Since Fujifilm kicked off its X-series mirrorless cameras in 2012, it has been releasing a number of superb prime and zoom lenses to attract both enthusiasts and professionals to its camera system. Although until recently the Fuji lens line-up included a number of great zoom lenses, there was no professional-grade 24-70mm equivalent (in full-frame) choice available. Fuji changed that by introducing the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR in early 2015 – a high-quality, weather resistant lens with superb optical characteristics and tough construction for the most demanding photographers. Combined with a weather-sealed camera like the Fuji X-T1, the new generation Fujinon lenses like the 16-55mm f/2.8 are the top choices for landscape and architecture photographers who often face challenging weather conditions. I had the pleasure of using the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens for several months after it was launched and I was able to take it with me on several projects and assignments, so this review is primarily based on my field experience. Let’s take a look at the lens in more detail.
Fuji did not take any shortcuts when designing the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR – with a total of 17 elements in 12 groups, this lens is only behind the new XF 50-140mm f/2.8 OIS WR in optical complexity, making it one of the largest and heaviest Fuji X lenses made to date. When I first unboxed the lens and mounted it on my X-T1, it felt unexpectedly big and heavy when compared to other X-mount lenses, similar to how my 24-70mm f/2.8G did when I first attached it to a Nikon DSLR. It is a beast of a lens for sure! My first impression was not very positive, as I thought about implications for using such a heavy and bulky lens in the field. However, after taking the lens with me to a few long trips, I realized that if Fuji made the lens any smaller or lighter, it would have compromised its optical capabilities, which are indeed superb (even when compared to a number of Fuji’s excellent primes). And after my trip to the windy and dusty Death Valley, I was certainly thankful for the weather-sealing features of the lens, as I knew that other lenses would not have survived the heavy dust / sand storms that I encountered when hiking in some areas of the park, particularly in Mesquite Dunes. In this review, I will provide a thorough analysis of the Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens, along with image samples and comparisons to other Fuji lenses.
1) Lens Specifications
- Optically designed to draw out the maximum image quality as a flagship standard zoom lens.
- High-speed, quiet auto focus thanks to the Linear Motor.
- Weather resistant, dust-resistant and -10°C low-temperature operation.
- Mount Type: Fujifilm X
- Focal Length (35mm format equivalent): 16-55mm (24-84mm)
- Lens construction (elements/groups): 17/12
- Angle of view: 83.2°- 29°
- Number of diaphragm blades: 9 (rounded diaphragm opening)
- Maximum aperture: f/2.8
- Minimum aperture: f/22
- Focus range (normal): 0.6m – ∞
- Focus range (macro): 30cm – 10m (Wide), 40cm – 10m (Telephoto)
- Max magnification: 0.16x (Telephoto)
- Weight (approx): 655g
- Dia. x length (approx): 83.3mm x 106.0mm (Wide) / 129.5mm (Telephoto)
- Filter size: 77mm
Detailed specifications for the lens, along with MTF charts and other useful data can be found in our lens database.
2) Lens Handling and Build
Fuji certainly did not cheap out when making the XF 16-55mm f/2.8, as its build quality is truly superb. The metal mount is bolted on the metal shell, with rubber gaskets on the side to prevent dust from making its way into the camera body. The rear of the lens is protected with a single glass element, so there is little chance of dust getting into the lens. The lens barrel is made from metal, but there are some components such as the zoom ring and the front part of the lens that extends when zoomed in, which are made from hard plastic. The aperture ring has a solid feel to it when turning and has hard stops at each third of exposure stop from f/2.8 until f/22 and from there it is smooth again till you get to A (Auto / Aperture Priority), at which point you cannot turn the ring anymore. The zoom ring is nice and smooth. When zoomed in to 55mm, the front part of the lens extends a bit, by another 5 cm or so, which reveals the plastic part of the front lens barrel. This plastic sub-barrel is bolted to the metal piece on the front of the lens, which both holds the front lens element and provides the 77mm filter thread for screw-on filters. The sub-barrel seems to be securely attached to the lens barrel and does not wobble like some of the lower-end lenses do. Just like all other Fuji X mount lenses, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 uses the fly-by-wire system, which means that the focus ring is not mechanically tied to any of the lens element, but rather controlled electronically. As a result, there is no focus scale on the lens and the ring will rotate in either direction with any hard stops or extra resistance. If you choose to manually focus with the lens, a focus scale is provided inside the viewfinder or on the rear LCD of Fuji cameras.
At 655 grams, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 is a heavy lens. When mounted on the Fuji X-T1 camera body, it certainly makes the setup quite front-heavy. To balance the lens a little better, I mounted the VG-XT1 battery grip on the X-T1. It certainly did make a difference, but it made it feel like I was carrying a medium size DSLR, practically taking away the weight advantages of the mirrorless camera. So keep this in mind when looking at this lens, as the heft and bulk that come with it should not be underestimated.
My biggest complaint with the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 is its hood. In this day and age, I cannot understand how Fuji can succeed in making such a great lens and at the same time miserably fail at designing one of the simplest mechanical components of the lens. The provided plastic petal-shaped lens hood feels flimsy and easily bends. Because of this, you might find yourself applying too much force when mounting or dismounting it. You will naturally rotate the hood using the two protruding pieces of plastic, which bend the hood around the base and create additional resistance. And if the hood is not properly aligned, a part of it can go over the lens, making it even more difficult to mount or dismount. What a pain!
3) Autofocus Performance and Accuracy
The Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 comes with a Twin Linear Motor, which provides fast and quiet autofocus capabilities. When mounted on the Fuji X-T1, the lens snaps into focus instantly and you can barely hear the focus motor, which is nice. No more lens aperture “chatter”, but if you switch to continuous focus, the lens might still “scan” the scene and try to focus back and forth. But that’s not the fault of the lens – it is the limitation of the camera’s autofocus system.
Focus accuracy is overall quite excellent, whether shooting in bright or low-light conditions. I have primarily used this lens to photograph landscapes and had a chance to use it in both good light and in challenging low-light situations before sunrise and after sunset. Although I have not experimented with night photography a lot, given how sharp this lens is wide open, I expect it to perform admirably for both night and astrophotography as well, although faster lenses like the new XF 16mm f/1.4 would be more suitable for those particular needs.
When testing the lens in my lab, I tried focusing on charts using both autofocus and manual focus and I found the former to provide excellent results. In fact, compared to AF, it was a bit difficult to focus manually with ultra high precision – partly because Fuji does not provide high enough of magnification when zooming in and partly because it is difficult to maintain focus at its exact position after the camera goes on standby or is turned off. I wish Fuji worked a bit more on proper implementation of manual focusing, as I personally find it to be a bit weaker when compared to its competition. I also wish Fuji allowed to move the zoomed in area with the navigation buttons, so that one could check focus throughout the image without having to move the focus point first. Hopefully such features will make their way into the future generation Fuji cameras.
4) Lens Sharpness, Contrast and Color Rendition
As I have already pointed out, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 has one of the most complex optical designs Fuji has developed to date for the Fuji X system. With a whopping 17 elements in 12 groups, this lens is full of glass elements for not only yielding maximum sharpness, but also for correcting various aberrations. Specifically, the three aspherical lens elements in the lens help in controlling spherical aberration and distortion, while the three extra-low dispersion (ED) lens elements are present for reducing both lateral and axial chromatic aberration. Take a look at the below illustration of the lens construction, which shows the above-mentioned special elements:
As you will see further down below, the Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 lens is a very sharp lens, particularly when compared to other Fuji X zoom lenses. In fact, the lens is sharper than many of the Fuji prime lenses! Its corner performance might appear weaker in our MTF charts, but when combined with Adobe’s built-in lens profiles, optical corrections certainly help in yielding very good corner to corner sharpness in images. And since the Fuji X-T1 utilizes the X-Trans sensor that has no anti-aliasing filter, you get the maximum performance out of this lens when it is attached to it. Contrast is excellent and color rendition is superb, as expected from Fujinon lenses.
Due to the fact that Adobe software automatically applies optical corrections to Fuji’s RAW files, it is impossible to properly evaluate lens performance. Since I measure MTF using Imatest and DCRaw (which does not apply such corrections), the below numbers reflect the raw, uncorrected performance of the XF 16-55mm f/2.8. Results are very comparable to what one would get with Photo Ninja and other third party software that utilize DCRaw and similar RAW processing engines.
Let’s take a look at the Imatest numbers:
At 16mm, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 is so sharp, that it peaked out of the maximum range of 2500 that I set for graphs when showing Fuji lens MTF performance – it hit an all-time-high of 2600 in the center of the frame and at the widest aperture of f/2.8, which is remarkable. I have never seen another Fuji lens reach such high figures! There is a drop in sharpness away from the center towards the mid-frame and there is a further drop in sharpness towards the corners, but that’s expected from most lenses in similar class.
As we zoom towards 23mm, sharpness starts to drop a little. Peak performance is still at the largest apertures, slowly getting worse at f/4 and smaller. Mid-frame and the corners look very similar to those at 16mm.
At 35mm, we now have reduced sharpness at f/2.8 and the sharpness now peaks at the f/4 mark. The lens performs worse overall at this focal length, with mid-frames and the corners still staying pretty strong overall.
The lens gets worse towards the longest range and that’s where we see a sharpness drop throughout the image. Mid-frame and corner performance are definitely impacted and the lens cannot quite resolve as much detail anymore, even when stopped down to f/4.
So keep the above in mind when you are out shooting – the lens is the sharpest at its widest focal length and its sharpness slightly deteriorates towards the longer end at 55mm. Most likely you will not see much sharpness difference in the field, since the above numbers are still pretty high even for the longest range, but if you are after maximum detail, the shorter focal lengths are going to give you a tad more detail.
Overall, there is not much to complain about this lens in terms of sharpness. And if you shoot JPEG, or you take RAW files into Lightroom for processing, you will find that the automatic lens corrections will make the images look even better. Unfortunately, Lightroom still tends to show strange-looking artifacts when images are sharpened, so based on my tests, I would say that Photo Ninja is probably the next best thing to SOOC JPEG images.
Lenses such as the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 are not designed to yield the best looking bokeh, because they are not optimized like portrait lenses are and the f/2.8 aperture limits how much you can put out of focus at close range. At the long end of 55mm @ f/2.8, you can get some nice subject separation with somewhat smooth backgrounds, but the aspherical elements in the lens are going to make those bokeh highlights appear a bit edgy, with onion rings inside. So while you can use this lens to get some good portrait shots, if your goal is to capture more pleasant-looking portraits, take a good look at something like the XF 56mm f/1.2 or its APD version instead – those are going to be much more practical for portraiture.
Fuji did a great job in making sure that the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 does not suffer from heavy vignetting like some other zoom lenses in the similar focal length range do. And indeed, the vignetting performance of the lens is excellent. As you can see below, the most amount of vignetting you will get at maximum aperture @ 16mm and even that does not look bad at all, at only 1.26 stops of light loss in the extreme corners:
And here is the worst case scenario at 16mm, infinity focus:
If vignetting bothers you in images, it is really easy to fix in post-processing software like Lightroom and Photoshop, so it is certainly not a concern.
7) Ghosting and Flare
The Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 comes with a couple of advanced coating technologies that significantly reduce the occurrence of both ghosting and flare when a bright source of light reaches the front element of the lens. Fuji applied HT-EBC (High Transmittance Electron Beam Coating) to the entire area of the lens surface, in addition to utilizing the newly developed Nano-GI (Gradient Index) coating technology which also helps reduce diagonal incident light. I have used the lens in pretty high contrast scenes with both the sun in the frame and outside the frame and I did not see any problems in my images. Take a look at the below photo, captured with the sun in the frame:
However, when including bright sources of light in the frame at smaller apertures past f/8, you might witness something called a “red dot flare“, which can be very distracting to look at:
This happens as a result of internal reflections and short flange distance, and it is something that can be commonly seen on pretty much every mirrorless camera. So if you see that in your images, keep this in mind and try to use larger apertures to avoid the problem.
The amount and the type of distortion depends on what focal length you are shooting. The lens starts out with barrel distortion at 16mm and as you zoom in towards 23mm and longer, it switches to pincushion distortion. The highest amount of barrel distortion is registered at 16mm, with around 4.94% change, while the highest amount of pincushion distortion is at 55mm, as shown in the below Imatest results based on RAW images:
9) Chromatic Aberration
Chromatic aberration levels are very low, as illustrated below:
Let’s move on to lens comparisons and see how the lens stacks up against other Fuji X lenses.
10) Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR vs Fuji XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Comparison
Let’s take a look at how the pro-level XF 16-55mm lens compares to the consumer-level Fuji XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS (the first version), which covers a similar focal length range:
Whoa! Now I expected to see some differences, but didn’t realize that they were so drastic. The XF 16-55mm f/2.8 is significantly sharper compared to the 16-50mm, that’s a huge difference in sharpness there. Let’s take a look at 23mm:
Although the 16-50mm performs a tad better at 23mm than at 16mm, it is still nowhere close to what the 16-55mm can do.
35mm looks pretty similar as other focal lengths, with the 16-55mm clearly dominating at every comparable aperture. And lastly, let’s take a look at the longest end of the zoom range:
Both lenses perform the worst zoomed in all the way, but the 16-55mm is still noticeably sharper. I have not yet tested the OIS II version of the XC 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, but based on the MTF charts on Fuji’s website, there is no difference in sharpness between the two.
11) Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR vs Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 OIS
Although the super wide angle XF 10-24mm f/4 OIS is for different needs and does not cover similar focal lengths, there are a couple of focal lengths that we can actually compare between the two lenses and analyze. Let’s compare the XF 16-55mm at 16mm, vs the XF 10-24mm at 14mm:
Without a doubt, the Fuji XF 10-24mm f/4 OIS is a very sharp lens and you can see that it certainly does challenge the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 at such a wide focal length. At similar apertures, both lenses perform about the same in the center and the mid-frame, but the corners on the 16-55mm f/2.8 look a little sharper. Stopped down to f/5.6, there is practically no difference between these two lenses. What if we were to look at the longest end of the 10-24mm f/4? Let’s take a look:
And unfortunately, that’s exactly where the 10-24mm is weak. As you can see, the 16-55mm f/2.8 is still rocking, giving overall both better center and corner performance.
12) Lens Comparison Summary
While going through my test data for Fujinon lenses, the only lens under 50mm that came close to the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 in sharpness was the XF 10-24mm f/4 and I have presented the data in the above comparison. Whether I was looking at some of the older primes or other zoom lenses like the 18-55mm f/2.8-4, none of them were able to get to comparable sharpness, particularly in the center of the frame. Looks like some of the older designs (maybe with the exception of the XF 14mm f/2.8) cannot come close in sharpness to the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 – and that’s a given, especially when we look at the size and the optical design of the 16-55mm. In short, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 sets a new sharpness record compared to other Fujinon lenses and deserves high praises for its stellar performance.
As you have seen from this review, the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR is Fuji’s new optical marvel. Judging by how sharp the lens turned out when I measured its performance and compared to other X mount lenses, it appears that Fuji’s engineers put their best efforts to make this lens appealing to enthusiasts and professionals, who are not willing to compromise on the build quality or the optical performance of this gem. As a result, they created a new “reference” lens, something that essentially makes most other Fuji lenses look pretty average in comparison. It truly is hard to find flaws in such an amazing lens.
However, such stellar performance does come with its own issues. All that metal and glass inside the lens make it really heavy and big, which negatively impacts the handling aspect and makes the setup quite front-heavy, particularly when mounted on lighter Fuji X camera bodies. To make it more practical for my use, I had to keep a battery grip on my Fuji X-T1 at all times, which added even more weight and bulk, taking away the idea of using the X-T1 as a lightweight alternative to my Nikon DSLRs. At over a kilo in weight, I was getting pretty close to the weight of my Nikon D750 with the 24-70mm f/2.8G lens and that’s a full-frame setup vs APS-C. So one has to wonder about the practicality of using such monster of a lens on the Fuji X system. At the same time, if I only shot with the Fuji X system and wanted to get the best lens I could find for critical applications and did not care as much about the weight or size implications, the 16-55mm f/2.8 would certainly be an attractive choice.
Another problem is lack of optical stabilization. Because Fuji did not want to potentially impact image quality, OIS was excluded from the design. Given that the lens covers such a wide range of focal lengths from ultra wide to telephoto, it is a bummer that stabilization was not included. It feels strange that the much wider 10-24mm f/4 has stabilization, while this one does not and we know which one of the two needs it more…
Overall, I really enjoyed shooting with the XF 16-55mm f/2.8 and would certainly recommend the lens to those who need it. Although at $1,199 it falls more into the “exotic” category of lenses for the X mount, it is not meant to appeal everyone anyway. Enthusiasts and professionals who switched to the Fuji X system will be happy to own this lens, because it simply offers uncompromising performance.
14) Where to Buy
B&H is currently selling the Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR lens for $1,199.
15) More image samples
All Images Copyright © Nasim Mansurov, All Rights Reserved. Copying or reproduction is not permitted without written permission from the author.
Fuji XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR
- Optical Performance
- Bokeh Quality
- Build Quality
- Focus Speed and Accuracy
- Size and Weight
Photography Life Overall Rating