Lab Test Results
- Fuji X-E1
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April 15, 2016
by Andrew Alexander
Fuji released the XF 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 R LM WR near the beginning of 2015. The lens provides an effective field of view of 24-84mm (in 35mm film terms), and offers a maximum aperture of ƒ/2.8 throughout its range of focal lengths, providing a fast, versatile optic for most photographic situations.
The lens was designed specifically for Fuji’s X-mount and operates electronically, save for zooming and an optional aperture ring. We did not receive a lens hood with our test sample, though online retailers indicate it ships with a lens hood. The lens accepts 77mm filters, and is available now for around $1,200.
The Fuji XF 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 R LM WR provides images with excellent sharpness, especially at the wide angle of 16mm, right from ƒ/2.8. At 24-55mm, there is a trace of corner softness at the ƒ/2.8 aperture, which goes away as the lens is stopped down to ƒ/4.
Diffraction limiting begins to set in at ƒ/8, but you won’t notice any practical impact on sharpness until ƒ/11 or smaller. It’s possible to stop down as small as ƒ/22, but it’s best avoided, as this aperture produces a light softness across the frame.
The Fujinon lens produces very little chromatic aberration: it’s only apparent in the extreme corners when shooting between 24 and 35mm, while stopped down at ƒ/16 or smaller.
We note very little in the way of corner shading; in the worst case scenario you’ll see extreme corners that are 1/3 stop darker than the center of the frame, and that’s only when the lens is used at ƒ/2.8 at either the 16mm focal length or the 55mm focal length. At any other setting, corner shading is negligible.
Fuji has done well with the 16-55mm ƒ/2.8, as images produced with it suffer very little from distortion: there is some light barrel distortion at 16mm, and some light pincushion distortion at 55mm, and an excellent point of parity around 30mm where there is neither.
Note: It should be noted that the X-E1, our Fuji test camera, does feature in-camera correction of CA, vignetting and distortion, and it’s important to note that our results here were taken from RAW files. However, when converted with Adobe Camera Raw, as it our usual procedure, ACR carries over these in-camera corrections. It was only by converting the same RAW images with DCRAW (which does not convert the images with these corrections) that we were able to confirm this.
The Fuji XF 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 R LM WR uses an electrical autofocus system, which is very fast: in this case, it’s a twin linear motor, allowing the lens to focus from infinity to closest focus in less than a second. The design is fly-by-wire, so there is no direct connection between the focusing ring and the autofocus system: autofocus results are very quick, and almost totally silent. Also, attached 77mm filters will not rotate.
There are better lenses out there for macro work: the 16-55mm lens produces just 0.16x magnification, with a minimum close-focusing distance of 30cm (around a foot).
Build Quality and Handling
Like all Fujinon lenses, the Fujinon XF 16-55mm ƒ/2.8 R LM WR is a well-built lens, with an all-metal barrel construction and textured in a satin black finish. The lens is large but not overly so, mating well with our X-E1 test camera to produce a well-balanced camera-lens combination. The lens has a cutout on the bottom of the lens to allow clearance for a quick release plate to be fitted (see picture of this feature).
The lens has 14 weather/splash resistant seals and is cold resistant to -10C. The lens uses nine curved diaphragm blades to make up the aperture, which is slightly different from other manufacturers which typically employ seven. The design of the lens is also quite complex: There are 17 elements in 12 groups including 3 ED glass elements and 3 Aspherical elements. Lens coatings include the HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating) and the Nano-GI (Gradient Index) coating. It also has LMO(Lens Modulation Technology) which helps to correct for diffraction for better edge to edge sharpness.
There are three rings for this lens: a zoom ring, a focusing ring, as well as an aperture ring, which is something of a rarity in modern digital camera lenses — though it’s been a standard feature on Fuji’s X-mount glass. The aperture ring sits closer to the lens body, around 3/8” wide. The lens features a selector, which allows the user to choose between auto-aperture mode, or manual aperture selection (you just have to remember that the “A” stands for Automatic, not aperture).
The zoom ring is an inch wide, with deep rubber ribs running parallel to the length of the lens. The zoom action is very smooth, perhaps even too smooth, meaning that zoom creep could potentially be a problem. It takes only a sixty degree turn to go from 16mm to 55mm, with only a minor amount of force required to transition between focal lengths. It is not an internal zooming lens, extending as it is zoomed out.
The focusing ring is about 1/2” wide, made of polycarbonate light ribs. The lens uses a fly-by-wire system in its lens focusing operation, so the focusing ring is not actually directly connected to the lens elements in a mechanical way. Rather, turning the focusing ring moves the elements electronically. In practice this means the focusing ring will turn forever in either direction, and you’ll have to rely on the on-screen readouts to know if you have reached minimum or maximum focus.
There are no distance scales or depth-of-field information on the lens, but the X-E1 test camera we use offers a distance scale on its LCD or viewfinder readout.
Fujinon XC 16-50mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 OIS ~$400
The kit lens for Fuji’s X-mount bodies, the 16-50mm features a variable aperture where the 16-55mm provides a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture, and the optical quality of the 16-55mm is demonstrably better. However, the kit lens offers optical image stabilization, where the more expensive 16-55mm does not.
Fujinon XF 18-55mm ƒ/2.8-4 R LM OIS ~$800
The 18-55mm ƒ/2.8-4 is better than the 16-50mm kit lens, but not as good as the 16-55mm lens; optically it’s not as sharp, and has slightly poorer results for chromatic aberration. Again, the 18-55 features optical image stabilization where the 16-55mm does not.
Fuji has placed the 16-55mm on the top tier of an interesting spectrum with its other two mid-range zoom lenses, the 16-50mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 and the 18-55mm ƒ/2.8-4. The price point of the 16-55mm ƒ/2.8, combined with its demonstrably better test results, seems to justify this placement, and provides Fuji shooters with a great array of options to provide the right lens for their particular shooting needs.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
Still Life shot
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ”VFA” target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.