(Editor’s Note: We welcome this guest post from ShotKit contributor Greg Cromie. Greg is a Melbourne-based street photographer and blogger, writing camera gear guides and reviews for Shotkit. He loves to travel and make a regular trip to Japan to photograph and document its dynamic culture. Learn more at gregcromie.blog.)
When shooting with a mirrorless system such as Fuji, it is not all that often that you hear people refer to your lens as a monster. Generally, comments about Fuji lenses are about them being compact, light or even easy to carry many of them at once due to their size. The term “monster” is usually withheld for the big DSLR glass that seems impossibly big to shoot with, let alone carry.
But when it comes to a lens like the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8, those observations would be entirely accurate as this is a lens of huge proportions that is hungry to capture the light. That may be a bit melodramatic of me but read on and you will soon get the idea of why this lens has such a reputation.
It would be easy for me to say that this lens would suit anyone and any genre of photography. And whilst you could certainly apply this or, any lens, to a common genre of photography, the reality is that this Fuji lens is better suited to a niche audience. The audience for such an ultra-wide lens would be landscape, architecture and astrophotography.
Now I am not a master at any of those genres, however, I did spend a bit of time with the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 to try and master this lens. I took the monster out of its box and let it loose in public.
- Focal Length: 8-16mm (12-24mm full-frame field of view)
- Fujifilm X Mount
- Aperture: f/2.8-22
- Filter Size: 46mm (1.8″)
- Size: 88mm x 121.5mm (3.46″ x 4.78″)
- Weight: 805gm (28.4 oz.)
- Nano-GI coating to reduce flare
- Weather and dust resistant
- Fixed petal-shaped lens hood
Build & ergonomics
I didn’t just open this article with the term monster for dramatic effect, as the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 is an incredibly well built and solid lens — possibly one of the best-built lenses from Fuji. The mounting plate and the entire lens body are made of metal with the exception of the fixed petal-shaped lens hood that also protects the protruding convex front element. With a diameter of 88mm (3.46″), it is quite a handful of a lens of this nature, but it is not uncomfortable to handle in any way.
At just over 800 grams, this lens has a very decent heft to it even when just holding the lens alone in your hand. Putting this lens on a smaller Fuji body would result in some serious overbalancing on the front end. However when paired with a larger Fuji body such as the Fujifilm X-H1 or the Fujifilm X-T4, then there is a far greater level of balance as both cameras are heavier and have more robust grips.
As with almost all Fuji lenses, this lens features an aperture ring that has a perfect amount of resistance and a reassuring click for each 1/3 stop as the ring turns. Equally, the rubber-coated zoom ring has a good level of resistance and a minimal amount of travel distance as it is only moving from 8mm to 16mm. When zooming from 8mm to 16mm, the front convex element of glass and its mount slide down inside the lens barrel smoothly.
The manual focus ring has a smooth glide however it may be too free for some especially if setting up a long exposure night shot. It could be bumped and cause a loss of focus so this is something to be aware of. Whilst this lens does not have Image Stabilization, its niche uses would often require a tripod or have the lens paired with a camera such as the Fujifilm X-H1 for camera IBIS.
All of the three control rings are well spaced and sized for optimal use. There is no strain on the fingers or hand in trying to move from one ring to the other and their differences in width and texture will soon have you familiar with which is which. And when shooting astro or in any low light environment, this level of awareness can be essential.
The Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 certainly deserves its classification as a monster lens, especially when compared in size and weight to similar lenses in the Fuji lineup. This lens is one of Fuji’s red badge XF Zoom lenses so it joins others as a premium product. Event the lens cover is one of the sturdiest I have ever seen from any camera brand.
I recall getting to play with a pre-production version of the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 at a Fuji event late last year. I was testing the focus speed of the lens and was amazed at how quick it could grab focus when jumping from one object at a close distance to the next at a far distance. However, given that it was a pre-production model I held my judgment as many things can change before the full production product gets released.
I am here to tell you that the lighting quick focus I experienced back then is just as evident in this final release version. Especially when paired with a Fuji camera such as the Fujifilm X-T3, this lens has an incredible autofocus speed. In all the testing conditions I used this lens, I never experienced focus hunting unless I pushed the minimal focal distance beyond its limit.
In extremely low-light conditions, the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 kept up the pace just as effortlessly as if it were full light. This also held true when shooting moving objects in a dark event space, this Fuji lens just kept acquiring the focus targets I was wanting to capture.
The Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 is highly acclaimed for the incredible image quality it produces at both ends of the ultra-wide field it covers. While the lens works exceptionally well to reduce distortion, wide open at f/2.8, there is center sharpness with a little softening of detail in the far corners of the image. Stoping down to f/4 quickly eradicates that issue and ensures edge to edge sharpness across the image.
With a minimum focus distance of only 9.84 inches, subject separation is easily achieved when getting in closer to a subject and the resulting background blur has a nice creamy and even texture to it. This could be especially handy for someone wanting to shoot products and have the subject in clear focus with extreme backgrounds thanks to the ultra-wide focus available.
I put this lens through its paces in a low lit event space at night and was able to push ISO up to 12800 on the Fujifilm X-T3 and still get crisp and clear images. This was while photographing a live performance of a band on a stage and the outcome resulted in a sharp and clear image.
Value for money
The Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 currently retails for around $2,800 and I know many Fuji photographers have been surprised by that price. Some photographers new to the Fuji system have even been shocked and questioned the rationale behind such a high price point. Especially when the nearest and most similar lens is the Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 which retails for around $1,200 then that is a significant difference in price.
It is important to keep in mind that this is a niche lens designed for a set of very specific uses and outcomes. Along with the build quality, focus performance, weatherproofing and image output, this product and price sit comfortably within the Fuji red badge XF Zoom range of lenses. And that is where it was designed to belong — as a premium product for the high-end photographers that use Fuji gear and not an entry-level one.
The Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 is an exceptional lens and one that should be seen for the premium product that it truly is. While anyone with a Fuji camera could pick up and play with this lens and deliver fun and creative images, its target audience is those that play in the niche spaces such as ultra-wide landscape, architecture and even astrophotography.
This lens has been designed and built to last forever and endure rugged conditions and environments making it perfect for those applications that take you out into the landscapes or under a starry sky. And it will continue to deliver high quality and sharp images every time you take it out.
While I would have liked to have seen a filter thread on this lens, there is a range of third party products that can provide both a filter mount and range of filters for this very lens. It only adds a small amount to the overall cost of filters by doing it this way and those same filters can then be used on other lenses and not be restricted to thread size.
While I partially jest about this being a monster lens, even Fuji has recently released a series of promotional videos known as “Monster Glass.” Featured squarely in the middle of this video series is the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8. It is certainly well suited to that level of branding and stature as this is one of Fuji’s most premium lenses ever.