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Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the ultimate zoom lens showdown. The championship fight of the Fuji 16-55mm vs 18-55mm lens is upon us, but you aren’t sure which is the favourite or what to choose.
If you are in the market for a new Fuji zoom lens, you have probably narrowed it down to these two lenses. But there’s only a 2mm difference between them in their focal length.
What’s the big deal? Well, not only does every millimetre count but there are a lot more differences to these two lenses than meets the eye.
That is why this article is here to help you understand the differences between the two lenses and why you should choose one over the other. If you aren’t sure what a zoom lens is, then fear not, you will learn it here too!
Once you have taken the leap and have your new shiny zoom lens, why not go and test it out capturing images of the Shoreditch Street Art or a cool location in your city?
Fuji 18-55mm vs 16-55mm – Compared and Reviewed
Now onto what brought you here in the first place, to decide on which of these two lenses is best for you.
There are a few significant differences between the lenses that you need to know before opening your wallet. A full breakdown of the Fuji 18-55mm vs 16-55mm lens will help guide your decision making.
Fuji Zoom Lens – What is it?
Unlike prime lenses with a fixed focal length, zoom lenses can vary their focal length by physically moving the optics within the lens.
Technically, a zoom lens is made of multiple glass elements that change their effective angle of view by moving these elements. This gives the effect of zooming in or zooming out while retaining a sharp image.
Generally, zoom lenses aren’t capable of the same maximum apertures that prime lenses are capable of.
Things have changed in recent years though, with modern zoom lens designs dropping to the constant f/2 range throughout the focal length.
Zoom lenses are heavier and larger than prime lenses because of the zoom gears and mechanics, so there is a trade-off.
Zoom lenses offer practicality for photographers by providing a range of focal lengths within a single lens.
This is opposed to carrying a bag of five prime lenses that would cover what a single zoom lens can.
The Fuji XF18-55mm lens has been a popular option for Fuji photographers since its release in 2012.
It has often been bundled with the X-series cameras as a kit lens of sorts. These bundle deals are an excellent value for money, and it’s how I purchased my first Fuji camera and lens combo, the X-T2 and 18-55mm lens, both I still own today even after 5 years of use.
But can this old and reliable lens stand up to the slightly newer option? The Fuji 18-55mm review against the XF16-55mm starts below.
- Fast aperture of f/2.8
- 27-84mm Full-frame equivalent focal length
- Optical image stabilization
- Smooth motor-driven autofocus
- Three aspherical elements
- Crisp optics
- Bright aperture
- Optical image stabilization
- Minimal distortion and vignette
- Cheaper than 16-55mm F/2.8 lens
- Great for videos due to the image stabilization
- Small and portable, great for carrying around
- Not weather sealed
- Narrower angle of view
- Not great for macro with a close focus of 30cm
- Variable aperture
- Not the greatest in low light
- 18-55mm f:2.8 - 4.0 OIS (27 - 84mm equivalent)
- 14 Elements in 10 groups (inc. 3 aspherical & 1 extra low dispersion Elements)
- Angle of View: 76.5 - 29 Degrees
- Filter Size: 58mm. Focus range-Normal- Approx. 0.6m - ∞ (whole zoom position). Macro- Wide: 30cm - 10m, Telephoto: 40cm - 10m
- Aperture control : Number of blades 7 (rounded diaphragm opening)
The 16-55mm is the other mid-range zoom lens on offer from Fuji for their X-mount cameras.
Introduced in 2015, this lens was introduced to fill the gap in the full-frame equivalent 24mm-70mm focal range.
No shortcuts were taken when designing this lens. It is able to maintain a constant aperture of f/2.8, making it an absolute beast of a lens.
- Optically designed to draw out the maximum image quality of a flagship standard zoom lens Angle of view 83 2°- 29°
- Focal length(35mm format equivalent) f=16-55mm (24-84mm) Focus range Normal - 0 6m - ∞(whole zoom position) Macro - 30cm - 10m (Wide) 40cm - 10m (Telephoto)
- High-speed, quiet auto focus thanks to the Linear Motor Weight, excluding caps and hoods 1 44 pounds (655g)
- Weather resistant design with 14 sealing points dust-resistant and -10 Degree low-temperature operation
- Nano-Gi coating technology 9 rounded blade aperture diaphragm help create smooth and circular bokeh Max Magnification 0 16x (telephoto)
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8
- Fast and silent autofocus
- 17 Elements in 12 groups
- Sharp throughout zoom range
- Constant f/2.8 aperture
- No distortion
- Wider angle at 16mm
- No optical image stabilization
- Minor colour fringing at 16mm
- Large filter size
- More expensive
- Heavier than the 18-55mm lens
This is what makes a lens stand out and determines its quality. A number of elements make up a lens but understanding them and what they are is important.
Fuji focussed on quality when they built these lenses. The Xf 18-55mm lens features a metal outer barrel and aperture control ring with the inner barrel being made of plastic.
On the opposite end, the 16-55mm also features a metal outer barrel with a plastic inner barrel and a plastic zoom ring.
Both lenses protrude as you zoom out to the 55mm focal length. When paired with the camera body, The 16-55mm lens, can be front heavy and pretty awkward to use at times. But it can be balanced out if you add the battery grip.
However, this will mean that your whole camera set-up will become bigger and heavier than you might intend for it to be.
Size and Weight
The 18-55mm lens provides a pleasing balance of size and performance, thanks to its compact size of 7cm and weight of only 310 grams.
The 16-55mm tips the scales at 655g, over double the weight. The extra glass in the 16-55mm lens adds weight and size to the lens measuring over 10cm long.
The lightweight of the 18-55mm lens makes it more subtle for street photographers, although it has no weather sealing.
Unfortunately, there is no weather sealing for the 18-55mm so you wouldn’t want to take it on an outdoor excursion with unfavourable weather conditions.
I have used my 18-55 lens with my X-T2 and X-T4 in slight rain drizzle. But I would not recommend having this lens out in a full downpour.
The 16-55mm features weather sealing and with a weather-sealed Fuji camera body would be perfectly matched for all conditions. For this reason, outdoor and landscape photographers are more suited to using the 16-55mm lens.
True to Fuji’s design philosophy, the 18-55mm lens is made with a 7-blade rounded diaphragm design that stops down to f/22.
The slightly newer 16-55mm features a 9 round-bladed design that also stops down to f/22.
In short, the more blades an aperture has, the better. The number of blades makes the difference between a pleasing bokeh and poor bokeh.
The 16-55mm features 17 elements in 12 groups with 3 aspheric and 3 extra-low dispersion elements with HT-EBC multi-coating and Nano GI coating.
The 18-55mm lens isn’t far off with 14 elements in 10 groups with 3 aspheric and 1 extra-low dispersion element. It also only features the EBC multi-coating.
The 16-55mm takes the lead in optics. It has more elements and groups helping to produce a sharper image and the constant f/2.8 aperture.
These XF lenses are specifically for the X mount series Fuji cameras.
Now onto what really matters, the specifications on performance and which lens works best.
Fuji uses a closed-loop focus system that automatically compensates for any errors. They also use a fly by wire manual focus system.
This is where the focus ring isn’t mechanically connected to the element but is controlled electronically.
The 18-55mm lens has perfect autofocus with smooth and fast detection on still subjects.
The manual focusing can be tough and switching between manual and auto is tricky.
The 16-55mm has a moderately fast autofocus which is extremely accurate, especially at f/2.8. Although the autofocus isn’t instant, it will lock on to your subject correctly.
The Fuji XF 18-55mm F/2.8-4 is the cheaper of the two options and is available here on Amazon.
The Fuji XF 16-55mm F/2.8 is the more expensive of the two and will set you back a fair amount and is available here on Amazon. If you are on a budget, then the 18-55mm lens is the better option.
I started out with the 18-55mm and gradually saled up for the 16-55mm lens, to see what all the fuss was about.
I haven’t looked back since and the 16-55mm, has been glued to my X-T4 ever since I got it.
I still love my 18-55mm lens and recommendation it to beginners. It’s a lens you can grow with, improving your skills until you want to purchase more expensive lens like the 16-55mm lens.
The image quality of the 16-55mm lens is near perfect with flawless colour science and sharp detail throughout.
The 18-55mm still produces stunning images but the lack of the constant f/2.8 aperture means that images in lower light situations are not as clear.
The ISO needed to compensate in the lower light conditions adds a lot of noise to the image.
When it comes to sharpness, both lenses perform well with sharp image quality throughout the frame.
The 16-55mm is ultra-sharp throughout the aperture range and at all settings. The 18-55mm is also super sharp in the edge to edge detail of each frame. It is hard to choose between the two lenses here.
It’s all about the bokeh baby. This is where the 16-55mm lens has the advantage of it being a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range.
It provides a neutral bokeh and gives the best results at 55mm and an f/2.8 aperture.
While the 18-55mm does scale up to an f/4 aperture at the high end of the zoom range, it still provides pleasing bokeh.
It is a neutral bokeh with a soft and non-distracting background.
The 18-55mm when used with Fuji’s 1.52x sensor has the same focal length as a 28-85mm full-frame camera.
That extra 2mm again makes the difference with the 16-55mm having an equivalent focal length of 24-84mm for a 35mm camera.
The 16-55mm would be the ideal travel, cityscape and street photography lens here.
Angle of View
This is where those 2mm make the difference. The angle of view for the 16-55mm lens has a maximum of 83.2° whereas the 18-55mm lens only achieves 79.1° at its widest.
So, for landscape photographers, the 16-55mm lens is the way to go to get those extra few degrees.
This is a weak point of the 18-55mm, with its minimum focusing distance only getting to 30cm.
You won’t be able to get that close for those macro type shots and might even find yourself taking a step back at times.
The 16-55mm lens does a lot better by being able to close focus between 10-20cm from the front of the lens. For portrait photographers who want to get a little closer, the 16-55mm is the way to go.
The 18-55mm lens features a 58mm filter thread made of metal, so no slight panics in case you cross thread it. The larger body of the 16-55mm lens requires a larger 77mm filter and features a metal thread.
This means there is a significant price difference between the filters for these lenses.
These are wide zoom lenses after all and as with any wide-angle lens, there is minor distortion at lower focal lengths.
The 16-55mm only shows barrel distortion at 16mm. However, it can easily be corrected in Lightroom.
Interestingly, there is no distortion for the 18-55mm at its lowest focal length but only moderate pincushion distortion at the 23mm focal length.
It is worth remembering that most Fuji cameras will automatically correct any distortion with in-camera compensation.
When it comes to the 18-55mm, the two rings for focus and zoom are easily accessible but performance is average.
The lack of markings on the aperture ring means that you have to stop and look through your viewfinder to read your aperture.
You need to stop and move a switch from a manual aperture control to automatic. This is the same for the switch to turn the optical image stabilization on and off.
Both of these switches are found at the rear of the lens next to the mounting ring. This makes it tricky for someone with larger fingers to use once attached to a body. But if you have long nails like me you’ll find it fairly easy to switch on.
The 16-55mm features an aperture ring as well but this one is marked with the different aperture settings.
This makes aperture control immensely easier but, the dedent on the ring could be more pronounced to help you know when you have reached the next F-stop.
This makes the 16-55mm lens overall an easier lens to use and handle.
When it comes to versatility, both lenses are perfect for landscape, street and portrait photographers.
The 16-55mm lens does perform better for macro photography and will be slightly better for landscapes with a wider angle of view.
Depth of Field
The 16-55mm is the better option with its constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range.
You are able to keep that depth of field at any focal range, providing some stunning portrait opportunities.
The 18-55mm will keep up at the lower end of the focal range but the progressive aperture throughout the zoom range, peaking at f/4 at the top will not give as good a depth of field.
The vignetting or falloff is not visible at all on either of the lenses, even on the 16-55mm lens at its widest angle.
If there is any then the Fuji camera body would be correcting it automatically in-body.
Fuji XF 16-55mm vs 18-55mm Lens – Who Wins?
When it comes to these lenses, they both perform immensely well. They are matching in a number of aspects but the 16-55mm, with its better low-light capabilities, constant-aperture and slightly wider angle of view, make it the better option.
These are both amazing lenses that will well pair with your X-series camera. Ultimately with them being so closely matched, it comes down to your budget.
It is worth remembering that quality glass will get you much further with your images than a more expensive camera body will.
As I previously said, I started out with the Fuji 18-55mm kit lens (which is one of the best kit lenses on the market) and then purchased the 16-55mm lens as my photography skills and budget improved.
But you can celebrate with either lens by spending the day visiting some of the best Notting Hill Instagram spots and make your Instagram feed pop.
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