My Favourite Glass – The Fujinon 16mm F1.4

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.

Courtesy at the Red Bull Music Academy stage at Distortion festival. This is precisely how I want to shoot and compose my 16mm shots. I know the artist and stood just behind her record box so I could be ready when she turned around. It is uncropped, I nailed it!

Another favourite of mine, DJ Shaq performs at Red Bull Studios live at Distortion in Copenhagen and with the 16mm I can get him and the city and the massive crowd in one composition. Uncropped.

Kölsch plays at Zouk Singapore – I met up with Kölsch beforehand and as he walked into the booth I walked right behind him and captured this wave to the crowd.

A more traditional use of wide-angle, from the photo-pit towards the crowd at a Princess Nokia concert at Roskilde Festival. The trick is to get really close so you feel immersed in the crowd.

Oliver Sim of The XX and this is where wide-angle is a pure necessity. Locked in position in a photo-pit and the only way to fit all of him in is wide-angle. Uncropped. Bonus points if you can spot Romy btw!

Arcade Fire at Roskilde Festival and let’s get wide! I also really like using the 16mm for cropped-panoramas, I just shoot this in one shot – and crop, voila!

Back to what I really like, being close with a wide-angle. Raske Penge was faster than my manual focus so it is lovely soft but who cares, you have Raske way up close and still have the whole event behind him!

Gerd Janson at Culture Box in Copenhagen. This is a small DJ booth but with long arms and a 16mm lens and magic skills you can make this composition! Btw the reason that dude is so lit up is both that beam from the ceiling but also a buddy with an iphone flash in front of him! I waited an hour in the booth for something like this to happen. All good things to those who wait.

The Minds of 99 in Tivoli. Here I am in front of the stage, perfect 16mm territory. This is a good example of an “almost” image. This almost works. I really, really want to fit in all 5 players in the band, nicely spaced, unobstructed, no mikes etc in the way. This is damn difficult during a show. I constantly move around and got 4 of them really nicely spaced and then Asger in front obscures Louis the drummer. Darn, so close!

Bambounou performs at Red Bull Music Academy stage at Distortion festival in Copenhagen. It is not often that a venue and the light show is so gorgeous, that I can step back and shoot this wide a view and it looks amazing without a load of crap coming to view in the frame. Best looking event I have ever shot.

Sydhavnsgade disco-rave from another planet! This is a classic view of how I use the 16mm at times, walk/bump around in the crowd and shoot straight into the light. Super dark venue, manual focus.

Bok Bok performs at Red Bull Music Academy stage at Distortion festival in Copenhagen, the same venue as the Bambounou shot 2 images above. So insanely gorgeous event and perfect for the 16mm and me standing right behind the artist.

AV AV AV at Strøm festival 2016 and again, walking around the crowd and shooting straight at the lights.

MC Black Daniels at Bas Under Buen Odense 2017. I know Daniel and he is always a joy to photograph – here he is playing straight to my camera, somehow I nailed that focus pretty well and I had time to bend the old knees and kneel a bit so I could get the big banner just above him too. Composition people, gotta work for it.

Lorde at Roskilde Festival 2017, a bit surprised by the steep stage I bet! I like wide-angle cropped panoramas. I like the artist and the crowd in the same shot. And when the stage is taller than the crowd, you gotta get creative and tilt that camera!

Strøm festival 2016 at Red Roof, DGI-byen in Copenhagen. Think you cannot make an in-camera stitch with a 16mm lens? Think again! Of course it is distorted, but shot out a hotel room window and very close to the event, the 16mm was the only way to fit in everything. The event is unfortunately just starting and a bit empty here, it was packed later on and that would look better but then the dusk light would be all gone. Nature is so inconsiderate.

Legends! Skipper Røvskum at Strøm festival 2015 and a prime example of everything I try to do with the 16mm lens. Now, no one is moving here so I have time to compose this un-cropped picture. It was a rare gorgeous summer night and this concert was at Amager Strandpark beach. Of course I want to create a shot with the band, the crowd, the ocean, the skyline and the dusk sky. And I want to layer it. And I pretty much nailed it all. It is also super dark so I really needed the 1.4 aperture to keep my exposure time at 1/50. You could doctor this image a lot more, bring out more details but I don’t want to, I want it to look dark, it was super dark and the crowd was barely visible. I want to keep the light on the performers and the sky.

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?


9 Comments on “My Favourite Glass – The Fujinon 16mm F1.4”

  1. Love the descriptions on the images explaining how you got the shots, excited to shoot events with this lens 🙂 I was wondering, when you say you stitched photos for the panorama, was that done vertically? Or horizontally? And do you use the panorama mode in the camera or take a few photos yourself and stitch them in post?

    P.S. love your YouTube videos as well

    1. Thank you so much! Really glad you liked the article and my videos too, thank you! Honestly, it’s so long ago that I cannot remember how I made that stitch but looking at it it looks horizontal. And I hate using the camera in vertical mode so it’s probably horizontal. That stitch was just for fun, but turned out well. Normally if I know I am trying to make a proper quality stitch, I will shoot a lot of raws and stitch them in Lightroom.

  2. Would you rather go wider nowadays? There isnt a ultrabright 3rd party lense yet, but sure to come. I sold my hole lense-garage and just kept the 16 1.4, the 50 1.0 and X100V with wcl. Had the 2.8 Zoom-Triple, which is nearly perfect in optical issues, but never got that soultouching Feeling like the 16 and the 50 gave and still give me. There is some magic in those lenses. Perfectly Imperfect.

    1. I use the XF10-24mmF4 a lot nowadays too for the wider view on big stages. I still use the 16mm1.4 when I shoot small very dark events, but most of my wide angle shooting is now done with the XF16-55mmF2.8

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