Recently I had to photograph an indoor event and I realized I needed a different lens, one with a larger maximum aperture. So I borrowed the Fuji 16-55mm F2.8 WR lens.
Fuji’s “try before you buy” program allows you to borrow a lens or camera for a couple of days to test it out before you commit to a purchase. It’s brilliant.
So, I figured I’d give you my review and tell you why I have I added this lens to my own wish list.
Fuji 16-55mm F2.8 WR lens
I currently use and love the Fuji 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Overall it’s a great lens for travel, street photography, and shooting outside. But where it falls short is shooting indoors or in low light situations.
I do also have the Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens which is awesome for street photography, but sometimes I need one that’s wider.
In this review, I will do a few comparisons between the two lenses so if you have the 18-135mm as well you can decide if you need to add the 16-55mm to your bag or not.
These are the main points I’m going to cover in this review.
- Physical specs (weight and size)
- Large maximum aperture benefits
- Cost and value
- Who should buy this lens?
#1 – Physical specs
Here is a side-by-side comparison to show you the size of both lenses. They are pretty similar in size and weight.
- The Fuji 16-55mm f2.8 weighs in at 1.44 lb / 655 g
- The 18-135mm weighs 1.08 lb / 490 g
So the 16-55mm is slightly heavier. Keep in mind it also has a short zoom range though, but does have that larger f/2.8 aperture.
- The Fuji 16-55mm measures 3.28 x 4.17″ / 83.3 x 106 mm
- The 18-135mm is 2.98 x 3.85″ / 75.7 x 97.8 mm
Once again the 16-55mm is slightly larger but only marginally.
The biggest difference is the filter size needed. The 18-135mm uses a 67mm filter versus the 77mm needed for the 16-55mm. So you’ll pay a bit more for filters for the latter.
NOTE: One other thing to note is that the 16-55mm has a closer minimum focusing distance, so you can get a little closer to your subject (11.81″ / 30 cm versus 1.48′ / 45 cm for the 18-135mm). But the latter still has a higher maximum magnification (0.27x compared to 0.16x).
#2 – Benefits of a large maximum aperture
The biggest reason and benefit of buying a lens that has a large maximum fixed aperture (stays the same when you zoom in or out on the lens) is for shooting in low light conditions.
The 18-135mm really struggles in low light, as I mentioned earlier. That is because as you zoom in more the maximum or largest aperture available gets smaller. Meaning:
- At 18mm you can use f/3.5
- But at 55mm you’re limited to f/5.0 (at 135mm you can only get f/5.6)
That may not seem all the significant but the difference at the 55mm end matters a lot. Let’s look at some images I took inside my house in dim lighting.
Notice the difference between the exposures on the two images above. Because the 18-135mm can’t open any wide at that focal length the ISO is higher and the shutter speed is slower than the shot with the 16-55mm.
Consequently the latter image has slightly less noise and is sharper due to the faster shutter speed (even though the 18-135mm lens has Image Stabilization).
There are other side benefits of the larger aperture as well:
- Brighter screen – because the lens has a larger opening your viewing screen is usually brighter, so you can see better.
- Faster focusing – also due to the larger aperture the camera is better able to focus in low light conditions because the camera can see better.
#3 – Sharpness
The 16-55mm F2.8 is a high-end lens in the Fuji line-up. With 9 diaphragm blades and 17 elements (one more of each than the 18-135mm), it is made with top-notch construction.
I did a few shots to test its sharpness at f/5.6 (the sweet spot) and a smaller aperture of f/11 to see how it performed. Let’s take a look starting with the two above shot at 24mm focal length.
The lens performed well, as expected under those conditions. Likewise, at f2/8 wide open in low light, it well also.
NOTE: You do need to make sure you keep to the 1/focal-length for your minimum shutter speed using this lens though. Because it doesn’t have IS (Image Stabilization) you need to keep the shutter speed higher.
So I did some tests with both lenses using slow shutter speeds to compare the sharpness results with and without IS.
I shot five images with the 18-135mm at 1/30th of a second and they were all within acceptable limits of sharpness and were usable.
Using the 16-55mm lens I took seven images at 1/30th and none of them were even close to as sharp as the one with the other lens. One was close to what I’d consider usable but even that one isn’t great.
I tried a few shots with both lenses at 1/15th but nothing was sharp. So it seems that with the image stabilization you can only push the limit about one stop from the rule below (for the 18-135mm Fuji lens anyway, test yours to find the lower limits for your own gear).
#4 – Cost and value
At $1199 USD the Fuji 16-55mm F2.8 is not an inexpensive lens, but it is a good investment.
The lower-priced 18-135mm at $899 USD is also a good choice. I got this lens with my original Fuji XT-1 and it’s been my workhorse. But there are benefits and pros and cons of each.
Fuji 16-55mm F2.8
- PRO: large maximum aperture
- PRO: higher-end construction
- PRO: wider at the wide end of the zoom
- PRO: WR or weather-resistant
- CON: No image stabilization
- CON: larger filter size
- CON: higher price
Fuji 18-135mm F3.5-5.6
- PRO: lower price
- PRO: image stabilization
- PRO: much larger zoom range especially on the long end
- PRO: WR or weather-resistant
- PRO: smaller filter size
- CON: not a fixed and large maximum aperture
So that brings us to the next point . . .
#5 – Who should buy this lens?
As I mentioned at the top of this article, I have added the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens to my list of things to purchase for my own gear bag. This is why I feel it will fill a gap in my equipment list:
I don’t have anything wider than 18mm other than my 8mm fisheye. It’s only slightly wider, but wider nonetheless.
The only fast lens I have is the 35mm f/1.4 so I need a zoom with a larger fixed aperture. The 16-55mm is basically like my old Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 that almost never left my camera. It’s so multi-purpose.
I love the WR (weather resistant) line of Fuji lenses. Since taking an ocean wave full-on in 2015 I’ll never go back to a non-WR zoom.
So I would recommend the Fuji 16-55 F2.8 lens for you if:
- You photograph corporate events, especially indoor ones.
- You shoot weddings (another event, lots inside).
- You do not have another good all-purpose zoom lens with a large aperture in your kit.
For now, I will covet these two from afar as well. The Fujifilm XF 50-140mm F2.8 OIS WR lens with the 1.4x teleconverter (at $2048 USD this is a wishlist item).
Also, the Fuji XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 zoom with the 1.4x teleconverter which is really meant for bird and wildlife photography ($2348 USD). So I may just have to rent if I ever finally get to go on an African safari.
Do you have the Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 lens? If so, tell us your thoughts about it in the comments below.
Do you have any of the other Fuji lenses mentioned above? If so, I’d love to hear which ones and if you’d recommend them or not and why. Do tell!Cheers,