Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Review: Tiny Powerhouse of a Lens

Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Review: Tiny Powerhouse of a Lens

The 24mm focal length is popular because it’s versatile.  It can be used for cityscape or landscape, for street photography to even environmental portraiture.  It’s also a great everyday lens for some.  For a long time, Fujifilm’s 24mm equivalent was the 16mm f1.4, which is a superb lens but because of the f1.4 large aperture, it’s not only expensive, it’s also relatively large.  Some users just don’t need the f1.4 aperture, especially for a focal length that is used in areas of photography that, sometimes, can favor a larger depth of field.  I, for one, don’t even shoot a 35mm lens at wide open aperture that much let alone a 24mm (or in this case, a 24mm equivalent).  So, Fujifilm released the XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens, which is not only much more compact but at the price of $399, it’s also a lot cheaper.  Let’s take a closer look.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Build Quality:

In terms of overall build, the XF 16mm f2.8 reminds me of other smaller aperture lenses made by Fujifilm like the XF 23mm f2, the XF 50mm f2, and the XF 35mm f2.  There are a lot of similarities here, which is good because each one of the lenses I just mentioned, are excellent in their own right.  I’ve reviewed them all, and quite honestly, I was impressed with each one.  Getting back to the XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens, when I first took it out of the box, I was very impressed.

↑The Fuji X-T30 with the XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens attached.

Everything here is built very well.  The aperture ring clicks solidly in third stops.  The focus ring is smooth, and the lens in general, just has this nice and solid feel to it.  The XF 16mm f2.8 also comes in either black or silver.  Lastly, it’s weather sealed, dust sealed, and according to Fuji, the XF 16mm f2.8 can operate in temperatures as low as -10 C just like cameras, such as, the X-T3.  It’s just one of those lenses that you know is going to be awesome even before you mount it on the camera ;).

The best thing is the XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens is very tiny.  Yes, you do lose two stops when compared to the f1.4 version but you also lose considerable bulk in the process, which I think is particularly important considering how compact many of the Fuji bodies are.  Look at the Fuji X-T30 in my photos, for example.  At 155 g, it’s also very light.  If you’re looking for a street lens that’s discreet, and something that you wouldn’t mind lugging around all day, this might just be the lens for you.

To top it all off, the XF 16mm f2.8 also comes with a lens hood, which I actually really like.  I think it matches the lens very well.  Besides protecting against flare, it’s also a great way to actually physically protect the front element from bumps and scraps.  The lens hood is compact, and the great thing is you can leave it on permanently even when you’re attaching the lens cap.  I didn’t once remove it while I was reviewing this lens.

↑I actually like the lens hood that comes with the XF 16mm f2.8.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Autofocus:

As for the autofocus, I tested the XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens with the latest Fujifilm camera (as of this writing), the X-T30.  What I found was this lens definitely performs.  With its stepping motor, autofocus is silent but at the same time, fast and accurate.  I found the performance so good that all I do is essentially point and click.  I could be walking down the street, and if I see something interesting, I just point and shoot; everything happens in a split second without any fuss.  Autofocus is so good that even at night, the performance didn’t feel like it diminished much versus the day.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Image Quality:

Now, let’s talk about image quality.  When I reviewed the XF 16mm f1.4, I found that lens to be optically fantastic.  It’s one of Fuji’s best, if you ask me.  With that said, this lens is also excellent in terms of optics. For one, I found this lens to be extremely sharp, especially in the center.  Even the corners at large aperture settings hold up quite well, and at least with my copy, I really had to pixel peep to see any edge softness.  If you want absolute sharpness across the frame, all you would have to do is stop down to f5.6.  However, images taken at f2.8, and f4 are more than sharp enough, and completely usable in my opinion.  In other words, feel free to shoot throughout the aperture range.

↑Here’s a shot of the WTC taken at f8, 160 ISO and 1/250s.

↑Here’s a 100 crop of the photo above, so you can see the sharpness.

↑This was taken in the morning downtown.  The settings were f5.6, 1/640s, and 160 ISO.

↑Here’s a 100% crop of the image above.

In addition to the XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens being sharp, color rendering is great, there’s decent contrast, and nice clarity.  Pictures have really nice “pop” to them.  Even vignetting is well-controlled at f2.8.  Stopping down to f5.6 makes it disappear completely.  I honestly found it difficult to find anything wrong with this lens except maybe the very occasional flare here and there.  But like I said, very occasional, and nothing to worry about.  I’m nitpicking now because this is a review, and I honestly don’t have many negative things to say about this lens.  This is one of my absolute favorites in the X Series lineup right now.

↑We’ve had some warm days here lately.  This was taken around the WTC and Oculus.  My settings were f8, 1/500s, and 320 ISO.

↑ Here’s one taken with the X-T30 at 320 ISO, f5.6.  The shutter speed was 1/250s.

If you’re looking for those nice, shallow depth of field shots however, this probably isn’t the lens for you.  You have to keep in mind that this is a wide angle lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8, so don’t expect a lot of isolation in your photos.  With that said, the bokeh is still smooth.  Below are some examples I’ve shot with the lens set at f2.8.

↑This was taken on a rather hazy day with harsh lighting but hey, sometimes you just can’t pick the perfect day :).  My settings were f2.8, 1/1000s, and 160 ISO.

↑ This was taken at f2.8, 160 ISO.  The shutter speed was 1/210s.

I’m sure there will be many comparing this lens to the XF 16mm f1.4 R WR lens.  I reviewed that lens when it was first released, so that was a long time ago, and I also reviewed it on older Fuji bodies.  So, from what I remembered, and what cameras I used to tested these two lenses wouldn’t allow me to really make a fair comparison.  With that said, I can at least tell you what I think.

↑In addition to some nice days, we’ve also been getting a lot of rain lately.  The settings were f8, 1/350s, and 160 ISO.

↑The settings here were f5.6, 1/280s, and 160 ISO.

I’d like to say the f1.4 has a slight edge over the XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens just because it’s a lot more expensive, and it is one of Fujifilm’s top lenses but the f2.8 version performed so well for me that it’s difficult to say which is actually the better of the two.  If I had both lenses right now, and I did those side by side comparisons, I can have a better answer for you but then it’s just pixel peeping.  The truth is, both lenses perform extremely well, and if you’re not out there taking pictures of street signs just to pixel peep, and are going out there to use these lenses for actual photography, I don’t think it’s really going to matter which one you pick.  If there is a difference between the two, I don’t feel it’s large enough that you would notice in normal usage.

↑Here’s one taken at f2.8, 1/125s, and 1600 ISO.  As you can see, the depth of field isn’t that shallow.

↑I don’t do black and white as often as I used too.  I should start again; it’s a lot of fun looking for nice, contrasty scenes.  The settings here were f8, 320 ISO, and 1/600s.  Black and white conversion was done in Camera Raw in Photoshop CC.

Both lenses will give you outstanding images, and if it were me deciding between the two, I wouldn’t worry so much about just image quality, since they’re both excellent; I’d just pick the one that fits my type of shooting best.  If you know you’ll be using a 24mm equivalent a lot in very dimly lit areas, and therefore, need a fast aperture, the f1.4 is probably your best bet.  If you value compact size and discreetness, the f2.8 will probably be more to your liking.  It also doesn’t hurt that you’ll be saving $600 in the process.

↑This was another hazy day but I thought it added to the ambiance.  My settings were f8, 1/250s, and 250 ISO.

↑ This is another shot taken at wide open aperture at 160 ISO.  The shutter speed was 1/160s.

It’s also worth noting that for some, this may actually be a good alternative to the XF 18mm f2.  I know that lens got mixed reviews but I liked it a lot.  I liked the size, I thought it produced decent images, and overall, it was just such a handy lens for street or everyday photography.  I wanted Fujifilm to come out with more lenses like that.  There is the XF 27mm f2.8, which I absolutely love but it’s a completely different focal length when compared to the XF 18mm.  In many ways, I can see the new XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens fulfilling the needs of a lot of photographers who want a lens like the XF 18mm.  The focal length’s are closer, the XF 16mm f2.8 is compact, and it is also a very handy lens for things like street.  But it also brings in new tech like better autofocus, and weather sealing.  Plus, the image quality is arguably better.  Don’t forget, the XF 18mm was a first generation lens whereas the XF 16mm is the latest as of this writing.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Pros And Cons:

Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Pros:

  • Well-made.
  • Compact.
  • Nice lens hood.
  • Weather sealed.
  • Fast and accurate autofocus.
  • Excellent image quality.
  • At f2.8, it’s still a fast lens, and if you don’t absolutely need the f1.4 maximum aperture of its larger sibling, you can save yourself $600, and get a fantastic performing lens in the process.
  • At $399, it’s a steal.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Cons:

  • Not much to be honest with you.  I’ve been sitting here for the last ten minutes trying to think of something I don’t like about this lens.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f2.8 R WR Verdict:

If you’re looking for a 24mm equivalent for your Fuji, I think the XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens is a fantastic option.  It’s made well, it’s weather sealed, it’s very compact, and image quality is excellent.  At $399, I think it’s a steal.

↑This was taken at f4, 1/500s, and 640 ISO.

↑I thought the shadows here were really cool.  My settings were f5.6, 1/480s, and 160 ISO.

Truthfully, I have no desire for the XF 16mm f1.4, now that this one has been released.  It’s not that the f1.4 version is a bad lens.  On the contrary, I still feel it’s one of the best in the Fujifilm lineup.  It’s just I simply don’t need an f1.4 version of a 24mm equivalent, and I remember even saying to myself (I think I might’ve written in the review as well) that I’d love a more compact option.  I know this is not the case for everyone, which is totally cool, but for me, it’s a wide angle lens; I’m simply not going to use that f1.4 or even f2 that often.  I don’t need the fastest wide angles in the world.  A lens like the XF 16mm f2.8 is something I’m going to be using for casual shooting, street shooting, and environmental portraiture where I usually stop the lens down anyway.  When it comes to a wide angle lens, this might not be true for everyone but for me, I’d rather have something very compact with fast autofocus, that’s discreet, sharp, and easy to use.  It also doesn’t hurt that I’d end up saving a bunch of cash as well if I purchased this lens :).

↑ This was taken at 200 ISO, f8.  The shutter speed was 1/250s.

↑ While I only used the X-T30 to review the XF 16mm f2.8, I thought I’d post a pic of how the lens looks like attached to the X-T3.

So, if I was in the market for a 24mm equivalent for my Fuji, I may think the f1.4 version is fantastic but this is the one I would buy, love, and I wouldn’t have any regrets about it.  This is a great little lens, and I’m glad Fujifilm released it.  Highly recommended!

Thanks for taking the time to read my review!  If you’re considering purchasing the XF 16mm f2.8, and my review helped you decide, please help support this site by purchasing from any of the links in this review.  It will not cost you anything extra.  Thank you for your support!

XF 16mm f2.8 R WR lens in Silver or Black at B&H Photo

4 comments… add one
  • Steve C

    Hi Patrick,

    As usual, an excellent review. If I didn’t already have the 14mm f2.8 I’d buy the new 16 in a heartbeat.

    Cheers

    Steve

    • Patrick

      Thanks Steve!

      Appreciate you stopping by as always! Totally agree with you, and that’s another great Fuji lens :). Have a great week!

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Jed Orme

    Hello Patrick,

    Thanks for this very thorough & positive review of this latest more compact offering from Fuji. I think if they could have created an f/2 lens in this package, I might seriously think about selling my f/1.4 version. But when I look at all of my travel photos with interior images using the fastest two settings, I don’t think that f/2.8 would work for me. I also like the 6 inch minimum focus distance but don’t know what it is for the new lens. Finally, I’m starting to try doing some astrophotography & will likely need the range of the bigger lens. But it looks like an excellent choice for those who can live with what it can do – now if only I could afford to have both of them!

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Thanks Jed!

      I appreciate you taking the time to read my review! Having both would be nice haha but for me, I think I’d go for the f2.8 version. I love the compact size, and how it balances with my X-T3. The optics are excellent too, which never hurts. I am just sorry I had to return it since this was a loaner. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts,

      Best,

      Patrick

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