What is the point of the 35mm f2? We already have the 35mm f1.4, one of the three original XF lenses that were released alongside the X-Pro1. Not only that, the 1.4 version is one of the best 50mm equivalent lenses produced. Ever! It's beautifully smooth but super sharp picture quality is truly stunning and even after the long list of first class lenses released over the last few years, the 35mm f1.4 is still one of my favourite Fuji lenses.
So what about the new 35mm f2 with it's tapered front end? Well it's not quite as good looking or bright as it's older brother, but this scrawny lad is quicker & less shifty. Lenses that taper in at the front end always look a little strange to me and I actually think this one looks better in silver (more like an old Leica lens). Don't get me wrong, it's a cool lens and feels a lot smaller than the f1.4 version. Where that tapper comes in handy is with the optical viewfinder of the X-Pr1 (and hopefully it's successor). If you press your eye right up to the viewfinder, you can barley see the lens just at the corner, but it's nowhere near the frame lines. The supplied plastic lens hood is very small and there's even an optional one that is more like the X100 hood.
Performance wise this new 35/2 is way ahead of the older lens! Focusing is way quicker, smother and quieter. Focusing is also internal, so no front end popping in and out like your Granny doing the Hokey Cokie. Aperture ring is tight and is the way all Fuji lenses should be. In fact, if you shut your eyes you would swear you're cracking a safe. The focus ring is also tight and smooth and has just the right amount of travel IMO. It's a shame that the focus ring is continuous and doesn't stop at either end like the 16mm or 23mm does. It's also a real shame that it doesn't have the push/pull clutch focus ring like the 14, 16 and 23mm lenses have. Oh and as this is a great lens for street photography, a hyper focal distance guide at the front end of the lens would have been great. I would much rather the front of the lens were bigger if it meant we had those features of the wide angle lenses.
So if I already own a 35mm f1.4, why would I buy the slightly slower f2? I have a few reasons. The first is that I think this will be a fantastic lens for street photography. The Aperture ring is tight enough that I can set it and be fairly sure it won't be knocked off. The focus ring is really smooth when using manual focus. Speed wise, I very rarely shoot street wide open, so there won't be a problem with this being an f2. The tapered front end is also even less threatening to people on the street.
I tend to have one of two bags with me at all times. I have my small every day walking around and street photography bag and I have my working bag with two X-T1's and five or six lenses (I'll do a post on what's in each bag in the coming weeks). I like to have a 35mm lens in my walk around bag, but I constantly forget to put it in my working bag and only realise when I reach in there for it, and usually when I really need that focal length. No room to back up for the 56mm, so I end up shooting a portrait with the 23mm. Not ideal! But now I can keep a 35mm in each bag. Nice!
So if you don't already own the f1.4 version, which 35mm should you buy? It's quite an easy answer really. If you don't need that extra stop of the f1.4 then the f2 is the one to buy. Apart from losing that one extra stop of light, the new 35mm f2 has everything going for it and that's coming from a guy that absolutely loves the original 35mm f1.4.