18
Jan
2013

Decoding XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS

by Rico Pfirstinger

Today’s scheduled Fujifilm X-Mount camera and lens firmware update would have been a great opportunity for an X-PERT CORNER article with some practical tips for updating your gear. Alas, the update has been postponed in order to address another glitch. Hopefully, we’ll see the update soon and can cover it in next week’s edition of this column.

Before we take-off with today’s little “ersatz topic”, let me point you to my recent article comparing several RAW converters that are suitable for X-Trans sensor cameras like the X-Pro1 and X-E1 (and soon X100S and X20). Since that article was first published on January 15, I have added a few more samples and another RAW converter to the equation: Russian-made RPP. So if you haven’t already done so, feel free to check-out the updated (pun intended) version by clicking here. You might also want to scroll down to the article’s comment section, as it contains several interesting user additions and a little Q&A.

In case you didn’t get the memo: Delivery of Fuji’s new XF14mmF2.8 R wide-angle prime lens appears to be imminent. Those who are interested in this lens can have a look at over 20 sample shots I have taken with a pre-production model of this lens. And click here for a brief article illustrating how well-corrected this lens appears to be by optical (aka non-digital) means. Fuji may have another winner here.

Speaking of imminent delivery, “Mastering the FUJIFILM X-Pro1” is finally shipping physically and electronically. Yay! It was about time. In case you were wondering, the book is just as valuable for users of the X-E1. Since I am writing and publishing all my articles on FUJIRUMORS (and other sites) for free, my only form of compensation is actually you guys buying (and hopefully liking) the book. Just sayin’.

Enough with the advertising! Apart from the new 14mm prime, one of the most pleasant surprises I experienced last fall was Fuji’s “kit zoom” lens, also known as the FUJINON XF18-55mmF2.8-4 R LM OIS. Wow, what a name! And what a lens! Certainly not your typical “kit zoom”, even though it’s often bundled with the X-E1. Let’s have a look at what each portion of the long name actually means.

XF

This is a no-brainer and simply means that the lens is suitable for X-Mount cameras from Fujifilm. X-Mount is a new bayonet with very little flange-back: only 17.7mm. Flange-back is the distance between the lens mount (where it sits on the camera body) and the camera sensor or film. This is why you can pretty much adapt almost every existing 35mm (aka “full-frame”) lens to your X-Mount camera: All those other lenses feature longer flange-back distances, hence leaving some space for an adapter ring.

X-Mount has no mechanical transmission/communication between the camera and the lens, so everything is performed electronically. Setting aperture and focus is performed through “fly-by-wire”, too, even though all current XF lenses have dedicated aperture and focus rings. Zooming with the zoom ring is fully mechanic, though.

18-55mm

This part of the name tells us the focal length range of the zoom. The lens offers anything between 18mm and 55mm, which corresponds to about 27-84mm in “full-frame” terms, or an angle of view between 79.1° at the 18 and 28.4° at the 55mm setting.

F2.8-4

This is the largest aperture opening (aka maximum aperture) the lens is offering. The range of 2.8-4 means that the maximum opening is not the same throughout all available focal lengths. It’s varying between f/2.8 at 18mm and f/4.0 at 55m. At 23mm, the maximum aperture of this lens is f/3.2, and f/3.6 at 35mm.

Since the maximum aperture opening of this zoom lens is variable, the aperture ring is not displaying any f-stop markers. By the way, variable aperture is not necessarily an attribute of “cheap design” or “non-professional”. For example, Leica’s standard zoom for their professional S system is a 30-90mm/F3.5-5.6 lens and sells for about 9,000 Euros. So much for “cheap design”.

R

R stands for ring, meaning the lens features a dedicated aperture ring. Since all current XF lenses have aperture rings, this feature has often been overlooked or confused with the rounded aperture blades of many current Fuji lenses. And yes, our “kit zoom” has those rounded blades, as well, in order to achieve fully circular bokeh rings in out-of-focus areas. The R also means that future (probably cheaper) XF lenses may come with no aperture ring. The aperture of such lenses can of course still be manually set by turning the camera’s thumb wheel (aka command dial). Thinking about that, cheaper entry-level XF lenses may also require cheaper, entry-level X-Mount cameras, so the R may just as well stand for rumor.

LM

LM describes the linear motor of the the AF drive. It suggests that the auto focus of this lens is operating particularly fast. You can read some marketing blah about all this on Fujifilm’s official XF lens website. Practically, the LM means the lens adjusts its AF pretty fast, while operating very silently.

OIS

OIS means optical image stabilizer. If you have clicked on the link mentioned above, you already know that the OIS is “checking camera shake 8000 times every second”. That’s nice to know, but what’s the real deal? Fuji claims that the OIS is good for compensating up to four f-stops of camera shake. This means that if you can hold a crisp and steady shot at 55mm without using the OIS at 1/80s, the same shot should (or at least could) be almost as crisp at 1/5s with the OIS turned on. Four stops maybe sounds a bit too optimistic, but on the other hand, one of my first sample shots using an early pre-production sample of the kit zoom was this one, taken in a fast moving commuter train at 1/10s:

DSCF4013

Pretty impressive, huh? Now, there are two different OIS modes, mode 1 and mode 2. You can select a mode in the shooting menu of your X-Pro1 or X-E1. Mode 1 is steadying the lens all the time (like when you are looking through the EVF), mode 2 is only doing this while you actually take the shot. So there’s reason to believe that mode 1 burns a little bit more energy than mode 2. However, that effect is probably marginal, as the OIS system is always operational, even when you turn it off using the OIS ON/OFF switch located on the lens barrel. This is not uncommon, by the way. Think of it like a hovercraft, whose engine has to be up and running to keep it afloat, even when it is not going anywhere.

There were reports about annoying high-pitched noise emissions coming from the lens in OIS mode 2 while focusing with the AF, especially at very low temperatures. This has been fixed with a recent firmware update, so if you are still experiencing this effect, you may want to check whether you are using the most recent lens firmware.

In theory, both OIS modes should be equally effective, though earlier tests with older Fuji cameras with a built-in OIS have shown that statistically speaking, mode 2 returned a higher percentage of “keepers”. Feel free to spend part of an afternoon checking this out by yourself. And don’t forget to turn the OIS off once you operate the camera on a tripod.

Till next week, then hopefully covering the postponed minor X-Mount camera and lens firmware update.

Rico Pfirstinger studied communications and has been working as journalist, publicist, and photographer since the mid-80s. He has written a number of books on topics as diverse as Adobe PageMaker and sled dogs, and produced a beautiful book of photographs titled Huskies in Action (German version). He has spent time working as the head of a department with the German Burda-Publishing Company and served as chief editor for a winter sports website. After eight years as a freelance film critic and entertainment writer in Los Angeles, Rico now lives in Germany and devotes his time to digital photography and compact camera systems. His book “Mastering the FUJIFILM X-Pro1” (Kindle Edition) (Apple iBook Store) (German version) is available on Amazon and offers a plethora of tips, secrets and background information on successfully using Fuji’s X-Pro1 and X-E1 system cameras, lenses and key accessories.

  • Thomas

    For a kit zoom lens this lens produces some stunningly shard images!!!! Pretty bokeh as well!!!!! Pretty amazing lens….comparable with the tamron 24-70 F2.8 VC.

  • Adrian

    Just to let you know that I already bought the kindle version of the book from Amazon and I find it awesome. You did a heck of a job. Congratulations and thank you for your posts here.

    Adrian

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      Thanks, very much appreciated. Feel free to leave a honest and fair review on Amazon, if you find the time. I’m glad to hear that the Kindle version turned out well, because I have only seen the printed version.

      • Adrian

        Will do, I just need a few days to really digest everything. Having said that, again, the book is very impressive and the review will reflect this.

      • Andy

        Hi Rico

        picked up the kindle version on preorder last week and had read it before the end of the week (a week working away in a hotel!) Great resource and well written, thanks. As usual with Kindle some of the page breaks are a bit odd, but that’s just a function of variable font sizes.

        ps great column too!

        • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

          Thank you for your feedback on the eBook version. I am glad I could be helpful with the book.

  • Scott

    Love my 18-55 But I would like to have a 23-100 something someday. I miss the reach everyday! So much so Im shooting with my Canon 35-105 daily.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      There will be a 55-200mm and a wide-angle zoom. Of course, Fuji will produce additional zoom lenses (the roadmap doesn’t just “end” with what has been announced last year), but I do not see a 23-100mm anytime soon. OTOH, Fuji is known to change plane frequently, so take this with a grain of salt.

      • Scott

        I don’t see it before what they mapped out, Just wishing some day along side the X-E1s ! Rico

      • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

        In the medium turn, I also expect several cheaper lenses tailored for the “mass market”, maybe without the “R” for aperture ring. It’s clear to me that Fuji needs to sell X-Mount cameras and lenses in significant numbers in order to render the system successful and sustainable in the long term.

        Just look at Sony NEX, they now have everything from entry-level to high-end models. It’s just that Sony started rather low (annoying plenty of enthusiasts), slowly working their way up, while Fuji started at the top (X-Pro1 with high-quality primes), working their way down.

        Eventually, I expect both companies to offer a full set of bodies and lenses each, suitable for all kinds of customers from entry-level to high-end.

        • Adrian

          Rico, do you see a) a tilt-shift lens and/ or b) any 1.2 / even 1.0 prime in the near to medium future for the X mount (ideally from Fuji)?

          Thanks,

          Adrian

        • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

          I don’t, but that doesn’t say that Fuji isn’t working on such lenses. However, there are plenty of alternative options available in the form of adapted lenses from third-party vendors. And don’t forget the new reduction adapter from Metabones which is increasing the effective maximum aperture of a 35mm lens by one full stop when used on a X-Mount camera.

  • Tom

    Rico, You mentioned turning off OIS when using a tripod. I’ve heard this before but have yet to hear the reason for it.
    And by the way, thanks for your contributions on the forums and much success for your book!

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      The reason is to avoid any self-oscillation of the OIS. OIS works to reduce shake, but when there is no shake, it can actually create some minor shake on its own, which you do not want on long-exposure images. Some cameras have sensors to detect a tripod-mount and automatically turn off OIS, but I don’t think Fuji belongs in this group.

  • Yi-Ru

    Hello Rico,

    Thank you so much for taking your time to provide your tips and info on this forum. Will you be writing a ‘Mastering the Fuji X-E1′ in the near future?

    Thanks.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      Sure. Among updates reflecting on hardware differences and newer firmware, Mastering the X-E1 will also cover the kit zoom and the 14mm, several methods to remote control the camera and include a chapter on using Silkypix 5 with X-Trans cameras.

  • Aleste

    Rico, do you expect a successor to the X-Pro or to the X-E1 in the near future(end of 2013)?
    If so, I might consider investing on these lenses.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      I expect several new X-Mount cameras in the next 12 months, not just on the level of the X-Pro1 and X-E1, but also on other levels. After all, Sony, Samsung and other vendors release several new system camera models with varying target groups each year, as well. For Fuji not to match this speed of innovation would be quite unusual and unexpected.

      • autoy

        I beg to differ. What I have seen so far in the X-System is all high end: X20, X100s, X-E1, X-Pro1 and even the XF1 all compete in the upper class. I don’t see Fuji focusing on mass markets or even producing dirt-cheap zoom lenses et al. Samsung and Sony throw the spaguetti at the wall and see what sticks, Fuji is very focused on a particular group of photographers who appreciate higher build qualities and features of pure photographic value. In my opinion it’s not a bad strategy, as the X System is starting to have a very good reputation because of this. It’s pretty unique that at leat one company deeply cares about photography.

      • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

        Since an entry-level X-Mount camera would be APS-C with an X-Trans sensor, I really don’t see how such a model could be less sophisticated than, say, an XF1. Just more affordable than a X-E1 or X-Pro1, and hopefully offering great value to a broader range customers. I am sure plenty of people are looking for system cameras in this more modest price range. But hey, what do I know? :)

        • autoy

          But I think the X System is just not focused on “value to a broad audience”, there’s plenty of that from several manufacturers, but rather on making the best photographic tools in their range. Hell, even Fuji defines the X System as “Professional/Enthusiast” range of cameras.

          • Calking

            And now it’s 7 months later and we have the xm1 and 2 cheaper lenses.

  • Quali

    Dear Rico,

    i bought the Novoflex MD converter in December, the “old” lenses do not only look cool on the X-Pro, they produce sharp, warm and tender images, yes, the word “tender” describes my Minolta lenses best.

    I have also seen stunning images with the mystic Canon FD 135 2.0 – wow
    The EVF is good enough to focus manually and a REAL manual focus ring makes it fun too.

    Isn’t that a topic for your next Xpert corner ? converters, lenses, usage ?

    Fuji is going little too slow with the new lenses, the 14 2.8 is nice but landscape is maybe not the primary strength of this wonderfull portrait camera, for landscape a Nikon will do also or a Sigma DP1.

    Fuji’s strength is :Getting wonderfull colors out of the Sony sensor.
    Skintones are almost perfect, the color of clothes people wear too, i’ll wait for the 56 1.4.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      My book contains a full chapter on using adapted glass. It’s definitely an interesting field, getting even more interesting with innovations like the Metabones Speed Booster.

  • http://Www.spacepirations.com Amnon Govrin

    I remember early lens map showed 18-72 which may have been more interesting if all else would remain on par with the 18-55.
    Having said that, I imagine it was more challenging to achieve the same quality level with a bigger reach.

  • EJB

    Rico,
    Would the new XP1 book be good for an X-E1 owner also, or should we wait for the X-E1 book?!?

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      If you already own and use an X-E1 and are interested in a book that covers it in X-PERT CORNER fashion, I strongly recommend getting the X-Pro1 book now.

      • EJB

        Just bought it on iBooks!

        • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

          Hope you like it!

  • http://Www.genelowinger.com fiddlergene

    I don’t doubt your tests and findings, but I find the best settings of the OIS for me is option 1 (so that the OIS is always up and running) even though I found it uses more battery power. I had problems with slower response o the lens in option 2 because the gyros had to first start spinning when I depressed the shutter half way. Since I shoot mostly street, and that often is from the hip, speed is critical. Unless I’m in a very low light situation which would require a shutter speed slower than 1/250 th sec. I use the OIS switch on the lens to disengage it.

    I totally agree about the quality of this lens. I haven’t used my primes since I have the zoom lens.

    And, by the way, I purchased the kindle version of your book at the pre-release price, and just for the couple of tips I’ve picked up so far, it’s worth every penny!

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      Thank you for your kind feedback. Your mentioning of AF speed is an interesting point, as it’s indeed possible that there could be minor speed differences between OIS mode 1 and 2. I could not prove any, though, so this is speculation on my part. It may just “feel” slower due to the different sounds the lens makes in each OIS mode. But I am not ruling out that OIS mode 2 could focus a tad slower. Feel free to make your own tests.

      Regarding shutter speeds, my early pre-production sample had problems with fast speeds when the OIS was on, but this was recrified with the final lens firmware. Then again, there is a point in turning off the OIS in high-speed situations. After all, what good will it do? OTOH, it should not do any harm, either. If it does, I’d consider it a hardware or software fault.

      The only situation where the OIS should always be turned off is very slow shutter speeds with the camera mounted on a tripod.

  • RichardCarter

    Interested in your comment that the X-Pro 1 book is just as valuable for users of the X-E1. Do you plan to produce a version for the X-E1 and should I wait for it, or buy the X-Pro 1 book? I guess you’d say “Buy now!” but really, what’s the best course of action? And if an X-E1 book is coming, any idea how long we’ll have to wait for it? Thanks in advance!

    • RichardCarter

      Actually, I’ve just spotted that a German language version of the X-E1 book is scheduled for release in February (though Amazon’s forward release dates are notoriously unreliable): http://www.amazon.co.uk/Das-Fujifilm-X-E1-Handbuch-Fotografieren/dp/3864900654/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1358583703&sr=1-6

      So an English language version can’t be too far off?

      • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

        Lol, so you think that Amazon knows better than I do? ;)

        • RichardCarter

          I think Amazon are very good at finding out how to minimise their tax bill but are rather less good at predicting when books come out. Actually, I went the site to order a hard copy, only to find that, although it is “usually dispatched within 1 to 2 months,” delivery is expected for between 8th February and 5th March. Although I’d have preferred hard copy, I’m going to order the Kindle version, especially now I know I can read it on my Mac and iPad (and even the iPhone), and buy the X-E1 book when it does eventually come out.

          • RichardCarter

            …. and wow, there it is, before my very eyes. The wonders of modern technology!

    • dvg150322

      As a rather inexperienced photographer yet a happy X-E1 owner, I have just finished the first quick read of the book (iBook store edition). I have found it to be very useful. The parts only relevant to X-Pro1 are few and far between (e.g. the OVF functionality), making less then 10% of the total, the rest of the book is just as valuable to us X-E1 shooters. Lots of practical tips and very engaging read. I’ll now go back and study some bookmarked parts in detail.

      Articles and tips published on this website are included in the book. As Rico says, buying it is your way of supporting his effort (to the eventual benefit of us all).

      The iBook edition is nicely compiled but note that none of the included URLs work as links (which is probably a limitation of the platform, but not sure).

      Thank you Rico for your effort, well done!

      • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

        Thank you, good to hear that the iBook version is okay, as well. I have just received a production sample of the 14mm, including final firmware for the camera bodies, so I may be able to write a quick article about how to best use the 14mm lens for Monday.

  • Andreas Lundin

    Hi,

    Thanks for the great articles on X-pert corner, and I look forward to getting the book (although currently Amazon uk lists it as “shipping in 1 to 2 months”).

    I wonder is there some way of seeing that the OIS is on? The X-E1 manual mentions an “IS Mode” icon in the EVF but I have never seen it light up when using the 18-55 OIS. Is this the expected behaviour or do I have a defective lens?

    Kind regards,
    Andreas

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      When the OIS is off, there’s a cross-out hand symbol in the viewfinder (Custom and Info Display).

      • Andreas Lundin

        Ah, ok. Yes, I see that. Thanks for the quick reply!

  • viktor

    18-55mm – (27- 82.5)mm

  • Zach Wagner

    I’m not sure the ‘F’ in XF stands for Fuji anymore. Now that they are making XC lenses, I’ve read that the ‘C’ is Casual, and the ‘F’ is Fine or some nonsense like that. Wouldn’t make sense that it stood for Fuji, since there are now two separate lens types, but both for Fuji.