Lens Review: Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R

The Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R lens is the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. This is a lens that I want to love because of its small size and very useful focal-length, but I don’t love it because its way overpriced and has a disappointing focus system. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though; I have plenty that I want to discuss about the Fujinon 18mm f/2 before giving my conclusion.

This is one of two “pancake” lenses offered by Fujifilm; the other is the 27mm f/2.8. Whereas the 27mm is a true pancake, the 18mm f/2 is only sort-of one, as it’s a little on the large size for this category. Think of it more of a Japanese pancake than an American flapjack, or maybe it’s a short stack. The 18mm f/2 is compact glass for when you want a little less girth and weight, but it’s not quite as small as one might hope for.

In this lens are eight elements in seven groups with seven semi-rounded blades. You won’t get great sunstars. Bokeh is pretty good, although not something you’ll experience much because it’s a wide-angle lens. The 18mm focal-length is full-frame equivalent to 27mm. The minimum focus distance is about seven inches, which is pretty good. The maximum aperture is f/2 and the minimum is f/16, with 1/3-stop intermediate clicks. The lens accepts 52mm threaded filters.

The Fujinon 18mm f/2 lens is sharp in the center at all apertures. It’s slightly soft on the edges at all apertures, but more so when wide-open, so it’s best to stop down to at least f/2.8 or f/4 if you can. I didn’t notice any vignetting. There’s not much distortion, and I didn’t notice any chromatic aberrations; I wonder if it’s because the camera is correcting this—as you probably know, I shoot JPEGs, and I didn’t inspect the RAW files. Image quality from this lens is clearly Fujinon, and I’m quite happy with how it renders pictures.

This is one of Fujifilm’s oldest X-series lenses, and it shows. It’s in desperate need of a refresh. Autofocus is the slowest I’ve experienced in a Fujinon model, outside of macro lenses that have a long range to cycle through. It’s also the loudest. I found manual-focus, which is focus-by-wire, to be somewhat unpleasant. The focus system on this lens is disappointing, but ultimately it is sufficient for most situations, so you just have to put up with it. Hopefully at some point Fujifilm makes a new version with a better focus motor.

The 18mm f/2 is quite prone to lens flare, which you might love or hate depending on how you feel about it. Fujifilm does provide a lens hood that’s highly effective, but it adds significant length, which defeats the point of it being a pancake lens—with the hood it makes this lens the same size as the 16mm f2.8. I’m personally okay with the flare, so I don’t use the hood.

Fujinon 18mm f/2 flare example.
Fujinon 18mm f/2 flare example.

The Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R lens isn’t weather-sealed (which only matters if your camera is), it doesn’t have any image stabilization (which isn’t a big deal on a wide-angle lens), and it’s slow and loud compared to other Fujinon lenses. Yet it retails for $600! The only thing special about the 18mm f/2 is that it’s small and lightweight, which is why I bought it and why I plan to keep it, but I wouldn’t pay $600 for it.

If you can find one for a good price, it might be worth owning. Otherwise, there are better options to consider, including the 14mm f/2.8, 16mm f/2.8, 16mm f/1.4, 8-16mm f/2.8, 10-24mm f/4, 16-55mm f/2.8, 18-55mm f/2.8-f/4, 16-80mm f/4, and 18-135mm f/3.5-f/5.6. Heck, the 15-45mm f/3.5-f/5.6 and 16-50mm f/3.5-f/5.6 might even be better options! Pretty much any Fujinon lens that covers this or a similar focal length will have some advantages over the 18mm f/2. The one and only reason to buy the Fujinon 18mm f/2 lens is if you need a small pancake-like wide-angle lens to attach to your camera. If you need that, this lens is your best bet because it’s your only option.

Ah, but the pictures captured through this lens are quite nice, even if the experience of capturing them is less than ideal. That’s why I said this is the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. You have to know this going into it, or you’ll likely be disappointed. If you can put up with the quirks and can get it for a good price, you’ll find glass capable of capturing beautiful images, and that’s what matters most. I don’t love the lens, but I do like it and plan to use it frequently.

This post contains affiliate links, and if you make a purchase using my links I’ll be compensated a small amount for it.

Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R Amazon B&H

Example photographs captured with the Fujinon XF 18mm f/2 R lens on a Fujifilm X-T30:

Shallow Lake – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Calm Canal – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Farmington Bay Reeds – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Sky Reflections in the Water – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
International Fence – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Red Steel Pile – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Dirty Shore & Reflections – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Algae & Broken Reeds – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Puddle in the Path – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Still Water Reeds – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Seagull Over Reeds – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Wetlands Under Pastel Sky – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Structure Abstract – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Bucket in a Basket – Layton, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Sidewalk Intersection – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Three Seagulls – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Tree & Reflection – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2
Dramatic Sky Over Shallow Lake – Farmington, UT – Fujifilm X-T30 & Fujinon 18mm f/2

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26 comments

  1. Melvin · March 3

    Always felt like this lens was pretty under rated. Of course it has some quirks as you mentioned, but it’s a fun discrete little lens to shoot with. I find it especially strong stopping way down at f11ish and zone focus for street photos. You pretty much don’t even need to touch the focus at all since it has such a large range at this focal length.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · March 3

      Yeah, I found zone focus to be a good method for this lens. It definitely makes it quieter!

      Like

    • hpchavaz · March 5

      In street photography, it can be used not only at high apertures (f11: hyperfocal 1.45m) but also around f5.6 (hyperfocal: 2.88m), or when it is really necessary, even f4 (hyperfocal: 4.07). you just have to switch from “zone focus” to “back button focus” to adjust the range of sharpness for close subjects while keeping a background that is still sharp enough.

      And, as Ritchie humorously points out, this solves the little problem of noise, which is very low anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · March 7

        Nothing is as quick as manual pre-focus, either. Literally faster than the fastest autofocus system.

        Liked by 1 person

      • hpchavaz · March 7

        The trick is to use the back button focus to prefocus.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · March 8

        I’m a half-press kind of guy myself, but that’s just old habits.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Mark · March 3

    This was one of the first lenses I bought when the XPro1 came out. I sold it because of some of its shortcomings but a couple of years ago I bought it back because I really missed having the 27 mm perspective. 23 was not wide enough and 16 was too wide. I use this all the time now even for my wedding shoots. It’s a great storytelling lens and I don’t mind the shortcomings especially on some of the later model Fujis that I have. I really love the images with this lens.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ritchie Roesch · March 4

      The images are great, no doubt! I look forward to using it more. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  3. JR · March 3

    Hey Ritchie,
    This is more of a request than a comment. I recently found your Kodak Vision3 250D film recipe, and I thought it was way cool! But… it is only for the X-T30. As a hybrid shooter,(and owner of an X-S10) I think it would be very cool to have this as a recipe for both stills and SOOC cinematic video. What would you think about giving this recipe a refresh?
    I also was thinking about another potential film recipe… a film simulation based on super 16mm film stock! That would be a very versatile recipe for both stills and cinematography!
    By the way, this is my first comment and I wanted to let you know that I love this site! I have been following since the beginning of December and have loved every bit of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · March 4

      You can use the recipe on your X-S10, but you’ll have to decide if Grain should be Small or Large. Set Color Chrome FX Blue to Off, and consider setting Clarity to -2 (or 0). You can use it for video, too, but some things (like Color Chrome Effect) aren’t available in video, and the Eterna film simulation looks slightly different for stills vs. video (which is due to Fujifilm’s programming). But give it a try anyway.
      I’ll look into the Super 16mm suggestion, sounds interesting.
      I appreciate the comment!

      Like

      • JR · March 5

        Thanks so much Ritchie! : )

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Massimo · March 5

    Agree with you regarding the price for this lens new, too high. I got mine used and I’m very happy with it. I prefer it to the 16 and the 23, and with Phase Detect AF it’s fast enough. It does hunt more with Contrast Detect AF, but it’s not so much worse than the others.

    Like

  5. fcheval · March 5

    I can’t understand why Fujifilm make 27mm mark II and not this one. It was really used for reportage and other…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · March 7

      I hope they do. It’s long overdue. Keep the glass the same, just replace the motor with what they just put into the new 27mm.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. John Grubb · March 10

    This was the second lens I got for my X-Pro1 and is the second most used lens in my collection. I also have the 14mm, 27mm, 35mm, and 60mm. I use it on the X-Pro2 now and love the results. Most of my work is a hybrid of travel and street shooting. I learned to get around the quirks of this lens years ago and some of my favorite shots have come from it. I can’t imagine traveling without it.

    Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · March 15

      I just got back from a trip. I took six lenses, and this ended up being my second-most-used. I appreciate the comment!

      Like

  7. And · March 25

    Hi
    Thank you for your job
    I hope a new XF18 2.8 and a new XF23 2.8 as good as the new XF27 II, because 27mm (FF40mm) is not enough standard for me
    Wait en see 😉
    Then i could buy a X-E4

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Santostefano · March 25

      Yes it’s amazing how versatile this lens is I bought it when I originally purchased my XPro 1 And I continue to use it. It’s a great storytelling lens for weddings and events.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ritchie Roesch · March 29

        I haven’t yet tried it for weddings or events, but I believe you are right, it would be great for that. Thank you for the comment!

        Like

    • Ritchie Roesch · March 29

      Thanks for the input!

      Like

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  10. Andrew S · July 28

    I love this lens. It was the first Fuji lens I bought in 2014. I now have 8, if I needed to sell them this one would probably be the last one I sold. Time and again when I get back from a trip I find most of my favourite images come from this lens. I think there are two reasons, the character of the pictures, and the fact that when I don’t feel like carrying camera gear I put this lens on and leave the rest behind. So this lens gets used more then all the rest of my lenses combined. The quirks don’t bother me one bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ritchie Roesch · July 28

      The 27mm lens kind of fills that role in my camera bag right now. I think I simply prefer that focal length. But I’m always happy with the results when I use the 18mm, the image quality is very nice. I appreciate the comment!

      Like

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