XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135

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$$Policy$$
$$Policy$$ Regular Member • Posts: 202
XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135

Can anyone comment on the real-world image quality difference between the XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135? I understand the technical/features differences between the two lenses but am interested in image quality of print enlargement (24" X 36", 30" X 45") sizes.

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Canon EF-S 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 IS USM Fujifilm 16-55mm F2.8R LM WR
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Vic Chapman Veteran Member • Posts: 7,857
Re: XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135
1

From what I've seen, the 18-55mm XF is a better performer than the 18-135mm XF at the same settings and the 16-55mm XF is another step above the 18-55 and of course has a valuable extra 2mm at the short end and faster aperture at the long end. The 16-55mm f2.8 XF is also as close to prime performance as you can get in a zoom - no OIS but that shows how much Fuji were going for IQ above convenience..

I'm assuming you aren't confusing the 16-55 f2.8 XF with the 16-50 XC OIS?

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Sutto Contributing Member • Posts: 504
Great Question
6

This is a very pertinent question and one I am often mulling over. I have both and I am constantly evaluating them and asking myself which lens to take and when. I'll put my observations in point form.

# In spite of what others say, I found the 18-135 much sharper (wide open and at both extremes of the focal length), than the 18-55. I recently sold off my 18-55 and was glad to at least put that equation to rest. I did a lot of evaluation of those two lenses and had no doubts as to my final appraisal.

# As you would expect, the 16-55 is much sharper and has better definition than the 18-135. This is obvious up close - but less obvious if I am shooting a person or portrait where the subject is more than say 15-20 metres away. Then it seems to be a bit less obvious to which photo was taken on which lens. However, with the up close photos of models their eye brows and hair are definitely sharper on the 16-55. In all instances here I am talking shot wide open. I mostly always shoot my lenses wide open as I don't shoot landscapes or nature.

# Having said all of that, the convenience of the 18-135 is much more obvious than that of the 16-55. The latter is very heavy and does make it sometimes uncomfortable to carry it around all day. The 18-135 is just that bit lighter and nicer to carry. If I want to travel light, I can just take the 18-135 on my X-T2. If I take the 16-55 - then I don't have the longer reach, so I have to take my other X-T2 with the 55-200 - then things get heavier, less convenient and more complicated.

# The 18-135 is very useable and sharp enough (but of course not in the same league as the 16-55), up to about 90-100mm. After this it gets quit soft at the longer end and I tend not to use it there. The 55-200 is much much sharper than the 18-135 (speaking wide open again of course).

# It is very true what they say that no lens is perfect. I have all of these lenses and more but it is still a headache sometimes as to which lens to take or which is best. To confuse the mix, the 18-135 is disappointing when it comes to isolating the image from background.  If you are shooting over about 60 mm then it is near or on 5.6 - very hard to isolate the subject on 5.6.  That is why I like the 16-55 because it is much easier at 2.8.

# In summary - After all my experimentation and straining of brain cells - I think my final conclusion is something like this. When around home and short trips with my wife I tend to take the 16-55, the extra weight is not so obvious because we use the car etc and I tend not to need the longer reach. However, with my next trip coming up soon to Vietnam and Taiwan etc, I have been ruminating a lot as to which and what to take. I only ever take two cameras and two lenses when I travel. It would be great to take the 55-200 and the 16-55, I would get the sharpest and best combination. However, the 55-200 is not dust proof (I go to very terrible dirty places to shoot in Asia), and the weight of both lenses would weigh me down on motorbikes etc. So even though it is a bit of a compromise and not ideal, I will likely take the 18-135 (longer reach and very reasonable quality up to 100mm), and my gorgeous, unbelievable 35mm f2 on my other X-T2. The 35mm is sooo good that I use it whenever possible and just using the 18-135 for longer or shorter.

# People talk a lot about the 16-55 having no IOS - I worried a lot about that before I bought it as the IOS on the 18-135 is unbelievably useful.  However, after a while it does not become an issue.  You get used to it and adapt your style a bit to accomodate for that fact.  Don't let the no OIS put you off this lens - it really is not an issue.

# I hope this is not too long winded and has been helpful. PM me if you have more questions. It really is not an exact science and you have to experiment a bit and make up your mind what suits you. It is fun and I love doing this stuff all the time. I will provide the link to my blog and website. On my blog, read the travel posts to Bali and this year to Myanmar - I discuss there a lot the 18-135 and 35 f2, it will give you more to think about.

Sutto

http://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog

Mark VerMurlen Regular Member • Posts: 104
Re: Great Question

Thanks, Sutto, for the write up.  Very well written.  I also have both these lenses, but I haven't owned them long enough to come to such well thought out conclusions.  However, one thing I've noticed that you didn't mention is the difference in auto focus performance.  I've found that the autofocus on the 18-135mm is not as good as with the 16-55mm.  I get fairly frequent focus hunting on the 18-135, even in good light, that I haven't observed on the 16-55.  Have you noticed this too or not?

Mark

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MrFlash Contributing Member • Posts: 768
Re: XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135
1

I recently compared these two. The 16-55 has considerably sharper corners when shot at the same aperture as a wide open 18-135 (For example: if both are shot at 23mm f/4  - which is wide open for the 18-135)

At f/8 or f/11 it's hard to see much between them.

Bottom line: If you can stop down to f8 or f11 the 18-135 can nearly match the 16-55.  BUT - If you require corner to corner sharpness at faster apertures the 16-55 is the obvious choice.

P.S. In my test the 18-135 was sharper overall than the 18-55 or the 23 f/2 WR prime - FYI.

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Vic Chapman Veteran Member • Posts: 7,857
Re: Great Question

Sutto wrote:


# It is very true what they say that no lens is perfect. I have all of these lenses and more but it is still a headache sometimes as to which lens to take or which is best. To confuse the mix, the 18-135 is disappointing when it comes to isolating the image from background. If you are shooting over about 60 mm then it is near or on 5.6 - very hard to isolate the subject on 5.6. That is why I like the 16-55 because it is much easier at 2.8.

Sutto

http://www.philipsuttonphotography.com/blog

Hi Phil, I meant to contact you after reading your blog a few days ago (which I enjoyed as usual). There is one lens you haven't mentioned which I think may answer your prayers provided you can manage without very long FLs. The 90mm  f2 has the ability to isolate at distance and still be useful for some landscape and it is WP which I know is important on your trips to Vietnam. Surely it would make a perfect pairing with the 16-55 f2.8 and 2 bodies. Plenty of space to crop the new sensors with little effect on IQ from such a lens.

Regards, Vic

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Sutto Contributing Member • Posts: 504
Re: Great Question

Thanks for the input Vic.  Yes I have thought about that lens too.  However, at that focal length (around 135mm), I would definitely need OIS.  I can manage without the OIS on the 16-55 because it only goes up to 80mm (equivalent), but after that, in poor light I would need OIS.  I am slowly coming to terms with the 4 lenses that I have.  In the past I would have sold some off and kept trying more, however times are a bit tougher here now so I am having to slow down on the funds.  I think with my 18-135, 16-55, 35f2 and 55-200, I should be able to sort out my lens needs.  By the way, great to see that you also thought the 18-135 is better than the 18-55.  I was beginning to think I was the only one, because every other person who has commented on those two lenses always adds that the 55 is better than the 135.  To me the 135 is a clear winner and I was very glad to sell the 55 - never liked that lens.  Anyway - I had better shut up and get off here, don't want to hijack anybody's thread.

Sutto

Sutto Contributing Member • Posts: 504
Re: Great Question

Oops - sorry Vic it was Mrflash who commented on the 55 and 135 lenses - not you!

Sutto

Vic Chapman Veteran Member • Posts: 7,857
Re: Great Question

Sutto wrote:

Oops - sorry Vic it was Mrflash who commented on the 55 and 135 lenses - not you!

Sutto

Yes, I'm more in the other camp. I think the IQ of the 18-55 is a little better and the wider aperture a plus. At the long end the 55-200 surpasses it. Basically too much of a compromise (and price) for a comparatively modest zoom range - the comparison being with a Tammy 28-300mm on Nikon FF/APS which always surprised me with the quality of its output.

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$$Policy$$
OP $$Policy$$ Regular Member • Posts: 202
Re: XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135

Thanks.  Yes, I understand the diff. XF vs. XC. I once owned a Canon 18-135 and it was no comparison to the 24-70L version.

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baobob
baobob Veteran Member • Posts: 9,131
Re: XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135

Better than a lon g talk :

from ephotozine

at WA not only the 16mm is an asset as compared to 18, but borders of the 18-135mm are rather soft, at 55mm the 16-55 is  also better

At 135mm the borders are really soft

All in all for big prints, you get your answer..

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$$Policy$$
OP $$Policy$$ Regular Member • Posts: 202
Re: XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135

Thanks for the comments. This answers my basic question (not asked) of whether the 18-135 would do for landscapes and travel.

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$$Policy$$
OP $$Policy$$ Regular Member • Posts: 202
Re: XF 16-55 versus XF 18-135

Thanks! This is very helpful.

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