It is interesting as a photographer of any genre that you will get advice or direction as to what a specific lens focal length is used for. Plenty of commentators on social media, blogs and YouTube will be very specific about this kind of thing and will even say things like ‘you should never use this lens for that kind of photography. Or I sometimes see newer photographers ask what lens they should use to shoot this or shoot that. I say whatever you have got. Try it and learn how it works for you when shooting this or shooting that! Yes there are some conventions or rules about photography that can be used as a guide – and should only be used as a guide.
Yes a 56mm or 90mm (84mm or 135mm full frame equivalent) focal distance is ideal for portrait photography. But why not a 23mm or even a 16mm? Yes the distortion changes and the compression of the image is different. But if it produces a great image and you are happy with the process and the outcome, then well done you. I have a mate who is doing professional corporate portraits with an 18-55mm kit lens! And his images look incredible.
Going ultra wide with a focal length in street photography is one of those subjects that can raise debate. Traditionally a 23mm or 35mm focal length (35mm or 50mm in full frame) are what a lot of the more serious commentators say should be used for street. But I love trying various lenses in different situations and scenarios. And the 18mm that the Fujfilm X70 offers is fantastic. So why not a 14mm in street photography? There is also the concern that a wide lens in street photography pushes your subject too far away and so you have to get close to capture the moment. Yes. Yes you do. And that is a fantastic challenge.
I already have a wide lens and it is a cracker! The Fujifilm XF16mmF1.4 lens is a much prized addition to many a Fujifilm shooters kit. It produces exceptional images, is weather sealed and has a minimal focal distance of only 15cm. I have shot bees in flight like a macro lens with this beauty. But this is one of the bigger and heavier of prime lenses that Fujifilm make. Still light compared to many other brands. I took it on both of my trips to Japan. But it weighs 375 grams and is approximate 73mm by 73mm and has a 67mm filter thread. With an aperture of F1.4 through to F16 it delivers amazing depth of field and creamy bokeh. But I wanted something lighter and perhaps even wider than this lens to take away to Tokyo in a few weeks.
I present to you the Fujifilm XF14mmF2.8 lens, which I picked up a couple of weeks ago. This is the widest prime in the whole Fujifilm Fujinon X-System lens line-up. In comparison it only weighs 235 grams and is 65mm by 58.4mm with a 58mm filter thread. It is closer in size to the new F2 lenses released recently. The aperture of this lens is F2.8 and goes all the way to F22. Whilst it is not weather sealed it is smaller and lighter than the XF16mmF1.4 and that is important when you are carrying a bag full of lenses and camera bodies. Or for even just holding the camera in your hand for a long period of time.
I have played with this lens now for a few weeks and put it through its paces as a street photography lens. When combined with a body like the Fujifilm X-T2 (which is what I shot all of these images with) it is a lightweight combination. The Auto Focus is sharp and fairly fast. At F2.8 I am able to get decent subject separation and a nice creamy background and depth of field. Having such a wide or ultra wide lens allows for more of the surrounds to be drawn into the image and set some real context to the story being told.
The build quality is exceptional with a metal body and metal mount base. The focus ring moves smoothly and the aperture ring has a very responsive glide also. It operates silently too. To shift from Auto Focus to Manual Focus, this lens had a neat trick. By simply pulling the focus ring down in a satisfying clicking action, the lens jumps to Manual Focus. This motion also reveals a manual focus distance scale. This feature is also present on a number of other Fujifilm primes.
So is this a suitable lens for street photography? Of course it is. Will I be taking this lens away with me when I travel to Tokyo in August? Of course I will. This lens is a great addition to any travel kit or street kit and is quite a versatile piece of glass. Street, architecture, landscape or whatever your desire to do with it. Life is full of crazy rules so why let more rules inhibit your photography. Keep shooting!