XF 16-80mm F/4 OIS WR Officially Announced

Much earlier this morning, Fujifilm officially announced their compact 5× standard zoom lens, the XF 16-80mm F/4 OIS WR.→

Spec-wise, it’s a pretty enticing lens. I have every intention of adding this to my roster, and depending on how it performs optically, travelling with it instead of the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR (Review). The reason for that quite simply comes down to size and weight.

Size and Weight

You’ve likely already seen the size comparisons, but I’ve been hoping for the weight difference to be equally, if not more appreciable. Let’s have look in chart form:

Weight in grams

Not too shabby. Fuji’s claims about being about 40% lighter than DSLR versions of the zoom seem pretty accurate. It shouldn’t go unstated that f/4 on APS-C doesn’t have the same design challenges as on 35mm/full frame when it comes to keep size and weight down.

New Levels of OIS

Reaching 6 stops plus technical shutter vibration reduction, and tripod detection, which Fuji claims will “adjust its performance to provide optimum image quality.” That’s pretty cool. I can’t count the number of times I’ve realized OIS on my lens is on when mounted to a tripod when it shouldn’t be.

Ideal Travel Lens

It’s not quite my dream landscape travel lens, but I can't help but be eager to give this lens a try, and see how it stacks up to the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR in particular. The XF 16-80mm F/4 OIS WR is also one more reason not to choose the XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS WR, and I have a feeling Fuji’s noble kit—the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS—will be sitting on more shelves soon. Hopefully Fuji adds the new XF 16-80mm F/4 OIS WR as a kit option.

Adobe, Enhance Details, DNG Files, and Film Simulations

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Way back on episode 40 of the FujiLove podcast—which, if you are reading this site and you like podcasts, you should probably be subscribed to—Jens and Billy Luong of FujiGuy fame had Product Manager Sharad Mangalick from Adobe on to talk about updates to Lightroom and ACR, and specifically the new feature “Enhance Details”.

Enhance Details

For those who don’t yet know, Adobe’s own dialogue box says:

“Enhance Details uses machine learning1 to improve details and reduce artifacts in most RAW files. The enhanced results will be saved as a DNG file.

It’s a computationally intensive process that performs best with a fast GPU. The estimate Adobe gives me on my Late 2015 5K iMac for a single image is 5 seconds, and that seems about right. What’s really unfortunate is the file size of the resulting enhanced DNG version of a 24.6 MB compressed RAF out of an X-H1 is 117.7 MB.

The results out of this feature would have to be pretty spectacular for me to consider taking on that kind of additional data.2 I’m seeing some decent results in my own limited testing, but weirdly, the Enhance Details dialogue preview totally betrays what the feature is actually capable of in some cases. I had one image that looked significantly worse in the dialogue box preview—more false detail, crunchy texture where there shouldn’t be—and I was ready to call Adobe out on it. After I actually rendered the image though, it did look a fair bit better than the default rendering.

It’s fantastic that Adobe are putting in the time and effort to support X-Trans—they could easily have made this a Bayer-only feature since they obviously support many more Bayer cameras than they do X-Trans. I’m looking forward to the day this feature is part of Lightroom proper, vs. behaving more like a plug-in, but one comment from Sharad on the podcast really jumped out at me:

“Fuji’s proprietary RAW file, the RAF, it doesn’t have an openly documented specification that Adobe can use to add the additional information.”

This is the result of Adobe having to create a separate (huge) DNG files. An obvious question is why doesn’t Fuji open up the gates enough to allow Adobe to write this additional information to the RAF/a sidecar file so we don’t need to go through this cumbersome workflow? I’m sure Billy has asked Japan this question, and either his hands are tied or there’s a really good reason that he agrees with.3 Either way, I wish we got an inkling as to what the issue is there.

Another obvious question is why are other applications able to generate better results without having to create a separate file? What does Phase One know that Adobe doesn’t? Adobe talk about having to balance performance with resolution, but Lightroom isn’t exactly blowing away the competition when it comes to performance with RAF.

For the time being, unless you’re all in on Adobe and a Creative Cloud subscription maxes out your budget allotment for photo editing (which is perfectly reasonable), a strong case can still be made for better, more specialized tools like Iridient Developer for those really important or really challenging images.

Film Simulation Modes

In the back half of the interview, the trio speak about Film Simulation Modes and how Adobe works with Fujifilm to ensure they have the same understanding of how each Film Simulation Mode should affect an image. This has been the official story for years now, and back when it was first told, Adobe’s interpretation of Fuji’s Film Simulation Modes were nowhere close to what we saw out of camera. To my eye, they’ve gotten better, but my recent experimentation with Capture One 12 suggests Phase One is quite a bit closer. Indeed, Phase One’s interpretations of Fuji’s Film Simulation Modes so far has been strikingly good. I’m on the cusp of switching to Capture One for much of my X-Trans processing needs for a few reasons, not needing to create whole separate files to get better detail out of my images and Film Simulation Modes are two big ones.

  1. What doesn’t use “machine learning” these days? Anyone else already tired of that? ↩︎
  2. In the early days of DNG, I remember reading about photographers converting to DNG wholesale with some going so far as to then delete the original RAW files. I’m awfully glad I never considered this kind of asset management. ↩︎
  3. Billy also does a remarkable job navigating these waters. He’s in a tough spot having to balance transparency and trade secrets, but he comes across as really quite genuine. Having spoken with Billy myself quite a few times in the past, I can say he truly does take user feedback to heart, and when he says he’ll take something back to Japan, he means it.

    I’m really digging this addition to FujiLove. It can come across as an advertisement at times, but it’s counterbalanced with honest upgrade recommendations to listeners who could perhaps skip a generation. ↩︎

Lens Wishlist: XF 14-40mm F4 OIS WR

The XF 16-80mm F/4 OIS WR is due to be announced anytime now. It’s poised to take over many a photographer’s travel lens needs, but having just finished another trip of fairly long distance hiking,1 what I’d like to see Fuji announce is is something even smaller, lighter, and ideally-suited for landscape photography. Something like this.

Focal Length: 14-40mm

My landscape sweet spot is in the neighbourhood of 24mm in 35mm equivalence, with 21mm typically being my max. That gives us 14mm on the wide end. My favourite focal length is around 50mm (35ish APS-C), so I had to be sure that was included. With a bit of breathing room, that brings us to 40mm. Plus, “14 to 40 F4” has a nice ring to it. Spoiler alert on the aperture there.

Maximum Aperture: Constant F4

For landscapes, I’m typically shooting between f/5.6 and f/11 so a Fuji lens closed down a stop should get me real close to maximum sharpness. Sure, I’d take f/2.8, but every extra stop means more size and weight, and I’m trying to be realistic with my desires. With a constant f/4 aperture, I’d be hoping for a lens about the size of the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS. Having the front element fixed on zoom would be a bonus, but probably unlikely at 40mm.

WR or GTFO

As readers of this site know, the lack of weather sealing on the XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS is my biggest issue with the lens. If that lens had weather sealing—and performed a little better at 24mm—I’d feel much less inclined to even write this article.

In this photographer’s opinion, XF lenses should no longer be released without weather sealing. Thankfully, that’s been the case for some time now.

OIS: 5-stops

I want to use this lens on cameras in which Fuji’s current in-body image stabilization (IBIS) will not fit.

Size and Weight

This one’s important. Mockups of the XF 16-80mm F/4 WR OIS from our friends at FujiRumors show it to be considerably smaller than the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR, but also considerably larger than the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS. The former results in a camera + lens combination that stays in my bag more than I’d like it to. With proper cameras competing against smartphones for use, if they’re in a bag and your phone is in your pocket, it can be all too easy to just grab that travel snap with the camera, even though you might regret it later. As another old friend once wrote:

A camera in hand is 60% more likely to be used than one that's slung by its strap, 85% more likely than one in a shoulder bag, and 98% more likely than one in a backpack.

Bottom line, if my camera were small enough and light enough to be slug around my neck/shoulder all the time, it would be used more often.2

Close, but not quite.

There are some lenses that are close to my landscape nirvana, but every one of them comes with compromises.

  • XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS: The size is getting close (especially given that front filter ring stays put when zooming), but the weather resistance is not. Its focal length is also wider than I’d like for a travel/landscape lens.
  • XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR: This lens would do it for me if it were smaller and lighter. And not just a little. As noted above, I want a camera and lens combination I can wear around my neck comfortably.
  • XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS: Size, weight, OIS (even though it’s not quite enough stops worth), all great. Lack of weather sealing is a deal breaker, and I’d like something a little wider. I could even live with the variable aperture if everything else was right, but I’d rather not.

A Non-Standard Zoom

Now that Fuji have their core lineup of lenses pretty fleshed out, I want to see them move back to releasing lenses that are different, and well-suited to what X Series originally promised; superb, full-frame-rivalling image quality in a premium compact package. The exotics and ultra-fasts like the XF 200mm F/2 OIS WR and XF 33mm F1 are exciting, but they are big, heavy hunks of glass that are only mounted with purpose. They’re certainly not ever going to be my daily carry. Same goes for the “Red Badge” zooms. By most accounts, Fuji needed to get the “standard” zooms like the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR and XF 50-140mm F/2.8 OIS WR shipped. Perhaps now it’s time for something less standard.

I love what Fuji has done with primes recently with their F2WR3 lineup, and the XF 16-80mm F/4 OIS WR is a step in the right direction, but weather resistant zooms could still use some slimming down. I admit I’m as guilty as the next photographer for wanting those pro zooms made available, but I think that has resulted in a zoom lens lineup that’s typical, and less interesting and differentiated than it could be.

  1. We put 15-22 KM per day on our feet every day of our last two trips. ↩︎
  2. I realize this at least partially comes down to my own discipline or lack thereof—how hard can it be to take a camera out of a bag, right? However, oftentimes we travel with others, and there’s a limit to how how many times we can slow down or flat out interrupt a walk or hike. It’s their vacation too, after all. ↩︎
  3. And a 2 point eight now. ↩︎

I Disabled the Q-Menu Button On My X-H1 (again)

In my X-H1 review I noted that the Q Menu button placement was a problem. I decided to leave it enabled in the hope that my muscle memory would eventually compensate. It hasn’t. During my last couple of trips I was constantly pressing that button when I didn’t mean to. When removing the camera from my bag, making composition adjustments with it mounted in a tripod, even when I just hold the camera, my thumb lands squarely on that button. It actually hindered my ability to take pictures. That might sound hyperbolic, but when you’re trying to frame an image with the LCD and the Quick Menu pops open, it’s a hinderance. Likewise, hastily pulling the camera from your bag to catch fleeting glimpses of sunlight through clouds, and pressing the viewfinder to your eye only to see the Quick Menu can result in missing a photograph entirely.

So I’ve once again turned the Q-Menu off altogether on my X-H1 and updated my review accordingly. It’s a shame that a marquee feature of Fuji’s UI gets in my way so much that I have to disable it.

Part of the reason I bring this up again is that outside of the X-T3, all of Fuji’s higher end X Series and GFX bodies have the Q Menu button—and sometimes even a second Function button—in a simlar location. This seems to have become a trend, and I really don’t like it. I hope Fuji either move back to an X-T button arrangement, or at the very least figure out a way to recess these buttons as they did on the X-Pro2, a camera with which I’ve never had issues with accidental button presses.

The good news is I (finally) have an X-T3. I quipped in my last post that it doesn’t have enough to warrant an immediate upgrade. The placement of that button is at least one thing that will make me reach for it over the X-H1 when IBIS isn’t an issue.

XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR Review Posted (also, how I’m packing for the Lake District, again)

It’s been a while. Work. Busy. Whatever, I’m back.1

My last post was about how I packed for my trip to the Lake District, which included the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR. Fuji’s standard zoom ended up being the lens I used most for my hiking/landscape shooting. In fact, I think I came away with just a single image from the XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR.

As it happens, not only have I just posted my review of the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR, but my wife and I are also headed back to the Lake District once again. We tell ourselves this will be the last time for a while, but who knows.

Perhaps the biggest praise I can give the standard zoom is that it will be joining me once again. The XF 50-140mm F/2.8 WR most certainly will not. It might have been my headspace at the time, but I just didn’t have the desire to change lenses. So I’m stripping my gear selection way back to just the X-H1 and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR and maybe a second smaller lens, primary for review material. No second body. One and done.

I always knew the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR would be my travel lens sometime, but I always figured it would be on an X-T body.

I always knew the XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR would be my travel lens sometime, but I always figured it would be on an X-T body.

Carry

I’ve also been rethinking my carry strategy from my September trip in part because of the change in equipment. The reduced kit had me considering my Billingham Hadley Small (see my comparison to the ONA Bowery) as my “personal item”. Sadly, the X-H1 + XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR combination is so large it really doesn’t leave me with much room for anything else, so I’ll be sticking to my trusty LowePro Photo Sport 200 AW.

What about the X-T3? Where’s all that content?

Good question. The truth is the X-T3 is the only camera Fuji has released aside from the X-E3 (and the X-E2S, but let’s be real about camera releases) that didn’t compel me to buy it right away. For my shooting, the upgrades over an X-T2 or X-H1 simply aren’t a big enough draw. And then there’s the downgrade of lacking IBIS compared to the X-H1.

I had also grown tired, even a little frustrated by how quickly Fuji were releasing bodies. I could easily review nothing but bodies and fill my limited time. But while bodies come and go, lenses stick around a fair bit longer so I’ve been putting my time into using lenses more in order to write accurate reviews.

I do hope to get caught up in the next little while. In the meantime, don’t miss my XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR review.

  1. A week after my last trip, I started a new job, which included the launch of a new bank. Turns out that’s a lot of work. ↩︎