I admit it. In the digital era, I was born and raised on the “idiot dial.” Essentially the “idiot dial” is the knob you turn to put your camera into it’s various modes — Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Program and Manual mode.
If you’ve ever used a Fuji camera, the “idiot dial” goes out the window. Fuji dances to the beat of it’s own drum. It’s a drum I had no interest in playing … until recently.
To my eyes and to the eyes of those not in the know, the Fuji interface looks like the cockpit of an airplane to someone who’s never flown before. The cameras have dials and buttons that hearken to an era that digital passed by. One dial for shutter speed and semi-automatic modes, another for ISO and a third for exposure compensation. There’s an aperture ring on every lens in Fuji’s stable. For me, Fuji’s interface was anything but love at first sight.
Getting over the learning curve
Once I got past the learning curve of the Fuji interface, the door was opened wide to an array of very high quality lenses. I work in real estate photography and I photograph on the order of 1,000 properties per year. If there’s one genre of lens I understand better than most, it’s ultra wide-angle lenses.
Fuji has two ultra wides in it’s stable that are suitable for real estate. The 10-24mm f/4 and the 8-16mm f/2.8. A while back I tested the 10-24mm and was impressed with it’s compact size and weight and sharp optics. But in the end, I opted not to get one because I usually shoot Nikon for my real estate photography. The Fuji was great, but I didn’t feel it was compelling enough to make a change.
This month, B&H sent me the Fuji 8-16mm to test out in my real estate work and to make a video on my YouTube channel. I’ve been using it for about three weeks now and I’ve fallen head over heels in love.
To my hand, the 8-16mm is a physical specimen. Weighing in at a hefty 1.77 pounds, the Fuji is substantial, but it’s not as overbearing as say the Nikon 14-24mm lens that I’ve been lugging around for the last 10 years (2.2 pounds). It’s built for the elements, as Fuji describes the weather sealing as “extensive.”
The focus and zoom rings are ribbed with a nice quality finish. The focus ring is fluid and moves with little resistance. The zoom ring is firm and tactile to my hands and moves with the ideal amount of resistance.
The aperture ring clicks firmly at each stop (and in between stops) for exact aperture settings, though I do wish the aperture ring had a locking mechanism to keep it in place. On more than one occasion the aperture ring was bumped from it’s intended aperture. I’m nitpicking, I know, because overall, this is one of the best built lenses I’ve ever had the pleasure of using.
Autofocus speed and accuracy
One of the areas that’s “nice to have” but not absolutely necessary in ultra wide-angle lenses is fast autofocus. However, I’m pleased to report that autofocus on the 8-16mm is blisteringly fast and marksman accurate.
For me, that’s great, but even if the AF were slower, it wouldn’t be a deal breaker. More often than not with a lens like this I’m either shooting architecture or landscape — static subjects — that don’t require fast AF. Bottom line is autofocus performance is superlative, even if I don’t need it.
There are inherent problems with ultra wide-angle lenses, specifically distortion, flare and edge performance. In my experience, distortion is very well controlled even at 8mm. Flare is an issue, but it’s no worse than most wide-angle lenses I’ve used. Most important to me though is edge performance, which is outstanding — except for the extreme corners — even at 8mm. Even the extreme corners are still considerably better than virtually all wide-angle lenses I’ve ever used.
In real estate photography, my objective is to get the whole scene in focus. When I’m using a crop sensor camera like the Fuji XT-3, I like to shoot at f/5.6. This will insure me a room that’s completely in focus.
The results I’ve been getting with the 8-16mm have been magnificent! My images are sharp and contrasty with outstanding clarity. In southwest Florida where I live and work, my real estate work often extends into the water. In addition to homes, I often shoot yachts as well. When I photograph boat interiors, this is where the 8-16mm really comes in handy!
If you’ve ever photographed the interior of a yacht, then you know how small some of those spaces are and how difficult they are to photograph. With its 12-24mm full-frame equivalent field of view, I’m able to get entire staterooms in the shot — something I was not always able to achieve with my Nikon 14-24mm. And I’m able to control distortion with the 8-16 even at 8mm!
In my experience, I couldn’t ask for a better optical performance from a lens.
Now for the fly in the ointment. The 8-16mm is a lot of great things — killer optics, robust build, fast and accurate AF — but it comes at a price. I’m a working professional who makes his living from photography. Because I can achieve these kind of results in my professional work, then I’m able to justify the lofty price point.
If you need a wide-angle lens and you’re a Fuji shooter who is more of an enthusiast or hobbyist, then it’s likely the 10-24mm will suit you perfectly. It’s also half the price.
If you want or more importantly if you need the very best in optical quality, then you simply cannot go wrong with the Fuji 8-16mm. You’re just going to have to be prepared to pay for it.
- Focal length: 8-16mm (12-24mm full-frame equivalent)
- Aperture range: f/2.8 to f/22
- Aperture blades: 9, rounded
- Elements/Groups: 20/13
- Dimensions: 3.46 x 4.78″ / 88 x 121.5 mm
- Weight: 1.77 lbs. / 805 g
- Angle of View: 121° to 83.2°
- Awesome build quality
- Spectacular image quality — especially for a wide-angle lens
- Fast accurate AF
- Unlike most Fuji lenses, there’s no af/mf focus clutch