A Practical Review of the XF16-55mm F2.8

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With an equivalent focal length of 24-84mm on a full frame and a constant aperture of f2.8 the XF16-55mm falls in the same category as other 24-70mm lenses including the prestigious Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L lens which many consider as the pinnacle of this focal range and is also seen as the benchmark for others to follow. Can Fujifilm’s XF16-55mm keep up with the heavyweights?

As readers of my blog will know, my reviews are not focused on numbers or colour charts (no pixel peeping here), they are based on real world examples of everyday practical use absent of studio lighting and other sophisticated equipment. Before we start I just want to put out a disclaimer that this review (as with my previous and future reviews) is my own, I am not endorsed or paid by Fujifilm to post these reviews. Now that that’s out of the way lets get on with the review.

Introduction

The XF16-55mm F2.8 is considered Fujifilm’s first pro zoom lens along with the XF50-140mm and the new XF100-400mm. Like some of the other companies who have trademark visual aesthetics, Fujifilm to has their own with its red “XF Zoom” badge. The design is simple and doesn’t take over the lens or scream out “Hey look at me!” like Canon L lenses do. The other thing that sets this lens apart from the others is the physical Aperture Ring on the lens.

XF16-55-C
“XF Zoom” Badge

Focal Length: 16-55mm (24-84mm full frame equivalent)
Maximum aperture: f/2.8
Minimum aperture: f/22
Weight: 655g
Filter Size: ø77mm

Pros

  • Ultra sharp
  • Weather Resistant
  • Quick and silent Auto-Focus

Cons

  • Weight
  • Size
  • Price

Let’s start with the build quality, this lens is superbly constructed with a premium feel to it yet also solid enough to take a beating, after all, it does offer weather resistance which brings me to my next point. I shot with this lens on an X-T1 body in the pouring rain and it was soaked all around yet both lens and the camera still performed as expected without any hiccups (doesn’t mean it’ll be the same for you – had to put it out there). The focus ring (metal and towards the front of the lens) is smooth and has just the right amount of resistance crucial for those moments when you need to fine tune the focusing. The rubber zoom ring is nice to operate, however, I would have liked if the rubber as one smooth surface right around as opposed to the thin grooves. If Fujifilm’s intention was to improve the handling and grip then they need to take a look at the Zeiss Batis lenses and take a page from their book. My only complaint (I’m really knit picking here) is that the thin grooves act as a haven for dust and other small particles that get lodged in between, I’ve used dust brushes and cleaning kits but still find it quite challenging to clean, take a look at the shot below.

 

XF16-55-D
Rubber Zoom Ring

 

Like with most premium zoom lenses, this lens is quite a heavy beast weighing in at 655g, however when compared to the Canon 24-70mm L at just under 1kg (950g~) the XF16-55mm is peanuts. I believe the perception of the weight is due to the off balance between body and lens where one is significantly heavier than the other. When mounted on either an X-Pro1 or X-T1 body, the lens is very front heavy however I found that this can be corrected by simply attaching a hand grip (MHG-XT) to help balance out the weight of the lens and offer a firmer grip when holding the camera. I would recommend a shoulder strap and not have it hanging off your neck, although much lighter than the Canon it will still cause strain after long periods of time. I personally prefer belt holsters over shoulder straps, it’s light enough that it doesn’t pull my pants down.

XF16-55-A

Performance & Image Quality (IQ)

Honestly speaking the performance of this lens is spectacular, enough to keep up with some of the best prime lenses but with the added convenience and versatility of a zoom lens. Auto-focus is quick and precise and basically near silent. The IQ is super sharp throughout the aperture range, I usually shoot between f2.8 – f5.6 with the rare occasion on f8. We often hear people talk about the “Sweet Spot” that a lens should have its aperture set on to achieve maximum sharpness, I personally don’t believe that but that’s a different discussion altogether.

With its shortest focal length at 16mm (24mm FF equivalent), the XF16-55mm is capable of capturing landscape scenery, images are sharp corner to corner with a slight softness on the extreme edges but you’ll have to be zoomed in at 100% and start pixel peeping to notice the difference. Having this lens will cover the focal range of 5 Fujinon prime lenses (16, 18, 23, 27, 35). Although it has an aperture of f2.8, it still manages to create some pleasing bokeh, some of the best I’ve seen.

Now here’s the kicker, there are some reports floating around the interwebs that claim the lens has poor performance when it comes to mitigating distortion and vignetting, and in an attempt to hide correct this is via image correction done in-camera. That’s where the LMO (Lens Modulation Optimization) feature comes in. This feature supposedly corrects all the distortion, vignetting, chromatic aberration blah blah blah mumbo jumbo before producing the final image. I find it quite amusing when the same crowd reviews another lens that has distortion / vignetting that they go on to say that it is a minor issue that can be correct during post-processing. Now stop and think for a sec…. is this not the same as what the LMO feature does? Better yet, it does it on the fly in camera, I don’t know about you but me personally this is a godsend. I don’t have the time of day to be sitting in front of a PC/Mac editing photos for hours. I rather be out shooting and let the camera do the work for me.

Now like most F2.8 lenses, their performance start to dimish in low light situations. Locking focus will require a few attempts but it still does an admirable job at focusing. Without Image Stabilisation, the XF16-55mm starts to fall behind some of its competitors such as Tamron’s 24-70mm F2.8 VC which comes with Image Stabilisation so unless you’re shooting long exposures on a tripod, it’s better left at home.

Practical Use

From a practicality point, the XF16-55mm F2.8 could act as an everyday lens if it wasn’t for its weight. The focal range provides versatility acting as a great substitute for ultra wide angle lenses for landscape photography as well as an excellent alternative for portraiture with its semi telephoto range. The addition of the WR makes this a great companion when travelling abroad.

I tend to disagree with people who refer to this lens as a “Jack of all trades” since it excels in certain areas and most definitely exceeds expectation. If I had to call it something I would call it a “Master Jack of all trades”

Sample Photos

 

Verdict

The Fujinon XF16-55mm F2.8 is an amazing piece of glass, those who own one will agree . It exceeds expectations and is a great performer in all conditions, but all this comes at a cost, literally. All the high-quality materials that went into the design and the premium glass elements all contribute to the weight of the lens. So those making the switch to leave behind their heavy bulky DSLRs may just feel right back at home with this lens this could be either a good or bad thing, but that’s for you to decide.

So at the end of the day if you’re thinking of purchasing this, stop and ask yourself, will you be shooting in low light a majority of the time? Do you prefer to move around or stay planted (prime vs zooms)? Will you be comfortable handling a lens of this size and weight? Do you need the WR? The list goes on if you’re investing in a $1,000+ lens  you want to be sure that it get used and fulfils its purpose. All in all the XF16-55mm f2.8 is a great all rounder and was the first lens I bought for my kit and will always have a place there.

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4 thoughts on “A Practical Review of the XF16-55mm F2.8

  1. Amazing review! I have 16-55mm too and I can say that image quality is stunning. I would like to ask if I want to take a picture of a landscape scenery, what would be my aperture if I want to focus everything? What if I’m in 55mm full stop what will be my aperture to focus everything?

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    1. Thanks Jobert. In terms of shooting Landscape, there is a method that many landscape shooters use called Hyperfocal Distance. In its simplest form it is the focus distance where both foreground and background appear sharp. For someone new to this concept it can be very confusing, but there are apps out there that can help with this. Without getting to technical, if you’re taking a photo of say a beach, where there are rocks in the foreground and a cliff edge in the background, if you focused on just the rocks, your cliff will be blurry, vise versa if you focused on the cliff your rocks will be blurred. So you need to find a balance (which is where applying Hyperfocal Distance comes in). This is usually a focus point in between the rocks and the cliff. Good news is, on your Fuji camera, it comes with an indicator that shows you the how far ‘in front’ of your focus point will be in focus and how far ‘behind’ the focus point will be in focus. On the camera this is indicated by a white dot which is your focus point, and a blue bar on either side, the longer they are the more depth of field you’ll achieve, the shorter, the narrower depth of field. Hope this makes sense, fortunately there are apps out there that makes this guessing process easier. Do a quick search on Google, there are plenty of sites with more detail on Hyperfocal Distance. Good Luck 🙂

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  2. For wide angle where smaller apertures are OK, this bulky lens is ok. But for portrait lengths (35 to 85mm full frame, whatever the equivalent of that is here…23 to 56?) this lens is way behind the Fuji primes. The depth of field and background separation is rubbish, as seen in the pics above. Thank you for the review. The pics of people pretty much prove that it’s no great shakes at the longer end..

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    1. Thank you for your feedback, in terms of background isolation, I agree, and like with other zoom lenses they are not fast like your primes. The XF56mmf1.2 (even the XF90mmf2) are better for that application. Some would argue that those are specialised lenses whereas the XF16-55mmf2.8 is more of an all rounder (Jack of all trades, but master of none).

      The weight is also an issue especially if you pair it with a smaller body, example the X-T20, you’ll almost need to have a hand grip attached. On an X-T2 it’s manageable unless you have the battery grip attached.

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