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Fuji Fujinon XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS Review

Fuji Fujinon XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS Review

The very first zoom for Fuji X-mount, followed the launch of the system by 8 months. This, of course, came as a bold move for Fuji who had introduces their mirrorless system only with a handful of prime lenses. This made the Fuji Fujinon XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS
Fuji Fujinon XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS
become the original kit-lens for Fuji mirrorless digital cameras. Like the rest of the system, this turned out to be another unconventional approach.

Fuji XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R OIS

The focal-range of 18-55mm, equivalent to 27-82mm in a traditional 35mm camera, is exactly the same as almost every kit-lens. While such lenses typically have an F/3.5-5.6 variable maximum aperture, the XF18-55 manages almost an additional stop. Its maximum F/2.8-4 aperture is more common among mid-range third-party lenses sold as upgrades.

Considering that Fuji mirrorless cameras originally relied on lenses having an aperture-ring, the XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS had to provide an intuitive way to control aperture without the luxury of having a constant maximum aperture. Fuji solved this with a novel aperture-ring which has no markings and can rotate indefinitely. Instead of operating like a traditional aperture-ring, this one works like a control-dial. There are soft detents at every 1/3 stop and a toggle to select between manual and automatic aperture.

This 18-55mm lens also happens to be the first stabilized X-mount lens. A typical switch on the lens barrel toggles stabilization. With optical stabilization, the XF18-55mm can compete with its bright-aperture siblings when it comes to usability in low-light. Given its brighter maximum aperture, this lens is larger than the usual kit-lens, yet it is nor uncomfortably large nor heavy.

Fujinon XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS

This zoom lens has a nice high-end finish. It is made mostly of metal, save for the three plastic rings used to control focus, zoom and aperture. The front-most ring is a fly-by-wire focus-ring. It has a reasonable width and a fine ribbed texture which provides sufficient purchase. The ring turns completely smoothly but only control focus when the camera lets it.

A relatively-large mechanical ring operates the zoom smoothly from 18 to 55mm. It is labelled with 4 focal-lengths which almost perfectly correspond to ones Fuji makes as prime lenses: 18, 23, 35 and 55Fuji makes two 56mm F/1.2 lenses, instead of 55mm. The barrel extends by roughly 50% when completely zoomed-in. That portion of the lens is quite light though and so there is no zoom-creep.

The fly-by-wire aperture-ring, which is just a little slimmer than the focus-ring, has extremely soft detents. This unfortunately makes it easy to accidentally change the selected aperture. While this problem is common to all but one Fujinon lens, the XF18-55mm avoids the riskiest issue. Essentially, selecting the next or previous 1/3 aperture-stop is not a tremendous error. The more serious accident is changing the aperture-ring away from automatic. This changes the exposure-mode and will most likely cause severe under-exposure or motion-blur.

Fuji XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS

Overall, the Fuji XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS delivers a reasonably good performance. As is often the case, it is at its worst towards wide-angle. There, it never renders details perfectly sharp and needs stopping down by 2 F-stops to reach its maximum sharpness. Corners remain visibly soft regardless. Still, by F/5.6, they are completely suitable for mid-size prints.

Around the middle of the zoom, image-quality is notably improved. The center is quite sharp from wide-open and becomes excellent one stop down. Corners start soft but sharpen up quickly this time. At F/5.6, they are already relatively sharp. This performance stays pretty consistent while zooming-in all the way to 55mm. At that point, the center is perfectly sharp wide-open but extreme corners remain visibly softer. Again, stopping down improves corners quickly.

There is a slight amount of vignetting towards wide-angle. Optical distortion and chromatic aberrations also appear negligible. These are impressive results for such a compact lens. Fuji uses anti-ghost and flare-resistant coatings which appear to do their job extremely well on this lens.

Fuji XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS

The Fujinon XF18-55mm F/2.8R LM OIS uses an internal linear motor to control focus. Such mote is very precise which is essential for Contrast-Detect AF which requires tiny back and forth movements of lens elements to find the point of maximum contrast. Some new Fuji mirrorless also use Phase-Detect but may fall back to Contrast-Detect, depending on shooting conditions and camera settings.

Linear motors are very quiet which is crucial while recording video, even with Manual-Focus, since the focus-ring is fly-by-wire. Focus speed is highly dependent on the camera. With a fast camera, such as the Fuji X-T1 reviewed here, this lens keeps up nicely.

The Fuji Fujinon XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS
Fuji Fujinon XF18-55mm F/2.8-4R LM OIS
is a unique offering and one of the few X-mount zooms which can be considered a walk-around lens. This particular model distinguishes itself by a brighter-than-usual aperture while being moderately compact. There are two competing model. One is the larger and weatherproof XF18-135mm F/3.5-5.6R LM OIS WR which obviously trades aperture-range for focal-range. More importantly, it fails to match the image-quality of the XF18-55mm. The other option is the entry-level Fuji Fujinon XC16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS
Fuji Fujinon XC16-50mm F/3.5-5.6 OIS
that features the same dim maximum-aperture as the XF18-135mm. However, it offers an ultra-wide-angle reach in a 50% lighter body without aperture-ring.

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