Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR Lens Review
Fuji's first pro zoom is a bold step forward for X mount.
When evaluating any lens, we focus on four key areas: sharpness, distortion, chromatic aberration, and bokeh. A perfect lens would render the finest details accurately, wouldn’t distort straight lines or produce ugly fringing around high-contrast subjects, and would create smooth out-of-focus areas.
The Fujifilm 16-55mm f/2.8 is a landmark lens for Fujifilm's X system. The company's first pro-grade constant aperture zoom, it's designed to be the kind of lens that a working photographer can rely on, day in and day out. In our labs, it largely lived up to that goal, though there are a few weak spots, especially as you zoom in toward 55mm.
A lens's sharpness is its ability to render the finest details in photographs. In testing a lens, we consider sharpness across the entire frame, from the center of your images out to the extreme corners, using an average that gives extra weight to center performance. We quantify sharpness using line widths per picture height (LW/PH) at a contrast of MTF50.
The 16-55mm f/2.8 got off to a solid start in testing, producing its strongest results at 16mm. At f/2.8 it's already razor-sharp in the center, resolving over 2,100 lines in the middle. That drops a bit to around 1,850 lines in the midpoint regions, but it holds strong at 1,450 lines in the corner.
Stopping down doesn't offer any major improvement in the center, though resolution stays between 1,875 and 2,050 lines from f/4 to f/8. Off-center, however, stopping down produces much better results, peaking at over 1,900 lines at f/4 in the midpoint and 1,500 lines in the corner from f/4 to f/8.
As you zoom in, however, the overall performance gradually drops off. At 35mm, the corners have an almost identical performance profile, but the center starts around 1,600 lines and peaks at just over 1,975 at f/4 before dipping back into the 1,800s. That's good for the Fuji system, though slightly behind comparable full-frame lenses from Canon and Nikon.
At 55mm the center performance is stellar at f/2.8 and f/4, but the midpoint never gets above 1,400 lines and the corners barely hit 1,300 lines. Altogether it's not a bad result, making the lens a solid choice for everything from landscapes to portraits.
We penalize lenses for distortion when they bend or warp images, causing normally straight lines to curve.
There are two primary types of distortion: When the center of the frame seems to bulge outward toward you, that’s barrel distortion. It's typically a result of the challenges inherent in designing wide-angle lenses. When the center of the image looks like it's being sucked in, that’s pincushion distortion. Pincushion is more common in telephoto lenses. A third, less common variety (mustache distortion) produces wavy lines.
In addition to being sharper on the wide end, the 16-55mm f/2.8 also exhibits the least distortion at 16mm. In our test shots, we recorded around 0.4% pincushion distortion there, which is negligible. As you zoom in, the distortion gets slightly worse, but at 35mm and 55mm it only tops out at around 0.6%. Altogether, it's a very strong result—especially for a lens that covers wide and telephoto focal lengths.
Chromatic aberration refers to the various types of “fringing” that can appear around high contrast subjects in photos—like leaves set against a bright sky. The fringing is usually either green, blue, or magenta and while it’s relatively easy to remove the offensive color with software, it can also degrade image sharpness.
While the 16-55mm f/2.8 is sharpest at its widest focal length, it also displays significantly more chromatic aberration (color fringing). It's not a deal-breaker, but it definitely toes the line between "moderate" and "severe" throughout the entire frame. It's especially bad near the corners, which is typical.
As you zoom in, the CA drastically improves. By 35mm it's back to "low" levels, and you'll only see it in the corners of very high-contrast scenes. At 55mm results are even cleaner, with negligible aberrations.
Bokeh refers to the quality of the out of focus areas in a photo. It's important for a lens to render your subject with sharp details, but it's just as important that the background not distract from the focus of your shot.
While some lenses have bokeh that's prized for its unique characteristics, most simply aim to produce extremely smooth backgrounds. In particular, photographers prize lenses that can produce bokeh with circular highlights that are free of aspherical distortion (or “coma”).
While we've been less than impressed with the bokeh from Fujifilm's other zoom lenses, the 16-55mm f/2.8 R knocks it out of the park. Predictably, 16mm is the weakest focal length, but by the time you get out to 55mm it's creamy smooth. Okay, it's no XF 56mm f/1.2, but it's very respectable for a zoom. If you need to take some headshots and this is the only lens on hand, you'll do just fine.
Perhaps most impressive is the subject separation you get, even though the lens tops out at f/2.8 and only covers the APS-C image sensor. In the sample shot above the focus is on the lens, but it's already falling off as you reach the body of the camera.
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