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