Okay my favourite glass is the one filled with a large, very large, pour of high quality dark rum. But when it comes to glass I can mount on my cameras then the Fujinon 16mm F1.4 WR is the favourite, my desert island lens. Actually, on a desert island, I would take the rum. Back to the 16. I was fortunate enough to be part of the sample shooting and testing process for the 16mm lens Fujifilm back in March 2015. Since then I have used this 16mm lens, actually that same prototype, about a million times and I love this clunky thing to bits!
What I love about the Fujinon 16mm F1.4
- It is wide AND fast! Not a lot of wide angles have a max aperture of 1.4 and I know a lot of people who thought when this lens was released: “who would use this? Wide angle is of course only for landscapes and they’re shot at higher apertures!”. Well I can tell you, anyone who shoots ANYTHING in low light and likes to shoot wide, this is your ultimate lens!
- Image quality is fantastic, even at F1.4 (I shoot 99% of the time at F1.4) and it is sharp, contrasty, gorgeous colours, you know, your standard Fujinon awesomeness!
- It is built like a tank. I have banged this lens into stages, speakers, people, metal barriers, more people and also dropped it several times. It just keeps working. It is not exactly like new anymore but like the owner it gets better with age (cough!), it might be a bit worn down (cough) but still going strong (COUGH)!
- Remarkable low distortion, for something so wide. One of the big disadvantages for me of crop sensors is that we need stupidly wide lenses to get something that ends up somewhat wide after the 1.6x crop. 16mm turns into 24mm after the crop, and somewhere around 21-24mm is my preferred wide angle for music photography. Any wider than that, I feel the the image is so wildly distorted, one might as well go all in with a 8mm fisheye. 16mm is actually darn wide but there is so little distortion I have even shot portraits with this baby. As long as you keep the face in the middle and are not too close, it can work great.
What could be better
- That weird clutch mechanism focus ring. I have never really gotten used to this clutch thing, I have learned to live with it but will never like it. I hope for a version II of this lens with a nice smoooooth focus ring like the new 23mm and 50mm F2 lenses.
- Speaking of the focus ring and focusing. I shoot a lot of manual focus using focus peaking with this lens in dark nightclubs and the ring itself is fine but manual focus is sluggish on this lens. It is course using that focus-by-wire system but it feels really sluggish. The 23mm F2 and 50mm F2 are so fast that you almost think the manual focus is direct. On the 16mm all the engines inside the lens go “listen up people, he twisted the focus ring, wake up, lets move…” and then they finally move but move too far and overshoot the target. So you end up twisting that ring back and forth in a never-ending chase the focus game. A version II with faster focus engines would be great.
- I need it to be F1.4 and I need it to be built like a tank – but of course I am still going to say that it is a bit big and heavy! Laws of physics dictate some of this, but it is still somewhat big and heavy to use and carry a whole night.
- I don’t use a hood with this lens so the glass is a bit exposed (not that easy to scratch fortunately). It comes with one of those useless huge plastic hoods that I hate and probably lost 3 years ago. Fujifilm did make a really nice metal lens hood that I have not tried, but saw once at a fair. I would not mind getting one of those at some point.
- Oh and it won’t hold a pour of high quality dark rum.
“I’ll have a triple Zacapa with a 16mm” gallery
A lot of people seem to think that a wide-angle lens is solely for shooting a really wide huge field of view. It IS of course, sometimes I just want to aim it at the crowd and try and fit in all 100,000 of them. BUT for me the most important part of the wide angle lens is to be able to stand really close to an artist and still capture the environment. I love this viewpoint, where you can see the artist, the crowd, the lights, in different layers and composed to perfection (well I can dream!). I can stand in a super cramped small DJ booth and still fit in the DJ, the gear, the crowd etc – or I can stand on a huge stage and get in the artists and the crowd and the scale of it. Layering layers with a large difference between the layers (that is a lot of layers!) is my thing. That is why I dislike the compressed view of a tele-lens. Where was I? Pictures, right, pictures I have made with this wide-angle wonder. Here we go – do read the captions too.
That was my salute to my favourite glass for a camera, The Fujinon 16mm F1.4. If you want to shoot wide and in low-light, this lens is total magic.
PS. I forgot to add: For some reason, in a totally dark night club where I cannot see anything at all – for some reason this lens is just so damn hard to mount on the camera! It makes no sense at all, it is the same mount and yet I can mount the 35mm and 23mm easy enough. But this 16mm I can rotate over and over again and it just will not fit into the camera. I have a general lens-mounting-disability (that is a real thing), but this lens is clearly cursed in this aspect. I have actually considered small spots of fluorescent paint. Any other ideas?