As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Fujifilm’s prime lenses for their compact X-system cameras. In my most recent kit, I had the following XF primes: 14mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4, 23mm f/1.4, 23mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4, 50mm f/2, and 90mm f/2. I was, and still am, impressed with every last one of them, but Fujifilm’s latest wide-angle prime is such an exceptionally good lens, that it has now eliminated two other primes from my kit!
I always felt the 16mm was just a tad close to the 14mm in field-of-view, but since it was the sharpest wide-angle lens Fujifilm had, I still used it a lot, plus often the 14mm was just a bit too wide. Now that there is an exceptionally good 18mm, the spacing of 14-18-23 makes more sense to me than 14-16-23 did. As good as the XF 16mm f/1.4R WR lens was, the new 18mm is even a touch better, so I have now sold my 16mm. In addition, the only reason I kept around my XF 23mm f/1.4R WR was for night shots and astrophotography. For daytime work when I am shooting stopped down even a little, the XF 23mm f/2R WR is essentially just as good as the f/1.4, and nicer to carry since it’s far more compact. I now feel that for night shots and astro work, I can get by with just the 18mm, so the 23mm f/1.4 has left my kit as well. I always get a little sad when selling off very good lenses, but I just couldn’t justify keeping all of them. So, I am now the proud owner of a brand new XF 18mm f/1.4, the subject of this review, and wow… what an incredibly fine lens it is.
Gallery of XF 18mm samples (47 images): Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4 R LM WR Tests
Before I get into the meat of this review, you might be wondering why the XF 18mm f/2 isn’t on my list of primes above, the first wide-angle Fujinon X-system prime? Well, while I liked its compact size I was never impressed with its image quality for my style of shooting. What I mean by that, is that I often shoot landscapes and cityscapes where I want everything sharp from corner to corner. The old XF 18mm f/2 simply wasn’t very sharp in the extreme corners even when stopped down, although it was excellent in the central area even at wider f-stops. The new 18mm has no such issue; it is sharp everywhere and at any f-stop!
Where the new XF 18mm f/1.4 differs from the older 16mm and 23mm f/1.4 primes in that it no longer has the pull-back AF/MF focus clutch. Initially I thought it was a great idea to have an old-school focusing collar with depth-of-field (DOF) markings, but in practice I rarely used it. In addition, the digital DOF scale in the viewfinder is more accurate anyway, since it can be set for pixel-level sharpness, so I am really not missing the clutched collar. Finally, if I am manually focusing landscape shots, the focusing collars on the 16mm and 23mm were easy to bump, whereas the full electronic focusing collar on the 18mm is disabled when the camera is switched off, so once I have dialled in accurate infinity focus, the regular, non “clutched” lenses maintain focus with less attention since I tend to switch the camera off between shots.
Note that when you click on the images embedded in this review, they will open to full size in a new browser window or tab…
As far as sharpness, this new 18mm lens is truly astounding. It is basically razor sharp from corner to corner, even wide open at f/1.4. There is barely any visible improvement when stopping down, so you really only need smaller f-stops if you want greater DOF. Vignetting seems manageable wide open as well. Distortion is as well corrected for as other top model Fujinon primes, so basically pretty much zero barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration is also basically nonexistent. Note that for the images in the sample gallery that were processed in Capture One 21 (with a filename suffix of C1), none had any software corrections applied for distortion or chromatic aberration. Stunning performance to be honest.
Flare resistance is also extremely good, on par with what I recall from the XF 16mm f/1.4, which was excellent too. The linked gallery has numerous shots into the sun, so you can see for yourself. Fujifilm has stated that the new XF 18mm f/1.4 has enough resolution to work perfectly with the next big jump in APS-C sensor resolution, which is rumoured to potentially be in the 40MP range, and from the flawless resolving power it seems to have, I believe them. The lens is actually so sharp, that DOF issues are far more apparent than they are on some other Fujinon wide angle lenses, so I now have to pay more attention to point of focus and needed f-stop! That might be the only thing that I don’t like about this new lens – it can be too sharp! I’ve actually cut back on my normal sharpening amount for many of the images I shot. Oh, and I believe there may be just a touch of field curvature to the new 18mm as well, but I have not had a chance to test for that carefully as yet, so that might be one more minor con. The shots where I actually offset the AF point to the corner, like the tree shot above, yielded ever so slightly better corner sharpness than those where I left the AF point in the centre, like the night shots of White Rock in the gallery or the building shot below. But really… not too many cons for this lens!
Finally, build quality and feel of the aperture ring and focusing collar is absolutely top notch. The Linear Motor (LM) focusing is swift, and the WR designation means the lens has a weather resistant design with a rubber seal on the lens mount too. While this new 18mm is understandably much larger than the old XF 18mm f/2, it is still a little smaller than the XF 16mm f/1.4, so it is not a huge lens by any stretch. So yeah… what else can I say, other than: this is a “must-have” wide angle lens if you own a Fujifilm X-system kit. Highly, highly recommended indeed!
Note that we are still waiting on backorders for this popular new lens. However you can order one here! Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4R LM WR
I will end this review with one more sample image, comparing the lens at f/5.6 and wide open at f/1.4. First the centre of the frame…
Now the extreme top-left corner of the shot…
Hope you found this lens review helpful!