The Fujifilm XF18mm F2 R – rekindling an old love in 2020.

One of the first three first lenses released for the Fujifilm X-mount, my fate with the XF18mm f2R has always been a love-hate relationship for the last 6 years, such that I had owned and sold it for at least three times. 

And in all honesty, this is hardly a long term review given that this lens has probably stayed in my repertoire for lesser than one-third of the 6 years but more of a “my exact true feelings about this piece of optics” type of sharing. 


XF18mm f2, X-Pro3

With the recent ownership of the X-Pro3 body, the hunt for a compact and high performing X-mount lens began, and that was when I decided to give the XF18mm the 4th try. 

One of the pancake lenses in X-mount, (The XF18mm is tiny about 65mm long with a 52mm filter size and weighs only 116g),  it gives an equivalent focal length of about “28mm” made popular again with the more modern Leica Q2, Leica Q and the GR III (my reviews of these 3 cameras as linked)

For the visual readers, well, the lens is simply as tall as a LEGO figurine. 


The XF18mm with some of the other family members, the XF18-55, XF56 and XF90 

Often skipped over in favor of the more modern choices like the XF16mm f2.8 or even the XF23 f2 and XF16 f1.4 lenses, the XF18mm is a surprisingly fast lens and it has some decent capabilities to achieve a quite shallow depth-of-field, especially when utilizing its short minimum focusing distance.


XF18mm on the X-Pro1
Though some will say XF10-24 or nothing else, the XF18’s 28mm view is plenty wide.

Anyway, I am not gonna spend word-count on the specs as this is not a paid or review post but one based mostly on a personal feel. 

Firstly, the not so good (aka, why I disliked it enough to sell it at least 3 times).

Being almost 7 years old (an eternity in tech years), the XF18mm lens has an internal micro motor that produces a bit of noise during AF operations. This for one renders it an unlikely candidate for videos. Unlike the more modern choices, it is also external focusing, which means the AF speed is decent but it’s nothing to rave about. Watch the video below for what this means. 

Similar to the Leica TL23mm Summicron, which 100% DOES NOT work with AF-C on the Leica CL body,  using the XF18mm for AF object tracking isn’t really advisable.

But in all fairness, the AF reliability is very good on the XF18mm though. When it nails the focus, it really does.  


XF18mm f2, X-Pro3, converted to black & white from Provia

Another reason was the relatively high retail price of SGD899 (USD640) vs the more modern but cheaper competitors like the XF16 f2.8 or the XF23 f2. And the XF18mm is not weather-resistant unlike modern competitors. 

But even so, I have managed to find a legit source from Thailand on Ebay selling brand new sets at USD200 and this admittingly helped in deciding to go for the XF18mm again. 

Now, let us go to what has made me fall in love with it again,


XF18mm f2, X-Pro3, Classic Neg

The build quality of the XF18mm has always been pretty great, thanks to a tightly assembled metal body based on a metal mount. The focus ring operates smoothly. And typical for most Fujinon lenses with the wording ‘R’ in its model name, there’s a dedicated aperture ring with distinctive 1/3 steps which is extremely useful to have. 


The short minimum focusing distance of 18cm of the XF18mm is pretty useful. 

And call me superficial, but I have a soft spot for the full metal hoods that Fujifilm used to provide for their XF35 f1.4 and XF18mm f2 lenses. In comparison, the plastic hoods nowadays are a disappointment.  

After my experience on the other 28mm equivalent fixed lens cameras, it has also come to that I’ve learned to work better with this focal length though my favorite is still the 35mm focal length for which I have the XF23mm f1.4. 


XF18mm f2, X-Pro3, Acros. 


XF18mm f2, X-Pro3, Velvia. 

Having the X-Pro3’s rangefinder based design also helped pushed me towards a more compact lens choice, plus the much improved autofocusing performance on the X-Pro3 has indeed made up for any auto focusing speed deficiencies the XF18mm had with previous bodies. 


XF18mm f2, X-Pro3

For me, the XF18mm is not the lens that will win awards for absolute sharpness like the XF23mm f1.4, the most appetizing bokeh like the XF56 APD nor the fastest autofocus like the XF90mm, but the sum of its strengths and imperfections somehow adds up to it being the lens that will always around for the everyday moments. 

What do you think? 


XF18mm f2, X-Pro3

Thank you for reading. 

 

Keith Wee

Keith: Father, Teacher and Life Photographer. Writer for Fujifilm Asia Pacific, Fujilove and FujiXPassion and seeks to photograph Life & his 2 toddlers Kei & Lynn.

12 thoughts on “The Fujifilm XF18mm F2 R – rekindling an old love in 2020.

  1. This was the first of the three original lenses that I bought for my Fuji XPRO 1. I sold it and bought it sold it again and finally I bought it a few months ago for good. It’s a great storytelling lens

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  2. great review. agreed that sometimes it’s not about the absolute performance but how one lens can work out its magic to capture the moment.

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  3. There is not much to add, Keith…. maybe just a view thoughts: the metal hoods are awesome, on the XF 18 it actually saved the lens when I smashed it to the ground somewhere in Bangkok – the hood is pretty bend now, but the lens survived 🙂
    There is a lot of talks that this lens is not sharp wide open, specially in the corners… well maybe, but who on earth uses a wide angle lens wide open, when he wants a tack sharp image of the entire frame?
    The noise is a downside, the speed is not really, since, bei g a wide angle, there is no long way to focus and on my Pro2 it feels snappy enough – different story on my Pro1, but then – what did ever feel snappy on that camera 🙂 still, I got a lot of great photos with the Pro1 and the 18mm
    My son, right now learning to become a pro photographer, uses this lens a lot on his T3 for videos, im mf, and it works amazingly!

    In my book: a heavily underrated Gem (yes, a Gem!) in Fujifilm‘s line up

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    1. Ah … nice detailed sharing , thank u. The metal hoods are yeap, a different league vs the plastic ones. The one that’s bundled with the XF23/2 is a joke in my opinion.

      Interesting is after talk of the 18/2 went up , a few friends have went ahead to purchase the lens again 😂

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  4. Totally agree.

    I sold this lens because of the soft corners. Then I realised I had lost an amazing story telling/documentary lens. To compound my regret I realised I seldom take Landscape photos anyway that need edge to edge sharpness. I will be buying this one again. This plus 35mm f1.4 is an amazing combo for family life and travel.

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    1. Thank u for the sharing 🙂 like u I had sold it back then , with the same thoughts of its optical performance but got it back again and now to use much more. Maybe it’s also a case of with experience we also get a better understanding of what we need vs what we want 🙂

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      1. Yup. I pulled the trigger, I can blame you partially! ;). Ordered one from HK, heading to UK soon. It seems from your photos you seldom shoot wider than 28mm equiv. Is that because you prefer photos of family and documentary?

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      2. Haha , congrats and I hope u have as fun with it as many of us do. You noticed that thing about focal length haha. I seldom go above 28mm due to having to manage distortions too, other than I prefer to keep my framing at max 28mm as personally I lack the ability to frame wide and yet still keep a point of interest in the image

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