards,

      Alex.

  • http://renedelbar.blogspot.be Rene

    The firmware SD card coming with the 14mm lens contains a small “Firmware update Manual” (4 pages per language). The instructions only mentions body FW upgrades.

    The text there states explicitly: “Before checking the firmware version, be sure that the lens is removed and a memory card is inserted in the camera.” and “Be sure to remove the lens before updating the firmware”.

    I guess Fuji recommends this to avoid situations where a new lens – not supported and thus perhaps not recognized by the installed FW version – is present during an update.

    Beats me though how you could do a lens FW upgrade that way…

  • Antonio

    Thanks for the very informative text.
    Interesting the MF DOF solution, besides it would be more interesting for street to find it in a longer focal like the 35 mm for instance. Maybe Fuji can think about a new version…

  • Thomas

    Rico, thanks for another great article!

  • peevee

    The lens seems similar to Oly 12/2 and 17/1.8 in the “pull focus ring” construction. Is it metal? Are there stops in “pull” MF mode?

  • autoy

    Thanks Rico, great stuff. I would also have taken the chance to make a brief explanation of how classic DOF scales work. Maybe you could do this later along with hyperfocals etc. using the 14mm as an example? Cheers.

  • rasterdogs

    Thanks for clearly describing the complexity of the various focus modes. Your articles are well written, not simplistic, and a pleasure to read.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      My pleasure. After all, I have to practice for the big EXR article. Oh dear…

  • Peter

    Would make a nice combination with the 18-55mm for travel, both for the focal range and the fact that they can share filters and the hood (too bad the other primes don’t share the same filter size).

    • y3k

      23mm and 56mm will have 58mm filter size..

      • Peter

        Nice! I hope the 55-200mm will have 58mm filter size as well.

        • Fuji X-fan

          In the last pictures of the model mock-ups the 10-24 has a 72mm filter thread, the 55-200, 23, 27 and 56 have 58mm filters (along with the current 18-55 and 14).

  • http://pawelzakrzewski@wordpress.com Serafin

    Could you please measure how mnuch does it weight?

    • y3k

      I read somewhere, its 275gramm with a hood..

  • Chris

    You can always add a step up ring to the other primes to bring them up to 58mm.

    My X100 also has a 58mm filter adaptor so only one set of filters for everything,

    Shame the forthcoming wide angle zoom will spoil the party!

  • José Vte

    Thanks for this review it´s plenty of helpfull for me.
    I have some questions
    It´s easy to use this lens without any help like focus peaking in manual focus in the Xpro1?
    I´m evaluating the purchasing of this lens after reading this review but I´m not sure and I think that use the 14mm only in automatic focus it´s not good for me.
    It´s possible that fuji in the future through firmware allows us to focus with some help system like focus peaking in the xpro1?
    Thanks

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      The DOF is pretty large and well-suited for zone focusing. MF is also rather easy in the EVF, since the X-Pro1 / X-E1 do offer a kind of Focus Peaking with this lens. The shining and blinking outlines of in-focus subjects are very similar to the official Focus Peaking that has been introduced with the X100S and X20.

      • http://vannuil.com evannuil

        Great read and it kind of makes me want this lens now :-).

        A little question, I have the FUJIFILM X-Pro1 and the Fujinon XF 35mm F1.4 R, Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS and the Fujinon XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro. On all I have installed the latest firmware but I don’t see the Focus Peaking you are talking about. Is this only with the 14mm lens or did I miss a setting in the menu. I just tried it again with the 35mm, camera in manual focus and using the EVF with 3 times magnification.
        Thanks in advance

  • José Vte

    Thanks for your reply

  • http://www.fujix-forum.com/ Arjay

    Rico, you are stating that the in-camera DoF scale and the scale on the lens do not match, and that the in-camera circle of confusion (CoC) is about 0.005mm whereas the underlying CoC for the scale on the lens barrel is 0.01mm.

    Are you sure about that? Assuming the scale is referencing the conventional rule, then your value is off by 100%, and the value really should be 0.02mm.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      Yep, pretty sure according to mjh’s DOF calculator. I also think 0.01 is a good compromise for APS-C.

  • Reynolds

    Just arrived yesterday!! Fabulous!!!