The XF23 F1.4 and the XF23 F2: Part Two

This is a three part series. This is Part Two. Click for Part One. Click for Part Three.

Last week (click here if you missed it) I showed you how both XF23s and gave you a sense of just how much larger the 1.4 lens was.

I also showed you just how much of a penalty there was to pay for that size in terms of OVF blockage

I ended last week’s article with the reader questions I’d received:

1. Are they both the same focal length, because some say they aren’t?
2.  Is the F2 lens softer?
3. Is there any colour/contrast/rendering differences between them?

We dealt with question one pretty effortlessly – the XF23F2 has a wider field of view than the XF23F1.4

You can see the image I used to demonstrate this below (same one as last week)

XF23F1.4 on the left

However, questions two and three are a bit more subjective and harder to answer…

…But I’ll try my best   🙂

But before we begin, please note that other than my default SilkyPix import profile (Astia, a tiny bit of capture sharpening, zero NR) all of these images have had zero editing, and are all from RAW

The other thing to note, is that lenses (indeed many things) are manufactured within tolerance. So just because my XF23 exhibits xyz it doesn’t mean they all do. Even if a lens tester were to get one hundred samples of each of the lenses s/he wished to test and used these samples to form an accurate data pool, it wouldn’t necessarily follow that the single sample you purchased would match their overall result.

So if you write in saying my lens doesn’t behave like that I’ll simply reiterate what I’ve written above  🙂

That said, overall trends in colour and contrast should be consistent

We’ll look at the second question; is the F2 lens softer but before that, let’s touch on the third – are there any colour/contrast/rendering differences between them?

In the above shot, we can see there’s a tangible difference in colour rendering. To my eye – the greens of the F2 are brighter and the blues of the F1.4 MIGHT have a touch more cyan in them.

I would say that the F2 has a little more oomph or bite straight ‘out of the box’ – or at the very least it has more black in it

OK, now let’s look at fine details

XF23F1.4 on the left – both shot at F5.6

Fine detail rendering. I very much doubt my website is the best place for this… But here at 200% view* I find the F1.4 slightly superior. There’s a little more fine detail, and a little less smearing. If you look at the tiny hollow on the trunk of the tree, it looks like a black spot on your screen on the F2, but looks like part of the tree on F1.4

(*Yes, yes – I know – I don’t really pixel peep either but many do, and someone’s bound to ask me about it)

XF23F2 on the left – both shot at F5.6

Here at a closer focusing distance, it’s (to my eye) easier to see that the F1.4 (shot at F5.6) renders more detail

But working outside can be a bit of a lottery, the wind can wobble things and the sun can go behind a cloud

Let’s move things in doors

(Minnie Mouse fancied a break from her usual test duties, so it was time for Elsa to step up to the plate)

XF23F1.4 @F2


XF23 F2 @F2

Again we see the really very noticeable differences in focal length!

I PERSONALLY feel the differences are sufficiently vast to influence our perception of sharpness and DOF… Look how much more of Nigel Slater’s book is in focus on the F2 (top right hand corner)

The 100% crops:

XF23 F2 Crop

XF23 F1.4 @F2 Crop

There’s not a lot in it in my view… More of the F2 lens is in focus, but the F1.4 is perhaps a little sharper

Now that we’ve looked up close, let’s take a more holistic approach and view the entire frame, as we further examine the colour/contrast/rendering differences between them

The shots below were all shot with the same exposure settings, but with the X-Pro1 this time (previously it was the X-Pro2), hence the colour change!

XF23 F1.4 @F2 Same Exposure

XF23 F2 @F2 Same Exposure

Here we see that the F2 is significantly darker than the F1.4 (remember: same exposure settings)

This darker exposure affects our perception of contrast and colour.

However I think the F1.4 has a more…. and this is all highly subjective… I’m searching for a word…. let’s go with sophisticated rendering, there’s more pop to the flowers, the tonal changes are smother. The slightly longer F1.4 gives us more subject isolation too

And just for fun* here’s the same scene shot at F1.4 so you can compare it with the F2 above and see just how more of a shallow DOF F1.4 actually gives you – not surprisingly on a 23mm optic – not a great deal, but the flowers definitely jump of the screen a little more

(*I had to drop -1EV in post, the X-Pro1 with its max. 1/4000 shutter can’t do F1.4 on the 23 in this light  🙂  normally I’d use an ND filter, but not for this testing)

XF23 F1.4 @ F1.4 (exposure corrected in post)

We’ll continue taking a look at colour / contrast / rendering differences next time and I’ll sum up each lens and give an overall personal conclusion


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