Tested! Fujinon XF 8mm f/3.5 R WR

Fujinon XF 8mm f/3.5 R WR Headline

Sample images here: Fujinon XF 8mm f/3.5 R WR Sample Images

In early June, I had the opportunity to test a preproduction Fujinon XF 8mm f/3.5 R WR ultra wide-angle lens, the widest prime lens that Fujifilm makes for their X-System. In full-frame 35mm terms, that is equivalent to a rectilinear 12mm lens, which is quite wide indeed. I was in Victoria with my fiancée, who was attending a conference, and Fujifilm was also there and lent me the brand new, as yet unreleased, XF 8mm prime for a day of shooting.

The overall size of the XF 8mm is wonderfully compact, quite short, and very lightweight too, however it exudes a sense of solidity. The aperture ring has detents that have the perfect amount of click, and the plastic petal-shaped hood feels solid and locks into place securely, which I checked on a production lens recently. Overall, the lens inspires confidence like other recent high end Fujinon lenses. Following are two shots comparing the size of the new Fujinon XF 8mm (on the left) to my other two widest primes, the manual focus Laowa Zero-D 9mm f/2.8 (in the centre) and the Fujinon XF 14mm f/2.8 (on the right)…

The ultra-wide primes

Three ultra-wide primes top view

As far as sharpness and resolution, I can say with confidence that the new XF 8mm is an excellent lens. Center sharpness is superb already wide open at f/3.5 and even the edges are already good. Stopped down to f/5.6 or better, the extreme corners are nearly on par with the centre for sharpness, so for landscape, architecture and such, it will perform very well indeed. That said, unlike the XF 14mm f/2.8, or even the Laowa Zero-D 9mm f/2.8 (both of which I own), the XF 8mm does show some barrel distortion when one examines an uncorrected raw file. However, that barrel distortion is relatively minor (at least for such a wide lens) and has a smooth, even characteristic, so even after software correction, it does not impact corner sharpness to a large extent. When one looks carefully, a hint of “stretching softness” at the corners in a radial direction is visible due to this correction, but one would have to make a very large print and examine it closely in order to notice it. Note that one cannot see the native distortion in Lightroom or Photoshop, since they auto-correct and there is no option to switch that off. See the following animated GIF which shows the distortion, alternating between the default corrected version and then the uncorrected version, as processed in Capture One Pro…

Fujinon XF 8mm distortion example

I suspect that due to this correction, the XF 8mm doesn’t have the overall biting sharpness of the lens like the XF 18mm f/1.4, which is essentially perfectly corrected optically and truly exceptional, but the 8mm still performs admirably – I’d have to say, I was most certainly pleasantly surprised. If memory serves, I’d reckon it’s likely as sharp, if not even slightly sharper, than the XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R WR for example, which is twice the price, twice the size and also exhibits some barrel distortion that requires software correction. For a prime lens fan like myself, the XF 8mm is seems to have a great balance of being not very large, not very heavy and not too expensive, yet it still performs like a pro-level lens.

While I’m covering some of its slight “flaws”, or perhaps I should say “compromises made in its design to keep the size and cost reasonable”, let me get one more (minor) negative aspect of the XF 8mm out of the way: uncorrected, it does show a fair bit of transverse chromatic aberration (CA). However again as with its distortion, it is not too bad, generally gets autocorrected perfectly, and doesn’t seem to impact image quality at all once corrected either.

One very solid aspect of its design is in its excellent flare control. It seems to have superb coatings and even when shooting into the sun, there aren’t really any bright internal reflection “blobs” visible (only one or two faint green ones), although there can be some longer, streaky flare marks extending out from the sun when it’s positioned near the frame’s edge. See the sample shot below as an example…

Fujinon XF 8mm f/3.5 flare example

As you can see, the overall contrast is still absolutely superb, even when shot right into the sun. In fact, I was given the lens to test without a lens hood, and never experienced any unexpected flare issues at all.

Now, comparing it to the Laowa Zero-D 9mm f/2.8, the XF 8mm is perhaps ever so slightly less sharp near the edges and definitely has worse chromatic aberration, although as mentioned, correcting for CA seems to have essentially zero impact on image quality in this case. The Laowa is also exceptional in that it has virtual zero barrel distortion, which is certainly a plus. That said, as far as corner sharpness stopped down, the XF 8mm is on par with the Laowa despite requiring that software correction. As far as vignetting, colour consistency with other XF lenses and colour consistency across the frame, the XF 8mm is actually substantially better than the Laowa 9mm, which has a distinctly cooler overall colour rendition when compared to Fujifilm lenses, which is correctable but adds a step to your workflow. However the Laowa 9mm can also suffer from a bit of a cyan cast in the corners, which is a little awkward to correct for when its obvious and bothersome. The Fujinon XF 8mm exhibits the same beautiful colour rendition of any other Fujinon XF lens, and has absolutely no colour casts in the corners that I was able to detect.

Vignetting (or relative lack thereof) in particular was a bit of a surprise with the XF 8mm. The front element is not all that much larger than the 9mm Laowa, which suffers from a ton of vignetting, so the Fujinon performed very well there. See the following animated GIF from the same image processed twice in Capture One, once with its default, metadata based vignetting correction switched on, and one with it switched off. This is the lens as shot wide open at f/3.5, so this is worst case vignetting… not much at all if you ask me!

Fujinon XF 8mm f/3.5 vignetting sample

I was not expecting to be as impressed with this lens as I was, since I was concerned that given its compact size, there were perhaps some optical compromises made… which there were of course. However the compromises are relatively minor and correcting them doesn’t seem to impact image quality to any great extent. So yes, just to be clear, I do quite like this new lens overall! It is not as “perfect” as the XF 18mm f/1.4 for example, but considering how compact the 8mm lens is, and its price point, I feel Fujifilm has done an excellent job with its design. There are many significant improvements when compared to the Laowa 9mm, so despite a few minor weaknesses, I think I may indeed buy the new XF 8mm f/3.5 R WR to replace my 9mm Laowa in the future…

Should you buy one? Well using a lens as wide as the 8mm is not easy. Your composition needs to be carefully considered since for landscape images, there will inevitably be a lot of sky and a lot of foreground, and you’ll generally want to be quite close to something interesting, to avoid everything looking tiny and distant. For architecture, you need to keep the lens close to level, otherwise you’ll get a ton of perspective distortion. If you already have the XF 14mm f/2.8 or the XF 10-24mm f/4,  you’ll need to consider whether or not you actually need something wider? If you already have the XF 8-16mm f/2.8 then you already have a superb, ultra-wide lens and I don’t really see the need to add the XF 8mm… unless you are put off by the huge size of the 8-16mm and, for example, perhaps already own the XF 14mm. In that case, replacing the 8-16mm with the 8mm, especially if you are generally a prime lens fan like myself, might certainly be appealing? Lastly, if you already have the Laowa Zero-D 9mm f/2.8, then you already have a very wide, really quite superb prime lens, one that is even more compact than the XF 8mm. It all depends on whether or not the manual focus, lack of aperture metadata, or its few flaws as far as colour, colour consistency and extreme vignetting bother you to any great extent? As mentioned, for me I think I will indeed be replacing my Laowa 9mm, although it is not that dramatic an improvement so I won’t be in any rush, especially since a lens that wide doesn’t see all that much use for me.

Sample images here: Fujinon XF 8mm f/3.5 R WR Sample Images

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Beau Photo Supplies Inc.
Beau Photo Supplies Inc.