A few days ago I received my Fujifilm X-E1. As exciting as receiving a new camera may be, I was even more excited about the lens that came with it: the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 R LM OIS. Because I was hoping and expecting this lens to make my Fujifilm kit more flexible and all round for those times when working with primes might be too slow. Yesterday I joined another group of hunters for my “hunting project” and I decided to shoot exclusively with the new lens to give it a challenging workout in the field.
The 18-55 works perfectly fine with the X-E1 and the combination is easy to handle. But I found the lens to handle better on the slightly bulkier X-Pro1. The lens doesn’t have the typical cheap feel of a kitlens. It feels sturdy and well build. The zoom action is smooth and the other controls work fine too. I’d just like a bit more friction in the aperture ring. It’s easy to accidently change the aperture without noticing it. Because this is a variable aperture lens (from f2.8 at 18mm to f4 at 55mm) there are no aperture markings on the lens like the Fujinon prime lenses. It would have been nice off course to have f/2.8 over the whole range but that would have made the lens a lot bigger, heavier and more expensive. I’ll have to get used to it but I can live with it.
The Fuji’s made me rediscover the joys of working with fixed focal lengths and I intend to shoot most of my future work with those fine primes. But sometimes you get in situations were your movements are restricted and you just can’t zoom with your feet. Other times time pressure or dusty/wet conditions prevent you from changing lenses. Standard zoom lens to the rescue. Variation is often key in keeping clients happy and offering a wide AND a close shot of the same scene within seconds can definitely buy you some good karma from editors and designers.
You know that this blog is not the place to read about resolution charts and corner performance. But I trust my eyes and I see that the Fujinon 18-55 produces great images which are sharp and clean with no obvious flaws. And I wouldn’t hesitate for a nanosecond to use this lens for any job within it’s focal range. Colors, contrast, bokeh seem pro-level to me.
I don’t shoot wide lenses a lot but sometimes I just need something wider than my 35mm, usually to establish the scene or when it’s physically impossible to back away to get everything I want in the shot. I like the compact Fujinon 18mm f/2.0 prime lens but didn’t buy it knowing the 18-55 was on it’s way. I might still buy the 18mm eventually but for now the 18-55 covers my wide angle needs. It’s only a stop slower than the fixed 18mm and the image stabilization more than makes up for that one stop in many cases.
For now the 18-55 will also cover most of my slight tele needs. The Fujinon 60mm lens is a nice lens for portraits but with a maximum aperture of f/2.4 it’s not exactly very fast for a prime lens and the focusing isn’t very fast either. In 2013 there will be a 58mm f/1.4 and I’m going to wait for that lens. In the mean time the long end of the 18-55 is a good alternative.
A lot has been set about Fuji’s autofocus performance but since the latest firmware updates on the cameras and lenses it isn’t bad at all. Accuracy is great and once you know how to use the system best it locks focus almost all the time. And when it comes to speed, I started thinking the focus motor inside the lenses might be the limiting factor, not the camera. The 18-55 has a new linear AF motor and seems to prove my point. It seems to focus a lot faster than any of the primes. On top of that it’s almost completely silent. With the 35mm I know by feel and sound when AF is achieved. With the 18-55 you can’t really feel or hear the focus motor doing it’s work. I even had to turn on the focus confirmation beep to have a better idea about focus confirmation.
Both the X-Pro1 and the X-E1 have a focus assist light to help out with close range focussing in low light. I prefer not to use it if not needed because it attracts attention but sometimes it can come in handy. Unfortunately most of the emitted light is blocked by this lens (even without using the lens hood).
The lens has image stabilization (OIS) and it seems to work like promised. It sure helps when shooting handheld at slower shutter speeds.
The weather wasn’t exactly good during this hunting day. Now, I won’t advice to use the non-weatherproof X-Pro1 and the 18-55 in the rain but they performed without a glitch despite getting pretty wet at times.
This was a driven hunt for many hours and kilometers through rough terrain with mud up to my knees. A small versatile camera kit really makes life a lot easier in these situations.
I missed some shots due to not paying enough attention or twisting the zoom ring in the wrong direction. But give me a bit more experience with this lens and I’m sure I’ll be fine.
The 18-55 does everything I could reasonably expect from it and even exceeds my expectations. Let’s hope Fuji can continue like this and give us many more great lenses in the (near) future.