Whenever you purchase a new Fujifilm camera, there are two options for “kit” lenses. The first is a classic within the Fuji ecosystem, the 18-55mm f2.8-4.0 zoom lens, and the second option is the Fuji 16-80mm f4 R OIS WR.
As a travel blogger, I elected to purchase the Fujifilm 16-80. I thought it would cover a versatile focal length (24-120mm in a full-frame equivalent).
Additionally, I appreciated the silent and quick auto-focus that showed potential for my YouTube Channel.
When purchasing lenses, there are a few things I understand.
#1: The larger the zoom range, the lower the image quality.
#2: Zoom lenses have a worse image quality than primes.
#3: The Fuji 16-80 is not Fujifilm’s 16-55 red-badge zoom.
However, I have been very disappointed in Fuji’s attempt at the 16-80 lens. (For the last five months, I’ve been using this lens in a variety of ways: portraits, video, landscape, and as a daily, walk-around lens.)
Did I expect too much? For a lens that retails as new for $800, I don’t think so.
- It’s a versatile lens range
There is only 1 Fujifilm lens that has a focal length from 24mm until 120mm as a full-frame equivalent, and this lens is it. Additionally, the Fuji 16-80mm has a constant aperture of F4.
Versatility is paramount when travel, which is what this lens is designed for.
- The images are very sharp in the center
Shot at f8, 640 ISO, 1/8 sec, Tripod with 2 second timer
As you can see, Wineburg’s book is what I was focused on. It is easily readable.
However, this is probably the best condition in which this lens could be used. (Middle-of-the-zoom range @f8)
- Weather Sealed and Build Construction
This is where Fuji excels, and I trust Fuji’s build quality. I have no problem taking this lens out in a rainstorm and expecting it to survive.
- Autofocus (Tested with a Fujifilm X-T4)
After updating the firmware, I am happy with it.
It is fast (by my standards), and it is quiet.
However, please note that if you are relying on this lens for video, you will need to stand or sit awkwardly still.
Fuji’s autofocus is not nearly to the same level as Sony or Canon, and the gap appears to be widening more than shrinking. (I have heard that this may change with the X-H2, but this is not until 2022. This is one area in which Fuji is seriously struggling.)
- Image Stabilization
Fuji claims that the 16-80mm has six stops of image stabilization.
I can handhold some photographs up to the 80mm focal length, and I was impressed with it down to 1/30th of a second.
I really did not test this feature as much as others probably have.
#1 Horrible Image Quality
I am disappointed.
Now, I’m not a “pixel peeper” or anything of that sort, and I find that the Fuji 16-80 is basically unusable.
I was on a photo shoot with a friend, and the first thing he noticed was the horrific quality (especially in the corners.)
Image Quality Tests
Having a few zoom lenses that overlap in various focal lengths, I thought it would be interesting to show you how horrible this lens actually is.
I shot the photos with a tripod, and as close to an identical focal length as I could.
For reference, look at the book on the far right side, Historical Thinking. It is 4 books away from the Eyes on the Prize Primary Source Reader. (Same book as above)
For this test I used
- Fujifilm 16-80mm f4
- Fujifilm 10-24mm f4
- Fujifilm 55-200mm f3.5-4.8
Now, that test was not entirely fair as I tested one lens, the 16-80mm at its extreme, and the 10-24 WR in the middle of the zoom range.
,So, here is the 16-80 at 24mm and the 10-24 at its longest focal length. (24mm)
As you can see, the 10-24 clearly is sharper than the 16-80, even at its most extreme focal length.
Now, what about the middle of the zoom range for the 16-80?
These next photos were taken at 55mm.
(For reference on these photos, please look at the book on the mid-right: A History of Modern Europe: From the Renaissance to the Present).
In an attempt to create a comparable and fair review, I did not push the Fuji 16-80mm to its extreme, 80mm (120mm in full-frame) focal length.
So, I stopped this comparison at 70mm for both the 16-80 and the 55-200.
As you can clearly see both the Fujifilm 10-24mm and 55-200mm have a better image quality than Fuji’s 16-80mm.
Honestly, it’s almost embarrassing. In order to even use a picture from the 16-80, I have to crop the photo’s corners extensively.
I understand that this is a trade-off for versatility, but what’s the point if the picture is *almost unusable.
Additionally, if I wanted to use only the middle of the zoom range, what’s the point of this when Fuji seems to oversaturate the market with decent 30-60mm primes?
#2 For Landscape Photography
For hikers, this is supposed to be the lens to use.
It only weighs about 15.5 oz, and covers the wide-angle with the opportunity for some compression in your shots.
However, what’s the point in using this lens for landscape photography if you can’t use the extremes?
For landscape photographers, the devil is in the details. (And the details are in the corner, which this lens is poor at.)
#3 For Street Photography
Another way this lens is advertised is for a walk-around lens, but I cannot justify this lens for street photography for 2 reasons.
- The image won’t be as sharp and environmental portraits require.
- The lens sticks out. When fully extended, it is just as large as the 16-55 f2.8. (131.5mm) Additionally, I am very afraid about this lens “sucking in” dust because of its large extension.
#4 Cleaning this lens
Alright, maybe it’s just me, but cleaning the Fujifilm 16-80 is horrible.
No matter what I do, I always seem to leave streaks or fingerprints on the camera.
My go-to lens cleaner is a microfiber cloth, and I understand this is not as good as a lens pen, but still.
Additionally, this lens is weather sealed, but if you do not dry the lens immediately, it leaves water streaks.
Is this user error?
There are only two ways I can suggest using the Fuji 16-80mm f4.
#1 Center your subject within the middle of the frame
Now, I know this may be obvious, but sometimes the surroundings are important. However, with this lens, you probably won’t be able to work around the blurry edges.
Additionally, when you do this, expect to crop a lot of photos.
#2 For Video
I think this is where this lens excels.
Whenever you are shooting video, you do not need the sharpest image quality in the corners. After all, cut scenes are typically only a few seconds long, and this is not long enough for someone to examine the screen unless they pause it.
Additionally, this lens provides somewhat fast and silent autofocus.
I tested it with the Rode VideoMicro, and I did not have any background noise from the lens itself.
As for image stabilization, this is the most impressive feature about this lens.
Now, it can be a bit confusing. You will have to turn OIS off within the camera itself, instead of the side. The only button on the lens is the aperture-lock button.
A Note About Vlogging: For me, the 16-80mm presented an interesting opportunity to test its vlogging capabilities. However, I found the 16mm (24mm on full-frame) too close to my face.
Following my 4-Tier Rating System, here are my total ratings
Price: 1.5/5 (It’s $800 MSRP)
Reliability: 2/5 (The Image Quality is the biggest problem with the lens. However the Image Stabilization saves it a bit.)
Functionality: 2/5 (It’s a 24-120; Highly Utilitarian)
Style: 3/5 (I like Fuji Lenses)
My final score for the Fuji 16-80mm f4: 8.5/20
As you can tell, I pretty much hated this lens. It was the first camera lens I actually sold, but I hope the person who purchased it will utilize it better than I could.
I really wanted the Fuji 16-80mm to be the one for travelers who use the Fuji ecosystem. (Especially those one-lens types.)
However, I was more disappointed in my images than satisfied, which meant I needed to sell the lens.
There is a lot of support for this lens, and I don’t quite understand the reasoning behind it. It might be better or sharper than Fuji’s 18-135, but I would take the additional reach if I was going to have the sharpness issue in the corners.
I can definitely tell you the lens is not worth the $800 MSRP.
And after using the extremes of this lens, I actually went back and improved my rating for the Fuji 16mm f1.4.
Despite it being used and promoted for travel, I did not take it on my first backpacking tour around the world.
Well, has your experience with the Fuji 16-80 been a better experience than mine?
Do you have any suggestions for other Fuji photographers?