In October 2012 when I had the opportunity to use a pre-production Fujifilm X-E1, I was asked by many of our readers if I could provide some feedback on the newly announced Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS zoom lens (Amazon – Adorama – B&H Photo). It was going be sold as the “kit” lens for the X-E1 or on its own for $US 699.99
It is the first zoom lens for the Fujifilm X camera system and unfortunately, I did not have a chance to use it as it was not available when I received the X-E1 for testing. At a trade show in Toronto later that month, I did have a very brief opportunity to use the 18-55mm at the Fujifilm booth, but I could only view the images on the camera’s rear LCD screen (and not a calibrated computer monitor) so I did not feel that I had sufficient data to present an informed opinion.
I really wanted to see how this lens performed – especially since I have been spoiled by the superb optical quality of the Fujifilm X prime lenses. But I was just going to have to wait a bit longer before I could get my hands on this new zoom lens.
As I was heading off for a much needed vacation in the Bahamas in December 2012, Fujifilm sent a production copy which I took with me on this trip. This is not an in depth review as I tend not to be a pixel peeper but I wanted to pass on my thoughts – plus, show you a few sample images.
After unpacking the lens, I was immediately impressed by its build quality. It appears to be built from both metal and a high impact polycarbonate. Some people have complained on various photography websites that they were not happy with the 18-55mm’s build quality. Really? Either they need to get their heads examined or stop whining. The build quality is better than any other “kit” lens I have ever used and I dare anyone to find one that is superior, especially at this price point. The zoom ring has a nice dampened feel to it, the aperture ring (below the zoom ring, closest to the lens mount) has well defined 1/3 stop settings and the OIS/Automatic switches feel solid. Again, for a “kit” lens, it feels really good in your hand.
In keeping with the other Fujifilm X mount lenses, it small (65 x 70.4 mm or 2.56 x 2.77″) and lightweight (330 g or 11.64 oz) .
Included is a “petal” shaped lens hood which is much nicer (and much more practical) than the other ones supplied with the three initial prime lenses (18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4 and 60mm f/2.4 macro) for the X system. It is easy to attach/remove the 58mm pinch style cap with the hood mounted on the 18-55mm and it can be reversed for easy storage. I don’t know if this change in lens hoods was due to customer feedback – but I do know that it is a much better design.
Fujifilm has included a “Linear Motor” (designated by the initials “LM”) which should help speed up auto focus (AF). Focus did not seem blazingly fast and it was not noticeably quicker than using the initial three prime lenses for the X system. Just my subjective opinion.
One thing that caught me off guard was how silent focusing is with this lens. At first, I did not think that the AF was working properly because I could not hear a thing when trying to focus. But alas, the AF was actually working – and working well. It is probably the quietest lens I’ve used – and I’ve used hundreds of lenses to date.
The X-Pro1 camera body I used with this lens provided adequate focus speed but AF was very accurate. If I had any out of focus shots, it was due to operator error.
One thing that caught my immediate attention is that this lens is f/2.8-4 wide open (depending on the focal length). For a variable aperture lens, it is fairly fast and probably the fastest “kit” lens on the market.
Wide open, it is sharp and bitingly so when stopped down. I have included several sample images in this article and if you click on one, you can see a larger version. For those who are interested, I used:
The EXIF data is intact if you wish to view it.
I observed very little (if any) chromatic aberration (CA) and distortion also appeared to be very well controlled. A couple of the included images have straight lines near the top/bottom of the frame which illustrate this point.
The Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) works and it works very well. I could easily handhold this lens down to 1/8 sec. in low light and get a sharp image.
As I mentioned earlier, this is not an exhaustive review, but optically speaking, this lens delivers the goods. In fact, it is the best “kit” lens I have ever used and is a great “first” lens for anyone wanting to get into the Fujifilm X camera system.
If you are using the X-Pro1 (like I am), you will be happy to know that the frame lines in the OVF re-size automatically based on the focal length you are using with the 18-55mm. You will need the latest X-Pro1 firmware to do this, which is V2.01 as of writing this article.
Here is a quick summary of this lens:
The Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS zoom lens is a fine addition to the X camera system. Fujifilm has a long history of building lenses with high optical quality and it shows. Having used the initial (and excellent) three prime lenses for the X cameras during the past year, I was curious to see how this (first) zoom would perform.
It did not disappoint.
I know that I have referred to the 18-55mm as a “kit” lens, however, the word “kit” does not do it justice. It is as good (or better) than any “kit” lens on the market and holds its own against Fujifilm’s prime lenses.
You can buy the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS separately ($US 699.99 retail at Amazon – Adorama – B&H Photo) if you already have the X-Pro1, but for those of you who are interested in purchasing the recently released X-E1 ($US 999.99 retail) camera with this lens, you can do so at a $US 300.00 discount:
Thus, if you are in the market for an X-E1, getting the 18-55mm for $400.00 extra is a bargain.
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