Ask just about any X shooter why they love their camera and you’ll get a few standard answers – the size, the retro styling, the colours, the amazing primes, or the fact that it gets out of the way and lets you focus on what’s important. I too, was sucked in by all of these things. Fuji’s primes are gorgeous little pieces of glass that make beauitful images, of that there is no doubt. But, after a while, I started lusting for something super wide. In the Fujifilm lineup, there is really only one option – the 10-24mm f/4 OIS.
Just a few years ago, I shot on exclusively Nikon cameras. I started with a 17-35mm f/2.8 as my wide on that kit, then moved to the 16-35 f/4 VR shortly after its release. As my Fujifilm kit grew, my Nikon kit shrank. I began to remove lenses from it that I wasn’t using on a shoot to shoot basis. After moving to Fujifilm for the majority of my paid work and all of my personal travel work, I was looking to fill that void. I couldn’t be carrying the Nikon system around just in case I needed an occasional ultra-wide shot.
For me, a wide angle lens has two main purposes. The first is for my editorial work. I’ll often be asked to take a quick interior of a cafe or restaurant in Korea. These can be tiny spaces, and I’ll need an ultra-wide lens just to get a few of the tables in. This means that I need something with very little distortion. Thanks to Fuji’s internal correction, and excellent lens design, the 10-24mm fits that bill extremely well. The second use I have for ultra-wide lenses is to get in close and give weight to certain elements in my compositions. This lens is quite sharp for an ultra-wide, so again it fits the bill.
As I initially started looking into it, I had a few misgivings. My first worry was that Fuji didn’t have Nikon’s proven track-record with excellent image stabilisation. This was their first lens to introduce it and I’m always wary that the first edition of anything will be somewhat of a pilot edition; market research, if you will. Second, it was quite large compared to lenses I owned at the time. One of the reasons I got into Fuji was the compact size. Then I saw it next to my Nikon 16-35mm and that thought evapourated quickly. It is much smaller than a full-frame equivalent lens. Finally, there was the aperture ring. The unmarked, free-spinning ring of the 10-24mm didn’t have that ‘traditional’ feel that I love so much about using Fujifilm lenses. These were small things, though, and I was ready to make the jump.
So, after a couple of years using the lens, am I happy? Let’s take a look at it, and walk through a few sample images.
Build Quality & Handling
As with all Fujifilm XF lenses, the 10-24 is built to last. It has a solid construction and the weight of a lens not made from cheap materials. That’s not to say that it’s heavy. At just 410 grams, it’s only a little heavier than the 16mm f/1.4 prime. The construction feels very similar to Fuji’s primes, except for the zoom ring. This is a rubber finish that I have found getting rather slippery in the summer months.
As with Nikon and Canon’s ultra-wide zooms, the inner lens barrel telescopes as the lens is zoomed in and out. The outer body of the lens does not move at all, so you will have no troubles using filters like a CPL. I was a little shocked at the filter size, however. Much like other wide angles, the front of the lens needs to be quite wide to accommodate the field of view, resulting in a 72mm filter thread despite the overall small size of the lens.
Possibly the one thing that bothers me on a daily basis is how tight the zoom ring is. As a result, I find myself overshooting my turns of the zoom ring quite a bit. I would love to be able to turn it slowly with one finger, but there is simply not enough grip and too much resistance to allow for that.
The aperture ring is also a non-marked freely turning ring like that on some of the XC lenses. For me, this isn’t a deal breaker, but it does detract from the overall feel of the lens.
One final point to note is that you will want to switch to the EVF if using an X-Pro body. The lens is too wide for the OVF. Even at 24mm, which the OVF is capable of handling, the lens and hood cover about 25% of your frame.
Although the lens does not get the WR rating for weather resistance, I have used it in far from ideal conditions and had no troubles so far. In light rain, it has performed admirably. Of course, I wipe it whenever I can, and dry it thoroughly after use. So far, I haven’t had a single problem. I also used it to photograph traditional dancing for my book, Hmäe Sün Näe Ti Cengkhü Nu (tattoosofasia.com), in all the dust that the dancing created without a problem. As you can see below, the air was filled and even with a coating of brown dust, the lens performed without a hitch.
I’m the last person in the world you’re going to hear talking about image sharpness on a technical level. This lens, like any other Fuji lens, is sharp enough. Even wide open, things look good. The corners get a little soft until the lens is stopped down, but we expect that from an ultra-wide lens. From f/8 to f/11, the whole frame is sharp. By f/16 or f/22, you start to see an overall reduction in sharpness due to diffraction, but this is to be expected. Don’t be expecting the level of sharpness you’ll see from the fixed 16mm f/1.4 or 23mm f/1.4, but still know that you’ll see a lot of detail in the images produced by this lens.
One thing that really stands out to me in the image quality of this lens is its almost complete lack of lateral chromatic aberrations (those ugly green and purple lines that form around high contrast edges). This is impressive for a wide angle lens and means less time in post production (always a plus!). Even with the high end primes in the system, I have been able to find CAs that the internal corrections didn’t fix, but this lens is a true gem in that regard.
Contrast is excellent, even when shooting directly into the sun. Flare is well controlled at most angles, and since we have electronic viewfinders, easy to predict but half pressing the shutter to preview the image at your current aperture. I have included an image of this flare and star-burst below for you to judge for yourself whether or not you find the effect pleasing.
This is not one of Fuji’s best lenses in terms of focusing speed, but it is as fast as it needs to be. With a wide angle and a slow aperture like f/4, you’re not likely to be trying to track fast moving objects through your frame, and even when you do the extended depth of field should give you relatively sharp results. However, this is just not what the lens is made to do.
The lens does tend to hunt a little and struggle to find focus in low light or low contrast situations, even with the new X-Trans III sensor. You may find yourself flipping to manual focus or resorting to additional light to allow for autofocus, which is not the case with many of the newer lenses. Again, though, for most purposes and in good light the focus works just fine.
Optical Image Stabilisation
This was one of my key requirements for this lens. I love to shoot a lot of longer exposures of things like traffic when I’m traveling, and absolutely hate carrying a tripod everywhere. So, in a pinch, I loved that I could count on my Nikkor 16-35mm f/4 to allow shutter speeds of 1/4 second or slower if I braced myself carefully. The Fujifilm is no different at all. I have had a great hit-rate at 1/4 second, and fair from 1/2 second all the way down to 1 second. The OIS kicks in and I have been able to land a lot of otherwise impossible shots.
Whenever possible, a tripod is great as you can choose whatever shutter speed you like, and reduce the ISO accordingly for extremely sharp, noise-free images. However, the OIS can also be relied on when needed.
Where Does It Fit in My Kit?
As I mentioned at the beginning, I’m mainly a prime shooter. This was one of the draws to Fujifilm. I own several of their primes, including the 16mm f/1.4 and the 23mm f/1.4. So, where does the 10-24mm fit into my kit? As I have hinted at throughout the article, I use it primarily for interiors on editorial shoots and for getting in really close. Let’s run through some of those examples.
For this shot, I was firmly planted on a tripod, which meant I could reduce my ISO and narrow my aperture. It also meant I could take my time to get lines straight – not an easy task on a lens this wide. This for me, is where this lens is most functionally useful. I’m able to make a smaller space look much larger, and use converging lines as a compositional element. With a longer lens, this sort of composition simply isn’t possible.
Looking at this shot, you can see trails of light going above the gate. These are from a passing bus, which is about one third the height of the gate itself. This is possible by using a wide lens and getting very close to the passing bus (this I do not recommend!). I am able to use the lens’ wide angle-of-view to distort the relationship between the two elements in my frame. This is my favourite application for this lens by far.
One final application I love for this lens is using it to tell stories. By virtue of being a wide angle of view, it is a more inclusive lens. This is something you need to be careful of. Including too much can make for a dull frame with no focus. However, by getting in close to your subject and still leaving its surroundings in focus yet less important through size, you are able to create some wonderful story-telling frames like the shoveling of salt below.
This is yet another lens befitting Fujifilm’s XF designation. It is not a lens for everyone, and it is certainly not for every purpose. If you’re looking for ultra-sharp with a wide aperture, this is certainly not your lens. But if you’re looking for something to enable some creative use of composition, lines, or for use in tight spaces, this may just be your lens. For its intended uses, there is nothing that comes close to it in the Fujifilm lineup, and I can highly recommend it as yet another quality piece of glass from Fujifilm.