I have always been a fan of the 24-70mm focal range. It fits perfectly in my workflow for my professional jobs, which is mostly portraits, events, and weddings. I love primes especially for my travel work and other situations where I can take it slow. And I have a range of Fuji (and Samyang and vintage) prime lenses for travel and personal work. But when it comes to faster-paced work such as events and even outdoor portrait sessions, the last thing I want to be doing is changing lenses. For me, my work during that time is interacting with subjects and capturing key moments. With a 24-70 lens on one body and a 70-200 on the other, I am able to do that.
For a few years, my working setup was a Canon 5D Mark II + EF 24-70mm f/2.8L and a Canon 6D + 70-200mm f/2.8L. It was a great setup, which produced fantastic results. But needless to say, that setup got very heavy as the shooting days progressed. They weren’t super easy to carry around either, as I often travel to other cities for shoots. That’s why a few months ago, I decided to lighten the kit up a bit by getting rid of the 5D2 and the 24-70, replacing it with my X-T1 and the awesome Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8. So far, I have not regretted the decision and the 16-55 has been pretty much glued to the X-T1.
My current working kit, mainly for outdoor portraits and events: Fujifilm X-T1 + XF 16-55mm f/2.8 and the Canon EOS 6D + EF 70-200 f/2.8L with the Holdfast Moneymaker Strap. Dual systems at the moment.
The Fujinon XF16-55mm F2.8 R LM WR, as it’s fully named, is Fuji’s flagship standard zoom lens. LM means “linear motor”, and this lens has a twin LM. WR, of course, means “weather resistant”. This lens has become my workhorse for professional gigs.
- Very versatile focal length. The equivalent 24-84mm focal range is very versatile for documentary and portrait photography. It makes you ready for pretty much anything, which is super important for event work.
- Sharpness! The XF 16-55mm is a sharp lens! The images it produces are comparable to prime lens images. Granted, I’m no pixel peeper. It’s hard to describe it, but somehow the 16-55 to me “feels” (not physically of course) a lot like the Fuji primes but with the option to zoom. Even at 2.8, where my lens stays most of the time, this lens produces very sharp images.
- Fast, accurate AF. I’m tempted to attach an NSFW word to the acronym, but this lens really is fast as f***. The autofocus is up there with my Canon L lenses and I’m not hesitant to bring it into any situation. AF does slow down a bit in very dark situations, but DSLR lenses do as well. My keeper rate has not changed since switching to the Fuji. If anything, it has improved because of the lighter weight and less camera shake.
- Size. Yes, this a big lens relative to the Fuji system. And it turns some people off, especially those who got into mirrorless for the size and weight benefits. I was one of those people. When this lens was first announced, I wrote it off due to its “large size”. However, when you compare it to the DSLR equivalent that it replaces, it is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller and lighter. I have been so happy with the weight reduction that I’ve experienced since switching. And for the versatility it gives, sometimes I even end up leaving all the primes at home and just traveling with one body and this lens. Still love my primes, but the 16-55 can give them a run for their money.
- Build. This lens is weather resistant and built like a tank. Paired with an equally rugged X-T body, this lens is ready to take on the roughest of conditions.
- Close focusing. This lens focuses as close as 0.35m or 1.1 ft. This makes the lens useful for closeup shots of food or products. Another point for this lens’ versatility!
- No image stabilization. OIS would be nice to have for any lens, but with this lens and the high ISO capability of Fuji X bodies, it’s not really a deal breaker. And it would probably make the lens bigger and heavier too.
- Loss of shallow depth-of-field. Honestly, this was one of the biggest things I was worried about. On the crop sensor Fuji’s, f/2.8 DOF looks like f/4. On full frame cameras, f/2.8 can give you beautiful separation for portraits even in a zoom lens. You do lose a little bit of that in the 16-55, but I’ve found it’s not an issue for what the lens is best at: storytelling and documenting. Besides, I usually go to a longer lens for serious portraits anyway. So overall, I’ve found that the loss in shallow DOF is very much worth the weight and size savings.
- Front-heavy. Given the smaller size of the Fuji X bodies, mounting this lens makes a very front-heavy setup. I’ve found that this is easily balanced out with the VG-XT1 battery grip (VPB-XT2 for the X-T2). I would definitely recommend this lens for use with a body you can attach a grip to.
I don’t usually use protective filters, but I feel like I should recommend doing so on this lens. The front element is larger than Fuji primes, which makes it more susceptible to contact. I mentioned ruggedness of the lens and I feel like that ruggedness is completed by adding a GOOD filter on the front element for protection. I’m sure the lens would do fine unprotected, but I have more peace of mind now knowing my lens element has one extra layer of protection when working in an unpredictable and fast-paced environment.
That being said, you need to get a good filter that won’t give you weird flares or loss of sharpness in your images. My personal recommendation would be the B+W 77mm XS-Pro Clear MRC-Nano 007 filter. It is hands-down the best UV filter I’ve ever used. It gives very minimal flare (if at all), even with point light sources. I have never had any reason to take it off in the field. The peace of mind knowing that my lens is protected and that the filter won’t degrade my images lets me focus on getting the shot without any hesitation, even in tough situations.
Overall, I highly recommend the Fujinon XF 16-55mm f/2.8 for anyone who loves versatility and speed in the wide to medium-telephoto length. It’s fast, sharp, rugged and will get the job done!
And with the way things are going, I could totally see myself going full Fuji working kit in the near future with an X-T2 and a 50-140mm f/2.8!
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