Fuji XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R Lens Vs. Fuji XF 18mm F2.0 R Lens:
The new Fuji XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens is a great lens, and for the most part, it’s been well received. It performs well optically, it’s easy to use, it’s small, and it focuses pretty quick. With the release of this new zoom, I’m pretty sure many of you are wondering if you even need the Fuji primes. Well, maybe I wouldn’t go that far since I love primes :). But who knows, maybe you’re starting out, and you want to get the most out of your money or if you’re like me, you just want to lighten your bag a bit.
Whatever the reason, my question is, can the zoom really replace the excellent Fuji primes? Specifically for this test, can the zoom at the 18mm focal length replace the XF 18mm prime? Again, I love the primes but ever since I bought the zoom, I honestly don’t carry my primes much anymore (with the exception of the XF 35mm F1.4). I’m not saying the primes are bad; I’m saying the zoom is really that good. For me, image quality from the zoom is comparable to the primes, and I’m happy enough with the zoom that I’d rather have a lighter bag. Plus, the zoom is very quiet, and it focuses faster.
↑ The compact XF 18mm F2.0 R lens.
While I say the zoom is comparable in image quality to the primes, I never really did a flat out test to confirm this. For me, how I know if I like a lens is I play with it to test everything from the form factor, how it functions in the field, to how good the optical quality is. For instance, I’m willing to sacrifice a little sharpness for ease of use. I just want to make sure that overall, I can live with the lens, I love using it, and it does what it’s suppose to do, which is produce awesome photos. So, this is my first lens comparison, and I decided to include more factors than just overall image quality. I wanted to include factors that most people would consider when buying a lens because let’s be honest; we demand a lot from a lens other than just really sharp photos. So, let’s get started.
↑ The new XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens.
Size, Weight, And Feel of These Two Fuji Lenses:
If portability, discreetness, and lightness are what you’re looking for, then buy the XF 18mm F2.0 R lens. I can’t even tell you that you won’t notice much of a difference between these two lenses in terms of size because look at the photos :). The XF 18mm is not only a lot smaller than the zoom; it’s also a lot lighter. However, I personally like the added heft in the zoom. I find the XF 18mm a bit light, and hollow feeling for my taste. Plus, the XF 18-55mm is just built better, and feels more solid.
↑ A side by side comparison between the XF 18-55mm and the XF 18mm.
↑ A side by side comparison between the XF 18-55mm and the XF 18mm with their hoods.
But there is no denying how discreet you’ll be with such a small lens on something like the X-E1. Until the pancake lens comes out in the future, this is the smallest Fuji XF series lens. In my opinion, if you want that true Leica feel in terms of portability, and compactness, get the X-E1, XF 18mm, and a nice wrist strap. You won’t even need to carry your bag around with you.
↑ The beautiful Fuji X-E1 with the XF 18mm.
↑ The X-E1 with the zoom.
Here are some specs for these two Fuji lenses, to give you an even better understanding of what I mentioned:
XF 18mm 116g vs. XF 18-55mm 310g
XF 18mm 64.5mm x 40.6mm vs. XF 18-55mm 65.0mm x 70.4mm/97.9mm
XF 18mm 52mm vs. XF18-55mm 58mm
Focusing Speed And Accuracy Between These Two Fuji Lenses:
I’ve had both of these lenses since their release, and in my opinion, I find the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens is both more accurate and faster in terms of focusing than the XF 18mm. Even when I was taking photos for this comparison, I found this to be true. I live near water here in Brooklyn, and I was taking photos of the cargo ships with both lenses, and there was a little focus hunting going on with the XF 18mm in a couple of photos where the zoom had no problems whatsoever. This is in broad daylight as well. By the way, just in case some of you ask, I didn’t end up using the photos here in this comparison because I found that there were too many variables I had to account for.
If you’re use to the primes, the zoom is also quieter, and near silent. The zoom is even a lot faster in macro mode than the XF 18mm. So, if most of these factors are important for you, then maybe you should consider the zoom over the XF 18mm.
Overall Image Quality of These Two Fuji Lenses:
This topic is probably what most of you want to know most about these two lenses. You all can see on the web the size, the weight, and how the focusing is between these two lenses but how do these two lenses compare in terms of image quality? To compare these two lenses, I attached them to my Fuji X-E1, and placed it on my tripod. I took several scenarios to try to give you all the best test possible. I didn’t shoot an image with the same lens, and settings just once. I know from taking all of those crazy science courses back in the day that it’s better to shoot several images with the same lens, and at the same setting. I then go back to my computer, and check the images to obtain the best one out of all of them. I did that for both lenses. Lastly, since there’s a debate on whether to use CS6 or Capture One, I decided to show you all the out of camera jpegs. These photos are directly from the camera in Velvia mode. So lets see what we got:
The First Set of Photos Comparing Overall Image Quality:
↑ I shot this overall image with both lenses at F5.6. This image above was shot with the XF 18-55mm.
↑ Here are two crops from the center of the images. To my eyes, it’s hard to tell which lens is actually better or sharper.
↑ These two crops are from the right side of the images. As you can see, the zoom actually retains a bit more detail than the XF 18mm.
The Second Set of Photos Comparing Overall Image Quality:
↑ Here is another example taken at F5.6 with both lenses. This image above was taken with the zoom.
↑ Here are crops from the center of the images. To my eyes, the XF 18-55mm looks a bit sharper than the XF 18mm. I’m looking straight at the sprinkler head. I shot three images with the XF 18mm, and produced generally the same result, which to my eyes, are slightly less detailed than the zoom.
↑ These crops are from the left side of the images. As you can see, the zoom clearly retains more detail than the XF 18mm.
The Third Set of Photos Comparing Overall Image Quality:
↑ Here is another comparison that I did but this time with closeup photos of a clock at F5.6. This example here was shot with the zoom.
↑ In terms of center sharpness, I think the zoom still beats the prime but only by a very little. Contrast seems to be better on the zoom too, and I noticed this on a lot of the other example photos.
↑ Here are crops from the right side of the photos. You can clearly see that the prime actually loses a bit of image quality, while the zoom retains it’s overall sharpness much better near the edges.
After testing these two lenses, I find the XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens produces an overall better image quality than the XF 18mm. Sharpness and contrast overall seem better on the zoom but where it really makes a difference is on the edges of the photos. The zoom retains much more detail off center than the prime. In real world use, I generally find that the zoom produces more pleasing images than the XF 18mm, which is why my 18mm usually stays at home now. I really like the zoom, and unfortunately, I can’t really post real world images from both in a comparison test because there would be variables that I wouldn’t be able to control. In a true test, I have to make sure all of the variables are the same except for one, which in this case, is having two different lenses.
Bokeh Comparison Between These Two Fuji Lenses:
I thought a shallow depth of field test would be nice to add to this comparison because I’m betting that there are some people who are wondering if that one stop difference between these two lenses is really significant in terms of creating bokeh. Overall, the XF 18mm F2.0 R lens will produce a shallower depth of field than the zoom at the 18mm focal length because it’s one stop faster. But how much of a difference is it? Is it really worth it to buy the prime for the purpose of that one stop? Will you really get that much of a shallower depth of field from that one stop, especially from an 18mm lens?
These are questions I asked myself a few times. There is only one way to find out, and that’s to take some photos wide open from both of these lenses. But before I show you the photos, I just want to mention one thing. One stop can make a difference sometimes when the purpose of it is to allow more light into your photograph. But the reason why I say “can” is because while the XF 18mm is one stop faster, the zoom has image stabilization equivalent to four stops. Combine the image stabilization with the Fuji X-Series’ amazing ISO capabilities, and I wonder how important that one stop really is. This has nothing to do with the bokeh of the two lenses. I just thought it was important to mention, especially if you’re considering purchasing one these two lenses. Anyway, off to the bokeh pics!:
The First Set of Bokeh Photos:
↑ This photo was shot with the zoom at F2.8. While the depth of field is not as shallow as the XF 18mm, it is still very smooth looking. In general, I find the bokeh from all of the XF Series lenses to be very smooth.
↑ This photo was shot with the XF 18mm at F2.0. The depth of field is shallower but to my eyes, not by much.
The Second Set of Bokeh Photos:
↑ This photo was taken with the XF 18-55mm, and again, the shallow depth of field is nice and smooth.
↑ Here is a shot taken with the XF 18mm, and while the depth of field is definitely shallower at F2.0, to my eyes, there’s not a huge difference between this photo, and the photo shot with the zoom at F2.8.
The Third Set of Bokeh Photos:
↑ Here’s another shallow depth of field shot taken with the XF 18-55mm.
↑ Here’s the same basic shot taken with the XF 18mm.
To my eyes, the XF 18mm does produce an image with a shallower depth of field but I don’t believe it’s by much. The extra bokeh produced by the XF 18mm is not significant enough for me to forgo the other great qualities of the zoom.
Macro Capability of These Two Fuji Lenses:
This is my last test, and while probably not the most important, I thought it would be nice for some who are curious. According to Fuji, the XF 18mm F2.0 R lens can shoot as close as 18cm while the closest the zoom will shoot is 30cm at the 18mm focal length. I don’t do much macro photography but I thought this would be a good test. I wanted to see how these two performed when shooting a close subject. You might not need to use a wide angle for macro work but even I found it convenient in certain situations that these lenses can shoot close up. Let’s take a look at what we got:
XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens (left) and XF 18mm F2.0 R lens (right) at their largest apertures:
↑ Here is a shot taken at F2.8, which is the zoom’s largest aperture.
↑ As you can see, you can get a lot closer with the XF 18mm than you can with the zoom. This shot was taken at F2.0.
XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R lens (left) and XF 18mm F2.0 R lens (right) at F5.6:
↑ This photo was shot with the zoom at F5.6.
↑ This shot was taken with the XF 18m at F5.6.
Wow, so there is clearly a difference here. You can really fill the frame with the XF 18mm, where as the zoom just won’t let you get all the way in. The zoom still takes a decent close up photo though but it just won’t give you the closeness of the XF 18mm.
Which Fuji Lens is Right For You?:
I hope my first ever lens comparison helps those who are wondering which lens to buy. If you ask me which Fuji lens to buy, I would say to you: that’s a question that only you can answer :). In general, I really like the zoom. It’s built better than the prime, if focuses faster, and optically, the zoom does produce better images than the XF 18mm. But I still haven’t sold my XF 18mm F2.0 R lens, which says to me that there’s something about the XF 18mm that I don’t think the zoom can replace. For me, that something is the small size of the XF 18mm, which I find very appealing. I honestly believe that you can get away with so much more on the street because no matter how small the zoom is, it’s still a lot longer than the XF 18mm. With the XF 18mm on my X-E1, it’s about the same size as the Fuji X100S, which is mighty appealing. In my opinion it also feels better balanced in my hand than the X100. So, for me, it is tough to choose between these two lenses but no matter what you choose in the end, you’ll be rewarded with some fantastic shots because both of these lenses can deliver the goods.
That’s it for this comparison test. Comments are always welcomed. If any of you want more info on the Fuji X-Series products, please check out all of my reviews. Thanks for taking the time to read my comparison. Next up will probably be a comparison between the zoom, and the XF 60mm Macro. I’m also planning on doing a possible multi-part comparison test between the Fuji X-E1 and the OM-D. I will also have the kit zooms for both, and the 50mm F1.4 equivalents! It should be a fun comparison! Take care!