The XF 18mm f/2 R is a small and compact prime lens for Fujifilm’s X-mount camera system. Introduced in 2012 alongside the X-Pro1, the XF 18mm f/2 is one of the oldest X-mount lenses in the Fuji lineup. In the last year, I purchased and reviewed the newer Fuji 16mm f/2.8 and 23mm f/2, but part of me longed to pick up an XF lens at my favorite focal length of 18mm (28mm on full frame). My purchase decision was pretty straightforward here, as the XF 18mm f/2 is currently the only 28mm equivalent option for X-mount (the XF 18mm f/1.4 arrives in 2021). I’ve now been shooting with the XF 18mm f/2 for six months, and have had a very positive experience with the lens despite its age. Sure, the 18mm f/2 lacks weather sealing, fast/accurate autofocus, and sharpness wide open, but it does have its compact size, versatile focal length, and speed working in its favor.
So, is this XF 18mm worth keeping alongside my 16mm f/2.8 and 23mm f/2? I have an easy time saying yes here, and will explain in detail in this review.
Construction and Handling
The XF 18mm f/2 R is my fifth Fuji lens, and although it’s not as solid as my metal Fujicrons (16 f2.8, 23 f2, 35 f2, 50 f2), it has a decent build for its size. It’s build is mostly metal, has no weather sealing, and is appropriately light for it’s ‘pancake stack’ size. The aperture ring is solid and stays in place when set. The focus ring floats a bit and could use a little more dampening. Unlike the premium feel I get when holding my Fujicrons, the XF 18mm f2 feels like more of a budget offering, but still seems durable.
The Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2.0 has no weather sealing, which is a problem for a lens I use for hiking, travel, and everyday photography. To me, the 18mm (28mm on full frame) focal length is perfect for street, travel, and landscape, so weather sealing would be very nice to protect the lens from dust and moisture while I’m shooting outdoors. So far this has not been a major issue, but I’ve limited my exposure to the elements when shooting with the XF 18mm f2.
The Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 houses 8 optical elements in 7 groups, and has 7 rounded diaphragm blades. This combination has proven to be pretty resistant to flares and ghosting when shooting in harsh light.
The XF 18mm f/2 has a 76.5° field of view, and a full frame equivalent 27mm focal length. The minimum focusing distance is around 7.09 inches or 18cm. The Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 has no image stabilization and neither does my Fuji X-T3. When paired with the IBIS of the X-T4 or X-S10, the XF 18mm f/2 will gain 6 stops.
The lens hood for the XF 18mm f/2 is a large metal square hood. This hood provides a lot protection, but makes a small lens much larger. For this reason, I’ve kept the hood in the box for all but the photo you see below.
The Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 has a metal bayonet that is solid and sturdy for the lightweight lens. Although it is not on the level of the Fujicrons, the build of the XF 18mm f/2 leaves little to be desired, and gives me a lot of confidence that it will last a very long time. I just wish it had weather sealing.
The autofocus on the XF 18mm f/2 is a little slow, lacks accuracy in AF-C, and is noisy for video. Not a major problem for me, as I’m a stills shooter that uses this lens in AF-S for almost every shot. If you’re looking for a video lens and/or want to track fast moving subjects, I’d go with one of Fuji’s newer lenses. Manual focus is available via the front ring, but as I mentioned above, the manual focus ring floats a bit too much and needs more dampening.
Size and Weight
The Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 comes in at a lightweight 4.09 oz (116 g) and measures 2.54″ x 1.6″. The size and weight of the 18mm f/2 balances is perfectly on my X-T3 when I want a lightweight lens that disappears on the camera body.
Specs and Stats
Dimensions: 2.54″ x 1.6″
Weight: 4.09 oz (116 g)
Filter Thread: 52mm
Focal Length: 18mm (27mm on full frame)
Aperture: f/2 – f/16
View Angle: 76.5°
Minimum Focus Distance: 7.09″ (18 cm)
Image Stabilization: None
When I first started researching the XF 18mm f2, I was surprised by the polarized reviews. Some people said it’s the worst lens in the Fuji lineup, and others mentioned it was their favorite Fuji lens. For the negative reviews, the major complaints always touched on the lack of sharpness in images. The positive reviews would spin this in the package of ‘lens character’. Having used the 18mm f2 for a while now, I’m happy to see that the lens isn’t as soft as some reviewers made it seem. If you look at your photos like a normal person (no extreme pixel peeping), the photos from the XF 18mm are sufficiently sharp, even at wider apertures.
As you can see in the topo map images below, wide open at f/2, the XF 18mm is pretty sharp in the center. Things get a little better at f/2.8, and really sharpen up by f/4.0-f/5.6.
At the edges and corners, the XF 18mm is hazy and soft wide open. Things gradually improve while stopping down, and by f/5.6-f/8, things are pretty sharp around the frame.
It’s tough to test for vignetting with Fujinon lenses since the RAW files and jpegs are processed with a built in lens profile that removes it. I’ve read that you can remove these profiles with editors like Iridient Developer. As a photographer that is already using Lightroom and Capture One, I’m going to pass on a third piece of software and just live with the built in corrections.
As I mentioned above, the autofocus on the XF 18mm f/2 is a little slow, lacks accuracy, and is noisy for video. In AF-C, the Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 hunts for focus and misses quite often in low light situations. For this reason, I prefer other lenses in those situations. For still photos, the XF 18mm works best with plentiful available light, stopped down, and with subjects that aren’t moving quickly. For video, focusing noise becomes a problem alongside the lack of accuracy.
In AF-S, the Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 works pretty well, as the initial focus lock point tends to be accurate.
Bokeh and subject separation aren’t lens qualities that rank high on an 18mm (~28mm) focal length lens, so I’ll cover this briefly and say as I always do: I see bokeh in two ways, It’s either a compliment to the photo or its a distraction. I’m not interested in onion rings, cat eyes, aberrations, or astigmatisms, and steer clear of technical evaluations of bokeh. To get a good test of my compliment vs distraction evaluation, I’ve selected a few sample photos with busy backgrounds. In these photos and others, I find that the out-of-focus area is pretty nervous looking in scenes with harsh light or foliage, distracting from the subject. With a more uniform background, the bokeh smooths out, and is much less of a distraction. Not overly pleasant, but not terrible.
Real World Performance
Real world photo samples are what drive every one of my lens purchases these days. I’m sure there are people out there making decisions based on charts, graphs, and brick wall photos… but I’ve yet to meet one in person. It’s important for me to see how a lens performs in situations that are similar to how and where I shoot. I also like to see photographers post photos using a style of shooting I’d like to learn from. As a landscape photographer that spends most of my time on hiking trails, it helps me a lot to see photographers of street, studio portraiture, real estate, etc., talking about how the quality of a lens compliments their style of shooting. I’ve learned a great deal from these reviewers and am very grateful that they take the time to share their experience. For that reason, I want to cover my personal experience with the Fuji XF 18mm f/2 in the situations I’ve used it most: environmental family portraits, walk-around street, travel, and landscape. Obviously there is a lot of crossover in these categories, but I will try to organize my photo samples as best as I can below.
For candid family photos and environmental portraits, the Fuji XF 18mm f/2 has been a serviceable performer. The lens is fairly sharp in the center at wider apertures, and the bokeh is mostly distraction free. The wide field of view makes it difficult to separate subjects, but it helps bring a sense of the environment when shooting outside. The lack of accuracy in AF-C has been a bit of an issue when my toddler is on the go, so I have to adopt a ‘spray and pray’ attitude in those situations.
Street Photography and Architecture
The 18(28)mm focal length sits next to the 23(35)mm and 35(50)mm focal lengths as the most popular for street photography. One of the major reasons the 18(28)mm focal length is so popular, is that it lets shooters convey more of a scene, get closer to the action, and capture architecture and landscape alongside the street shots. For these reasons, the XF 18mm f/2 has been my go-to walkaround lens during the months of Covid lockdowns and social distancing. This focal length is great for street photos and architecture, with minimal distortion, decent sharpness, beautiful Fuji colors, and lots of versatility.
Travel and Landscape Photography
As much as I love using the XF 18mm as a walkaround lens close to home, I find that it really shines for landscape and general travel photography. The lightweight and small package of the XF 18mm allows me to tuck it into my hiking backpack without much hassle, and have it in my hands without any effort. The lack of weather sealing is an issue, but the weather has been hot and dry this summer, making dust my only concern. The XF 18mm is pretty sharp across the frame stopped down to f/5.6 – f/11, making it a really nice landscape option on backpacking trips.
The Fuji XF 18mm f2 is a small and compact lens with decent sharpness and a focal length that I love. The lack of weather sealing and sub-par autofocus are legitimate issues when compared to my 23mm f2 and 16mm f/2.8, but the XF 18mm has a character that keeps it mounted on my X-T3. Even though it is the oldest lens in the Fuji lineup, I’d still recommend it for Fuji shooters.
If you’re looking for a multi-purpose stills lens for landscapes, travel, environmental portraits, and street, this lens is worth a look. If you need a lens for video, look elsewhere. The XF 23mm f2 sees more action than the 18mm for this reason, but the difference between a 23mm field of view and 18mm is pretty big. The same can be said for 16mm vs 18mm, as 2mm on a wide angle lens is substantial.
At $599 brand new, the Fujifilm XF 18mm f/2 is way overpriced. Luckily, there are tons of used options on the market, and I picked mine up for around $300. At $300-$400, the XF 18mm is a great addition to any Fuji shooters gear bag, and if you can find one at this price, you should jump on it.