Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR | Review (English)

Note: Vous pouvez retrouver la version française de compte-rendu ici.

I’m not going to lie to you; I wasn't particularly excited to test the XF 16mm (equivalent to 24mm on full frame cameras) when Fujifilm announced its latest roadmap. Weird. Indeed I used to dream about Canon's L series and specifically the 24mm lens. But since I already own the XF 16-55mm zoom which flexibility, sharpness and f/2.8 aperture all work really well for me, I couldn't see how this fixed lens would find a place in my bag. Well, I was probably wrong.

© Patrice Michellon - f/14, 200 ISO, 1/45s

Before you read further I would like to point out a few things. My report will not contain any detailed technical analysis nor graphics to study. For this I would suggest you visit specialised websites like DP Review. Also you will not find any street photography pictures as I tested the lens for landscapes mainly. I rarely shoot in "documentary" mode and if I do so my go to camera remains the X100T.

 

Thanks to Fujifilm France I was able to use the lens for an entire week on the French Atlantic coast (Royan). I think both the camera body and the lens tasted a bit of everything: rain, wind, sand and sometimes sun. Therefore the lens' WR label (for Weather Resistant) was more than welcome. With both the X-T1 and the XF 16mm I could shoot outdoor everyday without having to worry about the weather conditions.

Like all X-Premium lenses, the XF 16mm benefits from a superb all-metal construction and finish. The focusing ring is extremely smooth and street photographers will love the addition of a depth of field scale. If you already use the XF 23mm then you will fill like home with its little brother. Two things immediately apparent are the size and weight of the lens. Both are specific and probably the "raison d'être" of Fujifilm's X series but it became even more obvious once I put back the XF 16-55mm zoom on my X-T1. Suddenly the zoom felt big and very heavy.

If like I did you use the XF 16mm in conjunction with the X-T1 and a carbon fiber tripod you will discover the joy of traveling photography without compromise. Add in a few filters and you're set for any situation, no matter what the weather forecast says. The best part of all? The whole kit fits in a small bag. I could barely hide a big smile when I arrived in Mornac to capture the sunset. I was surrounded by other photographers (as well as by their camera bags) with their big and heavy DSLRs and lenses. The ground was very wet and unstable because of all the rain we had for several days. Being able to move quickly and easily with small gear is invaluable. In some cases this is what makes the difference between getting the shot or not.

© Patrice Michellon - f/11, 200 ISO, 1/250s

The XF 16mm's autofocus is fast and reliable. It benefits from the internal focusing and worked perfectly. The time when the X-Pro 1 and the XF 18mm f/2 wouldn't focus properly are long gone.

© Patrice Michellon - f/7.1, 200 ISO, 1/150s

Even at f/1.4, the lens is tack sharp. The picture below was taken hand held with almost no light anymore, the sun had almost disappeared (around 9:10pm).

© Patrice Michellon  - f/1.4, 200 ISO, 1/280s

OK, I’m testing a lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 and we don't see a single shot with blurred backgrounds? You've gotta be kidding? Relax, here they come. Don't worry about the bokeh, the XF 16mm f/1.4 gets 5/5. Creamy and crazy soft backgrounds.

© Patrice Michellon - f/1.4, 200 ISO, 1/350s

© Patrice Michellon - f/2.8, 200 ISO, 1/850s

The Nano-GI treatment works like a charm. It was already the case with the 16-55mm f/2.8 WR zoom. I almost never experienced significant flare issues even when shooting straight into the sun. Below is one example where I had the sun in front of me. It is the kind of shot where one realizes how much detail can be recovered in the dark areas during the post-processing. The X-Trans sensor is really great for this.

© Patrice Michellon - f/14, 200 ISO, 1/340s

Lightroom CC doesn't include a specific lens profile for the XF 16mm yet but even without applying any particular lens correction I would say that all shots are perfectly acceptable.

© Patrice Michellon - f/13, 200 ISO, 1/80s

Right when I get to test the XF 16mm, Adobe announces a new Lightroom version. I had to test the new HDR and Panorama functions. Both are so well implemented that photographers get fewer and fewer reasons to use Photoshop. Also I wouldn't be surprised if we see a lot of HDR and Pano work everywhere on the internet over the coming weeks. Anyway, you've been served; first a HDR shot and then a panoramic one (made of 5 pictures).

© Patrice Michellon - HDR edited in Lightroom CC

© Patrice Michellon - Panorama edited in Lightroom CC

Time for a few black and white shots.

© Patrice Michellon - f/13, 200 ISO, 1/240s

© Patrice Michellon - f/8, 200 ISO, 1/750s

© Patrice Michellon - f/13, 200 ISO, 1/170s

It is hard not to test the electronic shutter with such a lens before leaving the place. Window and sun reflections make perfect candidates. As you can see below the lens is sharp even at f/1.4.

© Patrice Michellon - f/1.4, 200 ISO, 1/10500s

What else can I tell you about this lens? Well, maybe that I found it difficult to use it for portraits. Nothing to do with the lens, it is more related to my shooting style. I tend to capture portraits at 50 or 85mm and use either the 16-55mm zoom or the XF 56mm (and I might use the XF 50-140mm at some point). I would probably need more time with the XF 16mm to get used to it.

Picture on the left: f/1.4, 1600 ISO, 1/32000s

If I had to chose? Tough. Basically you have two options now. On one side you get the great aperture and the best optical quality with both the 16mm and the 56mm fixed lenses. On the other side you get flexibility with an already amazing quality. Price is also on the + side for the zoom. Weight? Well taken individually the fixed lenses win. But if you need both for the job then the weight is the same. You guessed well. Photographers allergic to zooms will rush on this new XF 16mm R WR with no hesitation. As far as I'm concerned, reason still prevails (for now) and I will continue to use the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR zoom as my main kit lens (until I can afford the 16mm).

A lens review without pictures of the lens? Come on! Now way! Here are a few shots with one showing the lens on the X-T1 and another one with the lens next to the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR zoom.

POST PROCESSING

  • Adobe Lightroom CC (2015)
  • Adobe Photoshop CC

GEAR USED

  • Camera: Fujifilm X-T1
  • Lens: Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR
  • Tripod: 3 Legged Thing Brian + Airhead 1