Shooting wide open with the Fuji 1.4/23 mm

June 21, 2014

Recently, our A/C was replaced by a newer, more energy efficient system. All the work was carried out by two A/C technicians and was finished flawlessly within a day. I wanted to try out my new Fuji 1.4/23 mm lens and asked whether I could take a few pictures. Shooting in the dark basement demanded a bright lens and shooting outside required shallow depth of field. Both of which I hoped to get from that lens. I got approval and took a few pictures over the course of the day. Not enough for a full story, but certainly sufficient to get some first impressions from the lens. 

If you're photographing with a Micro Four Third System, as I have done for years, you are working with a reliable, fast and mature system that is up to all kinds of real-world assignments. The kind of system that Olympus and Panasonic have managed to built around this relatively small sensor is nothing short of amazing. 

One thing that you don't get, though, is shallow depth of field with wide-angle lenses. At least not with "normal" autofocus lenses at "normal" focusing distances (we're not talking macro photography here). One of the few possibilities of doing the trick (somehow) is the 0.95/17 mm Voigtlaender with it's extraordinary large maximum aperture. But it's somewhat bulky, is manually focused and doesn't have any electrical connections to the camera body. 

For many years, I haven't missed shallow depth of field at the wide end side that much. I have gotten it with long lenses, which was pretty much all I needed most of the time. But as I got more interested in environmental portraits and picturing people at work, lack of control over depth of field  slowly occurred to me as a shortcoming of the wide angle side of the system. Why neither Olympus nor Panasonic has created something like a 1.2/17 mm, which would have helped a lot, remains somewhat miraculous to me. Such a lens could easily be built and would remain small and affordable enough. Panasonic made a promising step with its recently announced 1.2/42.5 mm lens, but this is not a wide angle lens. Olympus, are you listening?

Depth of field depends on mainly three parameters, namely the focal length, the aperture and the subject distance. For any given distance and viewing angle, the larger the aperture or the longer the focal length, the shallower the depth of field. Either or both can be increased to get a smaller range of acceptable sharpness in front of and behind the focal plane. 

Getting a longer focal length for a particular angle of view means increasing the sensor size. Therefore, the Fuji 1.4/23 mm, which compares in field of view to the Olympus 1.8/17 mm I have used in similar situations, gives me both. The depth of field at a distance of one meter is 10 cm for the Fuji, vs. 17 cm for the Olympus. If your subject is two meters away, it's 39 cm vs. 60 cm. The Fuji, by the way, has approximately the same depth of field as a 2.0/35 mm on a full frame camera.

Judge yourself, I actually like the results. Thanks a lot to Rujer and Hungh for letting me take pictures and for giving me the permission to show them on my blog.