Fujifilm XF16mm f/1.4 review and image gallery.
The “Fujinon Nano-GI XF16mm f/1.4 R WR” lens, to give it it’s full name, is one I’ve been looking forward to for a while. The majority of my shooting is between 24-50mm (in 35mm full-frame terms). That range probably makes up about 95% of my images. With the XF23mm f/1.4 and XF35mm f/1.4 there was a fast aperture hole in that range for me. Until now I’ve been using the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens to fill that gap. I never did go for the XF16-55mm f/2.8 lens as it lacked OIS, was far more expensive and much larger than the XF18-55mm, which really is a truly fantastic lens for what many consider to be the Fujifilm ‘kit’ lens.
Now that the XF16mm f/1.4 has been released we have a full range of fast primes at the wide to standard range focal lengths. If you add in the 56mm and newly released 90mm then there is probably a fast prime lens that would suit pretty much anyone these days who shoot with an X-Series camera.
Something that I really love with the 16mm is that they have carried over the push/pull manual focus ring that originally debuted on the XF23mm (probably my favourite Fujifilm prime). This is also on the XF14mm, although sadly not carried over onto the 56mm, which is a shame. The ring makes for quick manual focus adjustments, and although it is still focus-by-wire, if there is any lag, it’s hard to detect on this lens.
The only oddity is that when you use the AF+MF override, with the XF16mm you can’t do that with the lens AF ring in the AF position, you need to pull it back to MF, but leave the body AF selector in the AF position. It sounds a bit odd, but does actually make sense when you use it! To get full manual focus with this lens you need to have both the body and lens in MF.
The distance and depth-of-field scale also makes for easy manual focussing should you be shooting in situations where you want to pre-focus, or if you want to do some photography at night where it can be tricky to get focussed on a subject – for example astro photography, or as I used it in the image below for shooting lightning.
In the hand, the lens feels extremely well made and solid. The focussing ring sits nicely to hand when mounted on a body. It is one of the heavier lenses in the Fujifilm X-Mount range, but that’s not atypical of a fast wide-angle lens in general, and certainly significantly smaller than an equivalent dSLR lens.
The lens is weather resistant and with a rubber seal around the mount to prevent water and dust ingress into the body. This coupled with the X-T1 and the X-Pro2 give a fully weather sealed camera and lens combination for those who need it.
The aperture ring is not overly tight, but just nicely weighted with good positive clicks at 1/3rd stops.
A 67mm thread filter size means that filters are easy to come by, and it is fully compatible with the LEE Filters Seven5 system, unlike the XF10-24mm that ideally needs the LEE 100mm filter system to avoid vignetting and other issues.
In terms of image quality there really is very little I can say to be honest. It is simply superb and unless I was looking at the images under a microscope then I couldn’t find fault with it. These days it has become so ‘normal’ for Fujifilm to produce exquisite glass that I tend not to bother to micro-examine the images, it just isn’t necessary. There isn’t a bad lens in the range, even the cheap XC50-230mm that I use for landscape images produces some cracking sharp shots. I have become far more interested in putting my effort into improving my photography than worrying about a tiny loss of sharpness in the corners at some theoretical studio test than worrying about such things.
One of the great things about a wide-angle lens is that you don’t need to use a tiny aperture to get a lot in focus. The shot below was taken in what is quite a dark indoor market. I shot it at f/4 and the majority of the image is in focus. To get the correct exposure it was taken at ISO1250 – another great thing about the Fujifilm X-Series cameras is how well they handle high ISO, and retain the colours. All of the images in this write-up are JPEGs. I may have done some minor adjustments in Lightroom, but nothing significant. This is something else I love since moving to the Fuji system, the fact that the post processing side of things requires so little time. Although I do still shoot RAW+JPEG “just in case” I very very rarely use the RAW file unless I’m doing something very specific. I do often question myself as to why I actually bother to still keep the RAW files. I think it’s a historic thing from my days of shooting Nikon, and it somehow feels comforting to have them. The reality though is that they are really just taking up a load of space on my hard drive for no reason. One of these days I’ll get up the courage to go JPEG only!
I could waffle on for ages about this and that technical detail about the lens, but it far exceeds what I need from it in terms of image quality. Rather than me going on about it, if you want check image quality for yourself, take a look at my gallery of images shot in a variety of situations in downloadable full-resolution if you want by going to the link at the bottom of this write-up.
Something I love about this lens is the close focussing capability. You can almost touch your subject with the end of the lens, although this does require the removal of the hood as it can shade the subject if you get that close! In the shot below I was literally almost touching the leaf with the lens.
Being able to focus close up can give some great perspective, and because it is a wide-angle, you get a lot of the background in shot too. Out of focus areas drop off nicely and remain smooth even for fussy backgrounds such as leaves in the shot below.
XF16mm f/1.4 or XF16-55mm f/2.8?
That question really depends on what you’re doing. For me it’s a no-brainer – I’d have the f/1.4 every single time. The faster aperture, manual focus ring and smaller dimensions are what I prefer. If you’re a wedding or documentary photographer who needs to grab shots quickly and may want to zoom in to get those without changing lenses then you’re probably better off with the 16-55mm zoom, although there in still a strong case for the 18-55mm despite it being f/4 at the long end, it is cheaper, smaller and has OIS to help out in low-light situations.
XF14mm f/2.8 or XF16mm f/1.4?
When I heard they were releasing a 16mm lens I did question why when the 14mm seemed so close, but now I’ve had time to use it, there is most definitely place for both. The extra 2mm of the 14mm does give a not insignificant wider angle and consequently quiet a bit more in the shot – certainly more than you would imagine for the numerical 2mm difference, so if what you need is something that gets more in the frame then the 14mm is definitely the one you want. However, the 16mm is 2-stops faster at f/1.4, and that makes a big difference in low light. Because it isn’t quite so wide as the 14mm, you also get less distortion towards the edges and it doesn’t suffer from the ‘stretched’ look into the corners.
Colour rendition is great, helped no doubt by the X-Series cameras that have a great (well deserved) reputation for colour reproduction.
The XF16mm f/1.4 lens is fast becoming my second favourite in the Fujifilm line-up – my first being the XF23mm f/1.4, which for me is the perfect (almost) do it all lens for my style of shooting. The 16mm just gives me that extra bit of latitude when I want to get more in, either for a grand landscape, or a small space.
If you are a fan of the Fujifilm X-Series prime lenses (and let’s face it, how can you not be!) then this lens should definitely be up near the top of the list as one to add to your camera bag. For anyone who loves a slightly wider perspective it really is a must have. Combine it with the XF23mm f/1.4, XF35mm f/1.4 and you’ll have a cracking set of fast primes that can cope with the majority of shooting situations, all of which will fit along with an X-Series body into a tiny camera bag making for an ideal travel photographers setup.
To see more of my images shot with the Fujifilm XF16mm f/1.4 R WR lens take a look at Fujifilm XF16mm lens sample image gallery.
To know more about the lens, you can read about it on the Fujifilm specific pages here.