Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4 Review

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What is It?

I was startled by how big the retail box for the Fujifilm 10-24mm f/4 was. Huge. Bigger than the box for a complete camera system that got shipped to me at the same time. Just how big was the wide angle zoom lens that was inside?Fortunately, not as big as the box it comes in might suggest. Still, this zoom is a reasonably large lens, almost 4” in length and 3.25” wide at the front element (72mm filters).

As usual with Fujifilm, you also get a thin “bag” for the lens and a bayonet lens hood.

Quite a bit of glass is inside the lens for its size: 14 elements in 10 groups, and quite a bit of that glass is “special” (four aspherical and three ED elements). Fujifilm claims the OIS in the lens can correct up to three stops, which is lower than the claims of most other stabilization systems these days, but still functional.

The lens body is mostly metal, the lens hood plastic. The lens is made in Japan.


How’s it Handle?

In terms of handling, it appears that Fujifilm has made a choice that I still find problematic. When the X series first kicked off, all the lenses had aperture rings. Then two things happened: first, Fujifilm came up with some variable aperture zooms; second, Fujifilm dipped into the low-end body range with cameras that didn’t exactly have the direct controls necessary to substitute for an aperture ring. The result was a ring that controls aperture that is click stopped, but not marked, and a switch on the side of the lens to set auto aperture versus user control of apertures.

I’m not a fan of that approach. And here we have a lens that doesn’t have variable apertures that is using this unlabeled ring construct. Tsk, tsk. I expected more from Fujifilm, which seemed to at first get the notion that dedicated and labeled rings are useful for evaluating how the camera’s set without turning it on or looking at a display. This is a step backwards to me. Either do the retro thing right, or don’t do it at all.

The aperture “ring” (near the back of the lens) is too easily moved from its click stops, a common problem amongst the lenses that share this design. Since I shoot in Aperture priority mode most of the time and Manual exposure mode most of the rest of the time, I’ve found that I’m having to watch that I haven’t accidentally changed apertures. That’s a small thing, but it’s a nuisance when the aperture gets changed and I don’t notice right away.

The front element of the lens moves with zooming, however it’s recessed and separate from the filter rings, so filters sit where they’re placed and don’t move during focus or zooming. At 10mm, though, you’re going to need thin filters, as the front element is barely clearing some filters I tried. Indeed, I suspect that there will be glare issues with filters that aren’t back-coated, as you’ve got a flat/curved relationship right where light can get bounced the easiest.

Heft of the lens is substantial. On the lighter X bodies even this modest sized lens is going to create a bit front-heavy of a system. On a X-T1 or X-T10, this is about as heavy a lens as you’d want without putting your hand under it for support while shooting. Unusual for a wide angle zoom, the 10-24mm has OIS to stabilize shots. I think that the light camera body users are going to appreciate that, especially those that don’t have EVFs and are doing the two-handed salute in front of them to compose.

Both the focus ring (at front of lens) and zoom lens (aft of the focus ring and larger) are appropriately stiff and smooth on my sample. I wish all lenses had such nice feel to the rings. While the focus ring can be differentiated from the zoom ring by feel (zoom ring has a more rubbery touch), I wish there was a little more distinction here.

The supplied petal lens hood bayonets onto the lens and can be reversed on the lens for transport, though it makes the front of the lens even wider when you do that. The front pinch cap has such wide pinch points that you can’t miss them, as you can on some lenses. Thank you Fujifilm.

Overall, the build quality is what you expect, with attention to detail, great materials, and tight fits all around.

I should point out that those evaluating other systems versus the Fujifilm system should pay attention to weight. Most of the Fujifilm lenses are built tank-tough, which means that, in addition to the bigger glass needed to cover an APS sensor compared to smaller sensors, the lenses do tend to become a bit on the weighty side. The Fujifilm 10-24mm is 33% heavier than the Panasonic 7-14mm for m4/3, for example. A lot of folk are getting hung up only on camera weights. It really is the full system weight you’re carrying where you’ll find tangible differences. Carry a camera and four lenses and some accessories, and the differences between Nikon 1, m4/3, Fujifilm X, and DSLRs start to become more pronounced.

For US$850 you expect a good lens. In terms of build and handling, the 10-24mm certainly seems up to the level I expected, except for that aperture ring function I don’t like.


How’s it Perform?

Let’s get the usual problem out of the way first: in-camera software corrections now disguise a lot of lens faults.

At 10mm, linear distortion is a very high 5% barrel in the actual data, though JPEGs correct that to a negligible amount of pincushion distortion. At the other end (24mm), we get about 1.5% pincushion in the actual data, but negligible barrel distortion in corrected JPEGs. Through the middle range, the lens doesn’t have a lot of distortion.

The problem I have is that 5% is a lot of correction, enough to distort edge and corner resolution in ways that may “test okay” but look a bit manipulated. Moreover, if you’re going to try to use the uncorrected data, then what you framed in the viewfinder isn’t what you’ll see in your results.

Likewise, vignetting is highly corrected on this lens. With corrections on, there’s no more than two-thirds of a stop darkening in the corners, and generally less at the higher focal lengths. But the actual raw data shows quite a bit of vignetting: about two stops at 10mm wide open, and this never goes below one stop no matter what aperture you set on the lens. 24mm is well behaved across the board, and the other focal lengths fall between those extremes as you zoom.

So take that into mind when we examine sharpness (via MTF testing).

The good news is that from 10-18mm the central area of the lens is exceptional in terms of contrast and sharpness, about as high as I’ve measured with a zoom lens on the X mount. Corners are what I’d call good. Moreover, the lens is sharpest at f/4 in this focal range (and still quite sharp at f/5.6), so you’re not going to have to stop down to get good results. Indeed, stopping down to f/11 produces visibly degraded results from f/4.

At 24mm, I’d say the central area is very good and the corners good, with f/5.6 being the best aperture. Stopping down at 24mm is also hurt by production of chromatic aberration. Otherwise, chromatic aberration is mostly ignorable.

It’s a bit difficult to wrap my mind around the 10-24mm in terms of optical quality. Many aspects are exactly what I’d want (central sharpness and chromatic aberration except at 24mm and stopped down), others aren’t (distortion and vignetting).

Examining images from the lens has me saying this is a keeper, though, with the one caveat that it’s not as good stopped down as it is at the wider apertures. If you’re looking for the f/11 landscape lens, I don’t think this is it. If you’re looking for a versatile wide angle zoom, I’d have no trouble recommending it, though note that you really need to correct linear distortion and vignetting at 10mm.


Final Words

I was hoping for better from this lens. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It only means that it has a few things you really need to understand and be careful to avoid (or correct in post). JPEG shooters are going to find this a really good lens, as Fujifilm’s in-camera corrections are fairly spot on. Raw shooters are going to have to come to grips with those corrections or suffer the consequences at some of the extremes. The OIS works well and makes this a pretty good indoor event lens: just fast enough, sharp wide open, and versatile enough that I can see wedding and other photographers keeping this handy in their bag.

As a landscape photographer, myself, I find the Zeiss 12mm and Fujinon 14mm to be better choices, though.


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