Overview of the Fuji XF 18-55mm Lens - The King of Kit Lenses

Overview of the Fuji XF 18-55mm Lens – The King of Kit Lenses

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The humble kit lens. I’ve had my fair share of them; the Canon 18-55mm, the Nikon 18-55mm, the Olympus 14-42mm (and the 12-50mm for that matter) and now the Fuji XF 18-55mm lens. They’ve certainly been a mix of quality. The Canon is very plastic. The Nikon is better built. The Olympus 14-42mm has a funny design where you have to click out the center of the lens before it would operate. They’re all variable aperture, usually f/3.5-5.6 , so not the fastest lenses. Then along comes Fujifilm with their Fuji XF 18-55mm, putting them all to shame.

My well loved and used XF18-55mm kit lens from Fuji

My well loved and used XF18-55mm kit lens from Fuji

The Features

The first thing that hits you is that it’s almost a stop faster than other kit lenses, ranging from f/2.8-4.0. Despite that, it’s still quite a compact lens. It also ships with a lens hood, something I’ve since lost.

A shot from the Halloween parade from street theatre group Macnas at 18mm.

A shot from the Halloween parade from street theater group Macnas, shot at 18mm.

The speed of the lens isn’t the only thing. It’s almost all metal construction and feels really durable. It has a nice weight in hand and fits easily in your pocket, which is convenient when paired with putting your camera in another pocket. Holding it gives you a sense of robustness you don’t get in the other kits lenses, except perhaps the Nikon.

Another kit lens shot from the parade at 18.8mm. Using the width to include the crowd gives a sense of scale and occasion.

Another kit lens shot from the parade at 18.8mm. Using the width to include the crowd gives a sense of scale and occasion.

Optically the Fuji XF 18-55mm lens is distortion free, and surprisingly sharp-considering it is a kit lens. Fujifilm has probably done themselves a disservice with this lens. It’s so good, people might not be inclined to get the much dearer 16-55mm f/2.8. The extra 2mm and f/2.8 all the way through are appealing, but with the 18-55mm being so good, I’ve easily resisted the temptation to make that purchase. I probably will go for it in the future, but I’ll be keeping the kit lens, just to leave in my travel bag.

An environmental business shot for a local magazine shot at 18mm. This was on a tripod, so I turned the OIS off.

An environmental business portrait for a local magazine shot at 18mm. This was on a tripod, so I turned the OIS off.

There’s one other feature that’s certainly worth a mention: Optical Image Stabilization. Only a few camera makers have in body stabilization. It’s definitely sweet in the Olympus bodies that I’ve used, but at the same time, it has limits with longer lenses. For that reason, I’m happy to have OIS in the lens, and the 18-55mm has this built-in. OIS allows you to shoot at much slower shutter speeds handheld without getting motion blur from camera shake. In practice, it’s about four stops more than the 1/focal length rule you’ve probably heard about.

The Fuji XT 18-55mm lens in use

The 18-55 range (which is 14-42 in Micro Four Thirds) is the perfect zoom for anyone getting their first camera. It covers wide angles for landscapes and scenics but still has enough focal length to make a great portrait (almost 85mm field of view in full frame terms). And being able to shoot at f/4.0 with a portrait means that the background renders out of focus beautifully. 

How you set the aperture on the XF 18-55mm is different to most other lenses. Using a fly by wire system, you change the aperture using a ring on the lens. Because of the variable aperture, there are no markings on the lens, unlike most other lenses from Fujifilm. It means you are dependant on the screen or EVF to see what the aperture is set to. When you half press to focus, the aperture opens up, focuses the shot, then goes to the set aperture. 

While this may look like a wide shot, it's actually shot at 55mm further back, to help compress the scene.

While this may look like a wide shot, it’s actually shot at 55mm further back, to help compress the scene. With an aperture of f/5.0, the background is out of focus, making the subject stand out even more.

It also means that you can shoot a portrait and do a pull back shot of the scene really easily, a must for most photographers these days.

A typical pullback to show the setup from a shoot.

A typical pullback to show the setup from a shoot.

Photo examples

You might want to see some photos that show off the usefulness of this lens, so see below.

Here’s a typical portrait session. Using the 18mm end of the lens, you can do a wide shot, showing the subject in full length, as well as the environment. You can opt to use a wide aperture to have the background go out of focus slowly. 

A full length image at 18mm (cropped to vertical here) and a portrait shot moments later at 55m.

A full-length image at 18mm (cropped to vertical here) and a portrait shot moments later at 55m.

As the session progresses, you can move to the longer end of the lens and start shooting tighter portraits at 55mm. Even though your aperture will be f/4, it’s still shallow enough to render the background out of focus, for a really creamy look to the image.

Even out for a casual walk, you can capture different perspectives from your current position. For instance, a look at the woods in general or a feature of the path ahead.

A wide shot of the woods during a recent walk.

A wide shot of the woods during a recent walk.

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A zoomed view of the path ahead from the same angle as the previous image

For details, this lens gives you the chance to shoot the whole branch or just a single leaf.

From the branch..

From the branch…

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To the left.

Traditionally you would favor a narrow aperture for landscapes, but having the option of a wide aperture like f/2.8 means you can do wide field astrophotography with this lens.

Using the Fuji for wide field astrophotography

Using the Fuji for wide field astrophotography

Capturing night time landscapes

Capturing nighttime landscapes

Noctilucent clouds over the city

Noctilucent clouds over the city

It’s also a great lens for shooting concerts. Being a low light situation, you need a fast lens. The extra stop here is a real benefit, giving you more room to freeze action versus other kit lenses.

Phosphorescent

Phosphorescent

The National

The National

Final thoughts

The many features of the Fuji XF 18-55mm lens make it the king of kit lenses for me. None of the others come close for robustness or speed, and only a few have stabilization built-in. It’s just another beauty within the Fujifilm ecosystem that makes me delighted to be able to recommend it.

Price this lens out on Amazon.com or B&H Photo.

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Sean McCormack is an official Fuji X Photographer and Adobe Community Professional based in Galway in Ireland. He's been shooting for almost 20 years and loves portraits, landscapes, and travel when he gets a chance. He's written a few books on Lightroom.