Six years ago when I was just starting out my journey as a photographer, little did I know about Fujifilm’s intent to announce a new prime which would go on to become one of its best lenses in the years to come. Yes I am talking about the Fujinon XF16mm F.1.4 lens. This low light beast was announced back in April 2015 and it immediately started getting attention from photographer’s world wide. Today I am going to share my personal experiences of owning and using this phenomenal work of art.
Greetings photography buffs. I am Ritesh Ghosh, a street, travel and documentary photographer from Kolkata, India. Many of you who know me as a photographer are already aware of my work but most of you may not be aware of the story behind me becoming one. So before I continue with my detailed lens review let me quickly narrate the story of my journey from being a banker to becoming a Fujifilm photographer.
You heard me right. I am a management graduate who was working in a bank from 2007 till 2014 moving out thereafter to take up the job role of a Branch Head with an international posting in Dubai. I was a regular nine to five corporate guy drawing a decent pay cheque with no intention of becoming a photographer.
Until a year passed and I came back to India on my annual vacation. I owned the Fujifilm X100S back then as my hobby camera. One morning as I was out shooting casually on the streets I met with a freak road accident dislocating my left knee. As if that wasn’t enough I was diagnosed with severe cervical spondylitis. My medical condition was bad and I required almost 8 months to recover. I had lost my job and almost a years time hence faced a lot of problems finding a new job. The only positive in this situation was that I was left with a lot of spare time at my disposal. I decided to make use of it instead of sulking and went out regularly with my camera. Long before I realized, my hobby had become my passion and the means of reaching out to people like you with my creativity. I enjoyed making images and hence I decided to take this up as my full time work. Being a full time photographer with no formal education is not easy and has its consequences. I had to struggle a lot initially to discover my signature style and must admit that my parents supported me immensely during the phase. Six years have passed and there has been no looking back.
Coming to the lens review I would like to discuss it’s overall build quality and features first followed by my experience of using the lens on the streets and while travelling. The 16mm F1.4 is extremely well built weighing in around 375 grams. The lens has a fixed focal length of 16mm (24mm in full frame equivalent) and offers a wide field of view coupled with stunning optical performance. The minimum aperture of 1.4 delivers high quality sharp images and is every photographer’s delight in low light situation. The lens body is all dust and water resistant making it safe to shoot in bad weather conditions. It has 13 elements in 11 groups which produces amazing bokeh and ensures subject isolation. The front element has a special EBC coating which reduces ghosting and flare from diagonal incidence of light. The minimum working distance of the lens is just 15 cms making close focussing on the subject a cake walk with a dynamic perspective. It gives a photographer greater creativity to experiment with.
When I first upgraded my system from the fixed X100S to the interchangeable X-T1 I did not have any idea that I would be owning the 16mm F1.4 someday. To be honest I started out with the basic 18-55mm kit lens not realising what the 16mm focal length had in store for me. So finally when the time came and I decided to acquire my first wide angle lens my choice stopped at the 16mm after going through numerous reviews.
I had the lens ordered and delivered at my doorstep. Mounting the beauty on my X-T1 gave me a wonderful feeling and after using it a few times I totally fell in love with it. So much so that my kit lens was literally put in the dry cabinet as if exiled in prison. Initially I used the 16mm on the streets. The wide field of view helped me compose images even in very tight spaces giving me a stunning perspective every single time. I also love to travel with this beast and taking it to places for documentary work. No matter what challenges I threw at it, the 16mm obliged every single time and has never let me down. Thus I can proudly say that it is my most favourite lens till date.
Of all the various events I have documented using the 16mm, the Buddha Purnima remains my all time favourite followed by the Dev Dipawali celebrations in Varanasi. Both these festivals required a lot of low light shooting which the 16mm managed like a pro. The images came out sharp and well exposed with accurate colour rendition. Apart from my travel related work I have used this lens extensively on the streets of Kolkata. And to those who believe that a prime is not meant for street photography I would be sharing some of my images here and let them decide for themselves. I bet they would change their mind for sure.
Finally I would like to conclude by re affirming that the 16mm F1.4 is undoubtedly the best prime lens that Fujifilm has ever made. It is a must have glass in your camera bag. Period.