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.
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I’ve got to agree with you man, I have this lens and the 35mm and 56mm, but I reckon the 18mm has to be my favourite, hands down. True, the other lenses are sharper and faster but as you said, there’s just something about that rendering. I’ll probably be trying for a review of it on my own website, sooner rather than later.
As to your pictures, some great work there! I’m glad that they’re working on a way to get Optimus home in image three, but beyond that there’s just so much strange beauty in that image. You must have been giddy with joy taking that one. The boy in the tigger suit is wonderful too. You really treat your colours beautifully. Consider this place bookmarked!
Thanks for the kind words.
I drive by that pulp mill pretty much everyday. I have probably seen 1000 trucks on the lift and only that one morning finally got around to shooting it. Sometimes what is so ordinary to you is extremely intriguing to others. You have taught me a valuable lesson here. Always try and see with the eyes of another.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
I love this focal length but the many reviews I’ve read so far were against this lens. You seem to enjoy this one and your review has convinced me it’s the way to go :). Thanks!
I find far too many reviewers get lost in the minutiae and forget to look at actual images, especially prints. 100% crops and brick walls are of no interest to me. When I take photos with this lens I am always happy with them. Only a handful of lenses have ever done this for me.
I couldn’t agree with you more – I own two lenses, this and the 35, both are incredible feats of modern technology, both take amazing images, but the way I describe them is the 35 is a nerdy perfectionist while the 18 is an artist with soul.
I agree with your description 100%
“…while the 18 is an artist with soul” – poetry, thank you.
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“When you consider the 18 is a full stop faster and has better IQ I think it becomes a no brainer.”
The 27mm is a fine lens and I don’t think it’s optically inferior to the 18mm. I think it’s the other way around.
I beg to differ. Having had 2 copies of the 27 I found its rendering to be very flat and boring. It was sharp, but that’s it. I just never liked the way images looked with it.
Thank you for this great review ! I’ve just Bought a 18mm.
I’m a fan of the colours of your pictures n°2, 3 and 4. Did you use direct Jpeg film simulation from the camera (with special settings ?) ? Or Raw post-production ?
Do you have any experience with the X100 series and the WCL? If so how do you find it compared to the xf18? I have an X100T but love the 28mm (equiv) fov so am in two minds what to do.
I shouldv’e added that I also have an Xt1.
Hey, I just wanted to drop by and express how much I enjoy your photos. Attached to my X-E2 I have the 35mm which is almost too long and I use it as a tele, and the 14mm which is bightingly sharp and deliciously wide. I have been thinking about getting sometheing in between, the X100T was the idea, but now you’ve opened up a new possibility, I’m all for the 18mm.
Pics with feeling and soul are better than a brick wall any day 🙂
Nice real world review of a very nice and underrated lens. The 18 and 56 are my two favs for sure. Like you, I rarely shoot photos of brick walls
Hi Lyle I just found your site by searching for “18 mm review”. This has made my day so far!! I am a Fuji xp1 owner since 2012 (With 35, 60, 55-200) and Yesterday I ordered the 18mm because of huge rebates. Hesitated so much as I dream of the 16mm but could NOT afford it. SO…were really in doubt after I ordered it, but now your review here simply put a large smile on my face and now I Cannot wait to get it. Wonderful words and ways to describe the importent side of it all backed up With wonderful Photoes! Looking forward to Discover the rest of your blog:-)
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Hi. Bought the 18 on the strength of this review and sample pics. The specs always fitted my needs but I was out off by bad reviews. I owned and loved the 35 and could see in your pics what you meant by the 18 having a similar rendering, ‘except more so’. I’ve spent a day shooting now and totally echo your views; the rendering is beautiful. Bought the 60 at the same time and see what you mean about the first three lenses having a special quality. Cheers for playing match-maker, I’m very happy.
Will the Fuji 18mm,f2 and 27mm,F2.8 work on the Fuji x-m1 Body?
Yes they will work.
I too love the 18 … good FL for me and nice fall off. Well built and a semi pancake.
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You and the fact that this lens focuses much faster now on the XT3 has convinced me to get it. You summed it up well when you said it paints better from in focus to out. I think that is it.