In defense of the XF16-80mm f4.
Rated 5 out of 5
I have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). I love researching gear almost as much as using it, and I'm fortunate in that I can afford the best gear at this stage of my life. With that said, this 16-80mm f4 came with my camera, and I couldn't wait to upgrade to a better lens in this general focal range (or get some primes that fill this range and offer higher IQ). I spent dozens and dozens of hours researching new lenses, watching videos, reading blogs, weighing pros and cons. I wanted something faster, sharper, and more premium... or so I thought.
At the same time I was researching, I spent dozens and dozens of hours getting familiar with the 16-80mm f4 and learning the ins and outs of it. I've taken about five-thousand-ish photos with it at this point, from macro (only 0.5x magnification) to vast landscapes to astrophotography (yes, at f4) to street photography to night photography to portraits to photos of my pets to... you get the idea.
Looking at the specs on paper, I thought this lens would be no good. An f4 aperture? Not very exciting. Reviews keep saying it's soft at the edges, and it's not tack sharp at 80mm. Okay, that's true, but only when you zoom in and really pixel peep (and this is on a 4k monitor, and I am fortunate to have 15/20 eyesight which is better than 20/20).
But the more and more I use this lens, the more I realize that it is the perfect lens for me (and I'm so glad it was included as my kit lens). As much as I want to spend more money on a fancy new lens (again, I have GAS and money to blow), I cannot find a better substitute to replace the 16-80mm f4 for MY needs (I will explain those needs later on).
1) Yes, the f4 seemed boring at first. How on earth am I going to take sharp shots in dim lighting with those slow shutter speeds at f4? Answer: OIS. The OIS on this lens kicks major behind. I am able to take stable, sharp shots as low as 1/4s at the wide end and 1/30s at the telephoto end. Yes, that is not an exaggeration. The OIS is, in my opinion, better than shooting at a wider aperture. I've turned OIS with this lens off and on to test the difference (you can do that in the cameras settings menu), and it's NUTS what it is capable of. And the X-T3 does not have IBIS, so if you're thinking of getting the XF16-55mm f2.8 for the X-T3, think again -- your shots will be significantly blurrier, especially when shooting at apertures above f4 (which will be most shots for most people). So then I realize... I don't need a faster lens, because it isn't going to help me in most situations. Yes, a faster lens will capture subjects in motion better, but this brings me to another point below...
2) The dynamic range and signal-to-noise ratio of the newer X-Trans sensors on the X-T3s and X-T4s etc. are so good at base ISO that I can simply shoot at a higher shutter speed and get slightly underexposed photos that I very easily and quickly fix in post-processing (shooting RAW). I can easily push a slightly underexposed photo from my X-T3 one or two stops without any noticeable degradation of quality. So to take sharp photos of subjects in motion, I simply set my ISO to 160, my shutter speed to whatever is needed based on the speed of my subjects, and put the aperture to f4. I've taken handheld photos in Joshua Tree National Park using nothing but moonlight with this method that have turned out great. I've taken sharp photos of walking subjects at night. They all look great. (BTW, I'm aware of ISO-invariance for Fuji cameras, but shooting at a higher ISO can easily blow out your highlights, so I prefer to fix in post.)
3) The focal range is ridiculously useful. Having the ability to go between 16-80mm means I only need to carry two lenses with me: the 16-80mm f4 and the 50-140mm f2.8 (also has OIS). These two lenses allow me to get 75% of the shots I need. I find myself most often shooting at the extreme ends: 16mm and 80mm. And of course, I shoot a lot in the middle as well. These ranges are perfect for the outdoorsman who wants to capture a range of images on a hike.
4) Build: It's generally compact for the focal range that it has. It's not too cumbersome to carry around. It feels sturdy, and I don't need to worry about dust and moisture with the weather sealing. In fact, I've taken it snow-shoeing, I've taken it out in rain storms, I've taken it on boats, I've taken it up mountains, I've taken it to the dusty desert... and I've never had to worry about it. It's a workhorse.
Cons: I only have a few. The lens hood is pretty big, and it's plastic. A big hood is good for reducing glare and protecting the glass (I never need to use a lens protector / filter), but it adds a couple inches to the length and makes it less stealthy than it already is. The manual focus is actually motor-driven, like most Fuji lenses. I would prefer true manual focus. And while the build is truly good and almost totally metal, there are a couple minor plastic pieces that would be nice if they were metal. They do not affect the performance, look, or durability, but I just like that premium metal feeling. And oh yeah... if you zoom in 200% and peep at the corners on a photo zoomed in at 80mm, then yes, it will be soft. Big whoop, it won't affect people who are using their lenses to take actual photos in the field.
My use-cases for this lens: street photography; landscape and backpacking (including overnight or trips in rain and snow); astrophotography (you get usable consumer-grade images, but don't expect miracles); everyday carry; travel; macro (I was surprised by this); portraiture / boudoir.
So... what am I going to do with my GAS issue? I am yearning for more gear, but the 16-80mm is the best fit for me right now. Well, I'm waiting for the X-H2 to come out! If I had IBIS in my camera, I would consider getting the 16-55mm f2.8 for the faster aperture in addition to the image stabilization (from IBIS); however, without IBIS, I am going to stick with this f4 with OIS for now as my images will come out sharper when stopped down and OIS enabled. But if I did switch to the 16-55mm f2.8, then I'm sacrificing a significant amount of reach by losing that 80mm range... so even with IBIS, I may not switch. For now, I may just grab a couple new primes (the 18mm f1.4 WR, 80mm Macro with OIS, the 27mm f2.8 pancake, and some macro extension tubes) and stick with the zoom I have now, the 16-80mm f4 -- I do love it.
If you're interested in having an extremely versatile lens that takes high-quality (good-enough) photos in a variety of different situations, then get this lens. Especially if you have a camera without IBIS, or if you just want the OIS + IBIS benefit. If you're interested in getting the most technically magnificent image quality from a lens at the expense of versatility in the field, then you will want to look elsewhere (like the new 18/23/33mm f1.4 WR primes, for example, or the 15-55mm f2.8 if you do not mind the omission of IBIS and losing that extra reach.
In short, I love this lens, and I think you will too.
Just what I was looking for
Rated 5 out of 5
After much searching on the web, I finally decided to add this lens to my (small) collection. I tend to live on the short focal length end of things. Before this purchase, I carried only the Fuji 10-24mm. It is great for travel and shooting cathedrals, street scenes, and landscapes. However, as time wore on, I realized that I'd really like something a little longer. This is a good fit for my style. I still carry the 10-24 for getting those interior scenes but the 16-80 is often a better fit for what's happening in the streets and allows me to get more intimate shots with greater reach. Yes, there is some distortion at the edges (as is also the case with the 10-24) but it is modest and I can usually crop it out if it is bothersome (often it is not). Otherwise, it is quite sharp, focuses fast and quietly, and the image stabilization works very well. Great for low light shooting in the street or in a bar. If you are a travel photographer, this is a good choice of a go-to lens.
It was an excellent lens, but you have to be careful!
Rated 4 out of 5
If you're looking for a versatile lens without any compromises, this is the lens to buy for your Fuji. The picture is crisp almost every time. The video it takes, is awesome. No lens distortion, and no chromatic abbreviations. But, don't be a fool like me and treat it like a beater lens. The mounting plate on it is connected to the body of the lens with plastic. (decent plastic at the least). So if you're not careful, if you put too much strain on the lens while it's on your camera, it can break off without a lot of force. Luckily for me, only 2 of the 4 mounting points broke. I had to take it apart, (which was surprisingly easy) and stick the plastic riser mounts back on with plastic superglue. Which worked just fine. But, make sure if you take this apart you have the proper fillips screw driver. Because if you don't, you can strip the screws VERY easily. Overall great lens. The only thing I would change would be to make it a little bit more sturdy. Especially since it's a zoom lens.