Fujifilm 18mm f/2 Lens Review

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What is It?

The smallest and lightest of the Fujinon lenses for the X series cameras, the 18mm f/2 is a reasonably fast, moderate wide angle, giving you a horizontal coverage of about 66° horizontally. 

The third-party screw-in lens hood I bought is perforated so that it doesn't fully obstruct the optical viewfinder on the X-Pro1, but it still sticks out another third beyond the lens, so it really doesn't help much. You really do need a lens hood with this lens, as the front element is forward and just behind the 52mm filter rings, and very susceptible to side light.

On the lens is an aperture ring (only to f/16) and a narrow fly-by-wire focus ring; no DOF markings are on the lens. Like the other Fujinon lenses, the frame casting is metal, the rings are plastic. 

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How's it Handle?

Fujifilm's fly-by-wire focusing is better than most, but I still don't particularly like it, especially since now we have a hard-coupled lens (14mm) in the mix to show us what they could have done. Fortunately, the aperture ring is stiff and not easily dislodged, as it's very easy to have your fingers touch it as you're turning the focus ring.

You might have wondered why I went to a third-party hood. The Fujinon hood comes with a push on rubber cap, but this cap has a strong tendency to come off in the bag, or when rubbed against outside the bag. The more you use it, the looser the cap fit gets and the worse the problem gets. The problem isn't as bad for the thinner 18mm lens hood as it is for the 35mm hood, but it's still a bit of a problem for me. 


How's it Perform?

Are you a JPEG shooter or a raw shooter? As with many of the mirrorless cameras, it makes a small difference, but it makes a bigger difference in a few respects with this lens with converters that aren't using Fujifilm's lens data.

Linear Distortion: Let's start with a big one. For JPEGs, there is some barrel distortion in raw files that is enough that you'd want to correct it. 

Vignetting: A similar story: about two thirds of a stop in the corners with JPEGs wide open, but slightly over a stop with straight raw (many conversion engines are doing correction unannounced, it appears). The vignetting isn't strong, but it also never really goes down to the low levels I'd expect, either. Overall, nothing to worry about, but still a bit surprising.

Chromatic Aberration: An unusual story: it gets slightly worse as you stop down. At f/2 it averages about a pixel in width, which is tolerable, but at it almost doubles by the time you get to f/16. Corners in high contrast can show very visible purple fringing.

Sharpness: The MTF figures in my testing align quite well with Fujifilm's own published curves: wide open we get excellent central sharpness that declines somewhat towards the edges. The corners are never fully sharp, though they come well into control by f/2.8 and max out at about f/4 at levels that are still always below the central area.  

On the Fujifilm 16mp X-Trans sensor it appears that we see some clear diffraction impacts on MTF at f/8 and smaller apertures; the sweet spot for this lens f/4 to f/5.6, with f/2.8 also being very good.  

Overall: When I originally wrote that I was disappointed with this lens quite a few folk hammered me about that. They thought it was in the same category as the other Fujinon's for the XF mount. It isn't, especially at its widest two apertures, and especially for raw shooters using some non-mainstream converters, who will be doing linear correction that it will clearly impact their edges and will tend to reveal the corner issues. 

I should point out I've seen far worse wide angle lenses than this one. It is, after all, very good in the central area, even wide open. It's just not a lens I'd tend to use for landscapes, as I'd be having issues with my edges. Wedding shooters might actually like the characteristics of this lens, as the combination of vignetting and softening at the edges plays quite well with the way most such photographers like to work stylistically. Plus, since they're likely shooting JPEG, the linear distortion is almost ignorable out of the camera. 

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One thing you'll notice about all the Fujinon lenses is that they have a lot of "punch." Central contrast is alway high, and used at optimum apertures they really show no obvious sharpness issues when images are viewed normally. Coupled with the Fujifilm cameras' tendency to punch up colors—like the green here—this tends to result in very visually pleasing images that don't need a lot of contrast touch-up in post processing. This image is pretty much as it came out of the camera, with only sharpening and a bit of shadow contrast added in the raw conversion.


Final Words

I don't have a lot to say about this lens because, well, it's fairly simple and basic. It is the smallest of the Fujinon lenses, so if you're looking for a compact mirrorless system and don't mind the 28mm equivalent focal length, this is probably your best choice. I wish the corners were a little better behaved, but they're not terrible wide open, and very usable stopped down. That said, a Coolpix A is a better choice if that's all you want (small APS sensor camera with 28mm equivalent lens). 

As you can probably tell, I have a hard time getting excited about this lens. It's basic, it's an okay performer for its price, but there really isn't anything special about it. If you need 28mm equivalent at f/2 (and especially at f/2.8 or f/4), then this is your lens.


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