I have to be honest, I didn't really like this lens until about 24hrs ago... It always seemed to be too big and when compared to the wonderful prime lenses on offer it didn't offer as good low light capabilities, particularly as it doesn't feature OIS. This all sounds pretty damming right? These were the main reasons for this lens to either stay in the camera bag or not come out on day trips. All of that subsequently changed upon reviewing the photos taken with the XF16-55mm F2.8 WR over the past year.
Three months in Malaysian Borneo, six months in Costa Rica, and more recently trips to Scotland and France. For a lens that I didn't really warm to it has travelled with me for most of the year. The primary reasons for this is its versatility and weather resistance sealing (WR). But now I've reviewed the files in more detail, especially files which were skipped over after importing them to Lightroom, I'm starting the understand the real potential of this lens. Fast, accurate autofocus and superb image quality, across a very helpful focal range.
XF16-55mm is versatile for those candid moments
Before moving to the Fujifilm X-Series about three years ago I was a Canon EOS user. I had the 24-105mm F4 IS lens but always lusted after the 24-70mm F2.8 for some reason, despite losing IS and 35mm of focal range. 16-55mm on APS-C sized sensors equates to 24-85mm in full frame terms. That extra 15mm over the Canon F2.8 alternative doesn't sound like much, but it is really important for many photographers out there, particularly for portraits.
"Zooms make you lazy"
This is the mantra that I often go by when it comes to wide - short telephoto focal lengths. I believe that prime lenses encourage you to think more about your composition, with the added benefit of generally having lower F-Stops allowing you to isolate your subjects more easily and photograph is darker conditions. Case and point, I was on a beach photographing turtles long before sunrise, the XF16mm F1.4, XF23mm F1.4 and XF56mm F1.2 allowed me start photographing handheld at least 30 minutes before I could with the the XF16-55mm and XF50-140mm F2.8 zooms. That 30 minutes can be all the difference, especially during the wonderful pre-dawn light.
However, as soon as the light was sufficient, I swapped across to the F2.8 zooms on both my X-T1s. the versatility of having 16-140mm seamlessly across two cameras meant that I could adapt much quicker to evolving situations, so instead of thinking which lens I needed on the camera, I focused on the moment.
This lens produces incredibly sharp files. From f2.8 onwards, across the focal range, it keeps on performing.
Built to last
Yes it is big, yes it is heavy but my oh my, this thing is built like a brick s@#£ house. An important factor to consider if you are a working photographer who isn't particularly kind to gear. This lens, along with the likes of the F50-140mm F2.8 are built to withstand some serious punishment. I'm sorry to admit that mine did have an altercation with a concrete floor...Heart in mouth moment, but I was relieved to see that the only sign was a tiny mark on the aperture ring, other than that the lens was fine. I can't remember if the lens hood was attached, though pretty ugly, it is designed to help absorb energy in incidents like that.
Keeping your kit light
I think I would generally choose a set a prime lenses if I was travelling for myself with no specific focus or interest in nature photography (difficult for me!). But for more focused projects, particularly where things will be evolving quickly or space and weight needed to be minimised, then the XF16-55mm F2.8 WR is a brilliant option.
Perfect with OIS?
Pretty much. I understand the reasoning for not including optical image stabilisation, as Fujifilm was focusing on the best possible image quality (and succeeded), but I also know that it was a deal breaker for a lot of photographers. Myself included when it was released. I do really like this lens, but if it had OIS then I would probably not be weighing up whether to take the XF16-55mm or a set a primes. The XF16-55mm OIS would be in the bag all the time and I would decide whether or not to throw in a prime lens or two. I know that OIS isn't a big deal for some photographers but for me it allows me to maximise low light situations, as well as encourage my creativity if I want to slow the shutter speed down to capture some subject motion but not have to use a tripod.
For sure, the inclusion of OIS would have made this almost perfect for my needs. Yes the XF18-55mm F2.8-4 OIS is a fine lens and worth mentioning, but having come back from longterm projects in tropical rainforests, I now understand the importance of WR sealing and will only invest in WR lenses in the future.
The one lens I took on a microlight flight
My relationship with lens is constantly evolving. When used on the X-T1 particularly with a hand/battery grip it feels so balanced and is a joy to use. However on the X-Pro2 I am drawn to use prime lenses, I think that is the effect of the rangefinder style design. This is a lens which is extremely versatile with excellent image quality and at the end of the day that is what a lot of people are looking for. Don't be put off by the lack of OIS, particularly if you have the XF50-140mm F2.8, together this is a superb two lens combo to cover nearly any situation. The XF16-55mm will definitely be joining me on all future assignments but will probably not for personal projects.
If you enjoyed that then you can find more reviews in my Blog section here. If you are a Fujifilm X-Series user then why not check out my thoughts on the XF100-400mm F4.5-5.6 OIS WR here, after three weeks on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.