#XF18

Fuji's 18mm F/2 - Better Than You Think!

I was quite pleasantly surprised about the amount of feedback & questions I got to my recent review of Fuji’s XF 18mm F/2R. Seems a lot of youse are quite interested in this little lens, despite the negative image it has on the net. So I thought it would be a good idea to share some more (real) images taken with it & maybe convince the one or other of you to try it out for yo’self ;-) Please read on if interested & thanks in advance for visiting and joining the discussion!

3 tables in the sun, seen with X-Pro2 and XF 18mm F/2 @F/2.8, 1/1700sec, 200 ISO

What I like about the above image is that even I’m using a wide angle lens I can limit the sharpness to quite a narrow zone, at F/2.8 nearly everything is blurred except the ashtray on the first table! Combined with letting the shadows drown into inky blackness this guides & focusses the viewer’s eye into the image! For me the 18mm (28mm equivalent field of view on full frame) is an ideal lens for documentary photography - wide enough to bring you close to the action but not too wide to distort too much or become too intrusive

But is it any good at close focus distances? For example fuji’s XF 23mm F/2R WR is plagued by soft rendering at close focus distances when using larger apertures … For documentary photography excellent short distance performance at larger apertures is key! Well, I can say that I ain’t got no reservations about my XF18mm. Sharp as a tack at close distances, already from max. aperture mine is. So, do I got a magic copy? Don’t think so - these things are manufactured according relatively tight tolerances, look at what optical limits had to say about it: “The center quality is very good at F/2 and the borders are also fine but the corners are very soft at this setting …”. I can confirm, take a look at below image, taken at max. aperture F/2. Not bad, eh? Look at the details in the bicycle wheel hub (it was less than 1m from the camera)!

Anywayz for documentary photography the extreme corners are not relevant. But of course, if you happen to specialize in brick wall or test chart photography, you may not agree. Anyhow I do think most of those “review specialists” flaming this lens on the net belong to that category of “photographers” …

Bicycle wheel, captured on my Fuji X-Pro2 with XF18mm F/2R (28mm FF equiv.) @F/2, 1/1250 sec, ISO 200

To put all this into perspective I took some comparative images on my Nikon Z7 (has a 47MP full frame sensor!) with the - in my opinion - best wide angle lens out there, the Nikon AF-S 28mm F/1.4E ED. Well I gotta say that I was shocked that I didn't see no major difference … The little Fuji wide angle is just. That. Good! OK the depth of field is of course narrower on the full frame lens but I gotta concede that the XF 18 for sure ain’t no slouch compared to below full frame image taken with the Nikkor stopped down to F/2, no sir:

The same bicycle wheel, on my Nikon Z7, with the veritable AF-S 28mm F/1.4 @F/2, 1/1000 sec, ISO 64

For all youse “pixel peepers” out there, please take a look at below crops! I shamefully have to admit I didn’t expect this. You really gotta hand it to Fuji: Quite an amazing performance!

Crop from the Fuji XF 18mm F/2 @F/2

Crop from the Nikkor AF-S 28mm F/1.4 @F/2

And the XF18mm at max. aperture is already so good that stopping it down to F/5.6 don’t really make a huge difference, please see comparison below:

Again the crop from the Fuji XF 18mm F/2 @F/2

… the XF 18mm F/2 stopped down to F/5.6

Before getting too excited, d’you wanna see what that little bit more full frame sharpness, dynamic range and shallower depth of field’s gonna cost you? You better sit down now, coz y’all gonna get really shocked! See below, I kid you not: The Nikon Z7 / FTZ / AF-S 28mm combo weighs and costs approx 2.3 times as much (in words: two point three !) as the Fuji X-Pro / XF 18mm combo (not even mentioning the size difference). Jeezus …

Nikon Z7+FTZ+AF-S 28mm F/1.4E ED = 1.4 Kg / 5250€ vs. Fuji X-Pro2+XF18mm F/2 = 615g / 2300€

Apart from that, showing up with that Nikon kit is gonna have people seriously divin’ for cover, thinking you’re planing on starting world war III ;-) At “cross-coffee-table” distances of around 1-1.2m that thing really sticks into your subject’s face (with a 77mm dia filter to boot). Good luck in getting your model eased up … Compared to that people don’t even really notice the Fuji (even the X-Pro2 ain’t really minimalistic either, but the lens is!)

Concluding & to be honest, I’d have a have a real hard time justifying the full frame kit over the Fuji. Hope you people out there learn from this & do it better than me ;-) Right, the full frame bazooka’s nominally better but you gonna need it maybe like 5% cases, if at all … Don’t worry I love my Nikon kit. Great camera & stellar lens, but not sure if I’d invest in those again!

Hope this little “real world” comparison will help some of youse to decide for yo’self what’s the best deal for your personal photographic requirements! Please let me know / leave me a comment below or on my “about” page, thanks as always for visiting & for your support!

Many thanks & best regards,

Hendrik

If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Revisiting Italy and Fuji´s XF 18 mm F/2 R

Of all the many places I’ve had the luck to be, one has captured a special spot in my heart: Italy. The light, the people, the climate. It is just such a special combination! Went there again end of march with my beloved wife and … My new Fujinon XF 18 mm f/2 R. Most reviewers on the net have a so-so to downright bad opinion of this little lens (some even say it’s Fuji’s worst …). That intrigued me - I likes to swim against the current and I’d always loved the 28 mm field of view on my full frame cameras. So I decided to get one & try it. Regardless. Please read on if you are interested in my experience with this lovely little gem!

Cà Palazzo Malvasia, a lovely BnB near Sasso Marconi. View from our terrace with X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6

We´d booked a night at a Bed & Breakfast near Sasso Marconi (close to Bologna): Cà Palazzo Malvasia. The first surprize came even before arriving: We got a friendly welcome message from the staff inquiring our ETA and informing us how to get there - never had that happen before! Then on arrival we were just completely floored by how beautiful the place is, renovated with so much care & attention. Way better than it had looked on booking.com! And Victoria, the charming lady at the reception took great care of us and made our stay truly unforgettable! Quindi, Victoria se per caso leggessi questo: Grazie mille per un soggiorno meraviglioso. ci ritorneremo! So, if any of you happen to travel the Bologna area (check this out), here’s a wonderful & relaxing place to stay. Highly recommended!

Ok, so what about that little Fujinon XF 18 mm f/2 R now? Check out the below image … Don’t you think it has a wonderful “organic” (whatever that means … ;-) look to it?

Cà Palazzo Malvasia, carefully renovated in “lo stile dell’epoca”. Taken with X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/20 sec

As mentioned before so many out there seem to hate this lens coz of its apparently mediocre image quality. So what! I prefer to see things for myself & make up my own mind. Not just parrot what others say. Point is, Fuji’s little 18mm is for me a lens with “character”, because it’s not “perfect”. And that’s why I like it (those of you who know me know I have a soft spot for lenses with character ;-). And it’s extremely compact & unobtrusive - the smallest Fuji lens still having an aperture ring (IMO a necessity). The plants in the image of our terrace below didn’t even realize they were in the image!

This was our terrace in Cà Palazzo Malvasia from which the first image was taken: Fuji X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/8

But how’s it perform? Now I don’t usually photograph brick walls blown up to 1000 pixel peepin’ percent, so those of youse interested in that sort of thing might wanna look elsewhere on the net. I prefer to take pictures of real world, 3 dimensional people and things and I gotta say I was impressed by the results this little lens delivers. They got a kinda “magic glow”, as you can see in the image below:

The interior of Cà Palazzo Malvasia is decorated with heart! Fuji X-H1 with XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/9 sec

Overall I found the sharpness to be very good, especially in the central zone. Easily comparable to my X100F’s 23 mm f/2, even surpassing it at closer subject distances & larger apertures. Please note that the above image was taken at 1/9th (one ninth!) of a second. Hand held! No, I’m not “steady as a rock” ;-) Just got helped out a bit by my X-H1’s image stabilization! Those of you interested in technical details please check out Fuji’s specs here and Imaging Resources’s excellent review here. However, I gotta say this lens ain’t no good for photographing brick walls or flat subjects, coz it does suffer a bit from some softness and purple fringing in the image corners, which still linger on, even if you stop it down a bit. Maybe that’s where all the negative reviews came from: Many of those so-called “reviewers” photographing brick walls & test charts … and freakin’ out about the corners … ;-)

Cà Palazzo Malvasia - a lounge like a private living room, captured with Fuji X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/30 sec

I really love the way this lens renders, it’s still a kinda “Old School” design not yet exhibiting the clinical rendering of modern “digital” lenses. Like a sculptor’s tool, carving shapes & tones out of light and shadows. Simply poetic …

However, there’s no light without shadows - a couple things about this lens I’m not so enthusiastic about:

  • The aperture ring: Definitively not a hallmark feat of engineering. Rather stiff and with imprecise tactile feedback on the 1/3 f-stop positions, it’s difficult to adjust intuitively. Feels a bit like a crude prototype crafted by a journeyman in his first apprentice’s year. Meanwhile Fuji has greatly improved the adjustment and feel of aperture rings on their newer lenses

  • The autofocus noise: This lens makes no secret of the fact that it’s focussing (still has a traditional DC AF motor with gears moving all the lens elements around). Luckily it’s only audible in completely quiet environments and the AF operation is reasonably fast (especially with the latest camera firmware installed). My pretty wife must’ve thought there was a mouse in the room ;-)

My pretty wife in our nicely decorated room in Cà Palazzo Malvasia: Fuji X-H1 with XF 18 mm @f/4, 1/15 sec

Ok meanwhile the jury’s back - here’s the conclusion on Fuji’s XF 18mm f/2 R:

Pro’s:

  • Compact and lightweight but well made. With this lens on a smaller body you don’t really have any excuse to not always take your camera with you (and not miss any photographic opportunity anymore)!

  • Unobtrusive, combined with a 28mm (full frame equivalent) moderate wide angle field of view. It’s ideal for immersive street photography - ‘pulling’ you into the action, provided you have the guts to take those 2 steps closer (remember Robert Capa? “If your pictures aren't good enough, you weren't close enough!” )

  • Excellent centre zone sharpness, already from max. aperture onwards. “Organic”, three dimensional image rendering, with lovely bokeh in out of focus areas. This lens is predestined for storytelling & environmental, documentary style work. Also this lens has low chromatic aberration and distortion (corrected by firmware), making it ideal for environmental portraits (1/2 body images in landscape orientation)

  • Good image quality at max. aperture also at closer focussing distances (less than 1m), images taken in low light are perfectly usable and are rendered with great tonality & nice contrast

  • Quite fast and accurate focussing (with newest camera firmware)

Con’s:

  • Price: At 600$ not really a bargain!

  • Some softness and purple fringing in the image corners, improves at f/2.8 but not completely eliminated when stopping further down. Therefore less useful for architecture & landscapes

  • Stiff aperture ring with imprecise click positions

  • Autofocus operation audible in quiet environments

  • Not WR (weather resistant), but never had problems with it even in light rain

Stylish shadow details on our terrace at Cà Palazzo Malvasia: Seen with Fuji X-H1 & XF 35 mm f/1.4 @f/8

Summing up, this lens is great for those:

  1. In love with the 28 mm (full frame equivalent) moderate wide angle field of view

  2. Preferring a compact, unobtrusive prime lens with larger max. aperture than a zoom

  3. Focussing on storytelling & documentary style people / environmental photography

For all others it’s probably better to get a compact zoom which has the 18 mm focal length included, eg. the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS

I hope I could offer you some interesting information, ideas and advice for your own photographic aspirations! As always your appreciation, comments & constructive critique are most welcome - please leave me a note in the comments section below or at my “about” page. Wish y’all a great Sunday and may you find the best light!

Many thanks for visiting & all the best,

Hendrik

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