Does the Fuji XF 16mm/f1.4 represent a worthwhile lens addition?
March 7, 2016 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Given the two lenses I currently use (18-55mm/f2.8, 35mm/f1.4) does adding the Fujifilm XF 16mm/f1.4 to my collection offer good value in expanding my photographic capabilities, or does this lens retread too much of what the 18mm zoom lens already offers.

My main photographic interests are landscapes and night skies. I've had reasonable success using the 18mm zoom lens for both subjects but I'm interested in what results I could achieve with a new lens.

Astrophotography samples (1, 2)
Landscape samples (1, 2, 3)

On paper the 16mm lens should be a winner for both landscapes (wide angle) and astrophotography (wide angle and fast). For landscape its well reviewed across a number of sites however with astrophotography it seems to suffer from coma when shooting full open.

Alternatively, does it make more sense to spend some extra money and get dedicated lenses? The Fujifilm XF 10-24mm/f4 for landscape photos and the Rokinon 12mm/f2 for astro photos?
posted by axismundi to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is the sort of thing that is for. No one here can tell you what your preferences are.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 5:59 PM on March 7, 2016

I suppose I should note, that I am in Canada with no local options for renting any of these lenses.
posted by axismundi at 6:08 PM on March 7, 2016

I don't think that the 16mm is going to be enough different from the 19-55mm to matter, unless you really really need the two stops of light.

I have a fisheye for my DSLR, and I find it to be pretty excellent for night skies. Maybe check out the Rokinon 8mm f/2.8 fisheye?

With respect to renting lenses, I sort of rent lenses from ebay. I buy a used lens shoot it for a few months, and then sell it on ebay for almost the same amount. You lose 10-20% in shipping, fees, etc. It's a pretty solid way to get a feel for a lens.
posted by gregr at 7:51 PM on March 7, 2016

Gregr, I disagree that the 16mm wouldn't be "enough different" from an 18-55mm, for the following reasons:

Under normal circumstances, a prime lens will nearly always outperform a zoom lens. For higher-end zooms, the prime will almost always be lighter and handle better as well; fewer compromises all around.

The focal length difference is larger than the numbers imply. Fuji only makes APS-C crop sensor cameras, so the 35mm equivalent focal length is a 1.5x factor, in addition to depth of field being deeper by default. That means that 18mm = 28mm (65° angle of view), whereas 16mm = 24mm (74° angle of view). To me, that's substantial. Your mileage may vary. Again, converting the aperture values from APS-C to full frame yields the following values: f/2.8 = f/4, f/1.4 = f/2

The real question is, do you need or want a wider angle of view and a shallower depth of field? I know you're in Canada with few local options for renting the lenses, but are there any stores nearby that sell them at all? Most dedicated photo stores will let you try or examine the lenses in question.

With respect to dedicated lenses, is 12mm (18mm equivalent) what you want for astro photos? I can also tell you that Rokinon is going to be pretty big and heavy compared to what you're used to, in addition to far wider. And the 10-24mm is less specialized, not more specialized. It covers a 15-36mm equivalent focal range, which is a decent range, but is far slower at f/4 (f/5.6 equivalent), which leaves you fewer options. I realize you may be shooting your landscapes firmly on tripods at f/8 or f/11, but it's nice to have options. For your astrophotography photos, you'll want the widest aperture you can manage, where the 16mm lens fits the bill best.

For what it's worth, I personally consider 24mm (I shoot full frame) a solid width, but I can understand why people would consider it too wide. I shoot Nikon, so their 24mm f/1.8 lens is crazy small and light and high quality compared to all the zooms you might be using instead. I don't think the difference is quite as drastic with the Fuji choices, but APS-C affords you smaller, lighter lenses generally.

Using eBay to "rent" lenses is not a bad idea, if you don't mind dealing with the hassle of resale. If you can find a camera store nearby that will let you handle things, that's a great choice.

Regarding your photos, I'm not seeing a burning need for a wider field of view, but I'm also not seeing the photos you possibly wanted to take but couldn't. I'm not seeing the opportunity you missed.

That having been said, nothing beats a really nice prime lens. You've got the 50mm equivalent covered with your 35mm; it makes sense to have a nice wide prime. The way I shoot, I wind up using my zooms more for jobs and weddings and the like when I can't afford the time to switch, and on my own time, I juggle primes as needed. The zooms just never beat them.

If any of that was confusing, or you want more elaboration, let me know.
posted by Strudel at 9:42 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am not sure I understand the need-for-speed when it comes to astrophotography. Presumably, when you are shooting the night sky, long exposures will do you better service than a bigger aperture? I could be missing something crucial here.

If I had your interests, I would acquire the 10-24 F4, and see what you get with it. It seems like the boost in range of length would be more interesting, overall, than the couple of stops you gain.

This isn't to say that the 16mm isn't going to be superior in some ways. In fact, I covet one. As the above poster notes, primes are better in a number of respects. That conventional wisdom holds. It is always going to be a matter of balancing quality and versatility. But if it were me, in this case, I think versatility would win out.

For the record, I just got the 10-24 to put on my XT1 a week ago, and I find it dreamy for my purposes.
posted by jamaal at 4:22 PM on March 8, 2016

Afterthought: It seems worth pointing out that applying crop factor multiplication to aperture is wildly misleading. There is a decent explanation here.
posted by jamaal at 4:30 PM on March 8, 2016

jamaal: You are missing something crucial here. If you're shooting the night sky, the length of time you expose for has huge implications for your image. The stars move - Earth is not stationary. If you don't want star trails, and want sharp points instead, there's a limit to how long you can expose the image, and just raising ISO to enable a shorter exposure time has its own image quality implications. Additionally, when you shoot the night sky, you're essentially shooting a planar surface, so you don't need higher depth of field for that shot; conventional wisdom holds that you want the widest aperture you can get astrophotography.

The only other way to counteract this is with a star tracker, another separate piece of equipment. Pentax's newer DSLRs have GPS and star tracking capabilities built into it, but they're the only vendor doing that.

Finally, I wasn't applying crop factor multiplication for aperture equivalence - field of view differences ≠ the one stop depth of field differential between full frame and APS-C sensors (I wasn't multiplying by 1.5?). I've seen the article you linked, and unless I'm misreading it (possible), it doesn't disprove anywhere that smaller formats have deeper depth of field. Again, that isn't necessarily a problem, and you can try to compensate for it but it's just something to keep in mind; if you're shooting as wide as you can, your options to compensate may be limited. A 16mm f/1.4 will always give you more depth of field choices than an f/4 lens.

Also, one more point I didn't address in the original question. The lens may be a little soft wide-open. Most lenses are not performing best wide open. But if you stop it down to f/2, 2.8, optical weaknesses may disappear. Typically, lenses perform best across the whole frame stopped down two stops from wide open. Odds are it will still beat any of the zooms even wide-open due to the typical zoom lens penalty.
posted by Strudel at 8:15 PM on March 8, 2016

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