Fuji vs. Fuji’s FUJINON XF 18mm F/2 Review
Originally Published: December, 2016
The FUJINON XF 18mm F/2 often gets overlooked these days in favour its bigger, wider brothers, the XF 14mm F/2.8 (Review), and XF 16mm F/1.4 WR (Review), but this 27mm equivalent has a few things going for it, and should be on the consideration list for just about anyone that takes size and weight into consideration.
I say “just about” because I think dedicated landscape shooters will want to pass on it, especially those who already own the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS (Review) which is almost as competent at 18mm outside of missing the slightly larger maximum aperture that landscapers tend not to use much anyhow. Architectural or interior photographers are likely to shy away as well due to its distortion.
For the street photographers out there, this lens is a fantastically discrete option. For the serious shooters who take to the street with two bodies, one with an XF 18mm F/2, and the other with a 35mm lens is a great focal length combination. For portrait or wedding photographers, the bokeh at f/2 should not be overlooked.
As with most every lens, this one comes with trade-offs. It’s not going to perform as well optically as our other wide prime options, and it lacks some of its handling niceties, but the size and weight alone can be enough to make up for that.
|Lens Construction||8 elements in 7 groups
(2 aspherical elements)
|Focal Length (35mm format equivalent)||18mm (27mm)|
|Aperture Range||f/2 – f/16 in ⅓ stop increments|
|Aperture Type||7 blades (rounded diaphragm opening)|
|Focus Range||Approximately 18cm - ∞ (infinity)|
|External Dimensions||64.5mm diameter x 40.6mm long|
138g w caps
149.5 w caps and hood
|Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)||No|
|Push/Pull Clutch Manual Focus Ring||No|
|Nano GI Coating||No|
Compared to other FUJINON lenses, the build of the XF 18mm F/2 is pretty good. There’s some sample variation in the aperture ring—not nearly as much as the XF 14mm F/2.8, nor as loose—and the focus ring has a tendency to have a little play in it. I’ve owned a couple of these lenses, and handled a few more. It’s worth checking to make sure all the moving parts are tight. The aperture ring has a “rough” feeling to it. Nowhere close to as much as the XF 60mm F2.4 Macro, but it’s not as well damped as more recently released lenses.
Size and Weight
The XF 18mm F/2 is the star of the wide angle show in this department. This is the sort of lens you can easily slip into a pocket to keep at the ready. Size and weight are two of the 3 reasons I found myself mounting this lens when the mood for some street photography strikes, with aperture being the third.
The XF 18mm F/2 is quite capable of background separation, particularly if you are close enough to your subject. In general, you’ll want to get pretty close to your subject with a lens this wide.
Along with the two other “Original 3,” the XF 35mm F/1.4 (Review) and XF 60mm F/2.4 Macro, the XF 18mm F/2 ships with a handsome metal hood that does well to not obstruct the optical viewfinder (OVF) of the X-Pro bodies for which it was originally paired. It does extend the length of the lens some, but not as much as the hood for the XF 35mm F/1.4.
The cap is also extremely fiddly. So fiddly, if you actually manage to get your camera out of a bag with the cap still attached, you’re in the minority. I prefer to just leave it at home and go capless when the hood is attached.
The XF 18mm F/2 performs great in the centre of the frame, even wide open from typical distances. Out towards the edges and corners though, you can expect some fairly significant softening, no matter your aperture selection. Focusing really close can also result in softness across the frame.
RAFs processed without camera profiles applied will exhibit some fairly significant distortion. Those profiles reduce it substantially, but the distortion is complex though, so if it’s straight lines you’re after, you’re going to want to look elsewhere.
Expect some vignetting that’s a bit stronger wide open, and remains until throughout the aperture range.
Unless you have a strong light source towards the edge of your frame, and you are not using a hood, flare should not be a big problem.
Without in-camera correction, aberrations are pretty strong. Amount the worst of any Fuji lens, as a matter of fact. It’s restricted to the outer ⅓ of the frame.
Conclusion and Rating
If it wasn’t for how small it is, the XF 18mm F/2 would rarely spend much time mounted on my cameras. Optically, there are simply far better options. For those looking to be discrete with their cameras, it’s a really good option.
Fuji do have a near dizzying variety of getting to 18mm though, and one option, the X70, is significantly more compact. Another, the WCL-X100 mounted on an X100, isn’t a great deal larger, but larger nonetheless. Then there are owners of the kit lenses, the XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 OIS and XF 18-135mm F/3.5-5.6 WR. Not to mention the XF 10-24mm F/4 OIS and XF 16-55mm F/2.8 WR. Wow. With all these ways of capturing the focal length, a prime needs to have a lot going for it in order to be added to my bag. Sadly, the XF 18mm F/2 doesn’t quite have it in many respects. Fuji shooters have smaller and/or optically superior options available.
That said, for the interchangeable body owner who really likes 27-28mm in 35mm equivalence, and who wants to add a compact option to their kit, the XF 18mm F/2 is a reasonable choice. I would suggest buying during one of Fuji’s many rebate blitzes though. It’s a lens that should probably remain at its sale price.
Recommended with reservations.
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