Fuji 16-55mm review: An excellent versatile lens

Fuji makes some serious glass when it comes to primes. But what about their fast zooms? Here's my Fuji 16-55mm f.28 review to find out.

Introduction

I believe in the kit lens. Lots of them are really good but they don't get the light of day. But let's face it, even tough you can get a lot of nice images with them, nothing can save their slowness. They usually go from 3.5 to 5.6 (With Fuji's own kit lens being very generous at 2.8-4). They are slow on the long end and you start feeling the effects when the light drops.

Fuji 16-55mm sample wide angle of trees on a grey background

Fuji released the Fuji 16-55 2.8, meaning it has a constant aperture of 2.8 at every focal length. Applying the 80/20 rule to lenses (20% of the input accounts for 80% of the output), you will probably use these focal lengths 80 to 90 % of the time, hence this is the kind of lens that can be classified “The only lens you'll need”

Fuji 16-55mm review

Build Quality

First things first…it's like it's bigger brother the Fuji 50-140mm, the 16-55mm Fuji lens is made of the same “stuff”. It is weather sealed but unlike it's telephoto sibling it does not have stabilization. While 2.8 is fast, the lens is on the heavy side, so stabilization would have been welcomed. But in any case this is a two handed operation lens so you can get away with 1/30th of a second.

reflected trees on a window in black and white

Focal range

Since Fuji cameras are APSC sensors, the 16-55 is an effective 24-82.5mm f/4.2 (The aperture is 2.8 but renders like a 4.2 on fullframe, see calculator) . Here's what that means visually:

Two shots showing the focal range of the Fuji-16-55

On the left is 16mm, on the right is 55mm. It goes from wide angle to short telephoto, it's wide enough and zooms enough for most cases, hence a great walkaround lens.

Bokeh

The Bokeh from the lens is great. I like both ends of the lens at 2.8. In my opinion on the wide end, everything is subtly going out of focus, while the longer end is great for portraits. This guy there on the right…..I told him I hated his guts because he was so photogenic and he laughed…gawsh some people just look good in front of the camera!!! don't you just hate those >< ?

Fuji-16-55 portrait examples in black and white

Image Quality

The image quality on this baby is stellar, just like most of the Fuji lenses out there. I'll leave you with some gull size sample images to make up your own mind:

8 Fuji-16-55 full size samples

Download Fuji 16-55mm full size JPG (59.6 mb)
Download Fuji 16-55mm full size RAW (RAF 167mb)

Macro

The Fuji 16-55 is in no way shape or form sold as a macro. But it's one of those lenses that focuses close enough that it's macro territory. Here's my hands for reference:

a hand showing how close the Fuji lens can focus

And here's as close as I could get:

A close-up shot of an orb showcasing the Fuji-16-55 macro capabilities

That's that for an example. Now for shots that I made:

A bouquet of flowers shot as close as possible with the lens
a black and white closeup shot of lettuce
a closeup fill the frame shot of tree back

As you can see in the last two shots, I could get close enough to remove any hint of the background. It might not have macro in the name but it's macro enough for most folks.

Using the lens

Using this lens only has one word pop in my mind: “Versatile”. It's just good at pretty much everything you throw at it. I especially appreciated it's great capabilities for portraits:

a dramatic black and white Fuji 16-55mm portrait shot of a groom

The lens adds some bulk to the camera, and any Fuji bofy it's on is no longer rangefinder-like but rather DSLR-like because of the weight and the bulk of lens that is in front of it. That being said, it will fit nicely in small camera bags, ready to shoot.

wide angle shot of feet with dramatic shadows

I usually start ranting when it comes to large lenses but I think knowing that this lens is highly versatile made me like it despite it's size, speaking as a guy coming from small rangefinder lenses. When using my primes, I usually have 2-3 with me, but when I was using this lens, I was comfortable just having that one lens in my bag and being confident at whatever comes my way, from wide angle shots to portraits.

black and white of a man leaning forward while sitting down

It's really an excellent lens, period. All of the good Fuji prime lens mojo has been crammed into a zoom lens. It's so good in fact that it's making me question my allegiance to prime lenses, and I'm picky about my primes!

Like my images? I have a tell-all photography course here. And the shots have been processed with these presets. Also check out my street photography magazine if you are interested in the genre.

Fuji 16-55mm review Conclusion

In short, if you are not into primes (or even if you are…), this is THE lens to get. It's not as portable as some other Fuji lenses like the 18mm, but it more than makes up for it in terms of image quality and speed. The close focus capabilities are the icing on the cake. This is the kind of lens that you can glue it to your camera and not use much any lens for quite some time.

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8 thoughts on “Fuji 16-55mm review: An excellent versatile lens”

  1. Nice review. I’ve been waiting for someone in the real world to review it. When I sold off my Canon gear I missed by 17-55 and have been waiting for Fuji to make a 2.8 in this range ever since.

    After reading this and seeing Gene’s photos with the lens it’s time to pick one up.

    Did you get splinters in your feet on that deck?

    Bob

  2. Pingback: Fuji 16-55mm review: An excellent versatile lens | Olivier Duong

  3. Yes, nice review thanks Olivier. This is the lens on my list too (and an XT10). Apart from it’s aperture and quality, going down to 16mm clinched it for me. I once had a Nikon F3 with a beautiful 24mm lens that I practically charted my groups history on. It got the faces AND places in the one frame. Also, shots always looked so much better at 24mm than those I’d seen taken with a 28mm…..that extra touch of drama definitely worked, even though there was only 2mm difference. Thanks Fuji!

    Geoff

  4. I was reading some reviews of this lens. Oliver, how do you compare the 16-55 to the less expensive 18-55 ?
    Thanx for the review

    1. Hey man, so the reason why it’s cheaper is because of lens speed. The Fuji 16-55 is the same 2.8 from 16 to 55. While the Fuji 18-55 is f/2.8 only at the 18mm end, when you twist and go to 55 it goes to f/4. When zooms are not constant apertures, and you twist the barrel the exposure WILL change because it is slower at the 55 end.
      It is not the case with the 16-55, it’s a fast 2.8 from 16 to 55. Also, the 16-55 will make better portraits if you are into them, because a 55 f/2.8 will be creamier than 55 f/4. Let me know if that helps!

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