Earlier this year, Fujifilm released the 16mm 2.8 R WR (AKA the 16mm 2.8). A compact prime lens for their Fujifilm X system. I got to play with it for about three weeks and there is a lot to love, but it isn't without its imperfections.
In street photography, there is a common discussion of whether to go with a full-frame equivalent of 28mm, or 35mm. Now with the new 16mm f/2.8, Fujifilm users have the option of both, with the 16mm covering the 28-ish (Really, 24) and the 23mm f/2.0 covering the 35-ish. I'm a 35mm focal length guy myself but I still learned to love the 16mm, but it is an easy lens to love. The 16mm is an even easier lens to love for walking around and going on trips, it is wide enough to capture the scene, and light enough to take on a hike, and paired with an X-T30 it is a perfect traveling lens for some simple landscapes.
There are three things on a technical level most people consider when picking up a lens and those are vignetting, flares, and sharpness so let's get down to it.
First off, when it comes to sharpness, I find these discussions overrated so I will keep it very brief. This lens is quite sharp, which isn't surprising since it's a prime from Fuji, and like almost any modern f/2.8 prime, it is soft in the corners at f/2.8 and the sweet spot is f/5.6 where everything is tack sharp. We get a little bit of diffraction as we go more and more stopped down, but that will happen on almost every lens out there, period. Especially on smaller sensor camera's like the APS-C sensor of the X-T3.
Secondly, we have vignetting and while there is some when wide open, I often add a slight vignette to my images anyway so it doesn't really matter to me all that much and most, if not all, of it is gone at f/4.0 so if you hate vignettes, it is easy to get rid of by either stopping down or just removing it in post with the vignette tool.
The third way to commonly grade a lens is flares and how it deals with backlight, and the 16mm f/2.8 is a total champ here. The lens handles back lighting beautifully, and hard light right in the front element seems to not be a problem in the slightest. As you can see in the shot below, even firing straight into the sun, I get some nice and controlled starbursts but that's about it.
One disadvantage to the 16mm focal length on an APS-C body like the X-T3 I used for this review is that 24mm is also the same focal length of most phones. The latest Pixel, iPhone, Galaxy,(and more) all have lenses that are around 28mm full frame equivalent so you have to be wary that you don't end up with a shot you could have gotten on your phone. Take advantage of that big sensor!
I was fortunate enough to shoot a music video in the three weeks I had this lens and its fantastic. The ability to shoot at the 3M focal length is perfect for gimbals and such. It focuses smoothly and quietly, unlike the f/1.4 variant. The lens is also similar in size and weight to the 23mm f/2.0, just 25 grams or so, when using a gimbal you don't have to worry too much about rebalancing (you still should, but it is easier than, say, going from the 23 to the 56mm 1.2.
What I Liked
The 16mm f/2.8 is really an amazing walk around lens. My favorite quote from the NBC show Community I feel wraps it up succinctly. "It's not just good! It's good enough!"
This lens is right on the border of being amazing. It is light, sharp, water resistant, and silent for video. but, there are a few things that weren't quite there specifically I feel like it could have been smaller — but that may have come at the cost of Fujifilm's much beloved aperture ring — and they do make a 27mm pancake so maybe a 16mm pancake is on the way too.
What I Didn't Like
Is this lens sharp? Yes
Are there sharper 16mm lenses for the Fujifilm X-System? Also yes - thee 16mm f/1.4 comes to mind.
Does this lens have a great size to weight ratio? Yeah it does! But there are other lenses for the system that are lighter and smaller if you really want to be incognito.
16mm is wide, however it is almost exactly the same FOV as the camera on my phone — other than resolution (which for web is kind of moot) it can be difficult to find a difference in images. Below I have two photos, one shot on the X-T3 with the 16mm lens and one on the Google Pixel 3XL. Can you tell which is which?
In conclusion, the Fujifilm 16mm f/2.8 WR R is a fantastic lens in the Fuji lineup! It's sharp, it's fast, it's light, and it looks gorgeous, and let's stop lying to ourselves and saying that the last point doesn't matter at all. However, the focal length can make photos look like they were taken on a phone, but not always. The large sensor results in less depth of field, which is great for fashion and landscape, but unless you need the exact 16mm focal length, to may be better off with the 23mm f/2.8 which is eerily similar in size.
Fujifilm has a lot of options for the 16mm focal length, it's nice that they have finally made us a compact prime, but here is hoping they release an 8mm rectilinear lens next, as the 8-16 2.8 is real tempting.
What do you think of the 16mm f/2.8 R WR? Are you going to pick one up? Do you already have one? Sound off in the comments and let me know everything I got wrong! I mean, let me know what you think of the lens!