For me, the XF 16-55 is better than the XF 18-55

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atoniolin
atoniolin Regular Member • Posts: 355
For me, the XF 16-55 is better than the XF 18-55
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Note: This is a subjective post and long post in helping the OP in https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4275034. I originally wrote it as a reply but it got way too long so I thought I'd keep it as a separate thread.

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Heya, I thought I'd chime in since I have owned both the 18-55 and 16-55, but chose to keep the 16-55 and returned the 18-55.

Weather Resistance

Well, I value WR a lot so to me it's a big bonus. My attitude is like: 'ahh, don't care lah if it rains, snows or shines, I'm gonna shoot when I feel like it', so the additional peace of mind of WR is a psychological plus.

It also removes the excuse of 'oh it's rainy, can't shoot today' and instead you can say 'yes, it's rainy! let's take some shots others can't.'. Some of my friends who don't own WR lenses just keep their camera when the rain comes, while I just shrug it off and keep shooting.

F2.8 vs F4 @ 55mm

For me, 1 stop of light is huge, especially at night or indoors. I do a lot of after 7pm shooting for fun, you know, walking around cities at night or shooting indoors at home or even shooting food pictures in a dim restaurant.

I use the no tripod rule of thumb 1/(2x full-frame focal length), so 1/165. So that means around 1/250 if possible. That's when f2.8 helps a lot without having to bump up ISO. More on this below.

Sharpness

Other than that, it's another psychological plus knowing 'ahh, I know I got the 16-55 which is so sharp it cuts :P'. No more GAS and worrying about 'hmm,would I do better with the 16-55?' I did have that self-doubt when I owned the 18-55.

(even without pixel peeping but sorry, no pics to prove this :-P) With the 18-55 I can often get sharper images with my 23mm F2 or 35mm F2 or even 27mm F2.8 than the 18-55 whereas with the 16-55 it is much harder to tell the difference. Probably this is why they call The Brick, The Bag of Primes.

Warning: This part becomes a bit more objective and technical. Normally I wouldn't go into charts, but the OP of the thread specifically linked opticallimits.com's charts, so I thought I'd weigh in.

For me, I mostly care about resolution in charts, because first, you can't sharpen a soft image but you can soften a sharp image, and secondly because distortion, vignetting, flare are secondary issues to me, which Fuji JPEG engine corrects very well.

Then I also care about chromatic abberations because I've seen it in my images taken with the Mighty 16 and that is hard to correct. In this case, I don't think CAs are a huge problem for either lenses.

Back to sharpness, I found these charts from Lenstip.com which I use more than opticallimits.com. Obviously, the results are quite similar on both sites. I think they speak for themselves very well. Here's some help interpreting them:

16-55 peaks at 76, 74, 66 lines per millimeter (lpmm) when stopped down to F4 for 16, 35, 55mm.

18-55 peaks at 60, 58, 56 lpmm stopped down at F8 for 18, 35, 55 mm.

Note that even the underrated XF27mm F2.8 pancake lens (£200 used) has better resolution than the 18-55 and almost on par with the 16-55. Obviously, it is a prime lens, so it is meaningless from 16-26mm and 28-55mm.

Lenstip.com XF 16-55mm Image Resolution

Lenstip.com XF 18-55mm Image Resolution

Lenstip.com XF 27mm Image Resolution.

Conclusions on Sharpness:

1. When shot wide open (F2.8), 16-55 wins hands down.

2. At it's peak, 16-55 can shoot wider (F4 vs F8) for more sharpness (76lpmm vs 60lpmm).

3. At similar wider apertures, i.e. F2.8, F4, F5.6, 16-55 wins hands down. I think you can agree with that.

4. For the sake of completeness, at F8 and onwards the 16-55's performance intersects the 18-55, but I can only count the number of times I shoot at F8 and above. Maybe for interesting long exposure scenes or landscape? LOL

Whether or not this increased sharpness is important to you is another matter altogether, but objectively, I think 16-55 beats 18-55 in the sharpness department, as it should for 2X the price!

Autofocus Speed

AF speed is also subjectively faster on 16-55 than 18-55 (Maybe someone who owns both simultaneously can chime in?). Case in point, when I had the X-T2 + 18-55, I recalled a lot of out of focus shots despite turning on 18-55's OIS. But with the X-H1 IBIS + 16-55, this was significantly reduced. Maybe I just got better at handholding or use higher shutter speeds..LOL?

I also found more thoughts on AF here: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4226099

Wider Angle

Ooh, 16mm vs 18mm wide angle also makes a significant difference to notice in images, especially in tight situations like city tunnels or narrow restaurants. To me it is significant enough that if I had the 18-55, I'd definitely get the Mighty XF16mm F1.4.

THAT. LENS. IS. A. BEAST. But that's another story for another day.

Video

The 16-55 is silent and made for video. I shot a school play in low light with the 16-55 @55mm in 4K 24fps and noticed zero issues with it, except maybe the AF was sometimes slow to focus.

The 18-55 makes some noise during zooming and autofocus and hunts more in low light especially @55mm since it can only open up to F4 even for AF.

Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)

Note that the lack of OIS on the 16-55 might be annoying for non-IBIS cameras, but I use the X-H1 with IBIS so this is not a concern for me.

To be fair, it is a huge plus for the 18-55 when I only had the X-T2. I usually go only 1 or 2 stops more than the no tripod rule of thumb mentioned above, so OIS helped a lot there.

Portability

But I agree, for travel and lightweight kit, 18-55 + 55-200 is way more compact than 16-55 + 50-140. My attitude on this is also, ahh, YOLO, let's bring the best we got, everywhere we go. This is after regretting going to Europe only equipped with a Samsung S7 Edge phone camera and sighing at photos of Venice being unusable.

As for myself, with the X-H1 the 16-55 feels very balanced, and not overly front heavy. With the deeper handgrip, it feels very good to hold the combo so no complaints here. I have used the X-H1 + 16-55 combo since the first week of March and have loved the combo so far.

Price (Used)

I only get used lenses. In the UK, 18-55 can be had for ~£250 used and 16-55 can be had for ~£600 used.

Summary

To me, the XF16-55 is subjectively and objectively better, especially given IBIS with the X-H1. The major cons are price, size and weight but that is a given when upgrading lenses.  That said, all lens design is a compromise, and what's best for me might not be what's best for you.

Myself now, I'm fighting between 55-200 and 50-140 so I feel you.

 atoniolin's gear list:atoniolin's gear list
Fujifilm X-H1 Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 R LM OIS Fujifilm 16-55mm F2.8R LM WR Fujifilm XF 16mm F1.4 R WR XF 90mm +1 more
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