Working zoom, part 2

XF16-55 f/2.8 R LM WR lens review

This is the second review of Fujifilm’s new fast, professional zoom lenses. Read Part 1, the review of the XF50-140mm f/2.8 lens

With the release of this high-quality, medium-telephoto zoom lens (24-84mm full-frame equivalent), Fujifilm has given a large segment of professional photographers all of the tools they need. The addition of this lens, to the XF50-140mm f/2.8 lens and the X-T1 camera body, completes the setup many photographers would happily use for their work. Make no mistake, this is a professional-quality lens.

So, if you are a photographer who has been waiting for the two constant aperture (f/2.8) zooms (medium and long telephoto) to put on the front of your X-cameras, your wait is over. Given the quality of the lenses, I believe that most photographers will easily transition from full-frame equipment to this lineup of Fujinon lenses without losing anything except for the burden of carrying heavier equipment, while saving money at the same time.

Questions

Now, you just have to ask yourself if this is the right lens for what you shoot. I have been asking myself this question as I use the lens. My comments below will explain my conclusion and why.

Fujifilm Canada shipped me a sample of their new zoom lens to try out just in time for a very busy period of work photography. Over the span of a number of weeks, I shot numerous events with this lens on my X-T1 or X-E2. With my past experience using the kit XF18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 lens, the XF18-135mm variable aperture lens, the Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens and all of the XF primes for similar work gigs, I was constantly assessing whether or not this new zoom lens was worth the money and if I would be buying it.

Handling

DCraig_150316_XF16-55mmLens_002

As you can see from the photos on this page, the XF16-55 lens is large. It is also robust, which confirms the great build and quality of the lens. Of course, it is heavier than any of the XF prime lenses whose angle of view it covers, and it is heavier and larger, than the XF18-55 variable aperture, kit zoom. On the X-T1, especially with the battery grip, it balances well. On the X-E2, it is a bit front heavy, but manageable. However, if you are coming from the full-frame DSL world, this lens is smaller and lighter than the 24-70 f/2.8 lenses it would replace.

Auto focus is quick and, I believe, equivalent to FX competitors, especially on the X-T1. Of course, with this lens you can utilize all of the great focusing aids available to X-cameras, particular when shooting in manual. Honestly, I have come to depend so much on these aids (focus peaking, as well as seeing exposure and white balance, before I shoot), I can’t imagine having to rely on the TTL view on a DSLR again.

I don’t believe one can decide about a lens purely on size and weight though. There are a number of other issues to consider.

Image quality

This lens is sharp wide open. I didn’t hesitate to use it at f/2.8 and that is where it stayed most of the time. In comparing it with the XF kit zoom, this lens has a clear advantage in sharpness, particularly wide open. I would rate the image quality of the XF16-55 lens on par with the Nikkor 24-70mm which I have used for years. Given the great X-trans rendering of the X-cameras, you can’t go wrong with this lens on any of the X-bodies.

There is nothing more convenient than a fast, medium-telephoto for so many photo situations.

Best uses

This is a pro lens which works best when you need to cover the appropriate focal lengths without having to change lenses. I used it in exactly that way for outdoor and indoor events. Shooting in only available light and with on-camera and off-camera flash. It was terrific in all the situations in which I found myself and I was very happy with the resulting images. There is nothing more convenient than a fast, medium-telephoto for so many photo situations.

For very low light situations, the lens performs well, due to the great high-ISO performance of the X-trans sensor. However, given a choice between this lens and a faster prime, I probably would choose the prime lens.

Would I carry it with me while I travel. No. That doesn’t mean someone else should avoid this lens for travel. Of course not. I frequently see tourist with HUGE kits walking the streets of Victoria. But, my personal preference is for a smaller and more discrete setup for travel. I would rather shoot with the XF23mm, XF27 or XF35mm lens, while I travel or when I’m shooting on the street. If you want a zoom lens for travel, the XF18-135 or XF18-55 variable aperture lenses might be a better choice.

Should I buy this lens?

At this point, you might be asking yourself why I have’t just written, “I can’t wait to own this lens.” Given that I purchased the XF50-140mm lens without even trying it, buying the XF16-55mm lens would seen to be a natural step for me to take.

Well, this brings me back to my earlier point about deciding about any lens purchase based upon what you are shooting and how. I prefer using primes below the 56mm (85mm FX equivalent) focal length. I like the smaller, lighter and more discrete setup and would rather work with two bodies and two primes than just one body and a medium-telephoto zoom lens. This is inconvenient in certain situations and that is why all of the photojournalist with whom I work use a medium-telephoto zoom lens on one body. Also, if I was just starting out in building my X-kit, and didn’t own the XF primes that I already own, purchasing this great zoom lens would make more sense. So, for me, this is both a shooting style and economic question. For now, I will forego the convenience of this great zoom lens in favour of my collection of excellent XF primes. Given that I don’t make the same choices most photographers make in numerous situations, I suspect that I am in the minority when it comes to making this decision.

For now, I’m totally happy with my choice and even happier to know that Fujifilm has produced such a great zoom lens, just in case I ever need a fast, medium-telephoto XF lens.

Weight comparison: Fujinon XF16-55mm lens – 655g. v. Nikkor 24-70mm lens – 900g. All of the samples photos where captured with the XF16-55mm f/2.8 lens, fronting either the X-T1 or X-E2. Most are OOC JPEGs.

5 Comments

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  1. Thanks for the review. I still prefer shooting with 23mm & 56mm on two bodies than this zoom. Btw, how is the focusing performance of the 50-140mm lens? Is it responsive than the 55-200mm lens? Thx

    • Joe, thanks for the comment. I hear you: the 23 and 56 on two bodies is a great combination. In fact, I shot an event last night with them.
      The 50-140 focuses faster, much faster, than the 55-200. Particularly in low light. I shot with the 55-200 on the weekend, in daylight, and it was fine, most of the time. But in low light, it can hunt, so I usually shoot in MF instead. The 50-140 is a big improvement over it.

  2. Thanks for the update. Good to know what else is out there vs. Nikon and the other brand.

    • Hey Kevin, Thanks for reading. The lenses are all great, both Fujinon and Nikkor. And the other brand. Just depends upon what system you have and how you like to shoot, to determine which lenses are right. I enjoyed using this one a lot, but can’t justify the purchase when I have the focal lengths covered with my prime lenses.

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