Comparing the Three Fujifilm 16mm f/2.8 lenses

Comparing the Three Fujifilm 16mm f/2.8 lenses

So, you shoot Fujifilm and need to achieve 16mm f/2.8 and you're not sure how to get there? Let this be your guide. 

Fujifilm makes four lenses that can shoot at 16mm f/2.8. The 16mm f/1.4, the 16-55 f/2.8, the 8-16mm f/2.8, and the new 16mm f/2.8. I am not including the f/1.4, because when shooting at f/2.8, it has an unfair advantage in this test — we want to keep all three with f/2.8 as a constant variable. Let's go through these lenses one by one.

16mm f/2.8

The 16mm f/2.8 wide open against a brick wall

Out of the three, this lens is probably my favorite technically. It's sharp, with minimal distortion and vignetting, and small. It's odd how close in size it is to my 23mm f/2.0 while being such a different focal length, but I guess Fuji wants this the 23mm and the 35mm f/2.0 to feel like the same family, as all three are very similar in size and weight with only 25 grams separating the lightest (the 16mm f/2.8 at 155 grams) and the heaviest (the 23mm at 180 grams).

A single image panoramic crop from the 16mm f/2.8

But that's neither here nor there. The question is how the lens performs. The 16mm f/f/2.8 lens is a part of what I call Fuji's "Gen 2" lenses, which is anything after the 16-55mm f/2.8, where Fuji updated their autofocus mechanisms, improving AF performance, and this lens shows this off in spades with some snappy, fast autofocus!

As you can see in the sharpness test above, vignetting is there, but under control, and distortion is very minimal, especially when compared to the 16-55mm f/2.8.

16-55mm f/2.8

The Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8 at 16mm f/2.8

The 16-55mm f/2.8 is the only lens of the three I actually own. It is a grand lens, a versatile shooter with a 24-82.5mm focal range in full-frame talk. This lens may not be the sharpest, though it is sharp, and definitely has more distortion than the other two lenses at 16mm, but it is probably the best catch-all lens. But we are (trying) to not talk about the other uses of the lens and just talk about the 16mm end, and in this case, I would say it is the weakest of the three with the most distortion and the most vignetting at 16mm.

wide shot, landscape

A shot from the 16-55mm f/2.8

8-16mm f/2.8

Sharpness and vignietting test

On a technical level, this lens is right in the middle when it comes to 16mm lenses. It has less distortion than the 16-55mm and is slightly softer than the 16mm f/2.8. This lens is definitely a specialty lens and priced that way. The 8-16mm gives it a 12-24mm equivalence. But I want to concentrate on just the 16mm end of the spectrum! If you want an in-depth review of this lens, fellow writer Dylan Goldby wrote a fantastic review here, and while this lens is pretty freaking great, I feel it is too expensive and too much of a specialty case to recommend as the best 16mm f/2.8 out there.

While not meant for street, the 8-16mm does a great job at it.

Which Should You Buy?

Well, it all comes down to use. Are you a portrait/fashion/event photographer? The 16-55mm f/2.8 is your best bet. While it is not the sharpest (that goes to the 16mm f/2.8 prime), it is definitely the most versatile. 

Do you shoot a lot of architecture, or aspire to be the next Mike Kelley? The 8-16mm is going to be your best friend in the world, able to get the widest of wides while also being versatile enough to capture those all important medium wides.

Are you a street shooter? Looking for something a little wider than the 23mm f/2? The 16mm f/2.8 is your best bet. If you have the money, the 16mm f/1.4 is faster, but if you aren't shooting a lot of low light, you may be better off with the newer 16mm, as it is smaller, cheaper, and lighter. This is definitely the sharpest of the three, though I personally find sharpness overrated unless you're printing big. 

Do you have any of these three lenses? Which did you choose and why?

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Mark Wyatt's picture

How about the 10-24mm? That is one I have some interest in.

LA M's picture

Pretty good lens..not as sharp vs 8-16 but very capable. I stuck with it as my gen landscape zoom. Also use it for group shots in weddings...just keep anything important off the edges do to distortion.

stuartcarver's picture

It’s mint, plain and simple. Compact for an ultra wide and a must have lens for the X system.

LA M's picture

the 16-55 is absolutely BA...if you are a pro/serious hobbyist this is the one gen purpose lens you should own on the X platform.

Ryan Garbutt's picture

Really wish they would update the 10-24mm to a 2.0 or 2.8 and make it super sharp. I primary shoot with the 16 and 23 f/2's but having the one lens would be much easier!

Paul Parkinson's picture

And what about the 16mm 1,4? Stopped down to 2.8 it should be here!

Mark Wyatt's picture

edit: see what you are saying...

Ralph Rackstraw's picture

Please! For goodness sake none of the pictures are composed on the same bricks! How on earth are we to compare the photo quality! This is ridiculous, did you even use a tripod?

Rhonald Rose's picture

For shooting the brick wall? I say buy em all.

LA M's picture

That's the problem innit....people doing reviews without actually taking the kind of images they say the lenses are good for ;-)

Larry Clark's picture

They are actually pretty lousy brick wall shots. To do them right, you need a lot of setup, including a line on the ground running 90 degrees out from the wall, and a camera stand that allows you to make sure that there is a line plumb from the center of the lens down to that line. And then you have to make sure that the camera's sensor plane is exactly parallel to the brick wall and the camera is level. Oh...And you have check the brick wall with a straight edge to make sure that it is actually flat, and check with a level (36" or a meter, minimum) to make sure the face of the wall is plumb.

This is why people who actually know what they are doing end up with a high contrast, accurate grid board to look for distortion, and a real resolution chart (or charts) to look at resolution.

This was a really half-fast effort.

Liam Riley's picture

I'm confused... is that it? If so then thats the most rediculous comparison I have ever read...

Also, my 16-55 is significantly sharper than my 16 2.8 when used at 16mm. Sample variation maybe.

Andres Cifuentes's picture

I´m not one to be negative but this was a pretty pointless read, while it´s true that all give you 16f2.8 these are very different lenses meant for different uses and extremely different price points.

Pedro Pulido's picture

If you have enough money for the 8-16mm, then go for the 16mm F1.4. one of the best ever fujinon lenses in the market. period.

John Koster's picture

I own and use the 16 f/2.8 a ton. What a terrific little lens. For the money it's a powerhouse. Sharp, contrasty and perfect for carrying everywhere.

Blake Aghili's picture

yeah pretty much if you own a Fuji camera, you gotta get that 16 f/1.4 or 16 2.8 ... just get it

philip sutton's picture

I'm really sorry to sound negative (there are too many nasty horrible people on forums, cutting folk down all the time), but that was the worst lens review I have ever read, with the very worst photos. Perhaps read Dylan's review again and model that for next time. Cheers Philip