Gallery (35 images): Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4R LM OIS Revisited
Before I get into this main topic of this post, let me point out a few changes I made to this blog today. The separate links section on right side of the page has been removed and in its place, a list of image galleries has been added. These will filter the blog and only show postings that have links to image galleries for the relevant year. In addition, I have edited the main "SHOW" menu at the top of the blog, to remove the beauphoto blog entry link and put in its place, a "Major Trip/Event" link which will filter the blog to show only entries relevant to either a major photography trip I have been on, or for a major event I have photographed, like galleries related to the 2010 Olympics for example. The links have now all be moved to a "Links Elsewhere" page, which has been revised as well. Okay, so now to the main topic...
Above is a link to a gallery of images from Fujifilm's XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4R LM OIS zoom lens. I used to own that lens but sold it along with my X-E1 body well over a year ago. After selling it, I actually missed having a mid-range "walk-around" zoom, but had decided to wait for Fujifilm's XF 16-55mm f/2.8 pro-series zoom to arrive. As impressive a lens as the new 16-55mm is overall (a review of that lens is also coming), after testing it I decided not to get it after all. It was simply too big and heavy for me to have any interest in carrying it around on a regular basis! So, when I recently ordered myself a second X-E2 body, I decided at the last minute to order it with the 18-55mm kit zoom. I am actually quite impressed with the little 18-55mm and it seems better optically than I remember it being...
Part of my newfound respect for the diminutive kit zoom is due in part, no doubt, to the vastly improved raw processing I now have access to with PhotoNinja and Iridient Developer, which is what I used for the above linked gallery. There is no question that the zoom is not as sharp as Fujifilm's superb prime lenses, like the amazing 23mm f/1.4, the superb 35mm f/1.4 or the stunning 56mm f/1.2, but back when I owned the 18-55mm originally, I had mainly been using Adobe Lightroom, and the softness in texture detail that one often gets when processing X-Trans raw files with Lightroom, just served to accentuate the fact that the kit zoom was not as stunningly sharp as the primes. Now however, with better raw processing available, the little zoom seems to be performing quite impressively in my opinion!
The second reason why I am impressed with the 18-55's performance, may be that the big, heavy pro-series 16-55mm f/2.8 underwhelmed me a little with its image quality. There is no question that the 16-55mm is sharper in the centre at pretty much all focal lengths at wider f-stops, that it is far more flare resistant, has weather sealing and is also much better built. However from a corner-to-corner consistency-of-sharpness standpoint, once you stop the little 18-55mm down beyond f/8, well I'd say it actually beats the big pro lens for overall sharpness, at least in the middle of the big zoom's range. The 16-55mm is sharper at the edges and corners at wider open f-stops, but once you get to about f/5.6, it doesn't really improve any further and in roughly the 20-45mm range, the edges never quite reach the level of sharpness that the centre does. However the little 18-55mm, throughout its zoom range, continues to improve well beyond f/5.6 and once you reach f/10 or f/11, it is truly superb from the centre to the corners of the frame, in pretty much its entire zoom range. Ideally one would want the zoom optimally sharp by f/8, to avoid softness due to diffraction effects, but going up to f/11 doesn't seem to have too much of an impact luckily.
For me, with my landscape and cityscape shooting, this corner-to-corner consistency is very important although I do admit, if I were a portrait or wedding shooter, the big f/2.8 zoom would likely be a much better choice. Having OIS (image stabilization) on the 18-55mm, one which seemingly has minimal effect on edge sharpness, is icing on the cake too. Many photos in the above gallery were purposely taken with OIS switched on and I was impressed with how few showed any OIS-induced corner softness.
Of course, there are some weaknesses to the 18-55mm kit zoom: I'd say that at wider f-stops, sometimes the edges of the frame can look very soft, so much so in fact, that I am amazed it improves so much with stopping down! In addition, there are hints of purple fringing along high-contrast edges, some occasional chromatic aberration, and a fair bit of flare in high contrast sun-shining-on-the-front-element situations. All that said, for the money I'd still say this 18-55mm kit zoom is a true bargain and it is wonderfully compact too, considering its relatively fast f/2.8-4.0 aperture range, having a size and weight that's very comfortable and well suited to the small X-E2 body. Definitely a worthwhile purchase again, one I am very happy to have decided on!