Fujifilm’s XF16-55mmF2.8 R LM WR is one of Fujifilm’s attempts to pull working professionals over to the system with high-quality versatile lens offerings. Not everyone shoots with small fast prime lenses, and many working professionals rely day-in-day-out on their standard and telephoto zoom lenses to get the job done. The 16-55mmF2.8 is just that – a standard zoom that gets the job done.
Until recently, this lens was not even on my radar. I picked it up once at a trade show, chuckled to myself and put it right back down again. I am not a zoom shooter. That much is clear to me from my extensive collection of prime lenses. Even with my Nikon kit, I tried to love the 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses but bought and sold both twice. They just didn’t fit at all into my workflow. So why is it that I now find myself shooting with this so-called standard zoom?
The number one reason to own a zoom lens of any kind is the versatility it offers and the 16-55mm covers all my most-used focal lengths from wide to short telephoto. It is an extremely versatile lens for someone like me who shoots a lot of families, couples, travel and editorial. This is the one lens you need with you at all times to get the shot.
Getting the shot is indeed this lens’s biggest selling point. The zoom ring turns quickly and easily, and the focus is quick and accurate. I was actually quite surprised by just how easy it is to use. In the past, I have used both Nikon and Canon 24-70mm lenses and neither of them ever felt effortless. The Fujifilm feels like an excellent fit on the system and there is no learning curve at all.
Versatility is a double-edged sword for me, however. I am quite an indecisive person. Walking around with a single focal length limits my options and focuses me better. I have had to be very disciplined with visualising my shots and seeing them through before changing focal lengths when using the zoom. However, it has given me the option to get many different options without changing my lens.
Again, this was another surprise. I had heard about the excellent sharpness and contrast of this lens but again dismissed it as all other ‘standard zooms’ I had used but never compared to the prime lenses in the same range. Not so with the XF16-55mmF2.8. The image quality is nothing short of spectacular. It fits into the same category as the Sigma 24-35mmF2 in my opinion: a prime that zooms.
What is also excellent about this lens is not having to worry about what focal length you’re shooting at. Even wide open, every focal length performs beautifully. Although I’m not one to do formal sharpness testing, from my experience it actually outperforms many of the primes at the same apertures.
Depth of field
Now for the first drawback. For those coming from 35mm full-frame systems or fast primes, the depth of field limit of this lens is instantly noticeable and may be a handicap to your style of images. Of course, when zoomed to the 55mm end and focused close, very shallow depth of field is still possible.
One of the reasons I love the f/1.4 primes on the Fujifilm X system is the shallow depth of field they allow. This was one reason I was unsure about the XF16-55mm in the beginning. Before purchasing the lens, I took a look at my past year of photography using the handy tool over at Lightroom Dashboard. I noticed that 90% of my images were made using my 16mm, 23mm, 35mm, and 56mm lenses. This didn’t surprise me but the next statistic did. It turned out that my most used apertures were actually f/2.8 and f/4, which accounted for nearly 50% of my images. Although I love shallow depth of field, I use it only when necessary.
So, back to the 16-55mm. It is certainly capable of shallow depth of field, especially when focusing on objects close to the camera. Even at the 16mm end, there is plenty of separation when you get up close and personal with your subjects. Just don’t expect the magic of the XF56mmF1.2 and you’ll be happy with this lens.
Size and weight
This was the second drawback for me. One of the reasons I moved to the Fujifilm system was to stop carrying around heavy and bulky lenses. I completely dismissed both this and the XF50-140mmF2.8 lenses initially because I would be going back in the direction of my DSLR kit.
The XF16-55mm weighs in at 655g, which, compared to Canon and Nikon’s full-frame 24-70mm lenses (805g and 900g respectively), is a significant saving but is still quite heavy when you consider the weight of Fujifilm’s primes. However, when you add up a collection of primes that offer all these focal lengths, you outweigh the 16-55mm significantly (not to mention the additional cost!). It boils down to how many lenses you’re planning to carry and their intended use.
It is also quite a large lens, especially when extended. The size itself means that it doesn’t fit comfortably in my ThinkTank Photo Retrospective 6 or balance particularly well on an X-T2 without the grip attached. However, on the new X-H1 or an X-T2 with the grip, the lens balances superbly and makes for a great all-day shooting experience.
Not for everyone
Just like every lens, the XF16-55mm is not for everyone. Although it incorporates a very useful range of focal lengths into a reasonably-sized package with excellent image quality, it does have some drawbacks when compared to Fujifilm’s prime offerings.
Personally, I have found that the XF16-55mmF2.8 has replaced the weather sealed f/2 prime series for me in most applications. Its autofocus is as fast, if not faster, and the stop of light lost doesn’t really make much difference as I would stop down most of the time with the XF23mmF2 and XF35mmF2 anyway. However, it has not taken the place of the older fast primes for when I have the time to change lenses or when I am working in low light.
So, for those of you that own this lens, what made you choose it? For those who will not purchase it, why not? For those on the fence, we’d love to help you out! Feel free to ask your questions below!