Quick Facts about the Fujifilm 16-55mm F2.8
- Weight: 1.44 lb/655 Grams
- Weather Sealed: Yes
- Filter Size: 77mm
- Angle of View: 83.2 to 29 Degrees
- Focusing Distance: 11.81″/30cm
- Max Aperture: F2.8
- Minimum Aperture: F22
- Image Stabilization: No
- Mount System: Fuji X
- Price: $1,199
- Zoom: Extension
Table of Contents
For a couple of years now, I have heard about every excuse for and against the 16-55mm F2.8.
- It’s almost too heavy.
- You can be creative in photography without depth of field.
- F4 vs F2.8, F4 is good enough.
- The 16-80 is just as good, plus it includes the extra reach.
- It needs to have Optical Image Stabilization.
- The Fujifilm lenses cost 1/2 to 1/3 of the full-frame counterparts, photography is all about compromises.
However, there is one thing I am starting to be confident about. The Fujifilm ecosystem is starting to increase in price and size, while their competitors are doing the opposite. (Especially the Sony ecosystem.)
With this in mind, one of the most important lenses for the ecosystem will be the 24-70mm F2.8 equivalent. So, let’s see if an almost ten year old lens is worth it.
What other Fujifilm lenses cover the 16-55 (APS-C)/24-82.5mm (Full-Frame Equivalent?)
- Tamron XF 17-70mm F2.8
One of my least favorite lenses, the 16-80mm F4 always disappointed in regards to image quality. I think it’s the closest, direct competitor to this lens.
- Fujifilm XF 18-55 F2.8-F4.0
The standard kit lens. A used copy can be purchased for around $300.
I had high hopes for the 18-120, but there is one major problem for its intended video use.
Another direct competitor of the 18-120, this 18-135 is Fujifilm’s other one-stop lens. This lens does have OIS! However, it struggles in low light with an aperture of F5.6
An instant classic. The XF 23mm f1.4 is sharp, has beautiful sunstars, and it’s bokeh is magical.
Everything I said about the 23mm, but at the 33mm f1.4 ‘s focal length.
One of the few F1 lenses in the world that also has autofocus. However, with that 75mm FF focal length, you are going to have a very shallow depth of field.
A refresh of the original 56mm f1.2. This lens is now weather-resistant and has a closer focusing distance. (50cm)
Dials, Switches, Buttons, and More
There are no dials, switches, or any special buttons on this lens. Additionally, the 16-55 is one of the few normal zoom lenses which lack optical image stabilization. (More on if this is actually helpful or hurtful, later…)
As one of the professional Fujifilm zoom lenses, one should expect wonderful build quality. I am happy to report, it’s solid. There are noticeable, hard stops at each focal length. Additionally, the paint’s sheen is subtle, but it does not leave fingerprints like other Fujifilm lenses. The manual focus throw is not as loose as other Fujifilm lenses, but it does not seem like forever to go from the minimum focusing distance to infinity.
As I read other various blogs and watched YouTube videos, one concern I noticed people had was the external zoom, rather than a potential internal zoom. However, after handling it, I don’t think I would be concerned about this. As long as you don’t move the zoom too fast, it really does not vacuum-in dust. Additionally, the extension is not too far.
My only concern, prior to testing it out, was the lens creep. After all, it does not contain any switch to lock into place. I shook the lens a little bit to simulate general use, and I carried it around in my backpack for a while. This lens does not experience significant creep at 16mm or anything of that sort, but if the lens is already at 23mm or 35mm, it might slip a little bit.
In relation to build quality, I have read a few remarks that because of the build quality, this does lead to some additional weight gain. However, I am happy to report that this lens does balance well with the larger, X-T and X-H series bodies. The center-of-gravity is in the middle of the lens, so we do have a pretty even weight distribution.
I think a third-party grip (or in my case, the extra battery grip) does help. However, it is not necessary.
Green and purple fringing, often found on faster lenses such as the 56mm F1.2 WR, can always be found in the transition areas between the in-focus and out-of-focus background.
However, I am happy to report that for the 16-55mm lens, the color fringing is almost minimal. There might be some at F2.8, but I don’t believe it is truly noticeable in 99% of the photographs you will take.
The 16-55mm is not going to be a favorite for macro-photographers, with a minimum focusing distance of 11.81 inches or about 30 centimeters. This does result in a maximum reproduction ratio of .16x.
This does limit its usefulness for food photography.
- Starting off at 16mm, this lens performs well. There was no noticeable improvement between F2.8 and F4. There might be a slight improvement at F5.6, but the details were microscopic. F8 performs about the same, but the fall-off with this lens at F11 is pronounced.
- At 23mm, again I did not see a huge improvement between F2.8 and F4. Nor did I see anything meaningful even stopping down to F5.6. F8-F11 repeats the same statement as before.
- At 35mm, (this lens is consistent) there is not a great improvement to the naked eye.
- But at 55mm, there is a slight degradation. However, the sharpness drop-off is less in the center than in the corners.
- Within the corner of the 16mm range, F2.8 and F4 perform similarly. To me, there was an improvement at F5.6, with the drop-off being the same as the center.
- For 23mm, F2.8-F8 perform about the same. Same as before
- I found the corner sharpness to be alright with F2.8, but with 35mm F4, I was extremely impressed. That being said, to me, 35mm was also the best performing focal length at F11.
- For 55mm, there was a pretty noticeable decrease in performance than on the narrower end. Additionally, I did feel like the drop-off at F8 and F11 was much more pronounced than at any other focal length, too.
Real-World Sharpness Takeaways
For the most part, I felt like I could use the Fujifilm 16-55 almost anywhere. But I had a few, key takeaways after using this lens in the real-world.
First, the image quality is good…. enough. I certainly did not think it could even compare to the newer primes such as the 56mm F1.2 WR, 18mm, and 33mm. (Even at their minimum apertures.) However, compared to some of Fujifilm’s oldest lenses, it performed about the same. (To me, this is where this lens earned the nickname “a bag full of primes.”
Second: The consistency across the entire frame, from corner to center, was honestly amazing. Even at the horrific F11 and above, the performance was similar enough.
Third: Of the three red-badge zooms, I felt like this was the worst-performing lens in regards to sharpness.
Finally, if I ever had to use a Fujifilm standard zoom lens again, I don’t think could use anything BUT this lens. Fujifilm’s corners are horrible in almost every option, but this performs noticeably better above the rest.
The bokeh results of this lens are merely average. After all, you are really only getting an F4 equivalent lens.
That being said, this lens does handle the foreground-subject-background transitions extremely well. I did not find that certain scenes like bushes or grass particularly busy, either.
To me, this lens is only actually exemplary in environmental portraiture. There is just enough a blur where your subject stands-out, but enough where you understand the context of the photo.
The bokeh balls are less than stellar, as well. At all focal lengths, there is an onion-ring effect.
Additionally, as you stop-down, the polygonal shape does become very apparent at F5.6.
There was not a major cat’s eye affect in the corner, which is typically a problem with lenses that have faster apertures. Since this lens already starts at F2.8 or so, it wasn’t expected.
- AF Speed +0
- Tracking +0
- 55mm @F2.8
For the most part, I was pleased with the autofocus of this lens. It was quiet, so I would feel comfortable putting a microphone such as the Rode VideoMicro or other shotgun mics.
I also felt like it was much faster than some of Fuji’s other zoom lenses, and it did not hunt as much.
Apologies for the missed focus. Did not realize I was in area-only, continuous tracking.
Missing OIS? Not a big deal…
Advocates for a MK II version of this lens also complain that this lens fails to offer any lens stabilization, and instead you must rely on image stabilization within the camera bodies.
However, most people fail to understand almost every body since the X-H1 within the XF ecosystem has contain some form of stabilization. And if Fujifilm is not careful, you can actually have the OIS and IBIS working against each other at that 16mm focal lengths. (This is widely debated, but tends to be true. The 10-24mm is a prime example.)
Now, the Fujifilm ecosystem does have a decent IBIS system outside of that.
Here’s an example of a wide-angle panning shot, which can be very difficult for same ecosystems.
But all around, I am not going to complain.
At 16mm, the lens does suffer from major barrel distortion. The Capture One/JPEG/Light Room profiles correct for this, however.
It does seem to have disappeared by about 35mm, and the longer focal length of 55 millimeters does have some minor pincushion distortion.
Flaring and ghosting is controlled remarkably well for a lens that has a 77mm front lens element.
Additionally, the sunstars are very good. I found that they become usable somewhere around F14 or so.
It is rather unfortunate that we will not be able to get the better image quality and sunstars at the same time. However, I suppose that the Fujifilm ecosystem is a system designed with trade-offs.
Fuji 16-55 Sample Photos
- Center to Corner Sharpness
- Best Performing Normal Zoom Lens
No Question in my mind.
- Disappointing Bokeh ‘
Both the average amount of background blur and onion-ring effect for the bokeh blobs create a sub-par experience. Unless in a pinch, I would not use the XF ecosystem for portraits.
Yes, there are numerous ways to correct it. However, you will need to think about your edges when composing in the wide-end. I am really thinking about architecture-types.
There’s a pretty solid tier system within the XF ecosystem. It will go 18-55mm, 16-80mm, and then the 16-55mm. It’s not that this is not a fairly-priced lens, but rather that it is much cheaper when there are discounts putting it in the 16-80 price range. (If you buy it used.)
In regards to being able to stand-up to environmental abuse, I think that this lens will last a long-time.
Total: 16/20 or about 80%
Fujifilm 16-55mm F2.8
- Is this lens fairly priced? (+1)
- The 18-55mm retails for $699, the 16-80mm F4 for $799. Most Fujifilm prime lenses cost $899-$999.
- Can this item be found on the used market for at least 20% off MSRP?
- Yes. (+1)
- How does the price of the 16-55mm F2.8 compare to the bodies in the ecosystem? (For example: It may not make sense to purchase a $4,000 lens for a camera ecosystem in which the most expensive body only costs $2,000.) (-1)
- When looking at professional zooms, the price is usually 1/3 to 1/2 of the pro-series body. This is not the case for Fujifilm, which most expensive body is $2,500. This is closer to 1/2 the cost than 1/3, which is the reason for a point loss.
- Overall Pricing Concern (+1)
- The cheapest I have seen the 16-55mm F2.8 was $899 for a winter rebate. At that point, the used variation of the lens were selling for about the MSRP of the 16-80mm.
- Price/Performance Ratio (+1)
- Color Fringing, Bokeh Balls, Sharpness (including center sharpness and center to corner performance), Distortion, Vignetting, Bokeh Transitions
- -.5 for barrel distortion, -.5 for onion bokeh balls, -.5 for color fringing at F2.8
- Is this a niche lens?
- No. (+1)
- How is the autofocus experience? If it is a manual focus lens, what is this experience like?
- The autofocus experience is good. Out of every Fujifilm zoom lens within this focal length, I think it might be the most confident.
- Trade Offs
- This lens is an F2.8 zoom, but it does lack OIS. Because most cameras are now equipped with solid internal stabilization systems, I am not going to subtract a point.
- Is it able to be used for what it’s designed for?
- Yes +1
- Does this lens look good? (+1)
- How does the overall build quality feel? (-1)
- The overall build quality of the 16-55 is solid. It is well-build, with a nice paint sheen. One might complain about the stiffer manual focus ring. (It’s more than the 16-80mm F4.)
- If it’s designed to be waterproof, is it? (+1)
- Will the lens last over time (-1)
- Lens Body/Camera Balance (-1)
Most of the stylistic attributes of this lens can be worked around. For example, the size can be counteracted with a grip.
The reliability concerns are situational based, for example bokeh balls are generally more of a concern with prime lenses.
This is a pro-series lens. For the most part, I found it to be excellent, and I highly recommend if you can afford it.