Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 review

The Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 is a very unique lens in the Fuji X ecosystem. It was announced in 2013 and, as of today (April 2019), is the only small pancake lens from Fuji’s portfolio with no aperture ring.

While this may sound disappointing for hardcore Fuji lovers that praise the aperture ring in Fuji lenses – and I’m one of them, this is what made me jump ship to Fuji – one needs to understand Fuji launched this lens for one and only reason: to offer the ability to transform your Fuji X camera into a small and discrete point & shoot, a snapshot camera.

This is why this lens is unique in Fujifilm’s collection. This is not the lens you buy for the ultimate photo shooting experience and ultimate image quality. The Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 is a lens you buy for ultimate portability and practicability.

It has no aperture ring, it has a thin, narrow focusing ring, and everything else is as small and minimal as achievable.

Now let’s enjoy some porn before I move into the details.

I. Physical features

Focal length

With the 1.5x crop factor of the X-Trans sensor, the Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 gives you an equivalent 40.5mm focal length. So it’s something in-between the classic 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, respectively the “light wide” and “normal” field of views.

Wheather you like the 40.5mm focal length or not is a very personal thing and depends on your type of photography. I can tell you I’m not a big fan. I don’t like something that is “in-between”.

For this type of lightweight pancake lens that is supposed to turn you camera into some kind of snapshot point & shoot, I’d rather have a 35mm field of view. More flexible, in my opinion.

Design

This lens has a very slim profile and feels so light you will hardly believe it. It tips the scale at 78 grams. That’s like nothing. I bet the bundle of keys in your pocket weights more. So mount it to whatever Fuji X body and you will hardly feel it.

This lens is as minimal as practicable. From top to bottom it’s just 23mm thick. It has no aperture ring. The focusing ring is narrow, just enough to make it usable.

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Fuji offers no lens hood, probably because Fuji wants you to use this pancake lens as slim as they had designed it. A lens hood would probably double the size of the lens and ruin everything!

There is really not much to say aesthetic-wise: this lens is so minimal that there is nothing else to write about.

Build quality

The Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 lens body is built in aluminium and the mount coupler is in steel. Similar to all other Fuji lenses, it feels solid and well built. It’s nicely finished with a semi-gloss black paint.

To all intents, this is a prime lens and it’s built like a prime lens. The only thing that may have you fell differently is its weight. It’s so light that for a moment you may feel this is a cheap, kit lens. Only that it’s not.

Focusing ring

The focusing ring is narrow but usable. It’s smooth and is a fly-by-wire system, meaning that you are not physically moving the lens members when you turn the ring. You are actually turning a switch that sends electronic signals to the lens motors to move the glass. I seldom use it, because the auto focus is competent and works well.

Lack of Aperture ring

This lens has no aperture ring, and it sucks. Back in the days, one of the reasons I decided to jump ship to the Fuji X system was to get to experience their high quality gear and classic layout, which included the dedicated shutter speed dial and aperture ring in the lens.

A Fuji X lens with no aperture ring is non-sensical, as it lacks a main feature that differentiates this system and makes it stand out from others. It’s against the very Fuji X nature!

Yes, you can still easily change your aperture by turning a dial in the camera body and it works relatively well, just like in other systems.

But trust me: it is NOT the same. Specially when you realise you can accidentally change your aperture without being aware of. It can ruin your photos, unless you train yourself to check if the aperture is in the right place every time you take a photo. Not the best experience.

II. Image Quality & User Experience

The photos from Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 lack the richness I get when using other Fuji lenses. All I can say is that when I mount this lens to the X-Pro2 or the X-E3, the images I get look relatively pedestrian.

I want to stress the word relatively” from the statement above. Because, to be fair, the photos from the Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 are reasonably good. It’s just that, when compared to other super high-quality Fuji lenses like the XF 35mm f/1.4 that I reviewed here, this little pancake lens is nowhere near.

Nothing wrong here. You just need to accept that to achieve such small size, Fuji had to compromise other parameters, image quality included. Having said that, I guess most of the people will be satisfied with the results.

Sharpness

If we are talking 100% pixel peeping sharpness, then the Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 is not in the same league as other Fuji primes, namely the XF 27mm f/2 or the XF 35mm f/1.4, especially wide open. But frankly, how important is 100% size to you? Unless you are making large prints the size of a wall, probably the difference in sharpness is irrelevant to you.

So the Fuji XF 27mm f/2.8 is sharp enough for what you will need. At its maximum aperture at f/2.8, you will notice softness at the edges. Stop it down to f/4 and things become under control.

Colour

In a word: flat. There is no punch. When compared to my other Fuji lenses, I just can’t see the same richness in the colour tones and gradations.

On a cloudy day, the colours are normally subdued, dull and toneless. However, on bright sunny days the colours will sometimes show up super strong, with too much contrast and saturation.

This is the character of this lens. Perhaps – and I’m not joking – this lens is more adequate for black and white.

Bokeh

Nothing worth mentioning here concerning the bokeh quality (or lack of…). Well, it’s not distracting, but it’s not outstandingly pleasant to look at. The bokeh from this lens is just the blurred, out-of-focus part of the image, not much. No creamy-dreamy feel.

Auto focus

Auto focus in the Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 is fast, but not as fast as my Fuji XF 23mm f2 WR. But it’s fairly responsive and I never had any problems with it,  I don’t recall missing any shot because of the AF speed.

It’s fast enough from close to far distances, it’s accurate and it doesn’t hunt. So while not stellar, the AF of this lens will get out of your way and let you shoot with no concerns.

III. Final thoughts

If you had read everything above and came all the way to this point, you will be right to think that I’m not too passionate about this lens, which is a fact. The reason being that, while I like small and light camera gear and the comfort of portability, ultimately the image quality is what matters.

The Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 is not a lens you buy for the ultimate image quality. This is a lens for ultimate portability with acceptable image quality. To achieve its final petite form, Fuji engineers had to compromise on some important features.

The lack of an aperture ring does matter and shall not be ignored. I truly enjoy shooting with my Fuji X-E3 and all other Fuji X bodies I owned before, one of the main reasons being the highly intuitive aperture rings their lenses provide.

With the Fujifilm XF 27mm f/2.8 though, there is no aperture ring and you are limited to controlling your aperture through a dial in the camera body. And it sucks.

Then there is the so-so, average image quality. The image quality is acceptable, but when you have the luxury of other Fuji primes in your collection, namely the stellar XF 35mm f/1.4, nothing really justifies using the XF 27mm f/2.8.

Size would be the only justification. But then the issue here is that, while this lens is small, other available Fuji primes with a similar focal length are relatively small and light as well.

You have the XF 35mm f/1.4 that I had referred to several times here, or the smaller XF 35mm f/2 and XF 23mm f/2. All these prime lenses are superb, much better than the XF 27mm f/2.8 in every front, while not being that much larger or heavier.

In other words, by nature the Fuji X system is already light and portable with those prime lenses. Therefore, the question is: do you really need to be that light and use the XF 27mm f/2.8, to the point of compromising image quality and giving up the aperture ring?

Certainly not, in my case. Therefore, while being a good lens, my XF 27mm f/2.8 spends most of its time locked in the drybox.

 

 

 

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One comment

  1. Strange how you say this pancake lens isn’t sharp when optical limits have produced MTF charts which show that it’s one of the sharpest of all Fujinon lenses! I do agree with you about the colours being subdued though. I normally use Astia but with this lens I switch to Velvia

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