The first Fujifilm lens I purchased was the 23mm f/1.4 R. Then, I picked up the 18mm f/2 R. I no longer own the 23mm. Why? Although the image quality and performance of the lens was great, I really wanted a smaller, more compact lens. I nearly replaced it with the 27mm f/2.8 R, until I borrowed a friends. The 41mm equivalent focal length felt very odd. It wasn’t for me. I also didn’t like giving up 2 full stops. I got my hands on the 16mm f/1.4 R WR and fell in love, but I decided to spend less so I could pick up some other accessories. Do I regret settling on the 18? Not a bit.
Size & Shape
The 18mm is nearly identical in length to the 35mm f/2 with hoods installed. Without the hoods, the 18mm becomes nearly a pancake lens. Not as small as the 27mm f/2.8, but close. Note the arrows below marking where the end of the lenses meet with the hoods. The old school square-face hood on the 18mm is uber cool in my opinion. It adds personality to my camera. A year ago, people stopped to ask me if I was shooting Leica because of the hood. I’ve noticed as of late, that has changed. People now see the Fujifilm cameras as also carrying this style.
Using The Lens
It’s been interesting transitioning around the 23-18-35. Each present their own hits and misses. Though not as quick to focus as the 35, the 18’s IQ is on not far behind the 23, is smaller and more compact, and also provides the widest field of view. Therefore, I rank it above both in usability. I’m pretty sure I’ll get some flack from the Fujifilm community comparing the IQ of the 18 to the 23. The low light ability of the 23 definitely wins with the extra stop, but I never found the images to be that much cleaner overall. If you don’t own the 35, you’ll never notice the slower AF of the 18. I don’t like saying its “slow”, just not as fast as the newer lenses. Technology is always advancing.
Comparisons aside, the 27mm equivalent focal length may seem a bit odd to some. It’s not “wide”, and it’s short for traditional documentary/street photography. This is why I often refer to it as the “in-between lens”. If I’m shooting landscapes, I’d definitely love a wider lens, and for portraits, something more like the 56. However, if you can only afford to have one lens, I highly recommend the 18. I believe its the most underrated Fujifilm lens currently offered.
I’m no pixel peeper and I don’t enjoy spending a lot of time behind the computer editing. I’ve worked hard to get the shots I want as finished as possible in camera. Are there better lenses out there than the 18mm? Yes. Does the 18mm do every job I’ve thrown at it well? Yes. What I’m getting at is, the camera is just a tool. What you do with it is what counts. Don’t stress over having the best of everything. Find what works for you and hone your skill set to a razor point.
I feel like I’m justifying the quality of the 18 when I shouldn’t have to. I guess I am because it’s one of the first Fuji-X lenses and it came as a kit lens paired with the X-Pro1. Most people think any lenses that come in a kit are low level or something the manufacturer doesn’t mind giving away cheap. Not true. If your only experience with the 18 was when you paired it with the X-Pro1, give it another chance. Although a great camera, the X-Pro1 isn’t winning any competitions compared to the latest Fujifilm models. Pair the lens with your X-T1 or X-T10 and trust me, it’ll feel much different.
At $599, the Fujifilm 18mm f/2 R is priced fairly. As of this morning, Fujifilm dropped new rebates and it’s now $499 for a limited time. I think that’s the perfect price for it. Want it for less? I’ve seen it used for as low as $300 on Craigslist. It’s a solid piece of glass that will produce fantastic images. It’s compact, lightweight, and offers a ‘wide enough’ field of view for travel/landscape/whatever. With or without the hood, I can easily stuff it into large front jacket pockets on my X-T1. Although I’d love to see a second version of this lens carry the WR (weather resistant) design, I think its more likely we’ll see a 16mm f/2 R WR coming next. Maybe? Yes please. I’m still hoping for the trinity I mentioned in my 35mm review, 16-35-56, all WR. Now that’s a threesome that EVERYONE WILL BUY.
These photos were taken throughout last Summer and Fall while traveling through Nevada and Utah. Locations include Las Vegas, Hill Air Force Museum north of Salt Lake City, and Valley of Fire State Park. The 18mm was my most used lens in 2015.
All photographs copyright - jordanmay.com