Top positive review
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Sharp, capable, compact, prime lens
on November 21, 2013
It took me a while to learn how to shoot with the Fuji 27mm lens on the X-M1 camera, especially in low light, after being "spoiled" by the fantastic in-body image stabilization (IBIS) on my Olympus OM-D EM5 camera. With the OM-D and 17mm F2.8 pancake, I can manage a sharp handheld shot at 1/4 second exposure, sometimes even as low as 1/2 second. Due to the lack of optical image stabilization on Fuji prime lenses, I typically need a minimum of 1/30 second exposure on my X-M1 and 27mm lens to get an image of similar sharpness.
Once I got the hang of using the Fuji 27mm lens on my X-M1 (with Auto ISO set at 200-6400 and 1/60 minimum shutter), I have become pretty impressed with the quality of images this lens is able to produce. Given that this is a pancake lens, it is not intended for professional work. Yet it seems to do many things remarkably well, from casual portraiture, to street photography, to landscapes.
The build quality and feel of this lens is good, on par with the Olympus 17mm F2.8 pancake. The fact that the Fuji 27mm lens lacks an aperture dial does not bother me as it apparently does to some Fuji X veterans.
While I generally prefer a slightly wider field of view, ideally 35mm equivalent, the 41mm equivalent field of view of the Fuji 27mm lens is still reasonably wide enough for street photography. It can also double as a "normal" lens, since it is not too far off from the 50mm field of view. And I now am appreciating the usefulness of this lens.
This lens is quite sharp at F2.8 in the center, with only slight corner softness. It is certainly sharp enough for portraits, where corner softness should not matter as much. The sweet spot seems to be between F5.6 and F8, where it is tack sharp in the center and has much improved corner sharpness (although still not on par with my Panasonic-Leica 25mm lens). But this works great for daytime street and landscape photography, because the aperture can be set at F5.6 and you are good to go.
The contrast on the Fuji 27mm lens is slightly better than on my Olympus 17mm pancake, and it also does not suffer from the chromatic aberration of the Olympus. Skin tones and micro contrast is quite good, about as good as that on the Olympus 17mm pancake, but not nearly at the same level of my Panasonic-Leica 25mm lens.
Lens flare on the Fuji 27mm is better controlled than on my Olympus 17mm pancake.
Bokeh (a subjective thing) on this lens is pretty decent, but slightly edged out by both my Olympus 17mm pancake and Panasonic Leica 25mm in terms of "dreaminess", er, "creaminess" that bokeh aficionados rant about. (NOTE: I don't have any other Fuji prime lenses to compare bokeh with).
On the downside, the minimum focus distance is about 14", which makes the lens unusable for macro work.
The lens is also noisier and slightly slower to focus than my Olympus 17mm pancake, especially in low light.
For night street photography, I still prefer taking my Olympus OM-D with either the 17mm F2.8 or the 25mm F1.4, due to the OM-D's IBIS. (And this is no fault of the Fuji 27mm lens itself, which is a good match for the Olympus 17mm F2.8 in terms of image quality). For portraiture, I prefer my PL 25mm. For "one size fits all" solution, though, the Fuji 27mm and the X-M1 seems to be more my preferred choice because I can count on the generally excellent image quality this combination can deliver.
In summary I think this lens achieves what it has been designed to do, to be a sharp, capable, "go anywhere", compact prime lens with excellent image quality. The Fuji 27mm lens with the X-M1 camera is an excellent compact package for family, landscape and street photography.
Please see my comment in this review for a link to my recent pictures taken with this lens, mostly under less than ideal lighting conditions.