A big part of the Fuji X system’s success is its fantastic line of Fujinon lenses. In a short time, Fujifilm has created an extensive group of lenses. The XF line covers a wide variety of focal lengths, and started off with some fantastic prime lenses. Since then, they’ve improved their lenses’ AF capability with each generation, and added some phenomenal pro-quality zooms. Among my favourite Fujinon XF lenses are their XF 18mm, 10-24mm and 23mm.
In the middle of 2013, Zeiss introduced its Touit lenses for the Fuji X mount. These lenses were designed in close collaboration with Fujifilm, and have full AF and inter-communication with the Fuji X camera bodies.
The issued focal lengths were seemingly redundant. The Zeiss Touit 32mm f1.8 was slower (f stop wise) and virtually the same focal length as Fuji’s acclaimed XF 35mm f1.4. And while there is a noticeable field of view difference between the Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 versus the Fujinon XF 14mm f2.8, the focal lengths were still close enough to make a direct comparison inevitable. A more recent addition, the 50mm Macro, was again not that different from the similar XF 60mm Macro, although the Zeiss 50mm focused closer at 1:1 (Fuji’x Macro maximum reproduction size is only 1:2).
The reason for this seemingly odd and redundant choice of focal length, is that Zeiss chose those focal lengths to fill in gaps with the Sony system of E mount lenses. With the lenses already designed, they were ported for the Fuji X mount.
As mentioned, the Fujinon X lenses were so good to begin with, it was difficult to rationalize the need to purchase Zeiss Touit lenses. As many reviews have already noted, the Zeiss Touit lenses are superb, but in the opinion of most, not superior to Fuji’s excellent XF lenses. The Zeiss have a different look to the Fuji glass – more micro contrast and perhaps more vibrant colour. But those characterisitcs don’t make the Zeiss Touit lenses “better” than the Fuji XF glass. They just have a different look.
I would hazard to guess that originally, the biggest detriment to X users buying the beautifully built Zeiss Touit lenses was the price. When it was first released in 2013, pricing of the Touit 32mm over the XF 35mm was $300 more, which translates to an additional 50% over the XF 35mm. The Touit 12mm was over $350 more than the XF 14mm.
By mid-2014, however, that price differential has dropped considerably. There have been a couple of instances where both Touit lenses purchased as set, became available for a ridiculously low price. But even its normal street price today, is only a bit more than its Fuji counterpart.
Obviously, pricing will fluctuate and vary over time, but suffice to say, pricing has dropped on the Zeiss Touit lenses so that it’s no longer a significant detriment for purchasing.
With pricing no longer a deterrent, I decided to give the Zeiss Touit 32mm a try, last autumn. While I was very happy with the performance and build quality of my XF 35mm, I’ve been a fan of Zeiss lenses for a very long time. I had used medium format Leaf and Phase digital backs on Hasselblad bodies, which all had Zeiss glass. I’d also read about the superior build quality (better even than the all metal Fuji XF lenses) of the Touit X mount lenses.
When I received my Zeiss Touit 32mm, I decided to keep my Fujinon XF 35mm for at least half a month, and decided to shoot them side by side, on two identical X-Pro1 bodies. I had no intention of doing test comparisons. This would be simply to use them normally, as my daily, carry-around shooters.
In that short time, I ended up preferring the Zeiss Touit 32mm over the Fujinon XF 35mm. And it wasn’t due to the optics – it was about the feel and handling of the Zeiss Touit. The Touit 32mm felt more solid and seemed better built than my excellent XF 35mm.
I much preferred the feel and handling of the Zeiss Touit 32mm barrel. For the small current price difference between the Zeiss and the Fuji lenses, I felt it was a small price to pay for the better build quality. In my opinion, the Touit 32mm is also a better looking design that the XF 35mm. And I preferred the look and function of its lens hood as well.
Perhaps those are shallow and silly reasons to prefer this lens over the great XF 35mm, but being honest, that’s why the Zeiss won out, for me.
The solidity of the barrel and the pleasant to use feel of the focus and aperture rings were fantastic. My copy had good detents on the aperture ring, and one could change the aperture size by feel. Focusing was very smooth and well-damped. About the only disadvantage of the soft, pleasant rubber surface of the rings was that it attracted a lot of my cat’s hair. She has silver hair which stands out on the flat black lens, as can be seen in the opening picture!!
I would look forward to handling the Zeiss Touit 32mm over the Fujinon XF 35mm. And it subtly encourages me to carry my X-Pro1 camera with the 32mm mounted on it, daily, simply because it’s so fun handling the lens.
A lot of reviewers truly disliked the Touit 32mm’s hood. While the Touit 32mm lens barrel isn’t that much larger than the XF 35mm, its hood made the Touit considerably longer.
But for me, I really liked the Touit 32mm hood. It’s made of sturdy but light plastic, so it doesn’t weigh very much. Sure, it makes for a longer, overall package than the XF 35mm with its compact metal hood, but the Touit 32mm with its hood is still no gargantuan lens. I find it doesn’t get noticed, let alone intimidate anyone, when I’m quietly shooting on the street.
The reason why I use the Fuji X-Pro1 over the faster focusing X-T1 is that I love the Optical Viewfinder. Before I started using the Fuji X-Pro1, I had been a Leica M user for nearly 30 years. With that experience, I’m quite used to viewfinder blockage of the lower right hand corner by the lens hood. A lot of users have found the Zeiss Touit hood to be a real bother when using the OVF, but to me, the majority of the time, it hasn’t been issue. I’ve learned to pre-visualize the entire frame, due to the similar frame blockage inconvenience on the old Leica M film cameras. I would recommend that if the OVF viewing is a bother to some users, to keep the hood on and use the EVF instead.
The deep Touit hood means fantastic protection for the 32mm’s front element. It was over a month of daily usage before even a speck of dust managed to land on the front element of my Touit. And last month, in heavy rain, I was shooting outdoors with the Touit 32mm and my other favorite lens, the Fujinon XF 18mm, side by side. The Touit 32mm’s front element was completely protected from the rain, whereas the XF 18mm, being a wide angle lens with a matching shallow hood, had rain droplets that had to be wiped off during the shooting.
Optically, that deep hood also means absolutely no stray light ever hits that front element. So all the renowned high contrast of your Zeiss lens is preserved.
Optical differences between the Touit 32mm and XF 35mm? They’re both superb, and truth be told, I’d be happy with either. The Touit 32mm has superior micro contrast and vibrant colors, but then the XF 35mm is a touch sharper across its field when stopped down.
But really, being completely honest, it came down to the feel and handling of the Touit’s superb mechanical build quality. This isn’t a knock against Fuji XF lenses at all. One of their first generation lenses, the XF 18mm, is still my favourite of all X mount lenses. And Fuji’s newer lenses, such as the XF 23mm and XF 10-24mm are easily as well-built as the Zeiss Touit line, although they have a different feel and look from Zeiss.
Photography is really about taking great pictures, and everything is secondary to that. One’s equipment doesn’t even have to be great – as long as it’s decent and reliable, a skilled photographer can make great photos.
But choosing gear because of (literally) touchy/feely characteristics is one of those secondary elements that makes using one’s equipment a bit more enjoyable. If it encourages a shooter to carry and use their camera and lens a bit more, than that’s a positive thing.