The term “kit lens” can be misleading when it comes to the Fujinon XF18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens.
It’s both a sad and ill-informed brand of photographic snobbery to simply dismiss a piece of camera gear because of its price point or title, and that’s no more so true than with the XF18-55mm “kit lens.”
Sure enough, there has been some pretty awful kit lenses produced by the main camera manufacturers over the years. They’re often primarily aimed add adding apparent value when selling a camera body, and they are often soon discarded to the useless box which is stashed on top of a wardrobe or under a cupboard.
Unfortunately the term “kit lens” has become somewhat synonymous with cheap tack, and that stigma takes some getting past for many photographers.
In many ways I think that Fujifilm made a huge mistake in branding the 18-55mm as a “kit lens” (or in not seeing that it would be sold termed as a “kit lens”), it really does a disservice to this of particular lens.
This was the very first zoom lens for the X Series. My first copy (which I still use) came attached with my original X-E1 in 2013, not long after it was released. Back then there were just a few Fujinon primes on offer, and it was this versatile zoom lens that sealed the initial entry deal to the X system for me.
I’d seen the specs and a couple of online reviews, and it did look to potentially be usable in some of my professional work. That said, before I got my hands on one I wasn’t truly hopeful that it would realistically live up to the f/2.8-4 labelling when it came to results.
It didn’t take long for me to find both wonder and bemusement in this tiny and precise gem of optical mastery. Straight out of the box and this lens simply oozes fine build quality. Everything about its construction paired with its small size just screamed exquisite, in a vaguely retro kind of way.
Even so, it did seem somewhat dainty, and perhaps not something for the rugged adventures that I had planned for us, although time and again this lens was to prove me wrong – it really is pocket sized slice of humble and rumble proofed Far Eastern wizardry.
For some time this was my only lens for my X-E1. As the other zooms slowly appeared in the carnage I added the 55-200mm, a couple of primes, and then the 10-24. This soon completed my required focal range coverage, and almost halved the bulk and weight of my previous Canon DSLR system and became my travel system of choice.
Right from the get go I realized that this lens was a real all-round performer, and was consistently capable precise and very pleasing results. Compared to the Canon lens equivalents that I’d been lugging around for years it was about a third of the weight and size, and optically as good, and it was no slouch for shooting action either – which came as a nice surprise, as that’s a huge part of what I shoot.
For almost 8 years now I’ve been using this lens (and a second copy) as my main workhorse, and it has never let me down; not a single issue of note. This is the most used of all my Fujinon lenses. Many times I’ve looked to upgrading it, and perhaps I will one day – although why? This lens has been as solid as rock all through, and has seen more than its fair share of use and abuse. Apart for a couple hardly noticeable scuffs and some internal dust specks it’s still pulling off commendable performances for me, and what more can you ask for?
I’ve travelled much of the world with this lens, and have shot many magazine covers (used at half of the landscape crop). I’ve regularly shot in torrid rainstorms (as with most lenses it can mist up here), captured super fast action, and also worked in relatively low light – and it’s never failed me (although I do prefer a fast prime in the dark).
When shooting alongside other photographers in action situations I often get snotty looks when they see my half-pint sized setup. Fortunately I’ve been around long enough that most know my work. Over the years many of them have followed me down that same Fuji trail, the one they once scorned and sniffed at.
Not long after getting the X-E1 I did swap lenses, and put it on a table. It rolled off and fell onto a tiled floor. Even then it still worked, but the barrel was slightly warped which made zooming difficult. The glass stood up fine, and the lens was sent back for repair. By then I’d become so dependent on it that I rushed out and bought a second-hand copy, to make sure that I was never left without one again.
Weather-proofing would be a nice addition, and I’ve also gone through a few lens hoods (they are prone to cracking), and it would be good to have a metal option. Even so, I’ve have no real issues that I have not also experienced with higher grade and weather sealed glass, so there’s no gripes from me.
I now often work alongside others using the X system, and most have turned their nose up at this “kit lens” and gone straight for the 16-55mm f2.8 red label lens. I can’t argue with them on their choice; it’s a fine piece of glass, and at the longer end it would be good to have that extra light stop, although when the 18-55mm still woos me with its performance then that’s where I’ll stay for the moment.
The fact that this lens is still offered as the go to “kit lens” on the X-T4 underlines my strong belief in it. This is a lens that offers balcony box views for cheap seat prices.