Around a year ago, just before my first trip to the USA, I finally took the plunge and landed my hands on one of Fujifilm’s holy grails; the Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4 lens. The question I can’t quite remember the answer to is why? I already had the excellent 10-24mm f/4 and used this primarily at the widest end. I had no real experience of the 16mm focal length but, with my need for an ultra-wide lens diminishing, I decided to go all out. As always, this isn’t going to be a full and detailed review but simply my own personal impressions of the Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4 along with plenty of photos.
Fujifilm have since released a much more compact version of this lens, the 16mm f/2.8. Whilst I haven’t had experience of that lens, I absolutely see no need for it now that I have the exceptional f/1.4 version. The f/2.8 lens is substantially cheaper, smaller and lighter, attributes that would ordinarily for any travel photographer be a deal breaker. For the reasons I’ll get on to, despite the price of £899, despite the fact this lens is a beast (yes it’s bigger than the 56mm f/1.2!), I will never fall out of love with this lens.
For 10 months of travel, I almost extensively used the 23mm f/2 lens combined with the X-T2. I’ll still say that it is a perfect combination for travel. Not too wide, not too close, just right. For weddings too, the 23mm is one of my favourite focal lengths. The 16mm focal length (equivalent to 24mm in full frame terms) isn’t one that I can say I’m entirely comfortable with yet. I read many reviews explaining that it takes time to get used to but, my initial impressions were exactly the opposite. I was loving it for the first couple of months especially during my trip to Florida. Over time though I’ve come a bit unstuck and find I’m constantly cropping images to get closer to the subject. I have to keep reminding myself to get closer with this lens and, when you do, it really works.
I’ve been using this lens a bit for weddings (some as a guest) too due to its incredible image quality and low light capabilities. For me, these qualities outweigh my hesitation on the focal length and I’ve been able to produce some beautiful images. Over the last few months, unfortunately the lens has taken a bit of a back seat only due to my purchase of the even more exceptional 35mm f/1.4. I can however see potential for my new travel photography kit to insist of the Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4 on one X-T2 body and the Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 on another. For weddings, 23mm and 56mm would still be the way forward for me.
Don’t let my slight concerns about the actual focal length put you off. At all. The image quality, as I’ve mentioned above, is out of this world. Though I guess you could probably say that about most of Fujifilm lenses. Sharpness is very good even when shooting wide open at f/1.4. The contrast is beautiful and there’s a good amount of subject separation considering this a wide angle lens. The bokeh really stands out to me as well; making any busy background become virtually unnoticeable. One of the most surprising things about this lens is its ability to focus super close. 15cm from the focal plane to the subject is unbelievable and enables you to capture some really unique photos without reaching for a macro lens. Another impressive feature that I hadn’t used before is the clutch mechanism for manual focus. Instead of turning a dial on the front of your Fujifilm camera to switch to manual focus, you literally pull part of the lens towards you and away you go. Combined with peak highlights on the EVF viewfinder, manual focus has literally never been easier.
On top of all this, the lens is weather resistant too making the Fujifilm 16mm f/1.4 practically a perfect travel photography lens.
Whilst there are cheaper lighter and smaller options out there, I honestly could still not look past this lens. Now, just to wait for the world to unlock so I can really put this lens through its paces.
MY 2023 TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR
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