It has been a while since we last reviewed a Fujifilm lens (the 56mm APD over the christmas break was the last, unless I am mistaken). Our standard approach to a review has always been to grab the gear and head straight out the door to see what we can come up with.
It is always tough when you are on the clock and only have a weekend to gather some sample material, hoping to come across anything which best illustrates some of the kits strengths and weaknesses. Especially when you are tasked to thrash a wide angle.
The 16mm F1.4 lens works out to be a 24mm (35mm equivalent) focal length once you take the current X series APSC sensor crop factor (x1.5) into account. Although this is not a super wide angle lens, it is still wide enough to envelope a small city.
We have always struggled with wide angle framing, it just does not come naturally to us. When we see the world, we are a lot more focused and at ease with a telephoto lens. Although we own the 14mm F2.8 and have made some lovely images with it, our very intimate and personal approach to framing does not frequently benefit from such a dramatic field of view.
None the less, a wide angle lens is in almost every landscape photographers arsenal, and we do own the 14mm for those special occasions. Day to day, the most common use we have found for the 14mm lens has been during band performances. But the 14mm lenses maximum F2.8 aperture has forced our hand more than once, pushing the ISO higher than we might have liked. Although the 16mm is not quite as wide, the lenses F1.4 aperture is dramatically brighter and does not rely on the camera sensor to overcome any ambient light shortcomings. The above black and white image of the seascape is a great example of how much light gets into the lens at F1.4 (sunset, shot handheld).
If you have a tripod on hand, you could also close the aperture right down and slow the shutter speed to, again, completely change the image. The above two images were taken at almost the same time during sunrise to illustrate the effect of either freezing the ocean, or smoothing it out. Both creative options are possible thanks to the large F1.4 aperture of the 16mm.
Another bonus of large aperture prime lenses is the shallow depth of field and bokeh they are capable off. Unfortunately, wide angle lenses have inherently a deep depth of field, if you want to create bokeh and blur the background a little, you have to get close....very close! The 16mm lens focuses down to an astonishing 15cm. Needless to say, I had wet feet after making the two images above of the incoming tide...
Another great and typical use for the wide angle lens family is architectural photography. We are not ashamed to admit, this is one area of photography we know absolutely nothing about. Thankfully our good friend Nick Depree (www.ndepree.com) gave us a few pointers and shed some light on the topic.
These are great examples of how little distortion there is within the lens frame. Generally, the wider the viewing angle becomes the worse the distortion is. Straight lines do not remain straight and either dip into (pincushion distortion) or bulge out (barrel distortion) of the frame.
Although this is not an absolute test, in these real world examples we did not stumble across any major issues. All architectural support beams and bars remained straight throughout the frame, even at the large F1.4 aperture which allowed us to snag a couple of images of our favourite beach cafe before opening.
For our tastes the 16mm focal length is a little too wide for street or portrait photography, but that did not stop us from giving it a go. Because the lens absorbs so much of the environment, it was incredibly challenging to isolate pockets of interest in order to de-clutter and sift through the chaos.
Since we have entered the winter months here in New Zealand, the sun has been sitting beautifully low in the sky throughout the day. This makes it possible to grab great shots even relatively early in the afternoon without having to wait till just before sunset.
Long and dark shadows were cast throughout the streets, and helped us make images which took advantage of the greater set. Although some of these images look like something from a tourist postcard, they illustrate just how sharp the lens is across the frame. An attribute which is not uncommon for a Fujifilm lens, but should be noted regardless. Wide open lens performance has never been this good.
Although this is largely personal preference, we do love it when a lens surprises you with some flare. Flare is capable of introducing a certain romance into the frame, a neat trick for spicing up an otherwise common angle or subject matter.
Not once did the 16mm show any signs of flare... no matter how hard we tried; lens hood on, lens hood off, pointing the camera directly into the sun, positioning the sun in all corners of the frame and all the while franticly twisting the aperture ring. No matter what we threw at the lens, it just did not want to flare...
Colour and contrast are very true to life, just like we remember the scene to be. Lens build is excellent, and although we do not manual focus a lot, the focus clutch is a welcomed addition (same as on the 14mm and 23mm lenses already in the Fujifilm lineup).
The lens is is basically the same size as the 23mm F1.4 with the added benefit of weather seals. A feature we do not dare test on a media sample.
The 16mm F1.4 is a great performing lens, delivers and for those who need the low light advantage over a zoom or the 14mm prime lens should give this one a go. Even we are tempted to get in line and place our order, the larger aperture is reason enough for low light event work.