Fujifilm's XF 8-16mm f/2.8 lens is the widest available rectilinear lens on the system and has completed the "Holy Trinity" of professional-grade zoom lenses. Squarely aimed at the uncompromising photographer, this lens shows that Fujifilm is ready to offer working photographers of all styles great lenses to execute the images they conceive. Let's take a look at how it performs in the field.
Fujifilm has spent a great deal of their R&D time on creating some of the best lenses available for APS-C sensors on the market today. Their primes have become highly regarded over the years, and their f/2.8 zooms have also been loved by professional and amateur photographers alike. Two examples of extremely high quality zooms for the Fujifilm X system are the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 and the XF 50-140mm f/2.8. Both of these are excellent performers, and the XF 8-16mm f/2.8 fits in right alongside them as a high-performing, pro-grade lens.
At this stage, we shouldn’t really need to talk about the build quality from any of the major players in lens manufacturing. They’re all producing stellar equipment these days, and the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 is no exception. It feels great in the hand and matches the Fujifilm system perfectly. It feels solid and like it will withstand the rigors of use in the field. There are, however, a couple of small annoyances about the construction that while not affecting the images the lens can achieve, will affect its use.
The full name of this lens is the Fujinon Aspherical Lens Nano-GI XF 8-16mm f/2.8 LM WR. This gives us a couple of clues as to the glass that goes into achieving this lens. The 20 glass elements include 4 aspherical elements and 6 extra-low dispersion elements. On top of that, Fujifilm's Nano-GI coating helps to reduce flare and ghosting. As we'll see below, all of these elements come together to create an excellent performer.
Size and Weight
This lens is by no means small and light like Fujifilm’s series of prime lenses. This fits squarely in with the professional zooms they offer in the 16-55mm and 50-140mm. At 805 grams, this may not seem like the heaviest lens on the market. But when you consider that an X-T3 weighs 539 grams with battery and memory inside, it suddenly seems a whole lot heavier.
At over 12 centimeters long and nearly 9 centimeters wide, it is also not a small lens. If small and light was your idea of an APS-C mirrorless system, this lens may not be for you. In fact, it’s not actually much smaller than something like Nikon’s 14-24mm f/2.8 full-frame lens.
Having said this, I did not find the lens too big or heavy to carry around for a day’s shooting. Especially for the intended use cases of this lens, it really doesn’t add that much more to your kit. If you consider walking out the door with a large tripod, a camera body, a couple of batteries, a lens or two, some filters, and snacks to get you through the day, a few hundred extra grams and a little more space in your bag taken up is not really a big deal in most situations, especially if it's replacing an existing wide-angle lens.
Here my first gripe about the lens. The focus ring of the 8-16mm feels almost like an afterthought. Fujifilm doesn’t seem to be able to decide on a method of determining the resistance of their focus rings for any lens, but this one feels particularly off. Of course, the powerful autofocus motors are great, and with Fujifilm’s excellent autofocus system, will work quickly and accurately is almost every situation. However, for those who like to manually focus, this ring is extremely loose and feels very sloppy compared to the rest of the lens construction.
The aperture ring is another part of the lens that doesn’t seem to have been given the same attention as the optics. Again, it is extremely loose when compared to the other lenses in its class: the 16-55mm f/2.8 and 50-140mm f/2.8. I constantly found myself knocking this aperture ring just while holding the camera up to my eye and zooming the lens. This really shouldn’t be an issue on a lens in this price range.
As with Fujifilm’s other “red badge” lenses, the 8-16mm has the Weather Resistant denomination and has seals all over the barrel, including the mount. During my recent week using the lens on Jeju Island, I had no issues at all using the lens in the heavy storms we were working in. The only thing that was a constant issue was getting water droplets on the bulbous front element, which is to be expected as the hood can only be so large on a lens with a field of view this wide.
Speaking of the front element, Fujifilm provides a slip-over lens cap like all manufacturers that make a lens in this class. However, I do appreciate them keeping the pinch-to-release lens cap type even with the slip over design.
A lens this wide is likely to be favored by landscape and cityscape photographers, many of whom will want to use filters with it. Since the front element protrudes so far, there is no way to add a circular filter thread to this lens. The good news is that filter holder systems are available. The bad news is they’ll need to be the larger 150mm sets in order to remain out of the lens’ field of view. I’ve been using the Haida M15 kit with this lens while I’ve had it, and it has performed spectacularly. However, the added bulk of a large holder and huge filters means that a good portion of my bag was taken up by the filters alone. This is something to consider if you’re deciding between this lens and something like the Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4.
In my testing, I found that this lens performs fairly similarly at all focal lengths. So, for brevity, I'll state my findings in general. At f/2.8, the center of the image is sharp. In fact, it's sharper than Fujifilm's XF 10-24mm f/4 lens wide open (more so in the corners). The corners follow suit here. While softer than the center, they are still sharper than the corners of the 10-24mm. Sharpness improves across the board from f/4 to f/8, with the corners becoming excellent by f/5.6. From f/11, as we'd expect on an APS-C sensor, sharpness starts to degrade. Both f/11 and f/16 produce usable images for smaller prints and social media use. However, f/22 is extremely soft. As you'll see in the samples here, sharpness is great, especially for an ultra-wide lens. If you're interested in seeing a couple of texture images to get an idea for sharpness at close focusing distances, check the images below (top: center, bottom: corner). These are both compared to the XF 10-24mm and both lenses were used wide open.
Images from this lens exhibit a significant vignette. As the lens is zoomed in, the front element recedes well back into the lens barrel. I would assume this contributes somewhat to the vignette being more pronounced as the lens is zoomed. The corners never get too dark, however, so this is a simple click to correct in post-production.
When wide open and used at 10mm, the corners are around a stop darker than the center. Stopping down to f/8 gives the most even results, but from f/11, the vignette starts to creep in again. At 12mm, a similar pattern can be seen, but illumination is most even at f/11. When used at 16mm, the vignette remains a constant presence throughout the aperture range.
Chromatic Aberration / Flare / Ghosting
When I use a wide-angle lens, I expect to see fringing and coma. In most lenses, this is just par for the course. In the couple of weeks I spent using this lens, I never saw any of these creep into any of my images. Even in high contrast back-lit scenes, I didn't see any fringing at all.
I also had a hard time getting any form of flare or ghosting unless the glass was wet or dirty. No matter where the sun or other lights were, I simply couldn't find any flare at all. This is an exceptionally well-corrected lens for those who enjoy optical excellence.
Now that we’ve got specs and numbers out of the way, let’s get to the real. What’s it like to use? Who is it for? After all, it's exceptionally large and heavy for the X system and extremely expensive to boot.
Fujifilm has taken back the crown of having the widest rectilinear lens on their X system, but a lens this wide is surely not for everyone. The focal range goes from ultra-wide to wide (a 35mm full frame equivalent of 12-24mm). This puts it at the far end of Fujifilm’s red-badge lenses and completes the “Holy Trinity” for the X System.
The wide end of the focal range sees a field of view of 121 degrees and can be quite unwieldy in the beginning. Once you get used to it, however, possibilities start to open up. Perspective distortion is very apparent when getting closer to objects and can be used to get creative with your framing in genres like landscape photography. Here is a quick example of the difference in field of view from 8mm to 10mm.
In tight spaces, the extra field of view versus the 10-24mm f/4 can be quite useful. I am often asked to shoot a quick interior of an event space, and the 10-24mm usually leads to a compromise in what I can show in tighter spaces. The 8-16mm gives more possibilities in situations like that.
Being able to zoom out to 16mm also gives the lens the ability to render things a bit more “normally” while still retaining the wide angle feeling. I used the lens almost exclusively on my recent trip to Jeju Island and found that I was happy to photograph most subjects with this range of focal lengths. However, as with all zoom lenses, I found myself using the extremes of the range more often than anything in between.
Fujifilm has used their linear motors to move the huge glass of this lens system around quickly and quietly. While the 10-24mm f/4 is sluggish, especially in low light, the brighter aperture and more powerful motors of the 8-16mm f/2.8 make it one of the fastest lenses on the system in terms of autofocus. It is on par with Fujifilm’s best lenses and just gets out of the way to allow you to focus on the photography.
Since the autofocus is fast, accurate, and nearly silent, it could also be good for video uses if you need a lens this wide on your productions.
Who Is It For?
When it comes to wide-angle lenses, I typically prefer to work with a zoom. I like the versatility when working at these focal lengths. The 8-16mm falls exactly into the focal range that I would want from an ultra-wide lens. However, would I invest in it myself? Perhaps down the line, but not any time soon. For me, the additional $1,000 I would need to spend for the extra width and additional filters that would need to be carried around for landscape work are simply not worth it. While I love to shoot landscapes and enjoy using a wide-angle lens, the XF 10-24mm is more than good enough for the work I do.
As I mentioned above, for those looking to get every last drop of optical performance from a wide-angle, this is the lens in Fujifilm’s lineup that gives you that. If money is not a factor, go for it. You will not be disappointed. However, if you don’t mind using an f/4 lens, don’t need to go quite so wide, and can live with a little less sharpness wide open, the 10-24mm might be a better option.
With all the good things we can say about the optical quality and build of this lens, there is an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed: the price. Fujifilm is asking just shy of $,2000 for this lens. Considering the value proposition provided by their own XF 10-24mm (and third-party offerings like the Laowa 9mm f/2.8 or Samyang 12mm f/2), it seems that Fujifilm are aiming at an audience who wants a wider focal length and wants to squeeze every last drop of performance out of their purchase.
What I Liked
- Uncompromising optics
- Quick, accurate, silent autofocus
- Wide-angle field of view
- No barrel distortion to be seen
- Lens cap maintains pinch-to-open style
- Overall size and weight were both smaller than expected
What I Felt Could Be Improved
- Focus ring spins freely and doesn't inspire confidence
- Aperture ring too easy to knock
- Doesn't accept screw-in filters (not much can be done with a lens this wide, but still a negative)
This is an excellent lens. It's not for everyone, to be sure. But, if you're in the market for the best that money can buy on the Fujifilm X System, this is it. I recommend you head over and pick one up here.