Fujinon XF16mm F1.4 – My take on Fujifilm’s best and my most favorite lens to date

Six years ago, when I was just starting out my journey as a Photographer, little did I know about Fujifilm’s intent to announce a new prime that would become one of its best lenses in the years to come. Yes, I am talking about the Fujinon XF16mm F1.4 lens. This low light beast was announced back in April 2015, and it immediately started getting attention from photographers worldwide. Today I am going to share my personal experiences of owning and using this phenomenal Work of Art.

Greetings, photography buffs. I am Ritesh Ghosh, a Street, Travel and Documentary photographer from Kolkata, India. Many of you who know me as a photographer are already aware of my work, but most of you may not be aware of the story behind me becoming one.

So before I continue with my detailed lens review, let me quickly narrate the story of my journey from being a banker to becoming a Fujifilm photographer. You heard me right. I am a Management graduate who was working in a bank from 2007 till 2014, moving out thereafter to take up the job role of a Branch Head with an International posting in Dubai.

I was a regular nine to five corporate guy drawing a decent paycheck with no intention of becoming a Photographer. Until a year passed, and I came back to India on my annual vacation. I owned the Fujifilm X100S back then as my hobby camera.

One morning as I was out shooting casually on the streets, I met with a freaking road accident dislocating my left knee. As if that wasn’t enough, I was diagnosed with severe cervical spondylosis. My medical condition was bad, and I required almost 8 months to recover. I had lost my job and almost a year’s time hence faced a lot of problems finding a new job.

The only positive in this situation was that I was left with a lot of spare time at my disposal. I decided to make use of it instead of sulking and went out regularly with my camera. Long before I realized it, my hobby had become my passion and the means of reaching out to people like you with my creativity. I enjoyed making images, and hence I decided to take this up as my full-time work.

Being a full-time photographer with no formal education is not easy and has its consequences. I had to struggle a lot initially to discover my signature style, and must admit that my parents supported me immensely during the phase. Six years have passed and there has been no looking back.

Coming to the lens review, I would like to discuss its overall build quality and features, first followed by my experience using this lens on the Streets and while Travelling. The 16mm F1.4 is exceptionally well built, weighing in around 375 gms. The lens has a fixed focal length of 16mm (24mm in full-frame equivalent) and offers a wide field of view coupled with a stunning optical performance.

The maximum aperture of 1.4 delivers high-quality and sharp images, and is every photographer’s delight in low light situations. The lens body is all dust and water-resistant making it safe to shoot in bad weather conditions. It has 13 elements in 11 groups which produces amazing bokeh and ensures subject isolation.

The front element has a special EBC coating which reduces ghosting and flare from diagonal incidence of light. The minimum working distance of the lens is just 15 cms making close focussing on the subject a cakewalk with a dynamic perspective. It gives a photographer greater creativity to experiment with.

When I first upgraded my system from the fixed lens X100S to the interchangeable X-T1, I did not have any idea that I would be owning the 16mm 1.4 someday. To be honest, I started out with the basic 18-55mm kit lens, not realising what the 16mm focal length had in store for me.

So finally, when the time came, and I decided to acquire my first wide-angle lens, my choice stopped at the 16mm after going through numerous reviews. I had the lens ordered and delivered to my doorstep. Mounting the beauty on my X-T1 gave me a wonderful feeling, and after using it a few times, I totally fell in love with it. So much so that my kit lens was literally put in the dry cabinet as if exiled in prison.

Initially, I used the 16mm on the Streets. The wide field of view helped me compose images even in very tight spaces giving me a stunning perspective every single time. I also love to travel with this beast and take it to places for documentary work. No matter what challenges I threw at it, the 16mm obliged every single time and has never let me down. Thus I can proudly say that it is my most favourite lens up to date.

Of all the various events I have documented using the 16mm, the Buddha Purnima remains my all-time favourite, followed by the Dev Dipawali celebrations in Varanasi. Both these festivals required a lot of low light shooting, which the 16mm managed like a pro. The images came out sharp and well exposed with accurate colour rendition.

Apart from my travel related work I have used this lens extensively on the Streets of Kolkata. And to those who believe that a prime is not meant for street photography, I would be sharing some of my images here and letting them decide for themselves. I bet they would change their mind for sure.

Finally, I would like to conclude by reaffirming that the XF16mm F1.4 is undoubtedly the best prime lens that Fuji has ever made. It is a must-have glass in your camera bag. Period.

"Greetings readers! I am Ritesh Ghosh and I describe myself as a visual storyteller. Simply put, I am a photographer who loves telling stories through his images. My journey as an artist began unknowingly many years ago when I owned a point-and-shoot camera, which I carried with me during family trips. I loved clicking family moments unaware of the vast areas of photography which were out there waiting to be explored. After completing my MBA and working for seven years with a private bank in India, I switched my job and had to leave India for an international assignment. My point-and-shoot also eventually got upgraded to the Fujifilm X100S. Currently, I am a full-time photographer, having quit my corporate career in pursuit of my passion. I own two camera bodies, the X-T1 and X-T3, with a set of six Fujinon lenses. Street is where my heart is while I also love documenting festivals while travelling in India and abroad. I believe that my journey in the second innings of life has just begun and I have a long way to go in the hope of discovering the photographer within me. "

5 Comments

  1. First off, that photo of the dog walking behind the car with a dog painted on it is brilliant. You could sit there for days and never get that lucky. Good eye!

    I bought the 16mm f/1.4 very quickly in my transition to Fujifilm, since a full frame 24mm has been one of my must have lenses for 40 years. At the time, it was the only choice for a prime, so I ignored the price and got it.

    I think it is everything that the hype says it is, and never regretted my purchase of it. The only (slightly) negative thing was the size and weight when I wished to travel light with a smaller X-E class body. When the smaller, lighter f/2.8 version came out, I bought one, keeping the faster lens. I seem to use the f/2.8 model 80% of the time for shooting on good light.

    However, when I do mount the f/1.4 lens and shoot to its strengths, close in, selective focus, low light, I’m reminded why this is considered one of Fuji’s best lenses. Even with the two lenses, I couldn’t imagine not having the f/1.4 in my arsenal.

  2. Awesome pic’s as usual dude. I concur wholeheartedly about the 16mm 1.4. I’ve had it for a year and I’ve never taken so many beautiful images in one year that now grace my website. Though I vowed to never sell it, the 16mm 1.4 was so great I got rid of my wonderful 16-55 2.8. However, being an older lens the autofocus on the 1.4 and my X-H1’s was terrible. I shoot very fast moving events/street. People dancing, moving, running, and often into bright backlit situations. I lost so many images on the X-H1’s it was disheartening. Unfortunately I sold those and recently got two X-T3’s. The difference is off the scale. No matter the lighting, movement, scenario I NEVER miss any photos now. If I ever do, it is user problems (me), and not the camera. Now I have my go to combo – that lens is permanently ‘glued’ onto one of my X-T3’s. With that combo I take about 80% of all my images and never miss the IBIS.

  3. Marvellous write-up and pictures Ritesh Ghosh!
    I wonder how that photo of the student monks would come out if using the Fuji XF-16/2.8 (max possible) at iso3200, 1/100 or 6400, 1/200…! Pretty nice 2.8 prime and within the budget of many amateurs too…!
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Besides my 35 1.4 that I purchased in 2012 the 16 1.4 is my FAVORITE lens. I bought it in 2017 for a trip to the Florida keys and it proved it’s worth over and over!

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