Fujifilm XF 18mm f/1.4 R LM WR: Fast, Compact and Wide

 

Shridhar Kunte reviews the Fujifilm XF 18mm f/1.4 R LM WR, the upgraded version of the XF 18mm f/2 pancake lens for Fujifilm X series cameras.

Taking one step ahead, Fujifilm has launched a new 18mm prime X series lens with a fast aperture of f 1.4. This is a welcome addition to the series of compact prime lens category. There are a number of lenses introduced in the market that are becoming enormous and sometimes dwarfing the cameras they are coupled with seems to be the new normal.

Features

Designed for APS-C format mirrorless cameras, the 18mm f/1.4 has a 27mm equivalent focal length. The optical design comprises of three aspherical elements and one ED element. This mix will help to a great extent in limiting distortion and spherical aberration. This in turn will produce optimal sharpness and accurate rendering. The lens elements are coated with Super EBC coating, which flare and ghosting under control and enhances image quality in terms of contrast and colour bandwidth, while using the lens in bright and backlit situations. It has a 76.5° angle of view, and a minimum focusing distance of 20cm, and a maximum magnification of 0.15x. The lens uses an internal focus design that keeps the overall length of the lens constant over the entire focusing range.

Handling

This is a relatively compact lens and weighs 370gms when looked in isolation, but much larger when compared with the 18mm f/2 pancake on account of having a one-stop faster maximum aperture, a more complex optical construction and built-in weather resistance. Weather sealing is the integral part of the 18mm f/1.4 lens at eight different locations to help protect it against water and dust and allow it to fully operate in temperatures down to -10°C. Measuring 68.8mm x 75.6mm with a wholly reasonable 62mm filter size, it is still relatively small and light enough to feel well-balanced, even on the XT-3 camera that I tested it with, which is one of the mid size X-series bodies. The les has a robust metal exterior. There are two rings on the lens barrel—The focus ring, which is wide and smooth to rotate; and the aperture ring (with markings on it), which produces a distinct clicking sound, every time you rotate it. Both the rings have ridges on them, for easier grip and rotation. The aperture ring helps to change the f-stops from f/1.4 to f/16 in one third stops with well defined clicks between them. There is no provision to make aperture ring de-clicking, but with the new Fuji cameras, silent adjustment of the aperture in movie mode can be done via the touchscreen, again in one third stops.

The lens exhibits excellent sharpness, colour fidelity and was able to quickly focus on the girl suddenly entering in the frame 1/500sec at f/4.0 (ISO 160) Photograph by Shridhar Kunte

Performance

The focusing speed was snappy and near silent, full time manual focus is easy to use. The image quality is excellent at the centre when used wide open, but for better results I used the lens at f/5.6. The edge sharpness is acceptable from f/1.4 to f/2.8. The overall performance is at its peak from f/2 to f/8. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled, which I think is due to the internal correction taking place in the camera that can’t be switched off. The lens is so well designed that there is no trace of fringing.

Conclusion

Photographers interested in landscape, travel, architecture, environmental portraits, wedding and street photography will find the 18mm f/1.4 to be a good addition to their gear. It is its size and inconspicuousness that makes all the difference, especially in street photography. Priced at Rs. 91,999, the lens is certainly not affordable for masses, and is much pricier when compared to its f/2 version. However, the optical performance is of a much higher level.

This article originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of Better Photography.

FINAL RATINGS
Features
Optical speed of f/1.4
18/20
Performance
Virtual distortion free, excellent optical performance
33/35
Build Quality
Weather resistant design, robust design in metal
23/25
Ergonomics
Aperture ring, compact size
13/15
Warranty & Support
Wide service network, two-year warranty
4/5
MRP Rs. 91,999
OVERALL 91%
VALUE FOR MONEY 3.5/5
Who should buy it? Street and landscape photographers who love this combination of focal length and aperture.
Why?  The lens performs consistently and allows for a certain degree of versatility in one’s pictures.
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