I have never had a 24mm equivalent truly fast lens in my inventory on either Nikon or the Fuji XF system, the fastest to date being the old Nikon 24mm f2.8 AIS or Nikon 24-70 f2.8 zoom.
This is a classic focal length for wide angle images of landscapes, weddings, for travel and all sorts of things. A few mm up or down at wide focal lengths make huge differences to how the lenses can be used and having a really wide aperture makes huge practical and creative differences.
I can feel myself drifting ever further away from a comprehensive SLR system as they are feeling more and more like imaging dinosaurs, despite the undoubted imaging excellence of cameras such as the Nikon D800. Mirrorless cameras are rapidly developing into powerful and uncompromised imaging tools with a serious weight and size advantage, so I am building a comprehensive X-System lineup that I expect will take over as my main system for not just everyday shooting, but for weddings too. In that context it made sense to buy the new 16mm f1.4 prime for the X-system. An additional motivator was that I had the chance to purchase the new lens at 10% off the RRP and it is unlikely that the price will reduce this far in anything like the near future.
The lens is quite a beast compared to the smaller aperture primes but is still very much lighter and more compact than similar full frame SLR lenses. Its a bit like an enlarged Fuji 23mm f1.4 and sits very nicely on an X-T1 body. Its the usual very high quality in respect of materials, fit and finish and perhaps even a tiny step up, while carrying the usual Fuji trait of feeling lighter than expected. It is of course one of the new weather sealed lenses which may add to the impression of tight tolerances.
The most exciting aspects of the lens are of course its wide aperture, but also an ability to attain well-corrected close focus up to 15cm from the sensor plane.
Here are some images of the lens and compared to its wide angle brother the 14mm f2.8. Although being only 2mm apart in focal length, the wider view angle of the 14 and the much faster aperture of the 16 make them very different lenses in use. The 16 is a much larger lens but both have the focus clutch system for engaging manual focus. While I had wondered about Fuji's logic in incorporating this system on some lenses and not others, I now wonder if it is because the lenses that have it are those much more likely be used for hyperfocal or zone focus, where the distance and depth of field scales are very useful. Its an old-school approach that is still very relevant to modern shooting and very good in practice.
I always do a quick set of test shots on any new lens to make sure there are no really glaring defects and hopefully these tests should identify most issues. I have no sophisticated system but hopefully can determine uneven performance across the frame. These are a couple of the test images of my A2 chart shot firstly at f1.4 and then at f5.6 using a carefully aligned Fuji X-T1 body.
For such a fast prime performance seems pretty remarkable. Centre performance is amazing from wide open. The letters and numbers at all edges of the chart are very clear and well-defined even at f1.4 with only the very extreme corners showing a noticeable, relative weakness. This suggests a rather flat field of focus too, at least at this close focus distance. Upon stopping down things improve even more with everything across the chart biting by f2.8 and a perhaps an overall peak at f5.6. The slight colour aberrations in outer areas clean up upon stopping down and contrast snaps more. Performance on my copy seems even with perhaps just a tiny bit more softness in the very extreme upper left corner at f1.4-2, but this is so slight it could be down to a tiny alignment error or a warp in the chart. The very, very extreme corners (and I mean the extreme of the pointy bit!) never achieve the same sharpness as the centre, but for all intents and purposes this lens is sharp across the field in a critical way from f2.8. There is distortion but it seems very low for this kind of lens and colour and contrast seem lovely.
I took a brief wander down at my usual spot for a few snapshots to check things out in the real world. It does indeed seem like a lovely lens. I absolutely love the ability to close focus with high quality imaging....what a boost in versatility and it really enhances the ability of the lens to isolate a subject and blur the background. Even when not very close, the high optical quality means that you can shoot wide open and get a nice degree of subject and background separation. The below 3 images were shot @ f1.4 and all images are jpg shot using Pro-Negative Hi simulation.
The close-up ability is really remarkable. The lens will focus to 15cm, which means that the lens hood is 2.5cm from the subject! When snapping the insects the lens was touching the flower heads which stopped me getting closer! According to Fuji, magnification is 0.21x at closest focus.