The ‘less than perfect'(apparently) xf18mm…

Minor pimp Xpro 1

I’ve always stuck up for the xf18. It is commonly referred to as the weak link in the really strong XF cannon of Fujinon lenses, and while I do not want to start a war with anyone (least of all a troll) I do happen to think much of what is written is…well…bollocks.

I confess, I’ve never seen a bench test on it (does one even exist?) but I’ve read the reviews like many of you have. I can honestly say, my experience of this lens is the polar opposite of many of these reviews and this isn’t the first time this has happened. Similar comments have been written about the xf60mm too, and I swear that lens is the sharpest glass I have EVER owned. I use it more than the xf56 (in fact, I’ve been thinking about parting with that lens) as it now focuses pretty well on the newer bodies – I have an X-Pro 2 – and I prefer the bokeh it produces.

Ken ‘The Angry Photographer’ Wheeler has often slagged this lens off. He claims to be an expert, but I’ve never actually seen any of the tests he claims to have undertaken, just heard the hyperbole. In fairness, he is correct on some things (the xf16, for example…that lens will bring you to tears) but its so hard to tell where he’s coming from as he’s an utterly awful photographer. Sadly. You can add credence and gravitas to a review if you can actually use the tools you are reviewing. I wouldn’t take a vegetarians advice on buying sausages…you know?

Kai Man Wong, as another example, rates the xf18 highly…higher than the xf35 AND the xf60 – and say what you like about ‘Wongy’…the kid knows his onions. He’s used enough gear over the years to make a more informed conclusion than Mr Wheeler, who is pretty much Nikon and Fuji only.

Anyway, none of that bothers me. I use this glass more often than they do 🙂 ….

The xf18 was the second lens I bought for my X-Pro 1. I think I got it in late 2012, and I liked it right off the bat. Not just for its results, but it was the only XF prime lens, for YEARS, that one could describe as snappy (for a Fujinon, I always had to add that). Only once the xf18-55 came out did focussing speed noticeably improve. The purchase also coincided with my burgeoning enthusiasm for ‘street’ photography, something I had been struggling a little bit with, with my first lens, the xf35. Whacking on the 18 gave me a lot more speed to react to the ever changing views and challenges of street photography (I only use hyperfocal settings on manual focus/ legacy glass) and therefore I was satisfied with the increased amount of ‘keepers’ I was getting. This improved all the more when I added an XE-2 to my Fuji set-up, which had vastly improved AF speed over the old X-Pro. In addition, the almost ‘pancake’ design of the 18 bolted on so well to the smaller XE-2 that it made a perfect ‘daily’ camera – a rig I carried to and from work for the best part of 18 months. It still missed, plenty of times, but I was far more confident of getting the shot than I EVER was with the X-Pro 1. The shame is, however, is the original X-trans (version 1)  sensor, found in the X-Pro 1 is still, to me, the best sensor Fujifilm have ever made. Even more so than the X-trans III that we have now. Its still the ‘less digital’ looking of all iterations of X-Trans. Anyway, I digress..thats not important right now…

These are some of the first images I took with it. From recollection, they’re all Jpegs.

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And a few more with the XE-2.

Happy Wednesday

latest tech

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So where was I…or, more appropriately, where AM I, kit wise? Well, the xf23 F1.4 and Samy 12 are my top two street choices. Thats well documented and the reasons are written elsewhere on this site. But, for similar reasons for using my xf35 a few weeks ago in Malta, I wanted to dig out the 18 again to give it a decent run out with the X-Pro 2. For old times sake, perhaps, but I also thought it would be interesting to see if this lens is still as snappy on the newer bodies.

On a glorious Spring day in late March (today, as it happened 🙂 ), I ventured into town for yet ANOTHER march. I’ve done a lot of marches/protests during the last couple of years. Yes, they are great for photo opportunities, but more importantly – MUCH more importantly – I need, and WE need,  to document what I believe to be defining moments in the history of my home country. My American friends are going through similar histrionics with the utterly incredible, unaccountably crazy Trump administration. For the record, I am pro Europe. I am pro refugee and NHS. I am pro fairness and empathy. Therefore, it is safe to assume I am anti-Trump. Not sorry.

But yeah, great photo opps….

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I’m not technical. You may have guessed that already. But there is absolutely nothing wrong, technically, (you can criticise them compositionally all you want, thats totally cool) with the xf18. From that first session in Cambridge above (shooting Jpeg only in those days! Wow…) through to the XE2 and again this very day, I still cant see WHAT they’re talking about.

If you’re and X-Pro 1 / XE-1 user, you really need to get this lens. Its pretty cheap to buy used, it’ll focus faster than what you’re used to and has decent close focussing as well. In fact, its a great macro lens if you use the extension tubes….I think you can get 1:1. Like most wide lenses, there is a noticeable loss in IQ in the corners (yeah, a shocker. not.) but for street you really don’t notice. There is, as far as I can tell, little in the way of vignetting. What you see here is what I put there in post. This lens is otherwise really sharp, even at F2, at which most of these images were shot. Some are 2.8. Bokeh? Really? Its a wide lens…ok, well, its there. Its not great, but come on, its a wide lens.

‘Bokeh’?….its ‘okeh’ 🙂

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If you’re using the 2nd and 3rd generation X-Series bodies (which I’m guessing most of you are) you probably haven’t bought one of these lenses. You probably went for the 18-55 zoom instead. Fair enough, I cant knock you for that. It may even be a bit sharper at the wide end, though you will get more barrel distortion. BUT, if you have hankering to get a snappy prime for street, thats a tad faster (its F2, remember) – look no further. This lens performs admirably on your camera, as you can clearly see. And it sure does make a difference to the overall size of your rig. Auto focus was quick…not ‘linear motor’ quick, but faster than the 35 F1.4, the 56 and definitely the 60. I had a CPL on all day, and it never missed a beat on the X-Pro 2. Fantastically, it also allowed the camera to focus efficiently on ‘face detect’ pretty seamlessly too, which was a bonus today although the light was especially good. Eye detect focus? Nah…but that feature is useless anyway. For street it is. Maybe its fine in a portrait studio, but elsewhere? Well, it just annoys the crap out of me….

This, of course, was written a mere 48hrs before NEW FIRMWARE on March 27th – and auto focussing improvements are a big part of this, apparently, so as usual, I’m dead excited for Monday. Never thought I would EVER say that about a Monday…

As always, thanks so much for reading. I do appreciate it. As mentioned before, we are living in important, future defining times. We really do need to document whats happening – safely, of course – as I believe the next few years, tough though they will be for many of us, are going to be historically pivotal to how we find our place in the world. By ‘our’ I’m saying the UK, where I live, but of course you may be in the US, Turkey, Israel, Ukraine, Russia, Cyprus, Greece and other countries with issues unique to your home nation. I recommend you get out there, now more than ever, and share your images.

Stop over to my instagram, if you fancy: https://www.instagram.com/capitalfaces/

Cheers, be well.

 

 

 

 

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14 comments

  1. George Bugenis · March 26

    Amen on the 18mm 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The 18mm was my second lens as well. I do use the 35 f1/4 the most and am split between the 18mm and 14mm for second. Also agree with you about the 60mm. Although it doesn’t get as much use, there are no complaints on the shots I have taken with it. I upgraded to the X-Pro2 and have some stunning shots with the 18mm. This lens is definitely a keeper. Good to see someone standing up for it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Andreas · March 27

    Great little article about a great little lens. I use it day out – day in on my old (but trusty) Pro1 and cant complain. In fact I love it.
    Having said that, one of the reasons that I love it may be that my images (lot of street) dont require crazy corner-to-corner sharpnes. If it is kind of sharp in the corner, its ok for me.
    Not to take away anything about this little gem, mind you. And also not contrary really to your article….

    If I need ultimate sharpness, I always reach for the 60mm, it simply cant get better, can It?

    As a side note: here is a great test bench test – not only of that 18mm beauty, just because you never saw one
    http://www.photozone.de/fuji_x/745-fuji18f2

    Have fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · March 27

      Ah,the X-Pro 1…I miss mine. Thanks for the link to the bench test. Interesting stuff. And thanks for the kind words – I think I’ll be using my 18 a lot more now. Cheers!

      Like

  4. Didier GM · March 27

    I can’t vouch for the 18mm, but you made me wanting to have a look at it.
    Now if you want snappy AF, look at the 27mm which was also pretty much booooed at the time, for it’s lack of aperture ring. But that’s probably my most used lens on the X-E1.
    I also agree with you on the 60mm and have the same question about the 56mm which sees too little use on the X-E1 & X-T1 (apparently it is much faster on the X-T2)

    And yes, making your voice heard, whatever your opinion might be is important, we’ve left the politicians on their own for far too long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · March 27

      Thanks for your comment Didier – I do actually have the 27mm too, and I’m waiting for it to be returned from my ex. I quite miss it, it was a great street lens and yes, rather snappy. I do love my 56, but it gets such little use – the 60 is more versatile for what I use it for. Thanks again!

      Like

  5. Stephan · March 27

    I have never had any issues with the 18mm and to be honest, I don’t know why I am not using it anymore… might try and fix the dust that appears at f4+ and give it another try on my XPro2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · March 27

      I would, Stephan, I think you’ll find you were missing out 🙂 I know I was!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Sidcivic · March 27

    18 & 35f1.4 are my goto lens for travel and events. Yes the 18 isn’t as sharp on the corners but af is decent. FOV is more usable than 27mm and is the second pancake Fuji ever made thus far. I believe most of my misfocused shots on xe1 & xt1 were due fuji’s older af algorithms that it focus on contrasty object instead of the subject in the foreground!

    Liked by 1 person

    • jezmouk · March 27

      Cheers Sid – yeah, I love the 35…it just doesnt get used as much now. I think I’m just a wide shooter 🙂 Thanks for your comment Sir.

      Like

  7. john canavan · March 30

    Excellent article really enjoyed it and agree wholeheartedly , i do like Ken Wheeler but he contradicts himself often on his opinions as to what lenses he loves i.e. the 23 f2 he said was wonderful i bought it and sold it , its not any good close up its blurry!!, but he does know his stuff due to his experience in fixing lenses etc.
    i love the 18 and your pics are great too.
    Thanks for that pleasant diversion.

    Like

    • jezmouk · March 30

      Thanks for this John. Ken, bless ‘im…I’m convinced he means well, but after making 3000 videos one would have thought, with all that time on his hands, he should’ve practiced more… 🙂

      Like

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