The Fuji X-System cameras and XF lenses have come a long way thanks to Fuji’s commitment to fixing problems with firmware updates, rather than just releasing another camera or lens to replace the one with problems. Meet the Fuji XF 18mm f/2 lens, a lens that initially started with some problems, but after several firmware updates, performs quite well and with more than acceptable image quality:
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this lens, and then I’ll go into more detail about them:
Solid image quality on par with other professional grade lenses including some full-frame digital-SLR lenses from Canon and Nikon. In fact, in testing I performed, the Fuji lens actually outperformed several of these lenses.
Compact and lightweight, almost to the point of looking like a pancake lens. No complaints here when it comes to compactness, especially if you’re trying to keep a low profile for candid or street photography shots. The weight of lens is next to nothing which keeps the entire camera system very easy to hold and use for extended periods of time.
Fast autofocus. Issues with autofocus have previously plagued the X-Series, but, with firmware updates, these problems are nearly non-existent at this time.
Construction of the lens seems a little on the flimsy side to me, mainly due to how loose the aperture ring feels when turning it, even though I know it’s digitally controlled and not mechanical. While I love how lightweight the lens is, I can’t help but to think that the build quality may have taken a hit to achieve the weight.
Unlike the XF 35mm f/1.4 lens, which is tack sharp at f/1.4, even out to the edges, the XF 18mm f/2 isn’t quite as sharp in the corners until you get the aperture stopped down to f/5.6 or greater.
Some chromatic aberration in certain shooting situations but nothing of major concern.
|Lens type||XF18mmF2 R|
|Lens construction||8 elements in 7 groups (includes 2 aspherical elements)|
|Focal length (35mm format equivalent)||f=18mm (27mm)|
|Angle of view||76.5Deg.|
|Aperture control||Number of blades: 7 (rounded diaphragm opening)
Stop size: 1/3 EV (19 stops)
|Focus range||18cm – Infinity|
|External dimensions||64.5mm x 40.6mm (Diameter) / 2.54 x 1.60 inches|
|Weight||116g (4.0 oz) (excluding caps and hoods)|
Size and Weight
Without the lens hood attached, the XF 18mm is a small lens, bordering on being a pancake lens, however, with the lens hood it does increase the size to look more like a standard lens.
The aperture ring has a range of f/2 to f/16 with half-stop clicks which is nice, however, it does tend to slide around unintentionally with little effort, a downside I noticed with all of the XF series lenses. This is predominantly due to the aperture ring, like the focus ring, being electronic versus manual. In fact, the entire lens is “fly-by-wire” in nature which has its benefits, but unfortunately also has some downsides as well.
The aperture ring also features an “A” setting which stands for “automatic.” This places the camera in “shutter priority mode” and lets the camera pick what it feels is the appropriate aperture setting for the scene.
Oddly enough, I was most impressed with the lens hood on this lens which features solid metal construction, held together with screws instead of cheap molded plastic. Even the high end Canon L-series lenses have plastic lens hoods so I was very impressed with the build quality Fuji chose to implement with these lenses. The lens itself, as I mentioned earlier, doesn’t feel quite as solid but I think this has more to do with the easy to manipulate aperture ring, inherent to the lens’ “fly-by-wire” operation.
Manual Focus Ring
The focus ring is smooth with just the slightest amount of drag, however, I found it nearly useless in manual focus mode mainly because it took so many turns of the ring to focus. Once you get down to the 2 meter or less focus range, it takes several turns of the ring to get the correct focus. This clearly makes the lens impractical for candid or street photography uses unless you pre-focused the lens for the particular scene.
When the XF-system launched, autofocus was an issue with these lenses but after a couple firmware updates, the autofocus is nearly flawless. I give Fuji a lot of credit for admitting and fixing these problems, rather than just releasing a new lens, forcing us users to shell out even more money for a new, better performing lens. This, to me, says a lot about the integrity of the company. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other companies *cough, cough* Canon.
Autofocus is smooth, fast, and quite, which is an improvement achieved through firmware updates as mentioned above.
In low-light situations, the camera struggles with the lens a little more in order to get the right focus but this is a problem with almost all cameras, not just the XF-series. Putting the camera in “silent mode,” which locks out the flash and the autofocus assist lamp amplifies the problem so if possible, you may want to keep silent mode turned off if using the camera in low-light situations.
Image Quality & Sharpness
Image quality is good, but not amazing. It is nowhere near the image quality seen on the XF 35mm f/1.4 lens which is on par with pro-series lenses from Nikon and Canon, but it is more than sufficient. I don’t want to knock the image quality too much because for the purposes of this camera, it is great.
Sharpness, again, is not on par with the XF 35mm lens but it is sufficient. Sharpness at f/2 is solid at the center of the frame but to get sharpness to the edges, you’ll want to be at f/4 through f/8. I like shooting wide-open at f/2 for most of my shots but the sweet spot seems to be f/2.8 where you’ll get good subject isolation with outstanding center focus.
Here is an area where Fuji excels beyond belief, laying shame to other camera manufacturers. With its in-camera film options that allow you to simulate some of Fuji’s best film stocks (my favorite being the Fuji Velvia) this camera system will outperform pro-series lenses from both Nikon and Canon, at least in my own testing.
Chromatic Aberration & Distortion
Software such as Adobe Lightroom has almost made issues with chromatic aberration and fringing a thing of the past which is a good thing because this lens has some of the most noticeable color fringing I have seen on any of the lenses I’ve reviewed over the years. For those shooting street photography in monochrome, this won’t be an issue but for color landscape shots, for example, plan to do some post processing work to get rid of the flaws.
Barrel distortion is noticeable on this lens, although it is quite minor and to be expected at this focal range. The camera will attempt to auto-correct for this when shooting in .JPG format (which I would avoid if possible), but when shooting in RAW format, you’ll have to use a third-party app to correct this. Any corrections to the barrel distortion, even with a RAW image, is a destructive correction but again, not a big deal for most people.
Of the three main lenses in the XF-lineup, this lens is my second favorite with the 35mm f/1.4 being my favorite, and the 60mm f/2.4 being my least favorite. It’s a good overall lens but as I explained in the review, it does come with some very noticeable flaws, namely the issues with chromatic aberration, sharpness, and an almost 5 degree barrel distortion.
That said, it is a good all-around lens that fills the wide angle spot needed for landscape, indoor candid, and up close and personal street photography. Of the three main XF lenses, I found myself using the 35mm the most, followed by the 18mm. The 60mm had many flaws in my opinion and you can read my review of that lens here.
So, if you’ve found yourself hooked on the X-Pro1 or any of the other XF cameras, or are considering purchasing one, I would strongly suggest this lens to you. While it does have some flaws, almost all of them are able to be worked around while the fast autofocus, color, bokeh, and overall image quality make up for it.