This might just turn out to be the shortest review I’ve every written. Here it comes…. the 18-55mm lens is absolutely fantastic, go buy it, now, you won’t regret it.
Here’s a shot taken with the X-E1 with the [easyazon_link asin=”B0092MD6S0″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”m06d-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]18-55mm[/easyazon_link] at ISO 1600 taken at 1/7th of a second handheld.
I’m done! Can I go home now?!
Oh, you’re wanting a bit more detail? Hmmmm… let me see if I can put something together that explains more about why I fell in love with this lens. As always with my reviews I like to let a lot of photos do as much of the talking as I do, otherwise all you’re doing is listening to some guys rambling opinion, whereas if I show you the photos I took with it you can make up your own mind! Please do click on the image to get a larger version.
I’ll get this disclaimer out of the way up front. Fujifilm UK lent me an 18-55mm lens (along with an X-E1 as part of a kit) as I said I would like to review one for the site, but I just wasn’t going to buy one for myself as I was happy with the primes. They did so without any obligations. Now let me confess that after having the review lens for two days… I went out and bought one to keep for myself! It really is that impressive.
I come from a zoom background. I have almost always used zooms with my dSLR gear. I had the odd prime knocking around, but the zoom was my mainstay. That was until I started using the Fujifilm X100 and X-Pro1 gear. I totally fell for the prime lens. I just love using primes now, the image quality is generally better and it makes you think a bit more about where you’re standing, makes you think about perhaps getting a more interesting composition because you can’t just zoom in/out to get what you first saw. Using the X100 and X-Pro1 with primes made me a better photographer. The 35mm is almost glued to my X-Pro1. I was ‘over’ zooms and I didn’t think I needed the 18-55 zoom. In fact, as soon as they announced an 18-55mm my mind went “What the hell are they doing?” I mean, 18-55?? we’re talking classic cheap dSLR kit lens territory here, right? That’s not in keeping with the X-Series philosophy. Sure it’s f/2.8-4, but just the sound of 18-55 put me off. I know it shouldn’t, but I can’t help associate 18-55 with a cheap low-end kit dSLR lens.
That was until I met the [easyazon_link asin=”B0092MD6S0″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”m06d-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Fujinon 18-55 XF lens[/easyazon_link]. This little zoom blows everything out of the water about ‘kit’ zooms. I do wish it was 16mm instead of 18mm – not for the name, but as a walkabout lens on an APS-C camera, the extra couple of mm makes quite a difference – there is a reason the 24-70 ‘pro’ lenses start at 24mm! As it stands, the 18-55mm lens is the 35mm equivalent of 27-83mm, which isn’t a bad range to carry around with you, it would have just been nice to have a little wider for architectural shots, which is something I’ve found to be a one of the great strengths of this lens.
Between 18 and 23mm this lens reminds me so much of the of images that come out of the X100 for architecture, and why I fell in love with that camera in the first place for travel photography.
As I rarely use the 18mm prime it nicely replaces that for me, and it nearly gets close enough to be used as a short telephoto portrait lens instead of the occasionally annoying [but brilliant] 60mm macro.
What’s so great?
This lens is on a par with the Nikon and Canon 24-70mm prime lenses in terms of image quality, but you know what’s better? It’s a fraction of the size and weight, and it has built-in optical image stability [OIS]! I love my night-time street shots, and this lens with OIS excels. No need to carry a tripod, you can handhold this down to some silly shutter speeds and still come away with crisp sharp shots
All streetlights should be like this!
It’s so clean, sharp, contrasty with fantastic definition that it just works wonderfully as an architectural lens. If there is any distortion, I don’t see it in day-to-day shooting. As a zoom, you can get the wide shots and then pull in close to pick out some of the details too. As I said before though, it would have been nice just to have a little more field of view, 16mm at the wide end would have given it an edge over someone buying a mid-range dSLR + kit zoom, and put it more on a par with the Olympus OM-D 12-50mm kit lens. You can always buy the 14mm prime, but that’s a mighty expensive investment unless you’re shooting a wide 14mm [21mm equiv] regularly. I guess we’ll have to wait for the 10-24mm for something more general as a wide-angle lens.
The auto focus on this lens is faster than the primes, and most definitely quieter than all three. I’m guessing with the next generation of XF-mount cameras this lens will give super fast AF performance.
A panorama stitched together with several images using the 18-55mm lens at 55mm. You can only really do this well with a lens that is sharp edge-to-edge.
The aperture ring isn’t marked with f-stops as it is on the other Fujinon lenses. That’s because it is variable aperture and wouldn’t have been easy to pull off. It’s a little disconcerting to begin with, and I do wish at least that it had a bump-stop against the widest aperture as I often use that forced stop as a reference when setting the aperture on my primes (rather than looking at the lens or the info in the viewfinder). It’s just a minor point that could have made it just a little more tactile and friendly. You do get used to it in the end, and if you don’t use the primes it isn’t something you would miss.
It is a shame that the lens isn’t a constant f/2.8, but it would have been bigger and heavier as a result, and as depth of field decreases with focal length you can still achieve nice out of focus backgrounds.
There are two switches on the 18-55mm lens. One is to turn the OIS on/off if you’re using a tripod, and the second is to switch between manually selecting the aperture (to use it in manual or aperture-priority mode) and auto-aperture mode – something you’d normally do on the prime lenses by winding the aperture ring right around to the smallest aperture and onto the red ‘A’.
The biggest disappointment isn’t with the lens at all though, it’s with the nasty plastic hood that comes with it. The primes come with some beautiful solid metal hoods that do a great job of protecting the front element. Yes, I know they are there to reduce flare, but for me their main use is to protect the glass! Which is something the metal hood on my 35mm did perfectly after I dropped it at the top of a steep stone path and I watched it bounce right down to the bottom! Lens hood bent back into shape, it still works and my lens is still perfect! All I can see with the plastic version is it snapping off on the first bounce and then destroying my lens on the second! There are two things really wrong with it. Firstly it’s just cheap and nasty and doesn’t fit in with the metal lens/X-series at all. It looks like it belongs on a superzoom compact (not that there is anything wrong with superzooms at all – I just don’t want the lens hood from one!). Secondly and more annoyingly, when it is on, it increases the size of the lens too much for it to fit in my usual X-Series camera bags. This forces me to carry the lens cap, which will eventually get lost, meaning I’ll either have to buy another one, or risk scratching the front element. I do wish the 18mm prime hood fit on the 18-55 as I would be replacing it with that! As it stands I’ve ordered a screw-on metal hood through eBay, which I hope will be small enough to allow the lens to fit in my bag without having to remove it.
I worry that if I stop using the primes I’ve come to love that it might allow me slip into bad habits again, but I’m just going to have to work hard to not let that happen. I try to think of it like this, with the [easyazon_link asin=”B0092MD6S0″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”m06d-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]18-55[/easyazon_link] I have an 18mm prime, I have a 35mm prime and I have a 55mm prime, all without having to change lenses! If I try to think of it like then I hope that I won’t get lazy.
This lens will replace my 18mm prime as I just don’t use that lens much, but it will never replace my 35mm f/1.4, which is just one of the best lenses of all time. It will however be on my X-E1 permanently as a backup to the X-Pro1 + 35mm. I suspect that it will get a lot of use, possibly more than the 35mm.
If you’re looking for an X-Series camera and can only afford one lens I would have told you to buy the 35mm. With the release of the 18-55, for most people, I’d now suggest you go for that as a starting point instead. If you can afford two lenses then the 35mm with the 18-55 zoom makes for a fantastic flexible combination.
Despite the cheap kit-sounding 18-55mm range, Fuji have produced one of the finest standard zoom lenses around, which deserves to be held in the same high regard as the now legendary 24-70mm zooms from Nikon and Canon.
I’m still using a dSLR for some of my photography work. That’s for two reasons – partly because a mirrorless camera can’t yet do everything that a dSLR can, but mainly it’s because I sometimes need a very wide angle (I’m talking 12mm full-frame here) and at other times I need a longer zoom, just to allow me to stand back from flying sparks etc! At the moment I can’t do that with my existing Fujifilm gear. What tends to happens though is that my favourite shots of the day are almost always taken with the X100 or X-Pro1, and I regret not being able to use them more. However, if the 10-24 and 55-200mm lenses are anything like as good as the 18-55mm is, I think I can say that the dSLR will be staying in my bag a great deal more, and I will be able to replace most of what I do with my dSLR with my Fujifilm cameras. Here’s hoping!
[easyazon_block add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”B0092MD6S0″ cloaking=”default” layout=”top” localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” tag=”m06d-20″]18-55mm[/easyazon_block]
Finally finally – some completely uninspiring images!
Below are some really boring images, but I took them to show what the lens is like in various circumstances – each one annotated (below). Click on the image to get a larger version.
Handheld for 1.6s! No aids, no resting on walls. Surprisingly still and sharp – the OIS doing a fine job!
Yeah I know the sky is blown out, but that’s just a result of me over exposing to get a longer exposure!
Nice smooth unfussy out of focus at 18mm f/2.8 on what is usually hard subject for zooms to get good bokeh on a very fussy tree lined background.
Same scene at 55mm f/4.0. Despite being at f/4.0 it still manages really silky bokeh, especially for a zoom.
FUJIFILM X-Pro1 (18mm, f/5, 1/30 sec, ISO1000)
No review is complete without a brick wall shot! Shown here at f/5.6 18mm [27mm equiv] – no real distortion that I can pick out.
FUJIFILM X-Pro1 (22.3mm, f/5, 1/30 sec, ISO800)
The same brick wall at 23mm [35mm]
and here it is again! This time at 35mm [50mm equiv]
..and once more for good luck! 55mm [83mm] this time. Pretty straight eh?!