Much as I love my Fuji prime lenses, particularly the 14mm and 23mm, there are times when a nice wide zoom would be so useful. Sometimes 14mm just isn’t wide enough to get everything in shot, and there’s no opportunity to step further back. Likewise you may want to stay close to a foreground subject and get more background in. And there’s the ‘zoom’ thing – its all very good saying ‘ah well, don’t be lazy, just take a moment to change your lens over’, or ‘stand further back’ – that’s not so easy if you are standing in the middle of a mountain stream. Likewise if its blowing a gale you don’t want dust getting into your precious camera body, or to faff around switching filters over from one lens to another. If you are a documentary rather than landscape photographer, those few seconds changing a lens can mean missing that shot.
So the Fuji XF 10-24mm f4 lens seemed the answer to my prayers – 10mm is an awful lot wider than 14mm, the f4 max aperture won’t cause me any problems as I’ll mainly use it for landscapes and buildings, and the OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) means I can shoot hand-held photos at a much lower shutter speed than usual – handy when using a tripod isn’t an option. A good number of my landscape photos are taken with my 14mm and 23mm lenses, so this should cover me for a fair proportion of what I do.
The lens is bigger than any of my other lenses, but you’d expect that – after all it’s a zoom and there’s all that OIS stuff inside as well. It weighs around 410gm instead of the 235gm of my 14mm, but that’s no big deal – this Fuji kit weighs so much less than good old-fashioned DSLRs. It actually balances quite well fitted on the X-T1, but perhaps a bit front-heavy on a smaller body – no problem when its on a tripod though. It all works nice and smoothly, with those little switches to turn OIS on and off (turn it off when on a tripod for best results), and to switch between auto and manual aperture. The zoom ring is maybe a little stiff to operate, but it does mean the lens doesn’t ‘zoom itself’ when pointing downwards as some do.
Ah, the first real problem… The 72mm filter size does mean I can fit my Lee Seven5 filter system on, but alas, at anything wider than the 14mm setting there is vignetting – i.e. the edges of the filter holder come into the edge of the shot – its then pretty much unusable with the Lee polariser fitted. Not great, but not the end of the world, as there’s always the option to use round 72mm filters – more money and more to carry around, and of course no graduated filter option.
I’m used to all my Fuji lenses being bitingly sharp, so when I saw the first images I’d taken with the 10-24mm, I figured it was poor technique on my part. They were ‘ok’ in the centre, but my shots had detail out towards the edges of the frame, and the edges were definitely ‘not right’. Compared to my very good 14mm and 23mm lenses, this lens falls way short – from 18-24mm, it’s also not as sharp as my ‘kit’ 18-55mm lens, with most of the issue at the edges. This is completely contrary to what I was expecting – no zoom is likely to equal the sharpness of an equivalent prime lens, but all the reviews I had seen of this lens were so good – surely this wasn’t right? Checking around, it seems that while most copies of this lens are indeed good, there is some variability, and without doubt I had one of the poorer copies, so back it went.
There is a happy end to this tale though – after thinking it through, and deciding I really did need the flexibility of this ultra-wide zoom, and with the incentive of a cashback deal from Fuji, I bought another copy. Running it through the same tests, the results were like night and day. Even wide open, at the edges this lens is pretty good – in the centre its excellent, and stopped down to f8-f11 where I’m most likely to use it, its darn good. There is virtually no lens distortion, what there is is very well controlled by the camera’s own software, unlike for example my old Nikon 16-35mm lens which had horrible barrel distortion. Be aware though that the extreme angle of view will mean that objects near the edge of the frame will appear elongated – this isn’t distortion, it due to perspective.
All in all, this lens is good enough for me to want to keep, and consign a couple of my other lenses to eBay. It was definitely worth persevering to get a better copy! I’ll post some images taken with the lens in an update soon.