FujiLove: Why I Want the XF18mm f/2, by Charlene Winfred

https://fujilove.com/why-i-want-the-xf18mm-f-2/

“… I think I want-need another lens. No, none of those fancy new ones Fuji recently released. It’s another small prime, six years old, an original XF lens.

I want the XF 18mm F2.

I’ve been told it’s optically not quite up to par with the newer Fujinon lenses, but that doesn’t bother me, and I love it for all of the reasons I love my other gear:…

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Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R prime lens, for me regrettably much too slow to focus manually or via autofocus and its aperture ring too flakey and quirky for fast-paced professional work in stills and video, though some folks seem to like it for the quirkiness that made it so frustrating when I tried it out..

Commentary

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Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 Aspheric prime lens for Leica M-System cameras, for me the archetypal 28mm documentary and photojournalism lens whose short barrel and narrow front diameter does not protrude into the camera’s viewfinder window. I want something similar for my X-Pro2, an 18mm f/2.8 or faster. When I had my own Elmarit-M 28mm lens for use on analog Leicas, f/2.8 proved fast enough, though Leica also does f/2.0 and f/1.4 28mm lenses.

I sympathize with Charlene Winfred’s Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R GAS* attack.

A new lens is a new way of seeing the world and if that new lens is a focal length far away from those you are most accustomed to using then it can be exciting, even liberating.

Ms Winfred has relied on some of the longer Fujinon XF focal lengths for some years – 23mm, 27mm, 35mm and 56mm – and felt the allure of 18mm while borrowing one a couple of times.

That I can well understand.

I felt the same after buying into the Leica M-System with a secondhand Leica rangefinder camera and a new Summicron-M 35mm f/2.0 lens, the perfect one camera, one lens combination for environmental portraits, cityscapes and documentary work.

The 35mm focal length – 23mm in Fujifilm APS-C, 17mm in Micro Four Thirds – is a great one prime lens compromise along with the slightly longer 40mm lens – 27mm in APS-C and 20mm in M43.

I felt the 28mm urge – 18mm in APS-C and 14mm in M43 – after getting deeper into documentary photography, needing to better share my close proximity to the people, events and emotions in which I was embedded.

My 28mm Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 lens was my documentary go-to lens for years, and when Fujifilm finally released its first interchangeable lens rangefinder camera, the X-Pro1, I hoped that the 18mm lens released with it might have qualities located somewhere in that particular ball park.

It didn’t.

Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R is quirky, what some commentators refer to as a character or art lens with properties that suit some subjects and  photographic styes but not others.

Especially not the sort of photographs I like to make where every single part of the photograph is important and the whole visual field needs to be in sharp focus, near to far, left to right and right up into all four corners.

If I want radical bokeh or a curved image field instead of flat, then I will consider an art lens or two, some day.

A number of other documentary photographers have expressed the hope that Fujifilm will finally release a Fujicron style Fujinon 18mm f/2.0 R WR to go with its current Fujicron 23mm, 35mm and 50mm lenses and the coming 16mm ‘Fujicron’ prime.

I would prefer to see Fujifilm release an 18mm lens in the style of its excellent 14mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4 and 23mm f/1.4 lenses with their manual clutch focus mechanisms, so useful for video and available light photography with the aperture wide open.

Why can’t Fujifilm issue two or more versions of some focal lengths, just like other lens makers do?

They are about to do exactly that with the 16mm focal length, a focal length I do not particularly like, that is so wide it draws undue attention to itself and detracts from what it depicts, and that I find so distorting for human subjects that I must apply volume deformation correction to images I have shot with 16mm or equivalent lenses via DxO ViewPoint.

Fujifilm, keep the current 18mm f/2.0 semi-pancake lens, by all means, for those for whom quirky is an essential creative character trait, but please, please, please Fujifilm, give us a professional-quality 18mm lens too.

What have you got to lose?

Not as much as I have by not being able to have a good enough 18mm prime lens on my X-Pro2.

I hope that Ms Winfred gets hold of her own Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R lens very soon as its immersive, wide but not too wide focal length can be a real liberation after years of narrower ways of seeing.

Fujifilm, are you reading this?

Some views of Chatswood with a borrowed Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R on my X-Pro2

The folks at Fujifilm Australia kindly loaned me a subset of Fujinon XF prime and zoom lenses a little while ago and one of them was the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R.

I took it out for a spin several times but found it frustrating to use in making my usual urban documentary photographs as above, and found I needed to bend my usual way of processing raw files shot with it into more of a quirky, funky direction than I like, substituting clarity all across the frame with something a little more retro, an almost 1980s analog style.

Not my favourite era, frankly.

One of the other loaner lenses was the Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR zoom lens and I found myself relying on that mounted on a loaner Fujifilm X-T2 on preference to the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R mounted on my X-Pro2 when needing the 18mm focal length.

I have yet to try Fujifilm’s Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit zoom lens but note that veteran photojournalist David Alan Harvey spoke of using that lens at its 18mm focal length setting during Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 launch event in Tokyo.

I have also tried out the Fujinon XF 10-24mm f/4.0 R OIS zoom lens on a Fujifilm X-T1 at the 18mm focal length setting and found that a very satisfying experience too, even though my needs are for rangefinder and rangefinder-stye cameras with prime lenses that do not protrude into those cameras’ optical viewfinders if they have them.

Theoretically the Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS kit zoom should provide a decent match for the X-Pro2 in its optical viewfinder aka OVF mode given the OVF’s brightline range from 18mm to 56mm, but I suspect the 58mm filter diameter of the lens may protrude into the OVF’s lower right somewhat.

That is a problem that can be palliated to some degree by using the X-Pro2 in M for manual focus mode with the EVF-in-OVF switched on to give you an overall view of the scene, or in S or C autofocus mode with the focusing area set to smallest.

Some urban documentary photographers render the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R more usable by taping its aperture and focusing rings up on selected settings while others use the lens untaped-up and set for zone focusing, like Sydney urban documentarian Steve Dimitriadis in his article below.

I have tried using the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R for the up-close, immersive, available light documentary projects for I which I also loved to use my Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f/2.8 but found the 18mm even more frustrating in use than for urban documentary at a distance from my subjects.

Links

Postscript

As a result of this article I have been accused online of demanding that Fujifilm must now make two versions of every lens that they currently make, one with a wide maximum aperture and one with with a less wide maximum aperture, and thus that I am demanding that Fujifilm bankrupts itself.

Reference to some facts is in order.

I am asking Fujifilm that they consider releasing the updated 18mm lens design that has apparently been on their internal lens release roadmap for some time since it was first reported by Fuji Rumors.

Given Fujifilm is about to release a 16mm Fujicron lens to sit alongside its current 16mm f/1.4 lens, surely it is not outside the bounds of imagination that the company may be capable of having two 18mm lenses in its collection, a quirky and characterful 18mm art lens and a professional-quality 18mm lens.

If two different 16mm lenses are unlikely to bankrupt Fujifilm then perhaps two different 18mm lenses may not bankrupt Fujifilm either.

Other lens makers manage to issue two and sometimes even three different versions of the same focal length without bankrupting themselves.

I would hope Fujifilm is capable of doing the same.

Help support ‘Untitled’

Veydra Mini Prime 19mm cinema lens available in Sony E-Mount, Micro Four Thirds mount and Fujifilm X-Mount. An alternative to the disappointing Fujinon XF 18mm f/2.0 R in case Fujifilm does not bother to issue a professional quality 18mm prime lens? Only if you are using it on an X-T2, X-T3, X-H1 or future X-H2 I suspect as it is long, heavy and the filter diameter of 77mm means it will protrude far too much into the X-Pro2’s optical viewfinder. Or it may work in EVF mode on a future X-Pro3 if Fujifilm improves it beyond the X-Pro2’s EVF. Desperation makes its demands and takes it tolls. I have never used any of Veydra’s Mini Prime lenses but they apparently render not unlike Zeiss prime lenses.

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Footnotes

  • * Gear acquisition syndrome
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