The Fujifilm Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS ($399.95 list) is on the pricey side for any kit lens—they’re usually priced around $200—but it’s a very sharp lens, and can be had for a mere $100 premium when purchased in a bundle with the X-M1 mirrorless camera. Fuji cut a few corners in terms of build quality—the barrel and lens mount are plastic and there’s no physical aperture ring. The Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18-55mm F2.8-4 R LM OIS is better built lens with a wider aperture, but that comes at a premium price. If you’re on a budget and want to jump into the Fuji X camera system, the XC 16-50mm is a good lens with which to start, especially if you’re able to purchase it in a kit.
The lens covers a field of view that’s equivalent to a 24-75mm zoom on a full-frame camera. Its f/3.5-5.6 aperture range is typical for a starter zoom lens. Fuji used a lot of plastic to keep weight down; the lens weighs in at 6.9 ounces and measures by 2.6 by 2.5 inches (HD). The front element accepts 58mm filters, and it doesn’t rotate so using a polarizing filter is a simple matter. A reversible bayonet hood is included. The Fuji 18-55mm lens isn’t that much bigger, but it’s heavier at 10.9 ounces; its barrel and mount are metal, and it includes a physical ring to adjust aperture. Both lenses offer optical image stabilization for sharper handheld shots. If you want to pair the 16-50mm with an X-E1 or X-Pro1 you’ll have to update firmware to add support for lenses without control rings.
I used Imatest to check lens performance in terms of sharpness and distortion. The lens is an excellent performer when paired with the X-M1. It betters the 1,800 lines per picture height that we require for a sharp image at every tested aperture and focal length, and its edge performance is also greater than 1,800 lines—which is impressive for a zoom of this type. At 18mm f/3.5 it scores 2,299 lines, with edges that near 2,000 lines. Stopping down to f/5.6 improves the overall score to 2,430 lines.
Zooming to 35mm narrows the maximum aperture to f/5. The sharpness score is impressive here as well at 2,600 lines, with edges that hit 1,900 lines. Narrowing the aperture just a bit to f/5.6 improves the score to 2,700 lines. At 55mm the maximum aperture drops to f/5.6, but the lens is still solid at 2,800 lines with edges that are better than 2,000 lines. If you shoot JPG distortion isn’t an issue; but Raw shooters will have to deal with a little bit of barrel distortion, about 2 percent, at 16mm. This is easy enough to correct for in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
It’s a much better performer than Sony’s 16-50mm retractable power zoom for NEX cameras. That lens relies heavily on in-camera correction to remove distortion (there’s a fish-eye like 9 percent at 16mm when shooting Raw), and sacrifices some sharpness in order to achieve its compact design. At 16mm it manages just 1,666 lines, just hits 1,800 lines at 33mm, and its score is 1,663 lines at 50mm. Stopping down improves things a bit, but you’ll have to go all the way to f/8 to get an acceptably sharp photo throughout its zoom range.
The Fujifilm Fujinon XC 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 OIS is a solid example of a lens that balances costs and performance. Like most bundled zoom lenses it does skimp a bit in terms of build quality. But while they tend to suffer in terms of sharpness, especially at the edges of the frame, this 16-50mm does not. It’s an exceptional value when bundled with the X-M1, although it’s a bit pricey if purchased separately. If you’re a more serious photographer and in want of a Fuji zoom, the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 is just as sharp, and offers a better build quality and enhanced light-gathering—but it comes with a $700 price tag. The 16-50mm is appealing to those who want to get their feet wet with the X system, or prime lens shooters who would like to have a zoom in the bag, but don’t want to pay too much for a lens that will only see occasional use.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc