The Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens fills a gap in the Fujifilm lens lineup that was previously unfilled. With its red badge that denotes Fujifilm’s top-of-the-line lenses, this standard zoom equivalent for the Fujifilm X system is squarely aimed at the working professional.
With a versatile focal length of 16-55mm, this is somewhat of an “all-in-one” solution for many professionals. From wide angle to moderate telephoto, all focal lengths are covered and the fast f/2.8 aperture gives good low light capabilities. It is also built to withstand the abuse of day-to-day professional use. Let’s go into more depth below.
Build Quality and Handling
The all-metal build of the XF 16-55mm is befitting of its standing in the Fujifilm lens lineup. It feels solid and as though it will stand up to rigorous professional use. The hood, although plastic, also feels solid. One other physical feature I appreciate is the rubberized zoom ring. This makes the ring easy to turn, even with cold or sweaty fingers.
The WR denomination means that the lens has weather seals all over. Being a pro-grade lens, we expect these to be the best Fujifilm has to offer, and they seem to be excellent. The two encounters my lens has had with the elements so far include being dunked by a wave in Vietnam and used over a two hour period of shooting in a typhoon in Korea. Both times, I thoroughly rinsed and dried the lens off after use and have had no problems at all with it. So far, so good.
Something we always need to talk about with Fujifilm lenses is the aperture ring, as they seem to constantly change it. The aperture ring on the 16-55mm is perfect for the type of lens it is. The clicks are solid and definite, and the stops are marked. With a quick glance, you can know what your aperture is set to and the stiffness of the ring means that tossing the camera in your bag will not change the aperture like some of the prime lenses.
One other thing that bears mentioning is that this lens comes with a really solid front lens cap. For anyone who has read my other reviews of Fujifjilm gear, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of the dinky lens caps they provide (I’ve even had one flip off in my bag and scratch the front element of my 23mm f/1.4 badly). The 16-55mm cap has a solid clasp that grips the filter thread tightly. I’d love to see these caps produced for all other Fujifilm lenses.
Speaking of the filter thread, the XF 16-55mm has a 77mm filter thread. Normally, I would rejoice at this. All of my old filters from my Nikon lenses are 77mm and they would now fit without step-up rings. However, Fujifilm’s other “pro-level” zooms, the 10-24mm f/4 and the 50-140mm f/2.8, both have 72mm threads, so I’m still stuck taking step-up rings or multiple filter sizes with me.
For manual focus shooters, the small ring at the front will suffice but still not please everyone. With Fujifilm’s new linear focus ring operation, video shooters may find this lens a great solution for run-and-gun shooting. The couple of times I have used it for video work, I have found the focal lengths to be useful and the f/2.8 aperture good for all but the darkest situations.
Size and Weight
This is quite a big lens in the Fujifilm collection. It weighs in at 1.4 pounds, which is much lighter than equivalent lenses on 35mm full-frame systems, but still not light on the Fujifilm cameras. Of course, optical limitations prevent this lens from becoming too small, but it is still larger than I first expected. On a larger body like the X-H1, especially with the battery grip attached, it feels quite well balanced. However, even on the X-T2, it is extremely front heavy and can feel oversized. I have a personal preference for smaller lenses, so I do recommend trying this lens out for yourself before committing to a purchase.
This lens is sharp, contrasty, and has minimal defects anywhere in its range. I only noticed these because I went out to my trusty brick wall and did some soul-invigorating tests.
In terms of distortion, you will see some barrel distortion at 16mm, almost no distortion at 23mm, and then from 35mm onwards, pincushion distortion is slightly evident.
At all focal lengths, the lens is tack sharp in the center and only marginally softer in the corners when used wide open. By f/4, the corners barely show any visual difference from the center.
Wide open, you will see some vignetting, especially at the long end of the focal range. However, it is not obnoxious and can be removed easily in post. By f/5.6 the vignette is barely visible outside the extreme corners at any focal length.
In terms of chromatic aberration, I still haven’t seen any in my shooting, even in extremely high contrast situations. This lens controls them, and flare and ghosting, extremely well.
All of this being said, I had to do tests to notice any of these small defects. They really don't affect day-to-day shooting in any way. This lens is optically excellent.
In my tests, this is among, if not the, fastest focusing lens on the Fujifilm system.
In AF-S mode, it snaps into focus and nails it every single time. For much of my work in family portraits and corporate events, this makes all the difference. I’m able to spot an expression or a moment unfolding, focus, and make the picture without ever having to wait on the lens.
In AF-C, I have also found it very useful at my family sessions as I like to have a lot of movement in my pictures with young children. Unlike some of the other lenses in the Fujifilm lineup, I’ve never had the lens stray out of focus when using AF-C.
The f/2.8 Aperture
This is the one area that doesn't always work for me. Of course, f/2.8 is quite a fast aperture and allows for excellent light gathering. However, on an APS-C sensor, the depth of field is not as shallow as an equivalent lens on a 35mm full-frame camera. Thus, I sometimes find myself wanting for the primes while I’m using this lens. So, I've usually got an f/1.4 prime or two in my bag as well when I take this lens. This is a personal gripe, but I do miss the shallow depth of field when using this lens at moderate distances.
With the X-H1
When paired with the flagship X-H1 body, this lens realizes its full potential. The IBIS system in the X-H1 does an excellent job of stabilizing this lens, making slow shutters hand held an absolute breeze. At 16mm, I have been able to handhold this lens with repeatable results at 1/4 of a second and, with burst mode, down to 1 full second if I brace myself on something. The IBIS makes this an even more versatile lens.
Coming in at $1,199 dollars, this is by no means a cheap lens, but it’s also not particularly expensive either. If you’re looking for an extremely versatile, fast, durable option for the Fujifilm X system, this could be an excellent option.
What I Liked
- Image quality
- Autofocus speed
- Pairing with the X-H1
What Could Be Improved
- Would love it to be slightly smaller and lighter
- Same 72mm filter thread as other zooms
To wrap up, I think it’s important to consider who the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens is aimed at. This is a versatile lens for the working professional. It is well built, optically excellent, fast, and covers a useful selection of focal lengths. Even for a serious amateur who wants a do-it-all lens in these focal ranges, this could be the lens you're after. If you don’t mind having a bulky and heavy lens in your Fujifilm kit, this is certainly a great option.