I just need to get this out of the way.
If you've not visited Vietnam, do so as soon as you can. The people, the culture, the food, the traffic, the history behind the nation, and so much more are something every traveler or adventurer must experience. I am already planning to go back.
We were very fortunate with this trip, having been hired to shoot an incredible wedding in Saigon for Winnie and Elvin, which enabled us to extend our travels throughout Vietnam afterwards. Since the wedding was our main priority, a full kit was packed for our travels, including my prized Fuji family below, with the XF35 F2 being a late addition just before we left Australia. Despite having such a formidable kit, outside of the wedding, most of it didn't see much use*, as the new XF35 F2 completely dominated as a discrete and powerful combination with either the XT-1 or XT-10. I cannot praise the new XF35 F2 highly enough.
*For the purpose of addressing people's curiosity, I will tag photos with lenses that aren't the XF35 F2.
Fuji have really created something special with the XF35 F2.
For many, an F2 50mm equivalent lens doesn't sound particularly amazing, especially when you can get a basic F1.8 50mm for around $100 (disregarding Fuji's XF35 F1.4) with other brands. However, lenses like that feel cheap and simply don't have the performance and quality of this little beast from FujiFIlm.
The very immediate and obvious thing about the XF35 F2 is that it focuses so brilliantly fast and accurately that it puts all the small talkers who badmouth mirrorless cameras for having slow auto-focus right back in their wornout, chiropractor's best customer, DSLR ladened holes. This lens is basically silent, has little to no focusing feel to it and slays (gets the shot) in very tough lighting conditions. And how about that F2 maximum aperture? Well....
The big thing about the maximum aperture of F2 is that it is way more flexible and capable than I imagined and works in conditions I didn't expect it to handle. Throughout my time in Vietnam when shooting with it on my XT-1 or XT-10 (depending on weather) I often shot from the hip in a vertical/portrait position, shutter priority and wide focus, What really made this work was I could push the shutter button and be guaranteed focus in a very, very immediate manner as I walked past or towards my subject. This had two benefits. For one, the plane of my depth of field was basically unchanged so shots (most between F2 & F4) were on the mark, which gave me the highest keeper ratio I have ever had on any camera and lens combo. The other really profound thing was how the auto-focus of the lens performed in low-light or mixed lighting in streets and social settings - think loads of motorbikes, cars, lanterns and other sorts of mixed lighting. I was able to find something that caught my eye, frame it, shoot it, and capture it, without issue.
Wait? That doesn't sound very impressive.
Well, when I want THAT shot it's when I'm most stable at that point of grabbing focus and taking the shot. In clearer terms, I was able to shoot at shutter speeds much lower than I previously could because the absence of lag between me pressing the shutter button and the camera acquiring focus was minute (very, very short/small). If it was down to shooting action on the streets at night with the XF35 F2 and say, the XF56 1.2 I would take the XF35 purely for its speed, accuracy, and very, very nice ease of handling.
The image quality and characteristics of the XF35 F2 is something I'm still trying to figure out. It just has this certain 'pop' to it and the bokeh is just lovely, smooth and has a wonderful fall off between the in focus and out of focus areas. . If you're keen to see what I mean by 'pop' and just really deluxe detail, take a look at this link. That image was shot at F3.5 I have also found this to be my favourite lens when shooting at ISO6400, as it retains a lot of detail and separation between subjects across the image, and there is very little colour bleeding. Check the 100% crop below of the old dear from earlier on.
Another rather big point I want to discuss about this lens and camera combo when traveling in countries like Vietnam is discretion. Having only been shooting for ~2.5 years, this was my first time hitting a 'photographer's country' so I was somewhat concerned about how to approach photographing locals in a respectful manner, whilst also not drawing unwanted attention.
I am not lying when saying that over the course of 16 days of travel I could count on 1 hand when someone reacted or observed me using my camera, and I shot daily. What was very evident was the epidemic, if you will, of DSLR users EVERYWHERE and how very aware locals were of their presence. I'm sorry, but standing 30 meters back from a street vendor with a 70-200mm lens is not street style and you're leaving yourself open to potential trouble from criminal elements, not to mention missing out an opportunity to connect with a local or show them a little support.
To put it simply, if you want to get undisturbed, candid shots during your travels, this is definitely the kit to get, and would easily be my go to combo if someone forced me to take one camera and lens. Did I mention that I shot a significant part of the wedding we were hired to do on this lens? Yeah, it was that good, and I have used it for several more since with sensational results.
I know I talk about all my Fuji gear being amazing, however this is one really special bit of kit and it's left me hoping that Fuji will make more F2 versions of their lenses.
Perhaps a 56 F2?
Like many other folks who've posted about it before me, this lens has always been on either my XT-1 or XT-10 since its purchase. If you're on the fence about which XF35 to get or perhaps just adding another focal length to you kit, get this one!
If I could give a 'satisfaction or your money back' guarantee I would because I know you wouldn't part ways with it once you've tried it out.
Hit me up on Instagram or Facebook if you're keen to see more XF35 2 snaps.