The XF18: Why FUJIFILM's "Worst" Lens is my Favorite
From the time I started using FUJI's mirrorless system, the FUJIFILM XF18mm lens had intrigued me. I liked its small size, the 52mm filter thread size, that great looking hood and the fact that my style is suited for the 28mm focal length. The one reason I waited so long to get the XF18? The nay-sayers. Everywhere I looked were bad reviews, "It's not as sharp as the XF14." Or "It's not as fast as the XF16." But keeping in mind that the internet is full of complaints and opinions, I got one anyway. So on that note, here is my opinion.
As soon as I put the lens on my FUJIFILM X-Pro 2 I loved it. I was surprised by how light the setup was- it barely added any weight. Also, without the hood it fits under a jacket comfortably which is great for rain, being discreet or when riding through the woods on your dirtbike looking for good landscapes. (Just me?) Ergonomically, it's great- feels similar to an old Nikkor. It has an actual aperture ring with clicks for all stops. I would prefer clicks only at full stops, but this is second best. As far as aesthetics, it goes without saying that when the hood is on it's one of the best looking cameras ever. This is important because it's one more reason to pick up my camera and go shoot.
The aperture range begins at F16 and stops down to F2. I usually shoot night photos around F2.8 so this lens works well for that. Considering this range and its size and weight it would be a great lens to bring backpacking.
Typically, when I use this lens I'm manually focusing for landscape type stuff, while for street I would zone focus at F8 or F10. With landscape photography there's no rush so I don't need AF and maybe it's just me but I don't want to be auto focusing and recomposing on moving subjects in the street so I use zone focusing. Using these techniques takes the complaints about the AF speed of this lens out of the equation.
Personally, I've never preferred zooms, so to me a 28mm prime is the perfect general purpose lens. It's wide enough for architecture and landscape photography and works great for street photography. The wider focal length begs you to get closer to your subject in the streets and/or can allow you to add background layers to your shot.
On this day I was only carrying my X-Pro 2 with the XF18 because I was skateboarding around Boston's North End looking for unique scenes. The 18 was an easy choice because of its size and weight but I knew I wanted to squeeze some tall buildings into my shots. This shot above is my favorite from the day. I spotted this unique character from across the street and started following him right away. I looked ahead to see if I could get his photo with some other elements in the shot too. The first thing that caught my eye was this alley with the sunlight pouring out into the street between the buildings. I ran ahead of him, composed my shot with the fire escapes and he walked right into it perfectly. When he passed by he apologized for being in my shot.
As you can see, the XF18 is very capable, just like the rest of FUJIFILM's lenses. That's not to say that I'm recommending this lens over any of their other wide angle lenses but I am suggesting you consider adding it to your bag. I do love it though and I consider it an essential part of my kit. If I didn't own the XF35 F2 this lens would always be attached to my camera.