Some of my findings with Fujifilm’s 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 Lens for X-Mount cameras

Fujifilm 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 on X-T20
Fujifilm 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 on X-T20, copyright © oakie 2017. all rights reserved.

I’ll begin with the obvious: yes, it’s looks like a clown shoe when mounted on the X-T20 and is as balanced as an axe.

However, the fact is this is Fujifilm’s self-proclaimed “flagship standard zoom” lens. based on the objective measures, it’s by far and away their sharpest, most accurate lens in their lineup. it’s sharper than all of their prime lenses to date. that’s not an opinion; it’s a fact. unfortunately, with all that perfection comes size and weight. even on the X-T2, it throws off the balance. on my X-T20, it’s like the camera body doesn’t even exist. it becomes a 2-handed affair because the lens makes it so front-heavy. my grip extension and thumb grip do nothing to make this anywhere close to 1-handed capable.

16-55mm vs. 18-55mm
16-55mm vs. 18-55mm, copyright © oakie 2017. all rights reserved.

So now you may be asking yourself, “why?” sometimes, there’s just no substituting a standard zoom. ok, but what’s wrong with the 18-55mm ƒ/2.8-4 kit lens? nothing. it’s a great lens that’s portable and has an excellent optical image stabilization (OIS) system. the 16-55mm has weather resistance but my X-T20 doesn’t, so that feature is mostly useless to me, further making my choice seem silly. the fact is there’s just no substitute for a wider aperture. OIS may allow me slower shutter speeds while handheld, giving it better low light capability, but more light is more light and a wider aperture allows for a shallower depth of field, especially at the long end of the zoom range. the lens is just wide enough to where OIS isn’t as necessary when shooting in low light.

Yes, the sharpness can’t really be noticed unless pixel peeping, and the distortion in other lenses is mostly corrected by software during the transfer process, but it all coalesces into photos that are visibly better when the light is right. the difference is tangible not just at the extremes, but with any properly exposed photo. and for the extremes, the increased quality makes recovered photos look that much better without relying on software processing tricks to sharpen, brighten, etc.

No, it’s not for everyone. even i would be just fine with my 18-55mm kit lens and it would serve me very well. in fact, i’m keeping it as a travel lens because of it’s compact size and weight. speaking of weight, it’s 1.44 lbs (655g). on the camera, it completely undoes all of the size and weight savings afforded by Fujifilm’s slim design and APS-C sensor choice. both are great lenses with excellent image quality but they both have their distinct purposes and capabilities. one makes compromises to be a more well-rounded lens while the other makes no compromises at all for the sake of image quality, giving Fujifilm a lens that is on the same plane as Nikon Gold Ring and Canon L.

If you can appreciate what it’s capable of and can afford it, both economically and in your camera bag, get it. it’s a true performer and not just a prestige lens. should you own an X-Pro2, X-T2 or X-T20, it doesn’t matter. some may question it being used on an X-T20 but let’s get the facts out there: aside from ergonomics and a handful of features, the compact X-T20 has the same sensor and image processor as the X-T2 and X-Pro2, and thus pumps out the exact same image quality as the larger, top of the line cameras. simply, this lens benefits the X-T20 just as it does their flagship models. obviously you won’t be able to benefit from the weather resistance, but there are ways around that. it’s no longer the compact camera it normally is, but that’s the compromise you make in pursuit of higher image quality.

For the amateur or hobbyist, it’s more of a want than a need, to be honest. but if you’re willing to sacrifice portability, it will reward you with the performance of a prime with the convenience of a zoomer that can work for you in less than ideal light.

Just some sample night photos, all taken handheld and are straight out of the camera (SOC). exif data listed with each photo. the ability to take these photos and get these results under the conditions i shot them in reassured me that i had made the right decision in buying this lens. i was originally quite hesitant to buy this very expensive lens, one whose focal range was already covered by my kit lens that’s highly revered for its image quality by itself.

So if you’re considering this lens and have a well defined purpose for it, get it. as this post is written there is a sale on Fujifilm cameras and lenses, taking $150 off the retail price of $1200, making it $1050 in the US. or if you can find it used, you could save even more.

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