Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 R WR Review — My New Favorite Fuji Lens?

If you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you know that I’ve recently decided to let go of all my Canon gear and replace it all with a couple of Fuji XT3’s and the equivalent glass in the Fuji world (and then some) — so far I’ve acquired most of the prime lenses I think I’ll need (16/23/56/80/90, and an 8mm fisheye I owned previously), and soon I’ll be purchasing the trinity of zooms (8-16mm f/2.8, 16-55mm f/2.8, and the 50-140mm f/2.8).

I’ve owned a lot of Fuji cameras since their revival with the original X100 in 2011-2012 — Every iteration of the X100 (S/T/F), an XT-1, XT-10, X-Pro 1 and an X-Pro 2, so I knew that I’d be getting excellent performance with this lens. Oddly, I never owned the XF 16mm f/1.4 throughout my history with Fuji, despite anyone that’s ever used it singing its praises.

I received my XT-3 and the XF 16mm just before a short trip, which worked out perfectly as it would give me the opportunity to test the lens in a variety of scenarios.

Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4R WR Specs

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  • Type: Prime

  • Focal length: 16mm (35mm equivalent – 24mm)

  • Aperture: f/1.4 - f/16, 9-blade rounded diaphragm

  • Close focus distance: 0.15 metres (0.49 ft)

  • Coatings: Nano-GI internal coatings, HT-EBC external coatings.

  • Autofocus: Yes

  • Weather-sealing: Yes

  • OIS: No

  • Weight: 375g (0.82 lb)

  • Size: 2.87” L x 2.89” dia. (72.9mm x 74.4mm)

  • Filter diameter: 67mm

Build Quality

Overall, I have zero complaints about Fuji lens build quality — even their plastic f/2 “Fujicron” lenses — and the XF 16mm is no different. The XF 16mm f/1.4R WR is fairly dense — weighing about .82 lb (375g), and just under 3” in length.  The XF 16mm is constructed in the same manner as many of Fuji’s other X-Series lenses — The barrel is entirely metal, including the focusing ring. The lens is weather sealed, as denoted by the “WR” in its name.

The aperture ring features 1/3 stop clicks from wide open at f/1.4 to fully stopped down at f/16; both the aperture ring and focusing ring are fly-by-wire.

Handling

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The XF 16mm feels right at home on the Fuji XT-3. The combination is well-balanced and its size doesn’t look awkward when mounted. Since the XF 16mm is similar in size and weight to the popular XF 23mm f/1.4R which I used on my X-Pro 2 almost exclusively, I imagine that the XF 16m would feel just as good on the X-Pro-2.

I don’t own any of Fuji’s smaller cameras like the XT-20 or XE-3, but I don’t expect there to be any issues with handling or weight on those cameras, as the lens is quite compact, even if a bit hefty.

The aperture ring is a touch loose; at least on my copy out of the box — so I consistently found my aperture changing; or accidentally get bumped; particularly when putting the camera in, or removing the camera from my bag. I have never had issues with any fuji primes with the “pull” MF clutch inadvertently activating; so that’s good.

With focus (an aperture) being fly by wire, there is a weird sense of disconnect when manual focusing with this lens; particularly at the close end of its focusing range. Thankfully, in the XH-1 and XT-3, Fuji has enabled a menu setting to switch between Linear and Nonlinear focusing behavior — switching this setting to “Linear” gives the lens a more mechanical feel. I suggest playing with both and seeing which works best for you. Unfortunately, it’s buried in a menu and cannot be added to your custom menu; hopefully that’s something that will be remedied via future firmware updates.

Sharpness

XT3 | XF 16mm | 1/500, f/8, ISO160

XT3 | XF 16mm | 1/500, f/8, ISO160

XT3 | XF 16mm | 1/400, f/8, ISO160

XT3 | XF 16mm | 1/1000, f/6.4, ISO400 - JPEG Using my    Velvia Travel Settings   .

XT3 | XF 16mm | 1/1000, f/6.4, ISO400 - JPEG Using my Velvia Travel Settings.

The XF 16mm is incredibly sharp corner to corner, wide open, through the entire aperture range — though it should be noted that diffraction begins to set in early — around f/5.6 or f/8, which may be a bit disconcerting for photographers looking to use this lens for landscapes, perhaps requiring focus stacking to achieve ultimate sharpness throughout. For event, wedding, reportage or nearly any other genre of photography, the lens being tuned to perform its best at wider apertures is welcome.

Autofocus

Autofocus on the XF 16mm is extremely snappy on the XT-3, possibly even a touch quicker than the XF 23mm. Not sure what else to say here other than it’s quick — besides, AF performance and accuracy is largely a function of the body driving the lens, than the lens itself.

One unique thing that’s worth noting: The lens has a very close minimum focus distance of just shy of 6”; that’s from the sensor plane, so in use, that equates to a bit over 3” from the front element. This gives the lens some additional versatility as a pseudo-macro lens.

Distortion and Vignetting

 Photo by Bryan Gateb - www.bgateb.com | photos.bgateb.com | @bgateb

Vignetting is nearly non-existent wide open at f/1.4, and disappears completely by f/2.8. Further, the in-body lens correction profiles do an excellent job of correcting what little vignetting exists wide open through about f/2.

Distortion is well controlled as well, with only the tiniest amount of barrel distortion, correctable (in-camera, or in RAW processing (when shooting JPEGs with a newer Fuji body, lens corrections for distortion and vignetting can be automatically applied).

Color, Contrast and Rendering

In short — WOW. I had heard and read the heaps of praise Fuji shooters had to say about this lens, but it really is something you have to experience. 

Color and Contrast from this lens is excellent, as expected. I feel that the lens performs on par with my beloved XF 23mm in this regard. It may be slightly less contrasty, but the color rendering is spot-on. Coupled with its excellent sharpness (to my eye, besting the XF 23mm by a slight margin), the XF 16mm is fast becoming my favorite XF lens — it just may replace the XF 23mm as my go-to lens in short order.

XT3 | XF 16mm | 1/2500, f/3.6, ISO 400

 Photo by Bryan Gateb - www.bgateb.com | photos.bgateb.com | @bgateb

Bokeh

Final Thoughts

I really am not a wide shooter, having never owned a 24mm prime on any camera system I've ever used, and normally avoiding the widest end of 24-70mm zooms. I much prefer ultrawides; used for establishing shots, or just their uniqueness and novelty for being able to deliver a truly unique perspective and field of view.

However — I think that’s all changing. I’m extremely impressed by the Fuji XF 16mm f/1.4R WR. As I mentioned earlier, this lens could easily replace the XF 23mm f/1.4R as my favorite Fuji X-Series lens ever. For myself —and I suspect many others — the XF 16mm can fall into the same use case(s) as the XF 23mm; a good general-purpose lens — wide, but not too wide so as to not be practical, fast autofocus (and in a pinch, can be used as a pseudo-macro lens with its short minimum focusing distance) good bokeh and subject separation at closer distances, and excellent color and sharpness. This lens has it all.


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