Fuji's XF 16mm 1.4 - The Sublime One!

May 06, 2021  •  2 Comments

Crescendo - Banda Ziriguidum - Brazilian Drum Troop - Scarborough Sunset Markets, Perth, 2021.  Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4.

Well – I guess it was inevitable, wasn’t it?  I had heard about ‘it’ for many years.  Photographers raved about ‘it’ saying that ‘it’ was Fuji’s greatest lens.  They said that once you bought ‘it’ you could never put ‘it’ down.  One tester said it was akin to dating the ‘Prom Queen’ – after that you could never go back to the “chick next door”.  I put it off for so many reasons.  I was very happy with my 16-55 and wrote many blogs attesting to this.  I didn’t want to spend any more money on top of the thousands I have dished out over the years, to try “another lens”.  However, a perusal of ‘fleabay’ during a period of boredom in one of the many COVID related lockdowns, changed everything! 

A change in equipment and thinking.

Locked in Love - Perth Bell Tower 'Bridge of Padlocks', WA, 2021.  Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4.

Let me backtrack a little.  For any of you who have read my blogs, you will remember that I wrote at great length how I was a zoom man and the marvellous 16-55 f2.8 Fuji FX lens was basically all I needed.  I wrote in detail how it replaced a whole kit of primes for me, and with one good zoom I could quickly have most of my focal lengths covered in one foul swoop.  I am going to have egg on my face after this blog, because I’m going to have to backtrack on a lot of what I have covered over those blogs.  See, something very special came along and rocked my photographic world!

In December last year, I gazed at a mint Fuji XF 16mm 1.4 on ‘fleabay’ for only 800 AUD (very cheap for here in Australia – they are around $1,600 new), I really had no excuses not to try ‘it’.  If I didn’t like ‘it’ I could at least get my money back.  Fortunately, it arrived just before my wife and I were driving around Western Australia for our annual Christmas break.  We usually always go to Vietnam to see her folks, then onto the rest of Asia.  However, thanks to COVID this year, it was all over. 

Gastronomical Frivolities - Food stall merchant having fun, Jambo celebrations, Perth, WA, 2021.   Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4.

I liked the feel of the lens and my initial impressions were good.  However, one thing that annoyed me no end was that the aperture ring is so loose that each time I used it; I would knock it off 1.4 - countless times.  It was nothing that a wide thick rubber band couldn’t instantly fix – problem solved.  I still carried a camera with my 16-55 attached – just in case.  However, I grew to love the lighter feel of this lens on my X-H1, and started to carry the 16-55 less and less.  Over the weeks and few months since I bought this lens – it has totally revolutionised my photography and changed the way I now operate.

How do I use this lens?

Culture - Girls preparing for cultural dance, Jambo Festival, Perth, Western Australia, 2021.  Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4.

It will be obvious to readers that going from a 16-55 to a fixed focal length of 16mm – there would be some big gaps in my focal lengths.  My kit for the last 3 or more years has been one body with the 16-55 and the 90mm on the other body.  This was a fairly big kit to lug around in the heat of Asia, but because it was so much lighter than my Nikon D3X kit, it was manageable. However, now that I’ve replaced the 90 with the 50mm f2, I really have all the focal lengths covered.  Before I bought the 16mm 1.4 off ‘fleabay’, I did a search on all of my images on Capture one. Over 60% of all of them had been taken at 16mm.  I wasn’t surprised, because way back in the Nikon film days, when I shot ‘Stock’, most of my images that sold well and were printed, were shot on the 24mm (equivalent to 16mm on crop sensor).  The other 40 odd percent were a mixture of the 55 mm end of the 16-55 and some on the 90mm.  I’ve kept the 90mm for the odd times I need extra reach.  Now my new kit consists of one X-T3 with the 16mm attached and the other X-T3 with the 50mm F2 attached – that’s it! 

I must be Australia’s answer to Bruce Gilden.  I love getting in really close and even shoving my camera into people’s faces.  My wife gets very cranky with me, but I haven’t offended too many people and the images speak for themselves.  The photo on here with the tattooed dude with his arms in the air - I am right in his face.  There is a huge crowd behind me, but I'm still up there, camera inches from his face.  It may be bold, but the faint hearted do not get captivating images by sitting back in the crowd with a zoom lens.  


'Decontamination' - mining rescue competition, Goldfields, WA, 2021.  Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4.

It would be boarding on a crime to buy this lens and use it for shooting landscapes at F16.  This lens is NOT designed for that.  If you want to do that type of shooting, then just buy the lighter cheaper 2.8 version.  If you look at my photos here and those on my website, there will not be a landscape or scenery in sight.  I have zero interest in this type of photography.  My deep passion is photographing people.  For the faint of heart, it could be a copout and much easier to point your camera at animals, sunsets or landscapes.  If I had to do that, I’d give up photography.  Sunsets or animals don’t yell back at you like people can, but ahh the results of good photos under duress and challenging situations in crowds where I always find myself – are extremely rewarding.

In other words, if you buy this lens, shoot it on 1.4 – that’s what this lens is designed for.  I never move it from this position, and so far, it has never let me down.  As I said above, it is razor sharp wide open, but unbelievably (at normal distances), it has enough depth of field to get a person’s whole face in focus.  The depth of field is not that razor thin that one has to worry about focusing on somebody’s nose, and getting their eyes blurry.  Of course, once you move in ridiculously close (my photo here of the ribbon on the padlock), then of course the depth of field will be very limiting.  However, if this does not apply to you, if you shoot a variety of subjects, like landscapes, sunsets or sceneries, then of course you will want maximum depth of field and you will have to move your lens to a smaller aperture.

Also - this is totally unsubstantiated, but I believe this lens has some 'magic sauce' that other Fuji lenses don't posses.  When I am processing my RAW files in C1 (from either the 16mm or 50mm F2), I can immediately tell which picture is from which lens.  The images from the 50mm look great and are alway razor sharp wide open.  However, they are very clinical and almost too 'perfect'.  However, the images from the 16mm have a hue, a depth to them and an almost cinematic look, that I don't get from the other lenses.  Somehow like folk who have the 23mm 1.4, say the images look different to the 23mm F2.  It's not based on science, there is no irrefutable test to prove it, but one can see in the final results that there is something very special in the results, that other lenses don't have.

Almost an investment

Yellow - Young African girl, cultural dance, Jambo festival, Perth, WA, 2021.  Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4.

It goes to show if we buy good gear, that lenses are almost like an investment.  I paid $1,500 for my 16-55 new, over four years ago.   It has been with me to many countries in Asia, to New Zealand to see my folks, all around Australia and has taken thousands upon thousands of images, and many of the best images gracing my website, have all been taken with this wonderful lens.  These are memories and special times that never will be erased.  I sold it last week on ‘fleabay‘ for almost $1,100.  Wow – that means for me to have used this beautiful lens, have all of those countless memories and images, only cost me $100 per year.  Awesome numbers in anybody’s book!

Can the Fujis ‘cut it’, with the best of them?

Dash of RedDash of RedArticulate Dancer, Street scene, Yagon Square, Perth CBD, 2020

Flashes of Red - Flamenco Dancer, Street celebrations, New Years, Perth, WA, 2021. Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4

I must point out at this juncture that everything in the Fuji world is not roses and skittles!  I invested in two X-H1’s more than two years ago.  My two X-T2’s were marvellous, but on the longer end of the 16-55 and definitely on the 90mm, I really needed some kind of stabilisation.  When the X-H1’s came out, I grabbed two of them.  I must say, the autofocus on the 16-55 was very good – even on the older X-H1.  Because I shoot mostly street and lots of events, I’m always tracking fast moving people and the camera is usually glued on AFC.  On this setting, the 16-55 rarely missed any images at all.  I was very pleased.  However, not so on the 90mm.  Many folk rave about the focus on the 90mm – “it is the best of Fuji’s lenses”, but I did not find this so.  I have missed many images – even in bright outdoor light – on the 90mm in AFC.

However, the greatest disappointment was when I bought the 16mm at Christmas time.  I was mortified when I put it on my X-H1 on AFC.  It was very slow and I missed many photo opportunities.  Mercifully, Fuji had very heavy discounts over Christmas, so I picked up a new X-T3 for a good price.  However, even though I put the 90mm aside for a while and replaced it with the smaller, ‘faster’ 50mm F2, I was still disappointed in the autofocus.  I was still missing many shots on the 50mm f2 and did not find it much better than the 90mm – on the X-H1.  I was in Perth recently for Easter celebrations and my camera store had a well-used (but still in good working order) X-T3 for a very low price.  I traded in one of my X-H1’s, and only paid a few hundred for change over.

Ancient Art - Aboriginal dot painting, Goldfields, WA, 2021.   Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4

I’m extremely happy now.  I still have one X-H1, for the very rare times I need the longer reach of the 90mm, or to use IBIS.  However, I find the 50mm and especially the 16mm rarely ever need IBIS.  I never miss any shots anymore on the 50mm & 16mm and with two X-T3’s now, I feel that my setup is future proof.  I certainly don’t need the X-T4 or any future iterations with that ridiculous fold out screen, and any new X-H2 now I would not be interested in (I don’t need the IBIS, that horrible flip around screen, a video-centric camera or the extra weight).  I can Finally say – the autofocus in Fuji’s X-T3, is now as fast as it was on my Nikon D3X – it only took Fuji 15 years to catch up &#$%!!

 Emergency - 'wounded' patient being attended to, mining rescue competition, Goldfields, WA, 2021.   Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4

Moving Forward

I’m extremely optimistic about my new setup.  Australia is starting to open up now, and I’ve shot a couple of events in the last few weeks.  We have the annual gold mining rescue coming up here, in the next few weeks (by the time you read this, it will be over and I’ll have photos to show).  I have been allowed a professional pass to attend and I have to go to an induction shortly.  This is a huge event, where all the major mine rescue teams from all over the Goldfields area, converge here in Kalgoorlie to compete.  They blow stuff up, burn things, have ‘dead’ bodies and ‘wounded’ strewn everywhere, fire trucks are screaming, ambulances everywhere, people trapped in overturned cars, helicopters in the air – a scene of total madness.  It will be off the planet.  I am so excited to be allowed to go there and get some unique images.  I’ll be taking my X-T3’s, one will have the 16mm and the other body the 50mm F2.  That’s it!

In Conclusion

Lighting Up - Street busker, Fremantle, Perth, WA, 2021.  Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4

One is almost challenged to find the superlatives to describe Fuji’s 16mm 1.4.  Everything I read about it and all the good stuff, still doesn’t really do it justice.  All the photos that you see here have all been taken over the last 3 or 4 months – as long as I’ve had this lens.  On my other setup with the zoom and the 90mm, it would have taken me much longer, even a year or so to get this many good keepers.  The future is bright, and with Australia opening up now - I have many events and things booked in the coming weeks and months.  My only complaint now is trying to get to sleep at night as I lay there thinking of my next shoot and the marvellous pictures I’m going to get on my 16mm 1.4!  Thank you Fuji!

Anticipation - Hair braiding, African Jambo celebrations, Perth, WA, 2021.  Fuji X-T3 & 16mm 1.4 @ 1.4













Thanks for this article. It gave me the push I needed to buy mine, second hand. I am loving it just as much as you do. This is such fun, especially photographing people up close in their environment. I've shot some of my favorite photos in the past few weeks with this lens.
I love my 16-55mm. But, I've been finding it a bit hard to hold steady due to it being so relatively large and weighty. Maybe I'm out of practice due to the Pandemic keeping me from the hobby I love? Or maybe it is just age creeping up on me?

Anyway, I think I need more lenses, including the 16mm you highlight here. Thank you for your great photos, and article!
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