Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 Review
After 2 years of use throughout 8 countries across Asia & Africa, the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 has earned its rightful title as “Fuji’s Best Kit Lens.” Disclosure: this review is based on our real-world experiences with the lens, so it’ll be focused on in-field results, not technical charts.
Construction: 14 Elements in 10 Groups
Aperture Type: Rounded 7-Blade Diaphragm
Aperture Range: f/2.8 – f/22
Focus Range: ~30cm – Infinity
Focus Motor: Linear
Max Magnification: 0.15x
Dimensions: 64.5mm x 40.6mm
Weight: 308 g
Weather Resistance: No
OIS: 3.5 stops
Filter Size: 58mm
Manufacturing Country: The Philippines
Length of Test: ~2.5 years.
Acquisition: we purchased the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 with our own cash.
Camera Used: Fujifilm Xt-20
Image Processer: Capture One
Image Compression: Multi-level, so images are only a fraction of max resolution.
Countries: Bhutan, Ethiopia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman, and Thailand.
Weather: Hot and Humid (highest temp 40 C), Cold and Dry (lowest temp -6 C).
The Fuji 18-55 is ideal for:
The Fuji 18-55 is not ideal for:
Construction: with an all-metal build, the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 is much tougher than it looks. Our lens has survived a wide range backpacking trips, the dust-laden winds of Arabian deserts, and the oppressive humidity of tropical rainforests – only with a few minor cosmetic scratches to show for the abuse. Even the plastic lens hood has held up well over time.
As for ergonomics, the lens has a wide hefty zoom ring in the center of the barrel (which suffers from minimal lens creep at times), a textured focus ring in the front, and a clicked aperture ring on the back. At 310g, the lightweight nature of the XF 18-55mm feels well-balanced on Fuji’s tiny XT bodies and is supported by a much-welcomed 3.5 stop OIS (which can be switched on/off).
Fuji 18-55 for Landscape / Architecture: without question, this lens offers decent performance for travel photographers that don’t want to bother with swapping lenses or can’t do so to due to inclement weather – just keep in mind, that convenience always comes with trade-offs.
While the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm features an incredibly versatile zoom range, it’s not the best option for photographers that need near-perfect reproductive photography of both natural and human-built environments. With that being said, barrel distortion along with vignetting, fringing, and the like were usually well-corrected in Capture One as well as Fuji’s in-camera settings.
As long as you know this lens’ limitations and work around them, the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm is perfectly capable of dynamically capturing any outdoor adventure.
Fuji 18-55 for Portraits: compared to Fuji’s portrait lens lineup, this lens has decent bokeh but lacks the buttery-smooth focus fall-off and the creaminess of the exceptional XF 56mm f/1.2 and XF 35mm f/1.4 primes – which is to be expected. In high contrast scenarios or when shooting in a place with a high amount of foliage, the bokeh tends to look nervous and features onion rings.
In general, the bokeh is good enough as this kit lens wasn’t designed to be a fast portrait lens (horses for courses). Given this, the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm is better suited for environmental portraits and is still capable of producing some decent shots within reasonable expectations.
Fuji 18-55 for Street Photography: while a compact prime would be our first choice for street work, this lens incorporates a very useful range of focal lengths into a reasonably-sized package. It won’t offer you ninja-like stealth but it’ll offer you a fair amount of flexibility during walkabouts in new territories and/or fast-moving environments. This can be extremely useful for travel, as you may not be able to predict the ideal focal length for the shooting conditions at hand.
Auto / Manual Focus: the autofocus speed is pretty fast and silent and works well in AF-S as well as through back-button focusing. For AF-C, accurate focusing is a bit more hit and miss and not that reliable on the XT-20 (although Fuji’s newest 2022 camera bodies might solve this issue). In tough situations like nighttime street photography or fast-paced events, both AF-S and AF-C tend to struggle – expect a decent amount of missed-focus shots.
In regards to manual focusing, the “focus-by-wire” throw is long and requires a lot of turning to move significant distances – it’s best to couple long throws with Fuji’s underappreciated back-button focusing (it saves a lot of time and hassle). When it comes to small incremental changes, manual focusing is a charm thanks to Fuji’s highly-visible focus peaking.
Sharpness: as expected from a zoom lens, sharpness suffers a bit in the corners across the range when shooting wide open. When stopping down to f/5.6-8, the lens is sharp across the frame and lacks any smudginess near the corners. Generally speaking, the XF 18-55mm is more than sharp enough for most applications but not as sharp as Fuji’s red badge XF 16-55mm.
The sample image below was shot on a hazy / overcast day in Nepal at f/7.1 – when zooming into the RAW file at 100%, the buildings to the far left were still able to retain a high amount of detail.
RAW / JPEG Quality: to be completely honest, we didn’t shoot much with the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm within a SOOC JPEG format given that we primarily shot in harsh light and far from ideal conditions. Long story short, we were never happy with the results on average – admittedly, this could be largely attributed to user error.
In terms of the RAW files, they offer a fair amount of dynamic range but don’t have as much latitude and color tonality as the RAWs produced by Fuji’s prime lenses. To be fair, given the price and general-purpose nature of this lens, comparing it to Fuji’s primes seems nonsensical.
JPEG Example: the image below was shot using the Velvia simulation in rural Nepal. Changes to WB, exposure, highlight, and shadow levels were made in Capture One.
Since the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens was released in 2012, Fujifilm has released a slew of mid-range zoom lenses that give the XF 18-55mm a run for the money. At the time of writing, the lens’ primary competitor is Fuji’s newer XF 16-80mm f/4 which offers similar optics, weather resistance, and more reach at the expense of weight and a slower fixed aperture.
For professional use, we recommend considering Fujifilm’s red badge XF 16-55 f/2.8 – this lens has superior optics and will offer better overall performance.
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To sum up our thoughts on the Fujifilm XF 18-55 f/2.8-4, it’s a solid lens for hobbyists or beginner photographers that value versatility and weight minimization over top-of-the-line image quality. While this lens can definitely be used for professional work (in the right hands), it just doesn’t have the same “je ne se sais quoi” of Fuji’s prime lenses or the clinical IQ of the heavier and more expensive Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8.
In our humble opinion, choosing the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 over Fuji’s other zooms is merely a matter of tradeoffs that are dependent on intended use-cases. For use-cases such as travel and general documentary work, this lens offers decent-enough optics relative to its compact form, featherweight status (for a zoom), and price/versatility ratio. Especially if you’re able to get the lens at a discount from being certified refurbished.
More Fuji 18-55 Sample Images are featured below:
Given this lens has a maximum magnification of 0.15x, when paired with Fuji’s Macro Extension Tube, you can expect semi-decent results.
As expected from Fujifilm, the XF 18-55mm is meticulously constructed and is smooth to operate.
The XF 18-55mm is still going strong but it has seen better days. After being beat up throughout extensive travel, only minor cosmetic damage exists – optics are unchanged.
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