If you are thinking of buying the Fujifilm 23mm f1.4 then hold on a moment, there’s a new kid on the block and he’s not pulling his punches!! The Viltrox 23mm f1.4 is pretty much a no brainer when searching for the ideal 35mm equivelent street lens. With a full frame equivelent focal length of 35mm the Viltrox 23mm has to be one of the best bang for the buck prime lenses on the planet and an ideal companion lens for anyone shooting candid, street or documentary. Sure the Fuji version might be better optimised for use on Fuji equipment but I doub’t you’ll notice any difference whatsoever let alone anything significant. It’s an amazing lens at a steal of a price. I think mine cost me £230 here in the UK.
The Viltrox 23mm renders colour extraordinarily well, has very limited distortion and weighs practically nothing. Supplied with a lightweight metal hood, the Viltrox 23mm oozes class. It looks great, works great and feels great. It there is one tiny flaw it is that is has no detent on the aperture ring (distinct click) so you may inadvertantly open or close the aperture in use. Personally, I prefer a detent click but for £500 less that Fuji version, I’m not going to get too precious about that.
When I’m shooting lazy street I simply set the ISO to 800, aperture to f4 or f5.6, put the Fuji x-t1 on auto and start snapping. The autofocus is super quick so you simply can’t miss any shots with that setup. Why such a high ISO? It’s because I like to shoot SOOC and with the ISO set to 800 and dynamic range set to 400, the shots I get have maximum dynamic range. The photos above are from a while back when I had just bought the Fuji x-t1 so I think I was shooting classic chrome simulations then. Nowadays, I tend to use ProNeg Hi as the base film with DR400, ISO800 and EV +1/3 – 2/3rd but that very much depends on the light I’m dealing with. The images below are from today and these were taken at the same basic settings as above but with EV 0. I was using ProNeg Hi with a custom white balance based on the ambient light and a grey card. I set the WB at the beginning of every shoot as well as if the light changes throughout the shoot. If I was taking these images again now, I would use EV +1/3 just to lift the expsore a little plus I would probably softent the shadows. I suspect with this recipe I am using Shadows +2 whereas I think for this lens, +1 would be better. Something to think about for next time.
I personally don’t chase pixel perfection in my images. I’m a child of the 60’s so my earliest photographic moments were with a Pentax KM with manual everything. Nowadays, I prefer my images to look look like they were taken on an old SLR rather than a super sophisticated digital camera. If I wanted that I’d buy a Sony.
The Viltrox 23mm f1.4 is something every Fuji shooter should have in their camera bag, whether you’re into landscape, candid or documentary. I personally wouldn’t use it for portraiture as I prefer a nifty 50mm or 85mm lens but it renders colours accurately so no reason why you couldn’t, especially for candid / street portraiture. The Viltrox coupled to the Fuji x-t1 is also something else. The x-t1 can’t compete with it’s younger sibblings e.g. the x-t3, x-t4, x100v or x-pro3 but my gosh, what a sweet camera to have with you when you’re out walking the streets. It compares nicely to my other favourite street camera, the Lumix GX-85 which when coupled to the 12-60mm is a dream boat of a date. These two cameras are simply amazing for street work but either will equally excell at portraiture or landscape given the right lens combo.