A Classic View

Street specialist, Jay Ybarra, tried out the new XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR around his hometown of Austin, Texas. Here’s why he loved it…

As a street and portrait specialist, it’s no surprise that Jay Ybarra is thrilled with the new XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR. Giving a moderately wide-angle framing that’s still close to a standard view, the focal length is a sweet spot for candid work and photographers who love to give their subjects context. It can easily be turned to landscapes and city scenes, too. “All those benefits meant the original XF23mmF1.4 R pretty much lived on my X Series cameras,” he laughs. “I’ve also worked with X100V for a long time, which has a fixed 23mm lens, so it wasn’t surprising that I’d take to the new lens. But what really stood out was how it’s improved.”

The XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR’s field of view lets photographers tackle a wide range of subjects, but crucially, in a natural way. “It’s a very human perspective,” says Jay. “It basically creates images that offer a real view of the world. Perspective is less compressed or exaggerated compared to telephoto or ultra-wide views, and it’s something that lends the viewer your own eyes. It’s like they’re in my shoes, standing on the street, having the same conversation.”

Photo 2021 © Jay Ybarra | FUJIFILM X-Pro3 camera and XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F1.4, ISO 1250

If a lens is truly capable of documenting a wide range of subjects, it also needs to adapt to any light. “XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR is certainly built for all sorts of situations,” says Jay. “One of the most obvious is low-light photography. Trying out the lens, I worked in several very dim interiors, like recording studios; at F1.4 it can make a dark space look well lit. But it’s not limited to a single use. It worked in bright light, even framing right into the sun – staying ultra-sharp and free of flare, whether wide open or stopped right down.”

Of course, the F1.4 maximum aperture allows great subject separation, too, which is something Jay relies on for street portraits. “XF23mmF1.4’s R LM WR’s view gives subject and background a more equal relationship, meaning pictures have greater context,” he explains. “But while I spend a lot of time looking for great environments, and often pick people based on the places they work, create or hang out, I don’t want backdrop or foreground elements to overwhelm. The combination of working at F1.4 with the wider view is just right, allowing them to stand out, but  keeping them tied to their environment. And the way the focus falls off into smooth bokeh is excellent.”

  • Young woman with orange hair behind outdoor DJ booth
  • Young musician in white shirt and hat sitting in music studio

Photos 2021 © Jay Ybarra | FUJIFILM X-Pro3 camera and XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/1000 sec at F1.4, ISO 400 | FUJIFILM X-Pro3 camera and XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/100 sec at F1.4, ISO 1250

Using XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR’s maximum aperture can give a very shallow depth-of-field, and with subject and camera in motion on a typical street session, fast and precise AF is important. But thanks to its linear motor, this lens can focus quickly, accurately, and silently. “Along with my X-Pro3’s Eye Detection AF, I felt able to work faster and more confidently,” says Jay. “The benefit isn’t just critical sharpness. If I’m worrying less about AF, I can keep my connection on the subject. The new lens focuses down to 19cm – close enough to capture little details in locations, or clothing and jewelry to add texture to portrait sessions.”

Another enjoyable aspect for Jay was the sharpness of the new lens, especially wide open. “A lot of the time, photographers feel the need to stop down from the maximum to deliver the sharpness they want. But that’s not the case with XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR, so I could use it with more freedom. It’s definitely a lot sharper at F1.4, and at smaller apertures, too. The extra resolving power also future-proofs it for use with higher resolution sensors in the future.”

Photo 2021 © Jay Ybarra | FUJIFILM X-Pro3 camera and XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/1000 sec at F1.4, ISO 200

Street and portrait photographers like Jay rely on traveling light, and XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR has them covered. “I don’t want a big, heavy lens that’s going to inhibit movement and attract attention,” he explains. “The new model felt well balanced on my X-Pro3, but still has a metal construction, while the milled aluminium hood gives a durable feel.” As a WR lens, it’s also weather-resistant, sealed against the elements around the mount, front element, focus, and aperture rings. “That’s a very welcome addition,” says Jay. “When I’m outdoors, I don’t want to stop working because the location is dusty or rain exposed. That also feeds into my need for context and realism, because I don’t want to fake anything!”

  • Young woman standing behind table full of her paintings at outdoor market
  • Young woman with orange hair behind outdoor DJ booth with man beside her

Photos 2021 © Jay Ybarra | FUJIFILM X-Pro3 camera and XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/1000 sec at F1.4, ISO 400 | FUJIFILM X-Pro3 camera and XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR, 1/400 sec at F1.4, ISO 400

Overall, Jay had high praise for the XF23mmF1.4 R LM WR. “It was pretty much everything I was asking for. It replicates the way I see, and can do it from the brightest days, to the darkest interiors. That’s what a great street or documentary lens should do. Zooming into images, you can see that everything is clearer than the older lens,” he concludes. “It’s quicker in focusing, and able to give me beautifully clean background blur that makes details pop. With its size and weather-sealed build, it’s slotted in perfectly with the way I work. I think it’s going to be seen as one of the classic documentary lenses.”