Fujinon XF16-55mm F2.8 lens at Zouk Singapore: My first impressions

Main floor of Zouk Singapore. XT1 with 16-55mm lens, F2.8 at 1/45 second

Main floor of Zouk Singapore. XT1 with 16-55mm lens, F2.8 at 1/45 second

As some know, I am an official Fuji X-photographer, and for the last month I have had the highly anticipated Fujinon XF16-55mm F2.8 lens on loan for testing and shooting promotional material for Fuji Japan. At the same time, Charlene Winfred has made a promotional movie featuring me using the lens, click here to see it.

We were in Singapore during the making of this project and naturally, my 1st choice for a music venue to shoot in was Zouk SingaporeZouk Singapore is a legendary nightclub that is rated as one of the top 5 nightclubs in the world and I was dying to shoot there. Fortunately, Zouk was incredibly forthcoming and supportive of the project. This project was made over two nights of shooting at Zouk. Many thanks to Zouk for the access, and to Ethan Jones of Elixr Group for the introduction.

Today, I will post my first impressions and 3 images. Stay tuned this week for more in depth thoughts on the lens and the project and more pictures. Many thanks to Fuji Japan, Fuji Nordic and Zouk Singapore.

All sample images are Jpegs straight out of the camera

Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 first impressions

I should preface all of this by saying: I am a music photographer. I do not make usual promotional shots in controlled environments. These are real life images of working as a photographer in dark night clubs with next to no light at all, we’re talking shooting wide open always at iso6400 to make images. The Fuji X cameras and lenses are awesome for this, read my review of the X-T1 for music photography. But don’t except razor sharp iso200 images in perfect light, it’s not what I do. Now for the initial impressions of the 16-55:

  • I normally use Fujinon prime lenses such as 23mm, 35mm and 56mm for working in nightclubs because of their very fast F1.2 or F1.4 aperture. Shooting with a F2.8 zoom lens was a new experience. Most of the time I was fine with 2.8. The main room at Zouk was ok with 2.8, but I struggled in the smaller extremely dark Velvet Underground venue as it really is close to pitch black. Fortunately the image quality from this lens is so good, the images can be pushed a stop or two easily.
  • The autofocus is blindingly fast. And quiet. Fast. Did I mention fast! Maybe the fastest of any Fuji lens I have tried. OK, most of the time in a nightclub I have to use manual focus (focus peaking is nice here) but when I can I do trigger the autofocus using backbutton focus and it is soooooo fast on the 16-55mm.
  • The build quality is outstanding. The lens just feels amazing. The zoom ring and the focus ring are of exceptional quality.
  • Compared to the primes I normally use, it’s big. And heavy. OK, compared to the classic 24-70mm f2.8 lenses it is small and lightweight, absolutely. And it never felt heavy using it during the nights at Zouk. Still, it’s a big lens on a small camera.
  • Image quality? Prime quality. End of story. It is really a zoom that behaves like a prime, outstanding sharpness even at F2.8 (I don’t think I have shot the lens at anything but F2.8 come to think of it!). Sharp, contrasty, colourful, this lens behaves like a prime!
  • It really is an amazing all-round lens. I am amazed it works for my job, I was not expecting that. I would still prefer to use my primes in a nightclub, just because of the 1.4 aperture. But if I had to, I could do my job with just this lens, it’s that good.

More pictures, impressions and indepth story about the project coming over the next days (all good things to those who wait, I’m a bit slow). EDIT: Read the followup post on the XF16-55mmF2.8 here.

Do watch Charlene’s movie about the lens!

Main floor of Zouk Singapore. XT1 with 16-55mm lens, F2.8 at 1/550 second

Main floor of Zouk Singapore. XT1 with 16-55mm lens, F2.8 at 1/550 second

Bonobo at Velvet Underground, Zouk Singapore. XT1 with 16-55mm lens, F2.8 at 1/60 second

Bonobo at Velvet Underground, Zouk Singapore. XT1 with 16-55mm lens, F2.8 at 1/60 second

Yours truly and the 16-55mm lens. Image by Charlene Winfred.

Yours truly and the 16-55mm lens. Image by Charlene Winfred.

Fujinon XF16-55mmF2.8 – more pictures, read the 2nd part here.


17 Comments on “Fujinon XF16-55mm F2.8 lens at Zouk Singapore: My first impressions”

  1. Hi Flemming, Good to find a Fuji-X photographer who shoots music. I shoot a lot of music performances too, at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre in Singapore and also at getai during the 7th month. Recently, I rented the XT-1 with 50-230 lens to try for some stage events and I encountered two problems. Hope you can comment / advise:

    1. Sometimes the lens took very long to focus – as long as 5 seconds or more. Seems to me this is because the lens does not “hunt” but when it is not able to focus, it just stays there. And I need to move it around until I find a spot that it can focus. Is it because of the lens? Will the 55-200 perform better? I count not rent that to try.

    2. At times, the viewfinder became very very bright, to the point of being blinding and uncomfortable to look at? Did I do something wrong? Is there a way to avoid this?

    Hope you can advise. So far, other Fuji photographers I met do not shoot stage so they could not comment on these issues. BTW I am still using Fuji S5 Pro.

    Cheers and thanks

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for your comment!

      1. The 50-230 lens is a very poor lens for concert photography. You need a lens with a much faster autofocus, and a much faster aperture. No, the 55-200mm is not suited either. The only zoom I would say would work well for nightime concert photography is the 55-140mm F2.8 lens.

      2. Were you shooting in manual mode? Perhaps you had the camera set to emulate exposure in the viewfinder. If you were then shooting in manual mode and were overexposed, the viewfinder would show a very overexposed view as well – as it emulates exposure. This can be turned off in the camera menu.

      Hope this helps.

      All the best,


  2. Hi Again, Just read your other article on XT-1 for music photography. I see you use mainly prime and wide / medium lenses. And focus manually.

    Unfortunately I do not often get a chance to go near the stage and I have to shoot with a long zoom. Also, I like super close ups. Currently I use a Nikon 80-400 on my S5 Pro. So now my question is… Is there a long tele, preferably zoom, solution for shooting the stage?

    1. For the X-series camera, I would say the only zoom lens that is really awesome for shooting the stage at night is the 55-140 F2.8 – it has fast autofocus and fast constant F2.8 aperture.

  3. Many thanks Flemming. Yes your comments / advice have been helpful. And you are right, I was shooting in manual mode.

    I think I need to stick to DSLR for the moment… and wait for further improvements in Fuji’s mirrorless technology as well as better choice of long lenses. I am used to shooting in the 200-400 range for concerts. Too much of a sacrifice for me to drop to 140 🙁

    1. Hi Richard, you are welcome, glad I could help. 140 does equal 200mm in 35mm format but if you need 200mm to 400mm then, yes, there are not many options except the best one – get closer 🙂

  4. Richard, do try the 55-140mm f2.8 lens as Flemming has mentioned it will be equivalent to approximately 200mm at the 140mm setting due to the crop factor. Plus it has built-in OIS & is much lighter than the Nikon equivalent. It’s a really great lens. 🙂

      1. Hi Richard

        I’m a X-series journalist shooter as well, I went for a change from Canon 5D Mark 3 to X-T1 as it’s the only APS-C camera in the market that can provide same or almost IQ as a full-frame camera because due to my hectic travel issues required during work it’s more lighter and accessible with the X-T1 while also providing a full 100% coverage EVF and also with the amazing weatherproof camera that allows me to shoot under -10c without having any mist issues with the lens nor damaging the camera.

        , S5 Pro focus is entirely different from X-T1 just by the focusing itself regardless of lens X-T1 simply outperform the S5 Pro focus, I tried S5 Pro focus about 8 years back or so it was one of the fastest focusing camera at the time but right now it’s completely different, the X-T1 is incredible at focusing be it day or night the focus doesn’t falls shorter than 0.10 seconds, so I would point out that it isn’t a Lens issues but instead it’s the camera itself.

        With the XF-50-140mm F2.8 R LM OIS WR lens it’s perfectly sharp at any focal length and like what Flemming proclaimed it’s almost as sharp as a prime lens regardless of the focal length, and yes at certain times I would also need a longer zoom but with the X-Trans Sensor the IQ I would declare no APS-C camera is better than the X-T1 with a x5(700mm equil) crop the picture it is still turns out incredibly sharp like an 1-inch sensor camera quality shooting at 700mm.

        I would highly recommend you to get the X-T1 and focusing will never be an issue to you.

I'd love to hear your comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.