An Underrated Pleasure – The Fuji XF 18mm F/2
Fuji XF 18mm F/2 Review
The Fuji 18mm F2 lens was one of three first lenses produced to launch in January 2012 to go with Fujifilm’s first interchangeable lens X camera, The X-PRO1, along with their XF35mm F/1.4 and XF60mm F/2.4 Macro. Giving Fuji photographers a slightly wide to shot tele options.
A lot has been said about this little 18mm f/2 and I usually hear about how bad it is. Something I’m quick to point out is both subjective and inaccurate, if that can be taken with out contradiction. As like any tool it’s better if you use the right one for the job you are doing. I find the 18mm is a lens I often place on my camera when I want to shoot as I really like the look it offers my images, no it’s not the fastest focusing Fuji lens out there and probably not the sharpest either but these things really don’t bother me lately, perhaps Fuji has caused a change in how I look at my images or perhaps I find all the Fuji glass to be optically very good? I like it for its look, love it really, and like anything you love, for it’s flaws you’ll accept it not despise it. Something I think a lot of 18mm owners will confess to if not in words then it in their photos.
As you are reading this on the internet I thought I’d include my thoughts on the sharpness of the lens as well as the speed of focus and the general feel in use. So I’ll keep it brief:
It is very sharp in the centre and falls off a little as you go towards the edges.
Can you tell how much I care if this little lens is ‘sharp’? Like all of Fuji’s lenses it is very good optically, not in any way perfect but there is a balance to be had when you design a lens and I have no problem shooting this lens at f/2. Now I doubt I’ll be using it for architectural photography where the client is demanding perfection, there are other lenses for that, but as a general every day lens it plenty good enough as the fall of focus is quite nice.
This lens, for 2017, does not focus fast, there I said it. But it has got an awful lot faster over the years and Fujifilm continue to offer improvements via firmware for their lenses and cameras. The last round of big firmware updates saw the speed of all the lenses take a jump for the better and one of the reasons I like Fuji so much; their continuous commitment to improving the experience for their users. Fuji call this ‘Kaizen’.
Using manual focus or setting up for back button focus is easy with Fuji & knowing how to get the best out of a system, like anything, is important. I often find myself using the MF settings because Fuji make it easy, although the focus ring on the 18/2 is quite small so not the easiest but once you get use to it all is good.
The files are typically Fuji but there are something a little special about the 18mm F/2 images that I like in a similar way to the XF35mm F/1.4. There is a little magic in these two lenses that perhaps helped in convincing so many photographers to pick up the system early on. The XF18mm produces really nice contrast and colour, so much so that even the raw files look good in comparison to what I was use to from my Canon 5D Mark-III raw files when shot through Sigma’s rather wonderful Art series of lenses.
Of course you have the native JPEG engine built into all of the Fuji X cameras that gives that Fujifilm, eh, film feel to the images and helps control the little imbalances in the lens design like heavy CA or geometric distortion. A good option with all of their lenses if you don’t fancy doing the conversion your self in post.
The lens feels small & light, well it is small and light, and as such is a great unobtrusive attachment on the front of the camera allowing you to appear a little less dominating to your subject, something I really notice during a wedding. That makes a big change from shoving a full frame camera into the middle of a dance floor. There are advantages to being a little inconspicuous at times. The aperture ring has a good weight to the adjustments but the AF ring is small, well it’s not going to be big on what is basically a pancake lens. The lens is a little noisy while it focuses & with the silent mode on the camera it is very noticeable, especially as you lean over the shoulder of a celebrant at a wedding to grab a shot. Otherwise you won’t notice it much.
I bought my XF 18mm F/2 R as a bundle second hand along with a camera and a lens I already owned, the XF35mm F/1.4. I was planning on selling both lenses on as I had only heard bad things about the little 18mm and already owned the 35mm but after using it for a few days it changed my mind, and it has become one of my favourite lenses while out and about. It’s small, light, sharp with great colour and contrast and if your looking for that out of a lens it’s a great buy.
Have a look at a few of the images below, all shot with the Fuji XF18mm F/2. Click to view full screen.