Recently, during a workshop with a Fujifilm X Photographer, I got the chance to test some of Fujifilm equipment that I didn’t own, including three lenses that interests me and two new cameras. Of course, the X-H1 is an interesting camera: refined ergonomics, improved weather sealing, the additional LCD screen on top of the body. I consider this camera really attractive, especially from the point of view of the professional photographers and the enthusiast film-makers. As I really enjoy the night photography and shooting in low light conditions, the performance of X-H1, especially with prime lenses, where there is no O.I.S. sounds so tempting; if this would make you forget about the tripod, in most situations, can be a real advantage for the traveller that needs to discover the surroundings, as light as possible.
But as I enjoy the rangefinder style design, there are 99% chances we will get IBIS in a body smaller than X-H1. I just don’t see it happening in the future X-Pro3. Too bad; not a deal breaker for me, but still… Now, back to the XF lenses!
Although it was not my first experience with the XF 50-140mm F2.8 OIS lens, it was a pleasure to see its performance, especially that ridiculous sharpness that rival the one you can find in a pro-level prime lens. It is on my wish-list, as this zoom lens is truly made for work at professional levels, no matter the weather conditions you throw at it, offering you the constant F2.8 aperture with incredible image quality and the versatility that made the 70-200mm F2.8 lenses in Full-Frame world, a “classic” must-have in your photo bag.
Now, back to the two prime lenses, mentioned in the title of this short article. From the start, I should mention that this isn’t a technical review, but only some of my quick impressions (subjective) while testing XF 14mm F2.8 and XF 16mm F1.4 on my X-Pro2 with the same camera settings. If you need technical specs and a more scientific approach with laboratory conditions, data graphics, optics measurements, you need to find all of those on the internet. But as a beginner, or an enthusiast photographer, that simply trusts the Fujinon high quality glass and will not be obstructed by the endless technical comparison, those impressions might give you a hint, if you need to choose between the two, as I, soon, will make this choice.
X-Pro2 + XF 14mm F2.8 @ F2.8 ISO200 1/1000 sec
X-Pro2 + XF 16mm F1.4 @ F2.8 ISO400 1/8000 sec
It wasn’t a scientific test, as I have said before and there wasn’t much time at my disposal. I’ve tried those 2 lenses both indoor and outdoor and I won’t judge the RAW performance, not even pixel peeping the JPEG results, from corner to corner.
X-Pro2 + XF 14mm F2.8 @ F2.8 ISO1000 1/40 sec
X-Pro2 + XF 16mm F1.4 @ F1.4 ISO400 1/52 sec
We clearly see the huge advantage in having extra 2 Stops of light, especially in the used ISO values; so useful when shooting hand-held. All photos were made with the Auto ISO. The focus was on the aloe vera leaves, for both pictures, using the same size for the focus point.
X-Pro2 + XF 14mm F2.8 @ F2.8 ISO1600 1/40 sec
X-Pro2 + XF 16mm F1.4 @ F1.4 ISO400 1/40 sec
For the last two images, the focus was put on the wall with coloured pictures. The longest the distance to the subject in focus, the less the difference in bokeh and background separation ability. Both lenses are manufactured according to the high quality Fujinon standards, that we are so pleased to see. Both can focus really close to the subject, which is a great feature for those that are interested in such compositions and creating some bokeh (that is quite hard to get, when using such ultra-wide focal length lenses).
It seems that there isn’t enough data and a sufficient, relevant shooting experience for me to have the clearest conclusion, but in my subjective opinion, I can write for you a short list with the Pros and Cons for each of the 2 ultra-wide Fujinon prime lenses.
XF 16mm F1.4
- + Faster and quieter autofocus motors, as they use a modern technology for AF (the difference is not by much, compared to the other lens, at least on my camera);
- + Weather resistant ability;
- + Amazing background separation at F1.4 with unbelievable bokeh for such a wide lens, if you get really close to the subject;
- + F1.4 is fast;
- – Expensive;
- – Not the sharpness I would expect from a pro level prime lens;
- – Not the most compact and lightest prime lens.
XF 14mm F2.8
- + A bit cheaper;
- + Smaller and lighter, for those who care about those aspects;
- + Warmer colours;
- + Extra 2mm that create a field of view of 21mm, in Full Frame equivalent (pictures that our eyes are less used to see, thus more “wow” factor, especially for architecture and landscape photography);
- + Significantly sharper than its rival, the XF 16mm F1.8. With the extra 2mm in focal length and the F2.8 aperture, you will get more of the frame, in focus, so less chance of having your subject not entirely in focus, when using the maximum aperture;
- + Incredible lack of barrel distortion (at least when shooting in JPEG); XF 16mm distorts more, towards the edges of the frame;
- + Smaller filter size (58mm, the same as for the popular XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 O.I.S.);
- – Lack of weather sealing;
- – That F2.8 maximum aperture. I wish it was at least F2.0, for low light situations. This could be easily compensated when used with an IBIS camera, like the Fujifilm X-H1;
- – Older generation autofocus motor, that is a bit noisier and slower (but not a huge difference, compared to the other lens).
With this in mind, I might incline towards the 14mm, although I remain obsessed about low light advantages, where a larger aperture helps a lot, when shooting hand-held. For example, ISO400 instead of ISO1600 can be a real difference, when looking for the sharpest result. Meanwhile, let’s not forget the progress we see today in image noise control. We get very usable images at high ISO level, that were out of discussion a few years ago. One last thing: when talking about the XF 16mm F1.4, I already have this focal length on my XF 16-55mm F2.8 (even if it’s 2 Stops slower). Knowing all that, what would you choose?
All photos and text – © Sebastian Boatca 2018 / www.sebastianboatca.com