Almost two years ago I pulled the trigger on an X-E2 with the XF18-55mm F2.8-4 kit, and a XF27mm F2.8. Interestingly, I have never found a good review of the XF27mm lens, not then, not now.
I decided to deliver some justice, and review this unsung gem of the Fujifilm lineup.
Like all other Fujifilm lenses, the XF27mm is built around a specific use and goal. It’s pretty obvious that in this case the goal is a lightweight and compact lens that works as a multipurpose “always on” lens.
The design makes some compromises: no aperture ring in favor of a smaller size, a not so fast F2.8 aperture in favor of less glass, and external focusing in favor of faster and cheaper focus.
It’s worth saying that the build quality of this lens is perfectly fine. It’s a single piece of anodized aluminum, and it feels solid. Except for it being lightweight, there’s no major difference in quality. You can’t “squeeze” the lens, or make it rattle.
The compact size also means that this lens with an X-E2 gets you a functioning APS-C camera for 446 grams (353 + 93). That’s what the X-Pro2 and X-T2 bodies weigh!
A contextual field of view
Most of my experience before this lens was with 35mm or 85mm equivalents. If you browse forums and opinion pieces, the reverence for 35mm and 50mm leaves little room for any focal length in between. Being that this is a 41mm equivalent lens, you have to wonder where does it fall.
After two years with this lens I can say that there’s a lot of uses for this focal length. It’s slightly more precise than a 35mm, but not as narrow as a 50mm. I have found it to be a great lens for city landscapes, group shots, and environmental portraits.
Perspective distortion looks very natural, to my eyes. It doesn’t flatten the elements as much as longer lenses. Although I have noticed that in some situations you can “pull” subjects a bit forward, specially noses if you are too close. Even if this doesn’t look that weird or unnatural, I prefer my XF18-55 at 55mm if I ever need to do a more classic portrait.
That said, environmental/contextual portraits work great. Because it keeps perspective very natural, you can include a lot of context without worrying about that distorted look that some times appears around the borders of the frame in wider lenses.
Besides good optical quality, and an utilitarian design, the biggest impact I have seen this lens have is on how people react to the camera. It definitely helps people relax and not take the camera as seriously, even considering that Fuji X cameras are already very friendly.
Of course, this lens fits best in an X-E body, bonus points if you have it in a matching color. The silver finish matches the one in my X-E2 body, it easily passes as an old film camera.
This ability to point your camera around without people paying much attention is a very welcomed effect. People just assume you are some kind of aspiring hipster artist and don’t mind you much.
Smaller, but not worse
Because of how little glass is involved, focusing is super fast. It’s a couple steps behind the speed of the linear motor in the XF18-55, but it’s faster than the XF35mm F1.4. The motor can be heard when focusing, but it’s not loud and it’s a very short and quick movement.
Speaking of focus movement, this lens focuses externally but I haven’t found it to be a problem even when I have used this lens in desert dunes, beaches, and streets without it ever “breathing in” dust or sand. That said, I have always used an UV filter to avoid dust, fingerprints, and liquids, from reaching the front element.
The small size also helps when hand holding a slow shutter speed. Mostly because the camera becomes very compact, so there’s no front weight throwing off your balance. You can keep it steadier than a longer lens like the XF18-55, or the XF23mm or Xf56mm.
By the way, Fuji does not sell a hood for this, and it has no bayonet mount, so you have to buy a screw in one, or just ignore it. I haven’t noticed any flare problems, or lack of contrast compared to my other Fuji gear, so I just ignore it.
A conflicting spot in my bag
This lens was my default go-to lens for everyday activities, but its place has been stolen by the XF35mm F1.4 in the past few months.
The two extra stops of light and how easy it isolates subjects have won me over for the time being. Not being that much bigger or heavier, I’m happy to take it with me. Anecdotally, most of my shooting this year has been in low light, where the extra aperture has been essential.
However the XF27mm still has a spot on my bag because of its portability, stealth, and speed. The XF35 is still bigger, much noisier, slower, and more noticeable. In my kit, they complement each other in my shooting.
Would I buy the XF27mm instead of the XF35mm today? Yes, but only if I had the extra money. I got this lens because at the time (2014) the XF35mm was $600, and the XF27mm was almost half at $350. Nowadays though there are a couple more options so I would think about it more carefully.
The XF27mm focuses fast, captures nice colors, has good contrast and renders images very nicely. On top of that it makes for a very compact camera when paired with an X-E2. I’m very happy that I have it in my bag.
That said, as much as I love this little lens, if I was buying my X-E2 today I would consider the XF35mm F2 lens, or the XF35mm F1.4 if on sale. The extra stop of light (or stops for the F1.4), and very similar price, are strong arguments.
If you are on a budget and looking to make the most of your cash, I would suggest going for either the (upcoming) XF23mm F2 or the XF35mm F2. The extra stop of light will come in handy, and will open you more shooting opportunities.
But if budget is not a problem, and you want to make your camera smaller and lighter so you can go everywhere with it, get this lens and enjoy it. I surely enjoy mine 🙂.