Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4 vs XF 16mm f/1.4 Concise Comparison and Focus Clutch Thoughts

The Fujinon XF 18mm f/1.4 was an interesting move by Fujifilm and while it is has been universally praised for its resolution it still hasn’t won everyone over that already loved the Fujinon XF 16mm f/1.4. I think the above video by Gajan Balan does a good job of relaying why the XF18 hasn’t won everyone over and it does so in only a few minutes if you skip the intro. Below is what he singles out and my take on his perspective.

  • When this dropped everyone wanted to know what about an updated XF35mm f/1.4
  • The difference is about 4mm when looking at the equivalent focal lengths
  • In practice, the difference feels like more which is probably related to the FOV
  • The XF18mm feels less distorted sometimes when focusing at equivalent distances
  • The perspective of the XF18mm will probably appeal to more people
  • The XF18mm has 3 aspherical elements that really do make the lens sharp corner to corner
  • XF18mm is a little smaller than the XF16mm
  • XF18mm focus ring just spins forever while the XF16mm has a clutch focus system
  • The linear focusing motor in the XF18mm is very fast and noticeably faster than the XF16mm
  • Many regard the XF16mm as being one of the best lenses for X mount because of its quality and unique build
  • The manual focus clutch of the XF16mm makes it easier to shoot video
  • More Fujifilm lenses should have a focusing clutch
  • The XF16mm holds up well against the XF18mm but the XF18mm edges it out just a little it could be negligible
  • You never feel like the XF16mm is lacking image quality
  • XF16mm works incredibly well when you’re not relying on autofocus where it can be a bit unpredictable for video AF
  • If you’re in a dynamic environment then the XF18mm might be the better lens
  • If your primary focus is photography then the XF16mm might be the best option for you
  • The XF16mm will tick all of the boxes for you, but it is worth comparing to the XF18mm

I think the element that is being missed here by some is that buying the new XF18mm is like telling Fujifilm it is ok to not make any more lenses with a focus clutch. Fujifilm hasn’t released a lens with a focus clutch like the XF16mm in a long time and releasing a quasi replacement lens for the XF16mm without the terrific focus clutch of the XF16mm is a huge mistake, because it is the only mirrorless lens that really gives the feel of a classic manual lens in addition to the features of a modern lens.

This feel is important to photographers and videographers that like to manually focus lenses and it will never be matched by a free-floating focus ring without hard stops. I hope Fujifilm hasn’t decided to abandon the focus clutch design, because I have to admit if a competitor decides to make a lineup of lenses with a focus clutch like the XF16mm I will be buying that camera and all of the lenses the minute they are released and it could even convince me to make Fujifilm into my secondary system with several tens of thousands of dollars invested in Fujifilm equipment since X100 launched.

Fujinon XF18mm f/1.4 R LM WR: B&H Photo / Amazon /Adorama
Fujinon XF16mm f/1.4 WR: B&Hphoto  / Amazon / Adorama

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