I am currently in the midst of a year long project that has me tied to a single camera/focal length, the x100T. As a result I have decided to do a small cull, and get rid of some gear I haven’t used in a while. During the sorting phase of this cleanse I took my 18/2 and put it decidedly in the “keep forever” pile. Here is sat beside my x100LE, and my 35/1.4. The 18 however stood out for me. I love the 18mm focal length. It fits my eye, it adds drama to images, its good and wide but not too wide. Did I mention I love 18mm? When I started my 23, the T and me project my biggest fear was not being able to use my Fuji 18/2. I simply love this little lens, there is something about its rendering that just seems magical to me. Its sharp, yet the falloff from sharp to unsharp is so gentle. Its bokeh, its flare, all perfect to my eyes. I like this lens so much I decided to review it. Its been reviewed a lot but imo gets a bad rap. I’m here to set the record straight. Consider yourself warned, this review will not be very technical, I am just not a technical guy. My photography is about feel, and my reviews are about my real experience in real world usage. If its test charts and brick walls you’re after, you have come to the wrong place.
The Fujinon 18mm f2 lens is a small pancake(ish) prime lens available for the Fuji X mount system. It was one of the original 3 lenses (35/1.4 and 60/2.4 were the other two) Fuji released when they introduced the X mount system. For reasons unknown to me, it was regarded by many as the odd lens out. Many complained it wasn’t as sharp as the other two lenses, especially in the corners. Others just flat-out said the IQ wasn’t in the same league as the its two longer focal length brothers. I couldn’t disagree more. In fact of the three, the 18/2 is my favourite. I find it every bit as sharp as the 35 and darn close to the 60, which isn’t half bad considering the 60 is a macro lens. The big thing is the way the lens renders images. This is where the 18 shines. The 35 and 60 are also excellent in this regard. I will even go as far as to say the original three primes have better rendering than any lens Fuji has released since. There is just something about the way these lenses draw that is so appealing, and the 18 is the best of the mix. Some of the newer lenses may be sharper, but none draw as nicely in my opinion.
The other nice thing about the 18 is its size and weight. It’s a very small lens, it’s also extremely light, yet doesn’t feel cheap in exchange for this benefit. It’s not as small as the newer 27/2.8 (a true pancake lens) but it’s very close. When you consider the 18 is a full stop faster and has better IQ I think it becomes a no brainer. It’s also a far more useful focal length for a general purpose lens, at least for my shooting style. YMMV however.
Other aspects of the lens that impressed me are it’s focus speed and close focus distance. To this day it’s still one of the fasted focusing Fuji lenses. The two new pro zooms are the only lenses in the entire Fuji line up that are faster. The 18 also focuses very close. Without measuring I would guess about 10cm. This allows for great close ups and pseudo macro work if your heart so desires. The Bokeh or our of focus rendering is also top drawer. Rivalling the best in Leica glass in this department. Not bad for a lens that can be had on the used market for less than $300.
So there you have it. As you can see I love this lens. Is it perfect? No. Could it be sharper in the corners? Sure. Could it have a bit less distortion? Sure. Do I care? Not really, because I firmly believe the actual image quality, in real world usage, far outweighs any flaws that I need to go out and look for. Like I said in the onset, I am not a technical photographer. I am after images that look good to my eyes. I don’t mess with 100% crops, or any other commonly used lens analysis methods. I take photos and if the lens draws images appealing to my senses I am a happy camper. By these standards the 18 is a huge home run.