Fuji XF 18mm f/2 released in 2012
Rewind to March of 2012, Fujifilm’s first interchangeable lens X-Series camera was released. The X-Pro1. On the counter in my local photo store was the X-Pro1, XF 35mm f/1.4 R and the XF 18mm f/2 R. The 18mm was the only wide-angle option at the time and I almost bought it. But I took a cautious approach as I wanted to get more familiar with the Fujifilm system before I added additional lenses. I was shooting a full Canon EOS setup at the time. I was happy with the XF 35mm and didn't feel the need for a second lens for a long time. When I decided to add a wide-angle lens, I chose the XF 23mm f/1.4 R.
You gotta love how compact this lens is and it still has an aperture ring. It is bordering in to pancake lens territory. Note that the aperture ring is missing the grooves where the numbers are imprinted on the lens. Depending on how you hold the camera/lens your fingers are more likely to slip slightly on the aperture ring. The manual focus ring is smooth on my tester but it is focus-by-wire, which you may or may not like. The clutch mechanism focus ring, which was introduced later by Fujifilm, would have been nice but I am sure it would have added bulk to the lens. Back to the aperture ring. It is somewhat jerky in operation unlike the XF 23mm f/2 R WR, which I tested a couple of weeks ago. It seems Fuji is getting better and better at aperture rings for every lens they release and we have to remember, the XF 18mm is from the first batch in 2012. It is absolutely still workable but there is a noticeable difference. The lens hood is metal and similar to the one used on the XF 35mm f/1.4. It also shares the audible buzzy autofocus of the XF 35 1.4, unfortunately.
Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 in Action
The full-frame focal length equivalent is 28mm. I have never owned a 28mm prime but have used zooms in the 28mm range in the past. I am not particularly for or against this focal length. Some photographers will claim they lean toward a 35mm or 24mm or any particular focal length. When shooting primes, every focal length has strengths and limitations. I will admit I have toyed with the idea of a Leica Q for travel. The 28mm f/1.7 Summilux can create beautiful images in the right hands but the price of entry to the Leica system has kept me in the Fuji camp. Mind you, I have also seen several stunning images produced with the XF 18mm f/2 lens over the years. Today I tested the XF 18mm f/2 on my X-Pro2 and it was a joy to carry around. You barely feel the lens on the camera. The buzzy auto focus is annoying but really not that much of an issue. I am also used to this from my XF 35mm f/1.4 R.
I enjoyed the 18mm focal length. It's wide but not too wide. Great for documentary-style shooting where you can get close to the action. You won't encounter excessive wide-angle distortion. Compared to the Zeiss 12mm f/2.8 that I tested a few weeks ago I would certainly prefer the 18mm focal length for street photography although I found the Zeiss trumped it in overall image quality. Speaking of image quality, the 18mm f/2 is a closer match to the XF 23mm f/2 R WR and X100F.
Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 R Conclusion
I will start my conclusion with a question. Is the XF 18mm f/2 due for a refresh/update? I do believe many Fuji shooters think so and I agree. We have enjoyed the introduction of a well-made line of weather-sealed, silent, fast autofocus f/2 and f/2.8 series of lenses; the 50mm f/2, XF 35mm f/2, XF 23mm f/2, and 16mm f/2.8. You can't help but think; What if the feature set of those lenses were to be implemented for a new XF 18mm f/2 R WR. I will add another question. Should a new XF 18mm have the clutch mechanism manual focus like in the XF 14mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4, and 23mm f/1.4? I am not sure what I would prefer. I really enjoyed the 23mm f/2 R WR when I tested it however I find the optical quality of the clutch mechanism primes a tad better. I often tend to prioritize better image quality but would love to hear your opinion in the comments below. In my limited testing of the XF 18mm f/2 R, I was looking for a wow factor when editing the files but I didn’t quite find it. The photographer may have lacked that wow factor today and perhaps I was hoping the lens would save the day :). I was excited to try the XF 18mm but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Despite the lightweight portable form factor it is not a must-have lens in my case.
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