Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 Review: More Than Just a Kit Lens

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The Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS is a wide-angle to mid-range zoom lens that is sold as a kit lens with some of Fujifilm’s cameras. There are very few bad new lenses sold these days but to think of this as “just a kit lens” doesn’t really do it justice.

This lens pairs good image quality and a practical zoom range with a rugged build. Best of all, in my opinion, is that Fujifilm managed to keep the size to a minimum and its weight low. My main focus is street photography and I hadn’t normally even considered zoom lenses for that but this lens has actually changed my mind a bit and a big part of that is because of its small size and low weight.

I haven’t had this lens for long but I’ve already used it quite a bit and I give my thoughts on it in this Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 review.

Specs

  • Focal Length: 18mm to 55mm (27mm to 84mm full-frame equivalent)
  • Maximum Aperture: f/2.8 to f/4
  • Minimum Aperture: f/22
  • Lens Mount: Fujifilm X
  • Sensor Compatibility: APS-C
  • Angle of View: 79.1° to 28.4°
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 11.81 inches / 30 centimeters
  • Magnification: 0.08 to 0.15x
  • Optical Design: 14 Elements in 10 Groups
  • Diaphragm Blades: 7, Rounded
  • Optical Image Stabilization: Yes
  • Dimensions: 2.56 x 2.77 inches / 65 x 70.4 mm
  • Weight: 10.93 ounces / 310 grams
  • Filter Thread Size: 58mm

Build Quality

When the subject of “kit” lenses comes up, the first things that come to mind are “cheap”, “plasticky”, etc. Fujifilm didn’t sacrifice build quality with the Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 though. It has an all-metal construction that actually feels professional despite it being lightweight.

I haven’t been using this lens all that long but the build quality does give me some confidence that it could take some dings here and there and keep on working. Unfortunately, it’s not weather-sealed though, which always limits the types of conditions you can photograph in.

The front lens element does physically go in and out as you zoom, which does seem like something that could be a point of breakage but if they made the lens focus internally they would have to increase the size. Luckily, I haven’t noticed any lens creep, where the weight of the lens makes it extend outwards when you’re not using it.

Ergonomics/Handling

The Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 handles really intuitively in my opinion. I don’t remember ever accidentally changing the aperture on the lens and it has a nice area to hold onto to stabilize the camera with your left hand.

The overall package when I have the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 on the X-E4 and the X-T3 feels well-balanced and unobtrusive for the most part. The overall handling and zoom range make it a great option for travel photography and makes it so you don’t have to change lenses frequently.

Size/Weight

At 310 grams, I have no problem with the weight of this lens. It balances well on the Fujifilm camera bodies that I have and I don’t feel weighed down by it. I wouldn’t hesitate to take out just this lens for a long day of street or travel photography.

The size is just slightly bigger than what I usually prefer for street photography (I prefer for my lenses to be as small as possible so I like pancake-style lenses), but it’s manageable. It’s small enough that it doesn’t draw much attention on the street.

If you compare this lens to your standard 24-70mm zoom for full-frame cameras, the size and weight difference is night and day. Those 24-70 zooms for full-frame cameras are almost twice the size and triple the weight. And on top of that, the Fujifilm’s equivalent focal range of 27-84mm is wider and more useful in my opinion.

I always thought wedding photographers would really appreciate either a 35-85mm or 28-85mm focal length zoom because that could eliminate the need for carrying two cameras and this lens covers those focal lengths. If I were to do that with Fujifilm gear, I would probably use the 16-55mm f/2.8 because of it being sharper, having a wider maximum (and constant) aperture, and it has weather sealing. The 18-55mm is my choice for street photography, documentary photography, everyday photography, etc. though because of its small size and low weight.

Image Quality

Sharpness

I didn’t buy this lens expecting mind-blowing sharpness but I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it’s pretty sharp throughout the whole zoom range. It’s more than acceptable for street photography and documenting your everyday life. Plus with its small size and low weight, it doesn’t get in the way of taking it everywhere you go.

It has three aspherical elements, which are meant to increase sharpness and cut down on chromatic aberration.

It does have some noticeable barrel distortion, particularly at 18mm and some of the wider focal lengths, but this is usually corrected pretty well by Capture One or whatever raw converter you’re using.

Bokeh

The maximum aperture for this lens is f/2.8 and it’s variable, so it’s not designed to be a bokeh machine.

Autofocus Performance

In my experience, the autofocus of the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 is great. It’s fast and accurate so I have no complaints about it.

I have Fujifilm prime lenses that cover less focal range (obviously!) and struggle with focusing speed and accuracy. This zoom is up there with any of the fastest focusing Fujifilm lenses that I have.

Pros

  • Really usefull focal range (27-84mm full-frame equivalent)
  • Small and reasonable size that isn’t a burden to carry with you
  • Lightweight, won’t weight you down, even for a full day of shooting
  • Doesn’t draw much attention for street photography
  • Good/sharp image quality
  • Rugged build quality

Cons

  • Distortion at wide end of zoom range
  • The lens physically extends when you zoom farther through the zoom range
  • Smaller/variable aperture size compared to primes, so it lets less light in plus you have less options for shallow depth of field
  • It’s variable aperture (from 18mm to about 21mm, you can use f/2.8. From ~21mm-30mm, f/3.2. From ~30mm-43mm, f/3.6. From 43mm-55mm, f/4. It can be kind of annoying but it’s not a big deal because I got this lens for street photography and other purposes where I don’t need super shallow depth of field from a big aperture.
  • No weather sealing

Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS Sample Images

The Lens Hood I’m Using for the Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM

I bought my copy of this lens used from Adorama and when I received it, it didn’t come with a lens hood. As I was looking for lens hoods for it, I came across this square-shaped lens hood from Haoge called the LH-X13.

Not that it matters much but I think the square design of this lens hood looks better than the bayonet-style lens hood that Fujifilm makes. More importantly, it doesn’t add very much size to the lens so it’s more discreet. The Fujifilm lens hood is way bigger than I’d like. That may mean less shading but I’m OK with that.

I got it in a kit with the lens hood plus a cap here.

Overall Thoughts

If you want an affordable, good-quality, versatile, compact, lightweight, all-around zoom lens that can be used for travel, street photography, documentary photography, and more, then the Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM is a great option.

What I like most about this zoom lens is that it has a really useful focal range combined with good image quality in a pretty lightweight and compact package. For street photography, I prefer even smaller lenses but unless something radically changes with lens technology, this is as small as an 18-55mm lens is gonna get.

Despite my nitpicking about how I’d like for it to be even smaller, the Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 is small and light enough that you can carry it around with you everywhere and not feel weighed down, plus it’s relatively discreet. It’s the type of lens that makes you want to take it with you, which is a big deal for me.

I do wish that it had weather sealing to go along with its otherwise rugged build quality.

If you’re thinking about buying this lens, I wouldn’t hesitate to give it a shot. I ended up liking it more than I thought I would.

The reason I gave this lens a chance was after reading an article by Gustavo Minas in Fujilove Magazine. I really like and admire Gustavo’s work and I think he’s one of the best current street photographers out there. I had previously only been shooting street photography with prime lenses and hearing that he had done some of his best work on the Fujifilm 18-55mm made me realize that maybe I had been a bit too rigid in my thinking. I still prefer small primes but now I’m more open-minded to using a zoom lens like this, especially when I want to go for a more flattened perspective that wide angles don’t provide.

I hope you got something out of this Fujifilm 18-55mm f/2.8-4 review. Happy shooting.

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Brandon Ballweg

Brandon Ballweg is a photographer from the Kansas City area. He is the founder of ComposeClick.