A Practical Review of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS

The post A Practical Review of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

A review of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 lens

This article was updated in June 2024 with contributions from Sean McCormack and Jaymes Dempsey.

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 Olympus 12-50mm. The quality is certainly mixed. 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 all have a variable aperture – usually f/3.5-5.6 – so they’re certainly not the fastest lenses on the market.

Then I purchased a copy of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS, and it put them all to shame. It’s undoubtedly the best kit lens I’ve ever used, and for photographers in search of a lightweight lens that takes amazing images in a variety of situations, it’s a great pick.

Below, I share my review of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4, based on my experience using the lens in the field. Bear in mind that this isn’t a lab-heavy, spec-focused review; instead, I explain exactly what I love so much about this lens, and I discuss shooting scenarios where it excels. I also display a slew of photos I’ve taken with the XF 18-55mm lens so you can see for yourself how it performs.

Let’s dive right in!

What makes the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 a great kit lens?

My well loved and used XF 18-55mm kit lens from Fuji
My (well-loved!) copy of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm kit lens.

As I said in the introduction, I’m not going to focus heavily on technical details. However, these are the basic specs to keep in mind:

  • Mount: Fuji X-mount
  • Focal length: 18-55mm
  • 35mm equivalent focal length: 27-84mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8 (at 18mm), f/4 (at 55mm)
  • Minimum aperture: f/22
  • Maximum magnification: 0.08-0.15x
  • Weight: 310g
  • Dimensions: 65mm (diameter) by 70.4mm (at 18mm) to 97.9mm (at 55mm)
  • Filter size: 58mm

So with that out of the way, let’s talk about what makes this little kit lens so impressive!

Size and build quality

The first thing that hits you is that the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm is almost a stop faster than other kit lenses – even with the variable aperture, you get an f/2.8 maximum aperture on the wide end and an f/4 maximum aperture on the long end – yet it’s still very compact.

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
A shot from a Halloween parade featuring the street theater group Macnas. Shot at 18mm.

Most kit lenses are cheap and plasticky, yet this lens boasts almost all metal construction and feels extremely durable. It has a nice weight in hand and fits easily in your pocket, which is convenient when you don’t want to carry around a camera bag (you can put your Fujifilm 18-55mm lens in one pocket and your Fujifilm camera in the other!). The compact size is ideal for on-the-go photography and casual shooting, but it’s also a big benefit if you travel regularly and don’t want to lug around a big, bulky setup.

When I hold my Fujifilm XF 18-55mm, I get a real sense of robustness. Out of all the kit lenses I’ve used, this level of durability is only perhaps matched by the matched perhaps only by the Nikon 18-55mm. Therefore, you can use it comfortably in the great outdoors, at events where you sometimes get jostled, around rambunctious pets, and at sports games.

And if you’re the type of photographer who doesn’t like to baby your equipment, the impressive robustness will prevent you from needing to purchase a new kit lens a few months down the line.

Optical performance

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
Another shot from the parade at 18.8mm. Using the wide end of the zoom to include the crowd gives a sense of scale and occasion.

Optically, the Fuji XF 18-55mm lens is surprisingly sharp, especially when you consider that it’s a kit lens.

In fact, Fujifilm has probably done itself a disservice with this lens. It’s so good that people might not be inclined to get the more “serious” Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR, which costs around double the 18-55mm kit lens.

(Comparing the two lenses, the extra 2mm at the wide end and the fixed maximum f/2.8 aperture are definitely 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 keep the kit lens and carry it with me in my travel photography bag.)

I’ll also note that I’ve observed no distortion when using the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4. In other words, the optics are very solid, and you don’t have to worry about capturing amateurish-looking pictures like you might with a lower-quality kit lens.

Maximum aperture and image stabilization

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
An environmental business portrait for a local magazine shot at 18mm.

As I mentioned above, finding a kit lens with an f/2.8-4 maximum aperture is fantastic. Most kit lenses can’t open the aperture very wide, which makes it difficult to shoot in low light (e.g., in your home, at night, in the shade, etc.). But when shooting the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 at 18mm, you get a maximum f/2.8 aperture. This offers the flexibility needed to capture sharp, high-quality images in tough lighting conditions.

The wider maximum aperture comes with a second benefit: you can create shallow depth-of-field photos with a very nice background blur. It’s something that very few kit lenses provide, and it allows you to capture portraits with a refined, professional look. (To see what I mean, check out the sample images below!)

There’s one other feature that’s certainly worth a mention: the optical image stabilization. This counteracts camera shake and allows you to capture handheld photos at slow shutter speeds, which can be helpful in low light or when shooting with a narrow aperture. Most of Fujifilm’s cameras don’t include in-body image stabilization, so the value of this technology shouldn’t be overlooked. The OIS is pretty good, too; I’ve found that it gives me about four stops more than the 1/focal length rule (i.e., the reciprocal rule) you’ve probably heard about.

The Fujifilm XF 18-55mm lens in use

The 18-55mm focal-length range (27-84mm in 35mm terms) is the perfect zoom for anyone getting their first camera. It covers wide-angle focal lengths for landscapes and scenic shots, but it still has enough reach on the long end to make a great portrait. (You get nearly 85mm when zoomed in completely, which is a hugely popular focal length for portraiture.) And shooting portraits at f/4 will get you some very nice background bokeh effects; you just have to make sure there’s a decent amount of separation between the subject and the background.

How you set the aperture on the XF 18-55mm is different from most other lenses. Using a fly-by-wire system, you change the aperture using a ring on the lens. But because of the variable aperture, there are no markings on the lens (unlike most other lenses from Fujifilm). It means you are dependent on the screen or electronic viewfinder 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.

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
While this may look like a wide shot, it’s actually shot at 55mm from further back to help compress the scene. With an aperture of f/5, the background is out of focus, making the subject stand out even more.

One more thing I love about the 18-55mm focal length: You can shoot a portrait at 55mm, then quickly do a pull-back shot of the scene. That way, you can capture a mix of tight photos and more environmental images, which is a must for most photographers these days.

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
A typical pullback to show the setup from a shoot.

Sample images shot with the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4

I’ve used my XF 18-55mm lens extensively, so I’ve included some sample images that show the lens in various use cases.

First, we have a typical portrait session. Using the 18mm end of the lens, you can do a wide shot, showing the subject in full length along with the environment. You can use a wide aperture to have the background go out of focus slowly.

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
A full-length image at 18mm (cropped to vertical here) and a headshot taken moments later at 55mm.

As the session progresses, you can zoom in to 55mm and start shooting tighter portraits. Even though your aperture will be f/4, it’s still shallow enough to render the background out of focus for a really beautiful effect.

Even when out on a casual walk, you can capture different perspectives from the same position. For instance, you can create a shot of the woods in general or a feature of the path ahead:

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
A wide shot of the woods during a recent walk.
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
A zoomed view of the path, shot from the same spot as the previous image.

The maximum magnification on this lens isn’t outstanding, but you can definitely capture some nice detail images. You can shoot a whole branch:

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image

Or just a single leaf:

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image

Traditionally, landscape photographers favor narrow apertures, but having the option of a wide aperture like f/2.8 means you can do astrophotography with this lens:

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
Using the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 for astrophotography.

You can also capture landscapes at night by widening the aperture:

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
Noctilucent clouds over the city!

It’s also a great lens for shooting concerts. Concerts tend to involve very low light, which means that a fast lens is essential. The extra stop here is a real benefit and gives you more room to freeze the action compared to other kit lenses.

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
Phosphorescent.
Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 kit lens sample image
The National.

Is the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 right for you?

The many features of the Fuji XF 18-55mm lens make it the king of kit lenses for me. None of the others combine such outstanding robustness and a wide maximum aperture, and many don’t offer such impressive optical performance or image stabilization.

I certainly recommend the XF 18-55mm, especially for photographers seeking a great travel lens, a workhorse model, or a durable lens for everyday photography. The biggest drawback to this lens is the price – compared to other kit lenses, you’ll pay a significant amount – but it’s still not wildly expensive, and given the quality it provides, it’s likely worth the cost.

You can check out the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 on Amazon!

The post A Practical Review of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack.

The post A Practical Review of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS appeared first on Digital Photography School. It was authored by Sean McCormack. This article was updated in June 2024 with contributions from Sean McCormack and Jaymes Dempsey. The humble kit lens. I’ve had my fair share of them: the Canon 18-55mm,…

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