Fujifilm has been quite the brand the last few years, with the introductions of mirrorless APS-C cameras X-Pro 1 and X100. These cameras revolutionized the digital market, appealing to traditional rangefinder photographers (myself included). I’ve been a Leica M shooter, using an M6 with film, and it’s a system I love and can’t seem to abandon. However, my employment at Englewood Camera allows me the unique opportunity to demo gear when it comes in, and I was very fortunate to take a Fujifilm X-T1 with a few lenses to Europe this month. I can’t say enough positive things about this system–and though I haven’t made the commitment yet, I’m definitely one step closer.
I shot extensively with the new Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens in Germany and Iceland this month. While I had other lenses with me, the ease of use and quality from this zoom lens was amazing. My photographic style can be loosely classified as urban landscape and street photography. I love looking at buildings for signs of decay, unique architecture, and character–I find urban areas fascinating to explore and document. Like other urban photographers well before me–Eugene Atge, Berenice Abbott, Stephen Shore, and others–these elements within the bustle of city are worth documenting, as time brings the inevitable changes to the cityscape. Usually, my preference for shooting such scenes are within prime lenses of the 35mm and 50mm variety. So, for me to slap a zoom lens on my camera and use it most of the time is an interesting experience!
Let’s get the boring details over with: the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR is the newest zoom lens in the X Series lens line, designed for professional use. Designed as the perfect companion to the X-T1 body, this lens is both weather and dust resistant, and is rated to shoot in temperatures as low as -10°C. The 16-55mm is designed with 9 rounded aperture blades, creating a smooth and circular bokeh in the out-of-focus areas of the image. According to Fujifilm, the entire area of the lens has been applied with Fujifilm’s unique HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating), which ensures ghosting and flare are controlled for sharp, clear images. Using the newly developed Nano-GI (Gradient Index) coating technology which alters the refractive index between glass and air, ghosting and flare are effectively reduced for diagonal incident light. In addition, this lens offers smooth, fast, quiet autofocus with use of Fuji’s Twin Linear Motor, a feature that is most effective when paired with a phase-detection autofocus camera like the X-T1. The lens currently sells for $1199.
So, back to business. In addition to the aforementioned lens, I took the Fujifilm X-T1 with a 10-24mm f/4 R OIS and 56mm f/1.2 R to Europe with me a couple of weeks ago. When choosing which Fujinon lenses to take with me, I thought I’d only take one prime, as I was also carrying my trusted Leica M6 with primes, and thought I’d give the zooms the benefit of the doubt for the sake of research. I’ve shot pretty extensively with other Fuji primes and with an X100s, so this was not only out of my travel comfort zone, it was an opportunity to get to know the newest flagship lens from Fuji.
I had an absolute blast making images with the 16-55mm; in fact, it lived on the camera 95% of the time. While I did use the other two lenses, and love the quality of them, the 16-55mm is exactly what it is designed to be–the flagship standard zoom. Although this lens is heavy and significantly larger than the available XF prime lenses, it’s a lighter weight alternative to traditional DSLR systems from Canon or Nikon. And it lives up to the reputations Fujifilm has built within its X-Series system, rivaling any of the prime lenses for sharpness. I still will maintain that a prime lens gives optimum sharpness, but this lens definitely competes!
So what about image quality? As a film shooter, one aspect of digital photography that drives me nuts is chromatic aberrations. While these annoying blue/purple fringe or lines that appear in high-contrast areas of an image are fixable in post production, I enjoy shooting lenses that don’t create this problem in the first place. From my experience using the 16-55mm, chromatic aberrations are a minimal problem–I photographed a few situations where contrast was very high, owing in part to the often gloomy gray skies of Berlin. In the following image, you’ll notice there are hardly any chromatic aberrations, which makes my life easier for post-production. (Did I mention I hate post-production?!)
While the 16-55mm is not a macro lens, it does offer close focusing abilities. At 16mm, the lens will focus 30cm away from the subject (or 11.8in), and at 55mm, the close focus is 40cm (or 15.75in). This is an excellent way to capture detail without having to switch to a true macro lens. The pseudo-macro shooting capability is beautifully sharp, too, as seen in the following examples.
Overall sharpness of the 16-55mm is impressive, as I mentioned previously. Please look through the following images, all sized for web resolution, that have not been altered in any way other than resizing and watermark to see what this lens offers.
Erin Brinkley-Burgardt is the Operations Manager at Englewood Camera, and loves testing gear and writing about it. She has her BFA in Photography from the University of Colorado – Denver, and enjoys traveling the world making urban landscape and street photography images. Erin shoots primarily with Leica M6 and Hasselblad 503CX film cameras, but shoots commercially with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. See more of her photography at www.erinbrinkley.com.