I cannot begin to describe how long I have waited for Fujifilm to do a fresh take on an 18mm XF lens. I won’t lie, I have been requesting a complete optical makeover refresh of the XF18mm f/2 for as long as I have been in close contact with Fujifilm. But it sometimes seemed as if they were much more keen on the 16mm focal length, since they have made a lot of 16’s over the years. (16mm f/1.4, 16mm f/2.8, 16-55mm, 16-80mm)
But why keep on insisting on the 18mm focal length then? Why not just use the excellent range of 16mm lenses? – Well, in Fullframe terms the equivalent focal length of 16mm is 24mm and the 18mm equivalent is 28mm. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but that 2mm (4mm eq) difference in focal length is actually close to a 9° difference in field of view, and it does have a BIG impact on hov an image looks and feels. Heck, it even impact how the photographer frames and composes the images more than one should think.
These two focal lengths does indeed require completely different mindsets, which is why any given camera and lens manufacturer throughout the past many years always have both focal lengths in their lineup.
But for now, let’s just celebrate the fact that FINALLY Fujifilm has put out the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR – And let me warn you right now, I’m completely blown away by the quality of this lens. In fact I will go so far as to state that this lens is Fujifilms best optical achievement for the XF system next to the XF90mm f/2 – Yes, that even means better than the 16mm f/1.4R WR!
But before we get going as always, I’ll be courteous and write down my usual disclaimers.
Feel free to skip everything but number 3
Disclaimer 1: I’m an X-photographer. That’s spelled brand ambassador for Fujifilm. I don’t get paid for doing these write ups (and I have been doing them even before getting involved with Fujifilm). This means that I’m just about as biased as I can get, and whether you choose to believe my views or not is entirely up to you. I expect you to be adults, capable of forming your own opinions based on presented information.
Disclaimer 2: All the images in this article has been shot using an early prototype of the XF18mm f/1.4R WR. Image quality might therefore not be final.
Disclaimer 3: All shots with- and of the product has been shot by me, and is not to be used without my explicit permission.
Fujifilms dance with the 18mm focal length
In 2012 with the release of the original X-Pro1, Fujifilm released the original trilogy of lenses.
The XF18mm f/2R
The XF35mm f/1.4R
The XF60mm f/2.4R Macro
This trilogy of lenses looked as if they followed what Contax put to market when they released their Contax G system. The 28mm F/2.8, The 45mm f/2 and the 90mm f/2.8. All semi-equivalent focal lengths to what Fujifilm decided to put to market. (Given how influenced the X-Pro1 was by the Contax G, this doesn’t surprise me one bit)
While the XF35mm f/1.4R quickly achieved a cult following because of how good it was (and still is! – My favourite Fujifilm lens of all time), the XF60mm F/2.4R quickly got a reputation as being too slow to even use, although having some of the best IQ ever in an XF lens to date.
And then there was the 18mm f/2R. Touted as the reportage and documentary lens it soon became clear that this lens was not Fujinon best IQ effort to date. It lacked serious corner sharpness, and the bokeh was rather busy-looking and not at all anything to brag about. A lot of early adopters bought the lens and lived with it, and later jumped to the XF18-55mm zoom for a much improved 18mm focal length IQ. – I have owned and sold the 18mm f/2R three times by now. It’s a love/hate kinda thing.
So ever since the XF18mm f/2R was launched as part of the original X series effort, a lot of people including me have been looking for an 18mm lens that was up to the incredible standard of lenses that has come to define the XF lens lineup.
During the past 9 years Fujifilm have shown us that they are more than capable of making an improved 18mm lens. The two zooms 18-55mm and 18-135mm both have way better 18mm performance than the 18mm f/2. They also max out at slower apertures (f/2.8 and f/3.5 respectively), and they are considerably larger than the XF18mm f/2R.
Then came the little pocket rocket, The Fujifilm X70 – which launched with a super compact 18,5mm f/2.8 lens that was super sharp wide open even at close distances! A lens that retained the corner sharpness and the lack of distortion that the XF18mm was missing. I thought it would only be a matter of short time before we would see a nice compact XF version of the 18,5mm f/2.8. – But no! Instead we got a 16mm f/2.8R WR lens (which I really love though…)
So here we are. 9 years out from Fujifilms original 18mm prime offering for the XF system…..
FINALLY they have made a new 18mm.
And damnit was it worth the wait!!!
Build and Feel
As I wrote further on up, my bet was always on a new version of the XF18mm f/2R – The reason being its incredibly small formfactor which makes it really nice on the X-Pro bodies. I’m not an imbecile however, and I know that part of the XF18mm f/2’s IQ issue is from the fact that it is indeed very compact. It’s physics. There are always trade-offs!
So don’t expect this new XF18mm f/1.4 R WR to be as small a lens as the old f/2. Again, because….physics!
But how big is it then? (that’s what she said….or something…)
When lined up against, and compared to, the size of the other f/1.4 lenses it’s actually one of the smallest of the pack. It’s way smaller than the XF16mm f/1.4 and XF56mm f/1.2 and also smaller than the XF23mm f/1.4.
Well, actually let me define smaller. The 18/1.4 is the longest of the bunch, but because of its smaller width it does seem a lot smaller. Optical illusion maybe, but it feels way smaller.
The 16, and 23 seem especially large and front heavy because of their “clutch pull back” manual focus mechanism. The lens that actually compares the best to the size of the new XF18mm f/1.4 R WR is the XF18-55mm f/2.8-4.
The XF18mm f/1.4 R WR REALLY feels at home on the X-Pro1-2-3 bodies. On this particular series of camera bodies it feels just right. Not at all front heavy.
The lens has a front filter thread of 62mm, it weighs 370g and measures 68.8mm in width and 75.6mm in length. Not too bad for a large aperture wideangle prime.
Obviously it is built to the usual XF lens build quality standards. This means metal mount, metal barrel, metal focus ring and metal aperture ring. It’s really well built and really sturdy. Even though it’s an all metal construction Fujifilm managed to keep the weight down while keeping the lens sturdy and solid. It feels absolutely great.
The focus ring is super smooth. It turns infinitely since its still focus by wire. Just as smooth is the aperture ring. It clicks firmly, but NOT as firmly and perfect as the new XF27mm f/2.8R WR – The aperture ring of that little rocket is puuuuurfect. The aperture “stiffness” on the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR is more akin that of the XF16mm f/1.4R WR.
All in all the new XF18mm f/1.4R WR is very very well built, it has the perfect balance on the X-Pro bodies and it just feels like a very premium product through and through!
Below are the technical specifications for the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR lens. Worth noting is the close focus ability, the Linear Motor build, the 3 ASPH elements lens configuration as well as the WR build. Fujifilm threw ALL the good stuff into this lens.
|Lens||XF18mmF1.4 R LM WR|
|Build||15 elements in 9 groups (includes 3 aspherical and 1 ED elements)|
|Focal Length||f=18mm (27mm) 76.5°|
|Aperture Range||F1.4 to F16|
|Aperture Mechanism||9 blades (rounded diaphragm opening) – 1/3EV stops (22 steps)|
|Close focus distance||20cm|
|Dimensions||φ68.8mm x 75.6mm – 370g – φ62mm|
|Weather resistance||Yes, with temp down to -10°C|
There are some core features from that spec sheet above that I would like to discuss a little further, since they kind of define what this lens is all about. Extreme versatility. For the longest time the 28mm eq focal length has been used in a documentary setting because of its way of being very versatile. Being very intimate while still preserving a wide FOV to include as much “story” to the frame as possible. This is probably why it’s been the preferred focal length for the main lens on every smartphone for the past many years. It’s just a very very versatile focal length.
In that regard, its absolutely crucial that a lens such as the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR has all the features that makes it a great all-round prime.
It needs fast autofocus to not miss the spontaneous moments. It needs corner to corner sharpness and excellent IQ so it can be used for landscapes. It needs to control distortion so it can be used for environmental portraits and it needs to be able to focus close so you can get objects singled out and separated.
To make all of the above happen Fujifilm designed a lens with some technical traits that makes all of the above possible.
Autofocus – Linear motor build
It’s quite nice that Fujifilm built this lens around a very fast and silent linear motor. Usually this type of motor is used in the way bigger lenses within the Fujifilm X series where the amount of glass that needs to be pushed to attain focus is way bigger.
What this means to the quite small XF18mm f/1.4 R WR is an autofocus performance that is absolutely incredible. This lens is probably one of the fastest lenses within the XF lens lineup to lock focus. I actually only think it’s surpassed by the XF35mm f/2 which still holds the benchmark AF speed for me.
I must say that the autofocus capabilities of the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR is nothing less than amazing. And of course it blows the old XF18mm f/2R right out of the water!
Close Focus ability
This is something that I know so many people enjoy from the XF16mm f/1.4R WR. That super close focus ability combined with a wide FOV and a shallow aperture option gives the images a completely unique look and feel that I have yet to see outside the Fujifilm ecosystem.
The XF18mm f/1.4 R WR doesn’t focus as close as the XF16mm, but it does focus rather close. And add to that the slightly longer focal length the look isn’t as pronounced on the 18 as it is on the 16. It does focus close enough so that you can bring subjects into 11 cm from the front element of the lens. (effectively about 20cm from the sensor plane) – And combined with that f/1.4 aperture you can really get creative with your close up photography.
Well, actually I’m not going to dive too far into this trait in this section since the big analysis of image quality is straight below. But just note this, from looking at the optical diagram of this lens you know that it’s bound to be good. 15 elements. 9 groups. 3 ASPH elements and one Extra low dispersion element. This lens is so optically corrected for any distortion and stray rays that it’s not even funny. It’s quite literally insane!
Let’s discuss IQ, shall we?
No, not the IQ of the Fujinon engineers who created this lens, which must break the chart somehow. But rather the Image Quality of this new 18mm F/1.4 lens. It’s breathtakingly good.
With the XF14mm f/2.8 Fujifilm made a wide angle lens that was virtually free of any form of distortion. Everything was entirely optically corrected. In many of the lenses within the system Fujifilm relies on software to do the correction, but when that happens you actually “lose” some of the FOV. So obviously we want the lenses to be optically corrected instead of software corrected. What that usually means is a lot more glass, hence larger lenses. So, again, as with so many thing in life, it’s a matter of compromises.
But not this time…..
The XF18mm f/1.4 is to the best of my testing virtually distortion free as well. All the way from f/1.4 to f/16. It renders straight lines from corner to corner, edge to edge. It’s incredible.
Bokeh and flares
The out of focus areas from a wide angle lens doesn’t seem to be an area of interest to many of its potential buyers. But as with everything from this lens, it’s definitely something worth directing your attention towards. With the close focus abilities as well as the f/1.4 aperture you can actually blur your backgrounds quite a lot under the right circumstances. And when you do it looks absolutely incredible.
The quality of the bokeh reminds me a lot of that of the XF23mm f/1.4R which is widely regarded as some of the best bokeh from any wideangle(‘ish) lens of the XF system.
It has nice smooth specular highlights with no onion rings, hard edges or anything like that. It’s just super smooth and very pleasing.
The bokeh does exhibit a little bit of optical vignetting meaning that the specular highlights will get a little more cat-eye shaped the further you move from the center of the frame.
The 9 aperture blades makes for some stupidly nice looking solar sunstar flares. They look a lot like the sunstar flares you can achieve on the 23mm f/2 mk2 lens on the X100V – and I LOVE those sunstars! – Well, atually they look better on the 18mm f/1.4R WR. The coating of the lens makes damn sure that irregular flares doesn’t interfere much and cause lowered contrast.
I was actually worried about flare resistance since Fujifilm didn’t use the Nano GI coating like on the XF16mm f/1.4, but there is absolutely no ghosting and unwanted flaring with this lens.
Just look at the examples below shot at f/16. They really speak for them selves. Obviously directly into the sun, but also at a bit of an angle. Those are some very well controlled flares!!
This lens has 3 aspherical lenses(!!!!!!) and one ED lens among its 15 lens elements, spread across 9 groups, to minimize chromatic- and comatic aberrations. Furthermore, the focusing group consisting of 6 lens elements moves in unison to reduce aberration fluctuations, which can be caused by focusing, to deliver some amazingly consistent sharpness at any focusing position of the lens.
It really doesn’t matter if you shoot this lens at f/1.4 or at f/16. Sharpness is very very good, clean and consistent. Given that obviously at f/16 you will start to see spherical abberations which are largely inevitable.
The sharpness is very very good at the center of the frame, losing only a tiny bit of sharpness towards the corners. But already at f/2 the corners clean up and gets close to center sharpness.
Make no mistake, the XF18mm f/1.4R WR is among the top 3 of the sharpest lenses in the entire XF lineup.
Conclusion and sample images
I have waited so long for Fujifilm to bring a well designed, good performing 18mm prime lens to the XF system. In the midst of all the 16mm lens releases I started losing hope that it would ever happen. But it did. And I must say that the XF18mm f/1.4 R WR was worth the wait many times over.
It has a perfect balance on my X-Pro3 camera, it is sturdy, yet lightweight and it looks and feels absolutely great.
It has incredible autofocus speed thanks to the linear motor build, and the image quality is breathtakingly good from corner to corner. Close to zero distortion, very good sharpness across the frame even wide open and great quality out of focus areas. Its a true around lens that you throw at virtually anything, and still get good results.
I must say that Fujifilm has made yet another stellar lens as its 35th XF series lens.
The XF18mm f1.4R WR has a suggested retail price of USD999$ and will be widely available in May
Below you’ll find a lot of images in the sample gallery. I tried to use this lens as much as I could these past two months, so the sample gallery ended up quite big (again!! – so sorry). However, this probably gives a good indication of just how versatile the XF18mm f/1.4R WR is in day-to-day use.
All images can be viewed by clicking the gallery below. Download them at will and look at the EXIF. Everything is there. Knock yourselves out.