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Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens: Review


Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens: Review

Hello everybody. It’s been a while since my last review, but here I am today, continuing my in-depth look at the Fujifilm X-series – the camera system that I’m personally using at the moment – that started with my review of the fantastic Fujifilm X-E1 a while back; and today, it’s a full review of the equally fantastic ‘kit’ lens (if you can call it that) that the X-E1/X-E2 comes with: the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS lens

I’ve chosen this system over DSLRs because, unless you’re talking full-frame, a good mirrorless camera is often as good (or in some cases, better) than a DSLR. And the fact that they’re more compact and, in Fuji’s case, more fun to use, definitely gives mirrorless cameras the edge over APS-C DSLRs. And if you think about going full-frame DSLR, you’re talking a lot more money and a lot more bulk – and since my kind of (street) photography is all about being discreet, a camera like the X-E1, paired with this standard zoom lens and a prime (such as the beautiful XF 35mm f1.4, being reviewed soon), is just perfect

Anyway, enough about all that – let’s get to the lens review already!

The Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 is a lovely, well-built, standard zoom lens that either comes with some X-series cameras as a kit, or can be purchased separately for around $700

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4

Much like every item (camera or lens) in the X-series, the lens is solidly made, fully metal, and feels extremely good in the hand. It features image stabilization, an aperture ring around the lens that makes the XF lenses a lot of fun to use, and also boasts Fuji’s Linear Motor (LM) AF motor that makes for fast, quiet focusing. And added to that, this lens has a maximum aperture of f2.8-4, which means that, compared with a typical kit lens that is f3.5-5.6, the XF 18-55 is, depending on your focal length, anywhere between half a stop to a full stop faster. That’s very handy

And yeah, it looks really good at first glance. Fujifilm has made a name for themselves with the X-series, and in my opinion, it’s mostly thanks to the superb lenses they’ve been pushing out along with the excellent cameras. The XF lenses are the reason (again, in my opinion) that Fujifilm should be the first brand you look at when thinking of getting into a new mirrorless system. They’ve got such a complete set already, and they’ve actually got this ‘roadmap’ of lenses planned for the future, and that makes using the X-series a very exciting prospect. There’s this awesome standard zoom (with a faster one on the way), a wide-angle zoom, a telephoto zoom, along with a beautiful set of primes (reviews on the 35mm prime is up next), including a 60mm macro, and that’s enough already, isn’t it? And don’t forget they’re all really good

Anyway, let’s not spoil this review by commenting on how good/bad this lens is just yet. Read on!

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Specifications You Would Want To Know

  • Focal Length: 18-55mm (27-84mm equivalent)
  • Diagonal Angle of View: 76.5°-29°
  • Maximum Aperture: f2.8-4
  • Minimum Aperture: f22
  • Construction: 14 elements in 10 groups (3 aspherical elements, 1 extra low dispersion element)
  • Number of Aperture Blades: 7 (rounded)
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 30cm (at 18mm) / 40cm (at 55mm)
  • Maximum Magnification: 0.15x (at 55mm)
  • AF Motor: Linear Motor (LM)
  • Focusing Mechanism: Internal
  • Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Filter Size: 58mm
  • Hood: Petal-shaped, bayonet-mouth filter, included
  • Dimensions: 65mm (diameter) x 70mm (length at 18mm)
  • Weight: 310g

Size and Build

The size of this lens is much like any other 18-55mm lens found on other DSLRs or mirrorless systems. For example, it’s just a bit smaller than the EF-S 18-55mm IS STM and just a bit larger than the EF-M 18-55mm. It’s naturally much longer (although smaller in diameter) than the Sony SELP1650 power zoom lens – but compared to all other manual zooms of this focal range, it’s about average

In the hand

In the hand

The build is what deserves special mention, as do all lenses (and everything else) in the X-series. It’s an all-metal body, with three smooth rings – zoom, aperture, focus – built around a solid metal mount. The focus ring is electronic, and feels just about right. The aperture ring is perfect too – and the zoom ring, while a bit on the tight side, feels great. I say this about everything built well, but this one is seriously built like a tank. I can see this lens lasting years and years

The lens has two switches – one to select between manual or automatic aperture and the other to toggle image stabilization – and they both slide nicely into place. There’s no AF/MF switch on the lens, though – this selector is found on the body of whatever camera you use with the lens

So yeah, build quality is top-notch. It compares to the best lenses on the market, it really does. Sure, it costs a lot more than, say, the Canon EF-S 18-55mm IS STM, but it feels absolutely premium, so you get what you pay for. Besides, at around $700 (or with the kit), it doesn’t cost a bomb either

Focusing

The XF 18-55mm uses Fujifilm’s Linear Motor (LM) mechanism, and it’s really good. Focusing is internal – nothing extends when you focus, the filter thread doesn’t rotate – and focusing is silent. There’s a slight ‘click’ when you focus, but I believe this to be the aperture opening/stopping down when focusing, and not the focus motor itself

Focusing speed isn’t great, but as I have used it only on the X-E1, and as these X-series cameras are not known for their focusing speed, I can’t say if the fairly average focusing speed is a fault of the camera or the lenses. Since camera firmware greatly improved AF speeds of this (and other) lenses, I’m inclined to think that the lens is capable of better performance if paired with a superior camera AF system – but the bottom line is, while the AF performance is now very much acceptable (it wasn’t, not long ago, till the firmware updates came) it’s not what you can call fast. In good light, it’s pretty quick, and I wouldn’t say anything against it here – but in low light, it tends to struggle a tad. Yeah, focusing speed is average. AF accuracy issues were present too, till the firmware was updated either, but now I find the camera + lens to lock focus pretty reliably, even if its not that fast. I just wouldn’t use it to cover a sports event, or capture little kids in action

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4

Manual focusing is easy enough. With the new camera firmware that adds focus peaking, using the electronic focus ring on the camera is quite pleasant – I rarely focus manually, but even I’m able to focus manually rather quickly with this system!

So yeah, the XF 18-55 focuses internally, and and it’s basically silent, but it can be just a bit slow at night. Overall, it’s good

Zooming

As usual, there’s not much to say here. You twist the lens to zoom, and it zooms in. Twist the other way and it zooms out. It extends when you zoom, as expected, and that’s it. The zoom ring, like I said before, is slightly tight, which might take a bit of getting used to if you’re coming from a cheaper lens with a loose zoom ring; but to me, it just feels right. Precision zoom! Excellent

The lens is longest at 55mm, and shortest at 18mm

Macro Capabilities

This lens isn’t great for macro work, to be honest. It has an MFD of 30cm at 18mm and 40cm at 55mm, which is not as good as the MFD of 25cm throughout the zoom range that the EF-S 18-55mm allows, but its alright. In fact, in practice, I felt I was able to get closer to my subject than the specs suggest; but yeah, it claims a maximum magnification of 0.15x, which does not really go well with the word ‘macro’. Not bad, anyway. Get the XF 60mm macro lens if you want close-ups

This is as close as you want to go - maybe a bit closer, but no more

This is as close as you want to go – maybe a bit closer, but no more


Image Quality

If you read my review on the Fujifilm X-E1, you’d know that the images produced by the camera, paired with this XF zoom, were of excellent quality. Class-leading, in fact. It might sound like I’m overdoing the praise, but I don’t know quite how else to put it: the image quality is just that good. The superb glass of the XF 18-55 together with the wonderful X-Trans sensor combine to make images that are just beautiful – and quite like no other

Yeah, they just look beautiful. Glorious colors, full of punch without being over the top, quite a bit of ‘pop’, sort of Leica-esque if you ask me – and just pleasing to look at. I’ll break it down to the technicalities below, but overall, the images look stunning

The lens is sharp basically from corner to corner. Center sharpness is amazing, but even at the corners – even wide open – things are very good. Stop it down and it’s simply outstanding throughout the frame. It’s really, really sharp. The sharpness crops below should give you a better idea of what I mean

The lens is fast – faster than your typical kit lens – so throughout the minimum aperture range of f2.8-4, you can get beautifully blurred out backgrounds with ease. And the bokeh – the quality of the blur – is lovely. Smooth, creamy bokeh, as they say

Distortion, like with all new lenses, is controlled in-camera, so there’s hardly anything noticeable when you shoot JPEG. And even if you shoot RAW, your RAW converter software (Adobe Camera RAW/Lightroom etc.) will (or at least, should) detect the camera’s distortion correction settings and will fix it automatically. Thanks to this, I hardly noticed any distortions at either end of the zoom range. Just what you want to hear, isn’t it?

Same thing for vignetting – it’s mostly corrected in-camera. There’s a little bit visible, especially wide open and at the wide-angle end, but it’s nothing severe at all. In fact, it’s hardly noticeable in most cases. In the vignetting tests, the vignetting is exaggerated just so you notice it, but even then it’s not too strong at all; in real life scenarios, you wouldn’t see anything close to this. Again, just what you want to hear

Chromatic aberrations? Mild-to-negligible. Wide open, you might notice just a bit, but stop down, and you’d be hard pressed to find any color fringing unless you make a 100% crop. So basically, there are hardly any lens aberrations or distortions to worry about

Thanks to all the coatings, flare is never an issue either. Add the included lens hood, and you’re good to go in any sort of conditions. Nice

Image Quality: Sharpness Crops

Image Quality: Distortion/Vignetting

So yeah. That’s the Fujinon XF 18-55mm. That’s how good it is. Optically and mechanically, it’s fantastic. It’s probably the best standard zoom out there on the mirrorless market – and it compares to any standard zoom lens I’ve used. It’s cruel to call it a kit lens, but if that’s what you want to call it, this is as good as it gets

Product Image Gallery

Sample Image Gallery

What I liked/didn’t like

Positives:

  • Amazing sharpness and superb image quality overall
  • Lack of any noticeable distortions or aberrations of any kind
  • Quiet, non-rotating focusing mechanism
  • Class-leading build quality
  • Manual aperture ring on lens
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Pinch-type lens cap
  • Included lens hood (if you like to use hoods)

Negatives:

  • Slightly slow AF performance, especially at night when it’s quite sluggish at times
  • Fairly weak macro capabilities
  • Slightly pricey (?)

Yeah, this is one of those products where I have to really dig deep to come up with negatives. I can’t seem to think of any other ‘dislikes’ about this product – honestly. Yeah

Conclusion

When I started out this review, I was excited and impressed. Now, after all the tests and examinations – build, focusing, handling, image quality, and all that – I’m even more impressed and a lot more excited. I bet you are too

Mechanically, it’s amazing. All-metal construction, smooth zoom/focus rings, a manual aperture ring that works beautifully and makes this product unlike any other modern lens, all put together make a lens that is wonderful to use. Optically, it’s equally amazing. Sharp, colorful, punchy, bright, with beautiful bokeh and hardly any aberrations – top stuff

Pair this with any X-series camera – the X-Pro1, X-E1, X-M1 – and you have a system capable of capturing truly spectacular images. At the price for the lens alone (around $699, I believe) it’s not very cheap, but it’s not too pricey either – and if you get the X-E1/X-E2 kit, it’s an absolute bargain


Buy XF lenses on Amazon

Buy XF lenses on B&H Photo

Alright, then. That’s all for this review. Thanks for reading. Leave a comment, as usual – questions, thoughts, ideas, different opinions, whatever you want – and I’ll get back to you very soon. And please, please use the links if you want to buy this (or any other XF) lens. Until next time

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By Heshan Jayakody
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Discussion

27 Responses to “Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens: Review”

  1. Super review. I really like the sound of this lens. The X series is nice, and this standard zoom makes it really stand out. I think it’s the build and feel of it as well as the optical IQ that makes it stand out, not to mention the faster max aperture and aperture ring

    Posted by Nathan | January 19, 2014, 07:42
  2. yeah this lens certainly makes the X-system one of the better ones out there. its a great product! nice review, love the sample images

    Posted by Bradley | January 19, 2014, 08:44
  3. Can you compare the focusing speed with any other similar system? I guess it is noticeably slower than a DSLR, but how about with similarly priced MILCs?

    Posted by Gavin Proctor | January 23, 2014, 07:41
    • Good question. Yes, it’s definitely slower than any DSLR, which is expected. But compared to mirrorless cameras that I’ve used, it’s one of the slower models. It’s definitely slower than the Olympus OM-Ds, it’s a bit slower than the NEX stuff from Sony, and I’d say it’s faster than the EOS M. But even though it isn’t blazing fast, the X-E1 paired with this lens is usually accurate, so that’s always a good thing. Speed-wise, it’s just about average

      Posted by pixelogist | January 23, 2014, 08:46
  4. I wonder how much this lens would speed up if connected to a cam that is known for really fast AF like the OM-D EM-1 or something. I doubt the lens itself is really slow, just like you said, and it’s a shame that this nice lens cannot perform better due to the X cameras being slow. Even the X-E2 isn’t much faster than the rest. Maybe the X-T1 might give hope…

    Posted by Remar | January 25, 2014, 07:35
    • Yes, that’s always an interesting though – I wonder about this too. There’s just no way of knowing, but I’m pretty sure the lens can focus faster. It’s the camera that’s holding it back – and exactly, the X-T1 just might be the one to let this lens free

      Posted by pixelogist | January 26, 2014, 10:34
  5. I was debating whether to go with a zoom lens or a prime lens – with the Fujifilm system. And I had the choice of this lens or the 35mm f/1.4 which also is a kit with the X-E2. But I think you now helped me decide on this one, the zoom, and not the prime. Thanks!

    Posted by Li | January 26, 2014, 08:49
    • Good call. I think a standard zoom is always a must, especially if this your first camera – but try to add the 35mm lens to your collection later on. It’s a superb lens, I’m reviewing it at the moment, and you will love it :)

      Posted by pixelogist | January 26, 2014, 10:39
  6. Beautiful lens. The colours are wow! Sharp too. Works beautifully with my XE1, I wouldn’t trade it for anything! Great review here, mate…very nice

    Posted by BT | January 28, 2014, 12:37
  7. I’m liking the look of this. With a camera like X-T1, I think it will be super. So many fixed focal length lenses in Fuji’s X system also. Very impressive, I think it is one of the best systems out around the place, and not only in MILC, but even among DSLR

    Posted by NJH | February 6, 2014, 16:31
    • Absolutely, thanks to the collection of lenses, the X-series really puts itself ahead – and yes, compared to similarly priced DSLRs (APS-C ones), it is as good or better. The only thing it lacks is really fast focus – it’s a bit slow at times. Superb system nonetheless

      Posted by pixelogist | February 7, 2014, 16:41
  8. This looks great, just what I was looking for. Would you recommend it over the 16-50 that comes with the NEX kit? I like the wide angle of 16mm of that, but this is very tempting. I was lookingg at all these kits from different brands and they look liek they can all take great pictures body-wise, but the lenses is what i’m comparing and trying to use for my decision! Any advice? Thanks!

    Posted by Tracy | February 6, 2014, 17:38
    • The XF lenses are some of the best in the mirrorless market. So yeah, I definitely recommend this over the SELP1650 by Sony. And you’re right, in terms of the body, image quality is often very good and it’s hard to tell the difference. However, the body makes a difference in terms of handling and interface etc – the Fujifilm X-series wins here too. So if you can afford it, go for the X-E2/X-T1/X-Pro1 :) They’re the best!

      Posted by pixelogist | February 7, 2014, 16:43
  9. I have this lens but I want more zoom so I want to get the 55-200mm. What do you think of that one?

    Posted by BoysTz | February 11, 2014, 07:46
    • I haven’t used that one, as I rarely need more than 55mm for my kind of work, but I hear it’s very good. And it’s not too pricey either. IF you feel you really need the extra reach (make sure you do really need it!) go get this one – all XF lenses are known to be excellent. Mechanically and optically

      Posted by pixelogist | February 12, 2014, 16:17
  10. I generally shoot the streets and I like a zoom even though the experts say primes are the way to go. Is this lens fast enough for street life? And do you recommend a prime over this for this kinda shooting?

    Cheers!

    Posted by Jack | February 18, 2014, 09:11
    • Hmm, it depends on what you’re comfortable with, really. Yes, the purists go for a wide-to-standard prime – a 35mm or a 50mm etc. But if you’re more comfortable shooting with a standard zoom, like this one, go for it. This is what I use for street work, and I think I use it more than my 35mm on the streets

      As for the speed, well, the X-series isn’t currently known for its speed at the moment. The X-T1 body might change things, but until we can confirm that, don’t expect super-fast focusing. It’s not the lenses fault, but still – that’s how it is with this system. But then again, in street photography, it’s best to take your time, if you can…so there’s no need to rush, and no need for blazing fast AF…unless you’re taking a quick sneaky shot of someone taking a nap! Remember that many people use a manual focus lens on the street, and they get great results :)

      Posted by pixelogist | February 18, 2014, 09:54
  11. now that the 2.8 will be released this year.. what exactly are the advantages (on my pending xt-1 purchase) of this ?. i know it will be heavier and bigger (i’m downsizing from a big Dslr setup).. and i’m wondering if it will be worth the extra size and weight. thanks for the ‘newbie’ like question. i know a faster lens was allowing me to focus easier on my dslr (brighter image).. but with an EVF maybe not an issue. i’m using a 18-200mm 3.5 – 5.6 on my soon to be sold nikon.. i just want to know if i’ll be just as happy with this particular fuji.

    Posted by stephen rudolph | February 20, 2014, 20:40
    • Well, apart from gaining 2mm at the wide angle end (very significant), the XF 16-55mm f2.8 is obviously going to be faster throughout the zoom range. And I assume image quality will be as good (which is fantastic) or probably even better. Going by the size of the 18-55mm f2.8-4, which is roughly the size of a 18-55mm standard zoom of a DSLR system, the 16-55mm will probably be larger, but I doubt it’ll be anywhere as large as the Canon or Nikon 24-70mm f2.8 etc.

      You’re right, I doubt you’d notice any major improvement in brightness in the EVF. The EVF will just brighten up its display when things go dim, so a faster lens isn’t necessary for this

      But if you really want to keep things compact, you might go with the X-E2 and the currently available 18-55mm. The X-T1 is larger as it is, and the new lens will definitely be bigger too

      And coming from a Nikon and a 18-200mm, I feel you’ll be very happy with the Fuji system. This XF standard zoom (and the new one too, I’d say) is a far better lens than that 18-200mm

      Let me know if you need to know anything else :)

      Posted by pixelogist | February 21, 2014, 08:18
      • thanks for the info ! yes, that extra 2mm would come in handy when i’m shooting in all those churches and museums my wife drags me to. I suppose even with the 2.8 the package would be smaller and lighter than my Nikon. What i like about the xt-1 is the weather sealing (important when i travel in all kinds of weather, which i dont think the xe has. i remember with my d90, i was always tucking my camera into my coat when the sprinkles started. i also like the dials which may help in street/landscape shooting. maybe faster than farting around with menus.. funny, i JUST about to buy the OMD EM-1 when this puppy showed up.. and made me curious about Fuji.. When i first researched Fuji mirror less, they only had primes ..
        the only thing which bothers me about the fuji is the exposure bracketing for HDR. With no tripod, i need to hand-hold… so a function key set to shoot 3 fast shots is what i;m looking for. but the fuji is only +/-1 ! does that mean i can only get -1,0,+1 sequences ?
        Probably shooting RAW would give me more or less the same dynamic range as -1 -> +1 ! or maybe i should put a question mark on that. i dont know.. maybe someone can email me fuji shots of a scene, one taken in raw.. and 3 jgegs taken at -1,0,+1…
        hmm.. come to think of it.. maybe bracket 3 RAWs .(can xe2/xt1 do that ?) . That would probably eek out a little more DR….

        Posted by stephen rudolph | February 21, 2014, 19:34
      • Talking about size of the package, it really depends on which Nikon you’re using. If it’s something like a D3000, the difference will not be that great, even though the Fuji will be smaller. But compared to something like a D7000, or a D800, the difference is very noticeable

        Weather-sealing is definitely useful, but make sure the lens is weather-sealed too. A lot of people don’t think about this before buying. The XF 18-55mm, for example, is not weather-sealed. I’m not sure about the 16-55mm, though – maybe it is

        You’re right, the X-series isn’t great for exposure bracketing. The maximum you can get is +/- 1 stop. So yeah, it’s +1, 0, -1 EV. However, that’s what I always use when I bracket exposures. I don’t shoot HDR much anymore, but when I used to, I’d shoot in this +/-1 EV bracket, and that’s it. So it shouldn’t really be an issue. Setting it to +/- 2 EV etc, will give you a very artificial and over-dramatic HDR. But yeah, you could shoot a RAW bracket, then work on the +1 and -1 RAW files individually before merging them

        Posted by pixelogist | February 23, 2014, 06:51
  12. Great review. However, you mention the XF 18-55mm is silent, but I notice a bit of noise when I focus. Other reviews say it is silent too. What’s up with mine? Or am I paying too much attention to noise? And I’m wondering if the XF 35mm will be much louder (I commented on your 35mm review too) Thanks

    Posted by Dutch | March 4, 2014, 07:34
    • I replied to your comment on the XF 35mm lens review, so to repeat: The XF 18-55mm makes a tiny click when you press the shutter button – is that what you mean? Because I don’t believe that’s the focus motor making the noise – that could be the aperture opening up to focus, and then stopping down to your setting, before shooting. It could also be your OIS – maybe you could try it with OIS turned off?

      I wouldn’t worry about the noise of the XF 18-55mm OR the XF 35mm, but if noise troubles you, I suggest you try both lenses in a store before making the purchase :)

      Posted by pixelogist | March 4, 2014, 08:45

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