There IS a Life Without Image Stabilization | Fuji XF16-55mm F2.8 WR NoOIS!

Afraid of the shakes? No problem, use image stablization, or “OIS” (Optical Image Stabilization) as Fuji calls it. Some hate it. Most love it, can’t be without it like as if they’re addicted. Was like that with me too. Thought I couldn’t live without it. Until I took a decision which forced me to survive without the anti-wobble technology. Please read on to find out what happened (especially if you don’t care ;-)

I know you don’t care ... this one didn't need no image stabilization, X100F 23mm @f8, 1/120sec

As long as you live in daylight it don't really matter. Any lens does just fine. But when the sun drops below the horizon & light becomes scarce your "any lens" is gonna need either a flash, a tripod, or an image stabilization crutch. That'd work assuming you want to photograph a static subject. But as soon as something in your image moves (and you want to render it reasonably sharp) there's only ONE option: Aperture! The larger the better. Get the largest aperture you can find. Image stabilization ain't gonna help and yes, flash would still be an option but that's not really viable if you want to capture the charm of available light. The image below was taken hand held. Would’ve needed image stabilization. Didn’t have it:

Too cold to sit outside. Night time bar scene, XF 16-55mm at 16mm, @f/2.8, 1/20sec, ISO1250

Coz I’d traded my XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 (with OIS) to get an XF 16-55mm f/2.8 (without OIS). This Lens' missing OIS has caused some on the net to fondly call it "The Brick" (like as in a worthless paper-weight). Now why would I go and trade my perfectly good OIS zoom for such an OIS-less "Brick"? It wasn't easy but in the end the following factors tipped the scales for me in favor of the "Brick": I've learnt I need 5 things for my architecture / landscape / people photography:

  1. Max possible aperture to freeze subject movement (image stabilization don't help here!)
  2. With at least a 16mm (24mm FF equiv.) on the wide side for architecture & group photos
  3. Reaching at least up to portrait focal length (85mm FF equiv.) on the long side
  4. High quality zoom lens - don’t fancy changing lenses (I got amathophobia - fear of dust ;-)
  5. Portability: Reasonably compact camera/lens combo, no tripod or gear bags to lug around

So, Fuji´s XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR fits above requirements like a glove (while my XF 18-135mm missed out on the first two). I use the XF 16-55mm predominantly for reportage and portraiture, where my subjects are usually moving. In this scenario image stabilization don't really help me. Even it would've been technically possible to also include OIS, the caveat of further increasing size and weight (and not to forget the price) of the lens would have not been worth it (for the previously described use case). I guess Fuji followed a similar logic when they decided to opt out of OIS on the "Brick". The lens is reasonably compact and remains portable. It's also perceived as being less intrusive by your subjects. Try putting the XT-2 / XF16-55mm combo next to a comparable CaNikon full frame DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom attached. You'll see what I mean, pushing a DSLR lookin' more like a WMD into someone's face probably´ll scare the living daylights outta them, turning a lively bar scene into something like the image below ;-)

All quiet bar after closing time, captured with XF 16-55mm at 16mm, @f/2.8, 1/18sec, ISO3200

A word on aperture: The advantage of the smaller (vs. full frame) APS-C sensor is that you get more depth of field at the same aperture due to the shorter focal length compared to the full frame equivalent focal length. For example a 50mm "normal" lens on full frame has a field of view comparable to a 35mm on APS-C. Using f/2.8 on both delivers more depth of field in the APS-C image as there the lens needs to be of shorter focal length to achieve the same angle of view. Consequently the disadvantage of APS-C is that you´d need a larger aperture vs. full frame to get a more shallow depth of field and similar subject - background separation. For example a 85mm full frame portrait lens will render the background in a pleasing blur at f/2. To get a similar effect with an APS-C equivalent focal length of 55mm you'd need at least f/1.4 ... My XF 18-135mm had a max. aperture of around f/4.5 at 55mm and I needed to stop down to f5.6 to get optimal sharpness in portraits, which means my max. aperture in full frame terms would be only around f/4. Apart from the lower brightness which forced me to use higher ISO´s I could never really achieve a pleasing background separation like in this image with the XF 16-55mm:

My pretty wife, wearing my glasses, with XF 16-55mm, at 55mm @f/4, 1/450sec, ISO400

Just the way I like it, the eye closer to the camera sharp and sharpness nicely dissolving towards the rear into a completely blurred background!

Now, coming back to my initial statement: There IS a life without image stabilization, please see proof in the image below. It was shot hand-held at 1/8sec with my XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom at its long end (55mm APS-C / 85mm full frame equiv.), without the "benefit" of image stabilization. Ok, so OIS would've helped here, coz there are no moving subjects in the image. But as the majority of images I make with this zoom have moving subjects, the added weight, size and cost of OIS would not be worth it in my opinion!

Night-time street scene, with XF 16-55mm at 55mm, hand-held @f/2.8, 1/8sec, ISO3200

I hope this post was interesting for y'all & able to give you some advice in case you're on the fence to acquire the XF 16-55mm "Brick" - believe me, you'll find it's more of a "Nugget" than a "Brick". A gold "Nugget" - an amazing lens which you'll use for more than 90% of your images. No more changing lenses, risking missed image opportunities and/or getting dust inside your camera! While weight & size remain reasonable, the X-T2 or X-Pro2 combo fitting snugly in a small pouch

Best regards,


I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!