Whether it's a kit zoom lens or a prime lens, the quality of each release appears to be incremental with each lens seemingly getting better with reference to IQ and sharpness.
Having shot with both zooms and primes over a number of years, I'm very much a prime lens shooter. I prefer the simplicity a prime lens option gives, and the inherent increased quality you get from shooting prime.
However, this line does appear to be getting more blurred with the release of Fuji's 16-55mm & 50-140mm f/2.8 fixed aperture zooms. I've not had the pleasure of shooting with either as yet, but there's a healthy school of thought to suggest simply these two lenses could remove the need for any other prime lens such is their outstanding quality. When he opportunity presents itself to try them I'll certainly have something to say about them that's for sure - so if you have them and want to lend them to me, don't be shy!
In the meantime I'm talking prime lenses and to start with 4 or 5 that make up most people's kit bag. The 18mm f/2, 23mm f/1.4, 35 f/1.4, 56 f/1.2 and the 60mm f/2.4.
Out of those 5 listed lenses the two stellar performers are the 23mm and 56mm. In my experience I find both to provide equally stunning results, and in some ways if I were to pick just one the 23mm would possibly just shade it. It's an incredibly versatile lens allowing you to play with the composition of your image, being just wide enough to get what you need in.
It's also pin sharp, and the focus clutch which Fuji strangely chose to build into this lens and the 14mm works really well, I guess this is a feature of their lens they will spread over more new lenses.
I think the 56mm has been hugely well documented as THE lens to own in the Fuji prime set up, and the lens most most Fuji camera owners seem to aspire too and to some extent that's right.
Personally I think the release of the APD version kind of muddied the 56mm waters a little and confused people and in almost every, normal occurrence I can't imagine why you'd buy the APD version. It's not 'that' much better. The 56mm is a beast though, with razor sharp handling as you'd imagine at f/1.2.
A 56mm Caveat - Surely Not!
But here's the thing. Is it worth the significant extra over the much maligned 60mm f/2.4? Personally, I really like the 60mm and in good light I think it holds its own against the 56mm. The IQ is fantastic and it offers the advantage of macro ability too.
The real advantage of the 56mm however comes when you want to shoot in lower light. The focus acquisition is much faster than the 60mm and being able to shoot wide open at f/1.2 opens up a whole new world.
So that leaves us left with two of the original Fuji trinity to discuss, the 18mm f/2 and the 35mm f1.4.
I bought an 18mm as I really just didn't get on with the 18-55mm kit lens. It's a battered old copy, with the paint flaking off the lens hood, the aperture ring is very slightly loose. But it cost me well under £200, and it's sharp. It's a great little lens for width, but not ultra wide. It's small, discreet and the focus speed on both the X-Pro1 and XT-1 is as quick as anything else in the bag. You can do 'social documentary' with it, you could do 'street' with it, it'll do landscape.
It's a great little workhorse lens and one I'd certainly recommend. Of course, it's been overtaken by the 14mm f/2.8 and the newly released 16mm f/1.4, but as a cheap sharp 'around town' lens the 18mm takes some beating.
Finally for this round up, the f/1.4 35mm. A Fuji icon in the making if ever there was one. This lens needs no real introduction, it's a stunningly good lens, sharp throughout. Quirky in design with its rectangular lens hood, the 35mm is a fantastic all rounder capable of shooting just about everything.
So, the house is burning down and you have time to save just one lens, what's it to be? Well, it's a tough choice as they're all stunningly good lenses, I'm not sure any of the Fuji primes are a bad choice - but given only one I'd probably reach for the 23mm f/1.4. As outlined previously such is its versatility, it's capable of doing the lot… which makes me wonder if I should just sell the lot and buy an X100T!