Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens Review:
When Fuji announced that they were coming out with the X-Pro1, it got many photographers out there excited because finally, there was a digital camera that reminded them of how cameras use to be built. The Leica M digitals evoke the same feelings but they also cost a lot more. The X-Pro1 was a camera that really allowed photographers to take an active role in the photographic process instead of letting the camera do everything for them but for several times less than something like an M9. Furthermore, the X-Pro1 had many of the same attributes of a traditional rangefinder even though it was in the mirrorless class. Many thought that just like a traditional rangefinder, only fixed focal length lenses could be used. Then Fuji surprised us by announcing that they would be creating zoom lenses for the XF Series lineup. The first of these zoom lenses is the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R Lens, which is the lens that I have here today for review, and the lens that came with my X-E1 kit.
Honestly, even I was a bit surprised when I heard the news that Fuji was coming out with zooms for the X-Pro1/X-E1. First off, most people who are going to buy a camera like the X-Pro1 or the X-E1 are more interested in fast primes. I know I was because I grew up with fixed focal lengths. Optically, they’re just better, faster, and most importantly for a rangefinder type camera, smaller. But as my interest grew for the Fuji X-E1, I began looking at the price of the new zoom. If I bought the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R Lens separately, I would have to cough up almost $700 for it. However, if I bought it packaged as a kit with the X-E1, I would only be paying about $400 for it.
↑ The Fuji X-E1 with XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens.
I’m pretty traditional in terms of what I like in photographic equipment, and everyone who knows me knows that I can be pretty stuck in my ways :). Look at my blog. You’ll see Leica, and Fuji X series cameras, which are all cameras that rely heavily on user input. I’m not trying to rat on anyone else’s preferences; that’s just my style. I like these kinds of cameras because they’re basic, and the controls are manual allowing me to fully concentrate on the photo. I really don’t like electronics getting in my way, and in terms of lenses, I really believe that all you need is a fast prime to take care of 90% of your shots. For me, the ultimate setup to this day is a Leica M9 with a 50 Summilux ASPH. So what made me try out this zoom? Well, for me, the fact that the X-E1 had only an electronic viewfinder bothered me a bit because I like having an OVF. But the features of the X-E1 got me to take the leap, and buy it so I figured that since I’m giving the EVF a chance, I might as well go for the zoom, and see what I’ve been missing :). Plus, again, the zoom cost me only an extra $400 if I bought the Fuji X-E1 kit, which to me was a great incentive to give the zoom a chance.
Did I regret my decision? No, not at all. This is one awesome lens, and in my opinion, Fuji shouldn’t label it as a kit lens because that’s very deceiving. I love using this lens. Is it perfect? No but it definitely expands the range, and usefulness of the X-Series system, and gives the X-Series system one more reason to love it.
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens Build Quality:
I’ve been using this lens almost exclusively since I bought my new X-E1, and I love it. If you check out my Fuji X-E1 review, you’ll see that most of the shots were taken with the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens. I wanted to use the other lenses but I just liked the zoom too much. I was simply having a blast with it. One of the reasons for why I like this lens so much is that in my opinion, I believe that it is the best built lens for the X-Series lineup by a far margin.
↑ The XF series’ first zoom: XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens.
For all of you X-Pro1 or X-E1 users out there, you know what I mean when I say that all of the X-Series lenses are generally pretty light and a bit hollow feeling. Let me state right here that I absolutely love the X-Series lenses but they’re not perfect, and one of their imperfections to me is the hollow feeling I get from them. I mentioned the lightness in all my XF lens reviews before, and it’s just one thing that I’m not particularly fond of. But there are about a billion reasons to go out, and buy the X-Series lenses so who cares about that one issue, which btw, some people actually prefer because it makes the system easier to carry all day. Anyway, that’s off topic ;). The point is, this lightness is not the case with the zoom. The XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens feels every bit like a $700 zoom.
↑ XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens with the barrel fully extended.
In general, the zoom just has a less plastic-like feel to it. It’s nice and solid. The zoom ring works wonderfully smooth, and it is just tight enough to stay secure, while also loose enough where it doesn’t feel like you’re forcing it to move. In other words, no zoom creeping. The aperture ring is also very smooth, and it clicks in third stops just like the other lenses. You can also choose to let the camera decide the aperture for you by fiddling with the a switch on the lens. One thing that should be mentioned: there are no aperture markings on the lens; you’ll have to rely on the viewfinder or the LCD screen for that info. It takes a bit of getting use to for me since my lenses always had aperture markings, and a lot of times I like to set it a head of time before I look through the viewfinder but it makes sense since the zoom does not have a fix wide open aperture.
↑ XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens with the lens hood.
The lens is also surprisingly small for a zoom, especially for its speed. It does look a bit bigger on the X-E1 but hey, the X-E1 is a small camera. But in general, this is a very easy lens to shoot with because of its size. It never feels front heavy even if fully zoomed out on the X-E1. It feels like I’m using the XF 35mm F1.4 R lens because they’re almost the same in terms of size albeit the zoom being heavier.
↑ XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens and lens hood with the barrel fully extended.
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens Image Stabilizer Function:
A cool feature that this lens has over the other XF lenses is that this is the first lens in the XF lineup that comes with image stabilization! The XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens has a built in Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS) equivalent to four stops, which actually works really good. Image stabilization can be easily turned on and off through a switch on the lens barrel. OIS works great for photos but it’s also great for video.
↑ I wanted a bit of a blur effect with the people running around Grand Central Station, and I didn’t have a tripod with me but luckily, I had the image stabilizer in this lens. This was taken with the X-E1 at 0.8 seconds hand held at F5.6 at 400 ISO.
↑ Here’s a shot from my Fuji X-E1 review taken at 1/10 of a second at F5. I set the X-E1 at 1250 ISO.
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens on the X-Pro1:
When news of this new zoom was first announced, many X-Pro1 users were wondering if the zoom could be used with their OVF’s. I was definitely one of those users, and I’m glad to say that yes, the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens can be used with the OVF. It’s actually pretty cool too. The framelines actually zoom pretty fluidly as you zoom the lens, so if you’re an OVF purest, then you won’t have to sacrifice your love for the OVF in order to use the zoom. At the 18mm focal length, you will block out a bit of the viewfinder but nothing to drastic. If you’re use to a Leica M or any other rangefinder camera, you’ll know that it comes with the territory, and you probably won’t even notice it much.
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens Focusing:
In terms of focusing, the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens is the fastest, and most accurate lens in the XF lineup so far. In fact, with this lens, the camera can lock focus in as little as 0.1 second, thanks to the linear motor driven focusing system in the lens. In the real world, the XF 18-55mm is very fast, and because of this speed, it is a pleasure to use. However, there are a few quirks like in any lens. For instance, I had a bit of trouble focusing on a bridge in the fog but for the most part, this lens has performed very admirably. It’s why I used it almost exclusively for my Fuji X-E1 review. I just love using it. Since the lens also has an internal focusing (IF) system, it makes the 18-55mm extremely quiet as well.
Having this lens mounted on your camera won’t bring you Olympus OM-D speed but you also have to remember that the Fuji cameras were not really meant to be speed demons. The truth is, for the money Fuji is asking people to shell out for their cameras, you can buy a pretty decent DSLR kit that will run circles around your X-Pro1 or X-E1 in terms of focusing speed. But you don’t buy an X-E1 or an X-Pro1 for it’s speed demon ways. You buy it because it really does slow you down a bit forcing you to think more about your shot instead of shooting away like a machine gun :). When I use one of these cameras, I really try to look around my environment, plan my shot, take my time framing, and try to make every shot count.
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens
So yes, the focusing speed of the new zoom has definitely been improved over the other XF lenses but how about image quality? Well, the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens is not only a very easy lens to use; it really offers exceptional image quality as well. This lens is sharp wide open, and only gets better as you stop down a bit. I’m not going to go into crazy detail on how sharp it really is by showing you how sharp this lens is at different apertures or at different focal lengths. In real world use, you don’t need that. Besides, there are other sites that will do that boring stuff :). Just know that this lens really does perform well in a variety of settings. I set aperture based on what I want to convey in the scene, and I did not feel limited at all. I freely used the zoom to my heart’s content, and it performed very well in all situations. In real world use, you’re looking for overall lens performance, and after my time with it, it’s almost hard for me to justify buying something like the 18mm or even the 60mm when this zoom seems to do it all.
↑ XF 18-55mm set at 18mm. The X-E1 was set at 200 ISO, and placed on a tripod.
Don’t get me wrong; both of those fixed focal length lenses are excellent choices, and I still own both. The 18mm is great because of its small size. If you combine the 18mm with the X-E1, and you have an extremely stealthy kit. But the image quality from the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens is good enough that I don’t even bother bringing those two other lenses along anymore. The zoom range also makes it just so convenient, and perfect for a multitude of situations. If you don’t really need macro, I think you could get away with just the zoom, and the XF 35mm for specialty work. Images coming from the zoom are not only sharp; they retain all of that Fuji goodness that’s inherent in the XF fix focal length lenses as well. Overall, with the zoom mounted to your X-E1 or your X-Pro1, you’ll be getting not only sharp images but vivid, contrasty, and three-dimensional photos as well.
↑ The XF 18-55mm was set to 18mm in this shot. This was taken with the X-E1 set to 1250 ISO.
↑ Here is a shot looking down Madison avenue taken with the X-E1 and 18-55mm set at 18mm.
↑ This was taken with the X-E1 and XF 18-55mm set at 55mm.
↑ Here is a 100% crop of the image above.
↑ Here’s another photo taken at the 34mm focal length.
There might be one Achilles’ heal to the zoom: one thing that might prevent some users from really embracing the zoom is maybe the speed of the lens. At F2.8-4 the lens is pretty fast for a zoom but maybe not for you bokeh lovers out there. You will never be able to get the same bokeh from the zoom as you will from the XF 35mm. You won’t even get the same bokeh at 55mm on the zoom as you will with the XF 60mm. The XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens is not a shallow depth of field king but don’t think you still won’t get nice, smooth prints. With an iris diaphragm consisting of seven rounded blades, you’ll still get nice photos with no hint of harshness. Just don’t expect super shallow depth of field.
↑ Some of you might want to know about the bokeh of this lens. This photos was taken with the 18-55mm set at 55mm wide open (F4.0).
↑ Here is a photo taken at 18mm shot wide open (F2.0) to demonstrate the bokeh. The bench was the focus point.
But again, overall, this lens is a great zoom, and a wonderful addition to the XF lineup. Think about it; when you combine fantastic image quality with speed, and accuracy into a relatively compact, well built housing, you have the recipe for one awesome piece of glass. That’s what Fuji has done with the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens. Yes, there are compromises but that’s with any zoom. Overall, you won’t notice them because in my opinion, they’re not that big of a deal. In fact, I hate to say this but I really believe that this zoom performs better than the XF 18mm F2.0 R lens, and think about that for a second; that’s a prime lens. But I will definitely be doing a comparison test between the two in the future to confirm this.
↑ X-E1 and XF 18-55mm.
↑ This is a photo taken at the 51mm focal length at 1600 ISO.
↑ X-E1 and 18-55mm combo set at 18mm. This was taken at 1250 ISO, F4.0 at 1/35 second.
Things I Don’t Like About The Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens:
Honestly, there’s not much I don’t like about this lens. But if I had to pick, I guess one thing that I don’t like about this lens is that the lens hood is kind of big. It definitely makes my X-E1 look a lot bigger than it really is. I don’t even bring it along with me anymore. Also, it would be nice to have a fixed aperture lens but then again, that would increase the size of the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens, so I wouldn’t want to mess with that. Lastly, I find myself using the zoom at the 18mm focal length quite frequently. Honestly, I get away with a lot more when I use something like the XF 18mm for candid shots because it’s so small.
The Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens Pros and Cons:
Here is a wrap up of what I like, and dislike about the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens.
The Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens Pros:
- Arguably the best built lens in the XF lineup so far.
- Zoom focuses faster than the other XF lenses.
- Image quality is excellent.
- Image quality has the same wonderful characteristics as the other XF lenses.
- Performs better than the XF 18mm.
- Extremely versatile lens that for some, can replace many of the other lenses in the XF lineup.
- Works very well with the X-Pro1 OVF.
- Lens is price reasonably, especially since this lens is good enough that many will buy this lens instead of several primes.
- Lens is a steal when bought with the Fuji X-E1 kit.
The Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens Cons:
- The lens hood is a bit big.
- Some may want a faster lens or value a fixed aperture lens.
The Fujifilm XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens/X-E1 Kit Lens Verdict:
Overall, the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens is an excellent addition to the XF lineup, especially since it is the first zoom that’s produced for the X-Series mirrorless cameras. The XF 18-55mm is a great starter lens if you just bought an X-E1 or even an X-Pro1. But don’t mistaken this lenses as just a simple kit lens. Optically it’s outstanding, it’s built better than the other XF lenses, it’s more versatile, it focuses much faster, and it is more accurate in terms of focusing than any of the other lenses in the current lineup. This lens can do it all, which is what many want in a zoom.
↑ X-E1 and XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens.
↑ Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm combo set at 55mm. This was taken at 1250 ISO, F4.0 at 1/140 second.
Yes, at F2.8-4, it is slower than the prime lenses but unlike the other lenses, it also has image stabilization, which comes in very handy. I seriously find that this lens is a great deal, especially since I bought mine with the X-E1 kit. For many, this zoom will definitely be a better option than buying multiple fix focal length lenses because you really don’t lose much in terms of performance if you choose the zoom but you gain so much more in terms of versatility. Plus you can save a lot of cash by not buying so many primes. In that respect, the $700 price tag doesn’t look so bad. Furthermore, if you’re new to Fuji, you can get this zoom in the Fuji X-E1 kit, and save yourself $300 in the process.
↑ Here is a shot taken at the 41mm focal length at 1250 ISO.
Like I said in the beginning of this review: I’m stubborn, and stuck in my old ways. I only like OVF’s. I only like prime lenses. But something about this zoom just made me go for it, and I’m really glad I did. It retains all of the main attributes we all love about the the XF Series lenses, such as, beautiful contrast, color rendition, sharpness, and three-dimensional appeal but in a way that greatly expands the capability, and versatility of the X-Series mirrorless cameras. Yeah, I can take a stand by saying that it’s a zoom, and I’m only a fixed focal length kind of guy but bottom line is that this zoom is one awesome lens. If you’re new to Fuji, and you’re thinking about purchasing an X-E1, I urge you to consider the kit because for $400 more, you can have one exceptional lens that will probably save you the cost of buying several other primes. This lens can do it all, which in a way, is the very definition of a great zoom. in my opinion, buying this lens is a no brainer.
That’s it for this review, I hoped that you all thoroughly enjoyed it. Comments below are always welcomed. Thanks for stopping by!
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