A Quick Guide To Picking The Best X-Mount Lenses For Your Fujifilm Camera
After almost 20-years of global travel on motorcycles (see 2Ride The World), Lisa and I have learnt a thing or two about the struggles of carrying minimal camera gear. As professional adventure photographers, for decades we've walked that tightrope of carrying as little gear as possible, whilst making sure that we have what we need to capture those magic 'once-in-a-lifetime' moments.
With our photography students, I (Simon) can be regularly heard say, "photography is an exercise in compromise." But, in terms of lens choice and with Fujifilm's new X-Mount Lenses, it doesn't need to be. Read on to learn what we recommend as the best lens combo for travel.
Today's post was inspired by a recent question that we were asked by one of our students on our Official Living Lens Facebook page.
"Hi Simon/Lisa, I have just upgraded from my old Nikon to a Fuji Xt-3 and kit stock 18-55mm lens after trying them out on the photo course with you guys last year. The question I have is it what Lenses would you guys recommend for on the road to best capture the journey?
Dan Rowland via Facebook
Before we dive into which lenses we recommend, it's a good idea to set yourself some parameters. Here's a couple of tips to kick off with.
Tip #1 - Travel with only 1-3 lenses
OK, so you're shopping for a set of lenses for your next big adventure. But, with so much choice it's too easy to catch a dose of 'spendy-tricky- lens-a-nitious'. It's a serious condition, where your brain convinces you that in spite of your limited budget, you actually 'need' a series of lenses that you've always wanted but before, couldn't 'justify'. So, first things first, limit yourself to a specific number of lenses. It might be just one or in my case three. You'll need to consider how you're going to carry them (based on their physical dimensions). Will they be protected and how much do they weigh?
Remember, lenses are an investment and each lens is another responsibility that your brain has to absorb while you're travelling. Sound silly? Trust me, the less gear you travel with, the more you'll enjoy the freedom that travel offers.
Tip #2 - Work Out what Style Of Photos You Shoot The Most
Work out what kind of shooter you are. What style of images do you like to shoot. If you like shooting exotic wildlife, you're unlikely to regularly use a 50mm F1.4. If you love to shoot close up and intimate portraits, then a super wide-angle lens may not be something you need.
Have a look back through your photo library and be honest about what you photograph the most.
Tip #3 - Choose One Strong Prime Lens
For anyone serious about photography and travel, it goes without saying that zoom lenses offer the greatest range of flexibility. But don't overlook the humble prime lens. I genuinely believe it's crucial to have at least one really good prime lens in your kit bag. Sure, it's not going to have the range of a medium zoom lens, but it will have fewer moving parts to go wrong or get damaged. The quality of the shots produced should be spectacular, and often, a strong Fujifilm prime lens will be smaller and less intimidating (great when you shoot portraits in the street) than its zoom based counterpart.
**The Best All-Around Travel Lens**
OK, so I'm not going to do a 'big reveal' at the end of this post that forces you to read past a bunch of content just to get to the juicy stuff. So, here it is. After switching from Nikon to Fujifilm in 2017, I can tell you that the lens that spends the most time attached to our cameras is Fujifilm's stunning Fuji XF 16-55mm F2.8 Lens.
If you can only carry one lens, then this should be it. The Fuji XF 16-55mm F2.8 Lens has gained almost legendary status amongst Fuji shooters. It's also our favourite day-to-day lens. It's incredibly sharp edge to edge with no visible fall off or distortion at any focal length. Sure, it is a little larger than its 18-55mm kit lens counterpart part, but the image quality you get from this lens, more than makes up for the small increase in weight and size. In simple terms, this is Fuji's pro-level 'do-it-all' lens and this should definitely be in your kit bag.
With its constant aperture of F2.8, it's great for low light handheld evening street photography. It also produces some great bokeh for atmospheric portrait work. At 16mm, this lens is more than at home shooting gloriously wide landscape shots like the one below.
There are a few pros and cons worth mentioning whilst you ruminate about whether to spend your hard-earned cash on this puppy. One of the most important pros this lens has going for it, is that it carries the WR insignia in its title, which means Weather Resistant. If you're planning on travelling for longer than a few weeks, you can be sure that at some point the weather is going to turn. Knowing that your lens is built to withstand the elements is a wonderful luxury that shouldn't be underestimated. A professional photographer friend of mine was shooting up a snow-covered mountain in Alaska. He dropped his camera with the lens attached. It dropped down the mountain and took several hours, to recover. He found it buried in snow and mud. It turned back on with the turn of a switch and both body and lens are still working perfectly to this day. The Fuji XF 16-55mm F2.8 Lens is designed to take some punishment.
One of the cons to think about is the lack of OIS (optical stabilization). For some photographers, this is a deal-breaker, but to be honest, and in my experience, opened up at F2.8 and with the correct ISO dialled in, this lens is more than fast enough to capture tack sharp images even in dim light. When light and stability are genuinely a concern, pop your camera on a tripod. Simple.
Another big tick in the pro's column for this lens is its super-fast 'Auto-focus' and near-silent operation. Being able to react quickly to a situation, bringing the camera into play and getting your subject in sharp focus quickly is often what goes into creating a great image. The Fuji XF 16-55mm F2.8 makes it easy.
The Best Landscape Lens
Fujinon XF8-16mm F2.8 R LM WR Lens
Ultra-wide angle zoom lens (equivalent to 12-24mm in 35mm format.)
When you've crawled out of your sleeping bag at 3:00 am and hiked up a mountain to reach the top for that magic sunrise shot, you need a lens wide enough and sharp enough to really capture the grandeur of the landscape that is sprawling out beneath you. The Fujinon XF8-16mm F2.8 R LM WR Lens is the perfect lens for capturing impressively wide landscape images.
The Fujinon XF8-16mm F2.8 R LM WR is not a budget lens but the ultra-fast fast and silent focus are just a few of the strong points that make it worth a serious look. Fuji has produced a wonder here, and the Fujinon XF8-16mm F2.8 R LM WR Lens packs 20 glass elements in 13 groups into a tiny form that makes it both easy and light to use and carry.
Inside the lens body complex lens alignment and some impressive field curvature correction mechanism, which means that the usual distortion/barreling you would normally see in images shot with a lens this wide is effectively invisible. Whether you're shooting wide landscapes or city architecture, where keeping those angle and straight lines, straight is key, this lens will do it all. As with it's big brother the Fuji XF 16-55mm F2.8, the Fujinon XF8-16mm F2.8 R LM WR Lens is also weather sealed and robust, making it ideal as a travel lens.
The Best Wildlife Lens
Fujinon XF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 R LM WR OIS Lens
super telephoto zoom lens
OK, I sneaked this one in, because I can't with a straight face say this is a perfect travel lens. That said, there are times over our years on the road that I would have killed to have had access to one of these lenses in my kit bag. Carrying a super-telephoto lens like the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR super telephoto zoom lens (to give it its full title) is going to be based largely on personal preference and whether you think that carrying the weight (Approx. 1375g) is worth it. If you're heading off to Europe backpacking, then I'd argue that the number of occasions you might use this lens, would not make it worth carrying. But, if your heading out on a trip of a lifetime, perhaps somewhere where you might have the opportunity to photograph wildlife or you simply like photographing candid portraits, like the one below. Well, this lens will get you close enough to fill the frame.
The Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR has such a lot going for it that I can't cover it all here. But let me say this. I've had the privilege of having access to this lens for 2-years and the images It's allowed me to capture have been wonderful.
The lens offers excellent optical image stabilization. The OIS, in tandem with the lens’s relatively lightweight, make it easy to handhold and shoot for extended periods of time in low-light conditions.
The lens has a quality feel that we've come to expect from Fujifilm and the construction is impeccable. Fuji state that the lens has 13 water and dust resistant seals at 12 points. Having used this lens is both extremely dusty and also humid conditions, I can say that whatever Fuji has done to make this Weather Resistant has certainly worked.
As far as image quality is concerned, the images produced from the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR as sharp and full of detail, even when wide open. Having reviewed hundreds of images taken with this lens, at 100% magnification, I've not noticed any definable distortion or chromatic aberration.
Lastly if 400mm still doesn't get you close enough, then combining the Fujinon XF100-400mmF4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR with the Fujifilm XF 2x TC WR Teleconverter would push your focal range up to 800mm, making this lens a 300-1200mm 35mm equivalent.
Fujinon XF35mm F1.4 R Lens
The One Prime to rule all others
Spend any time researching how good the Fujinon XF35mm F1.4 R Lens is and you will read one comment time and time again, which refers to the Fujinon XF35mm F1.4 R Lens as “the standard by which other Fuji lenses are judged!”
In many ways this tiny gem is ultimate travel lens. It's small physical size make it light and effortless to use for day to day street photography. And, the look and feel of images produced from this lens are unique, combining super sharp, in focus regions of the shot with buttery smooth bokeh in the background areas. With a super fast max aperture of F1.4 it's also ideal for hand-held low light shooting. Combined with the small overall size of Fuji's X-range of camera bodies (XT-2, XT-3, XT-4) this lens is also far less intimidating when photographing different cultures overseas. Pull out a big DSLR and a big zoom lens and point it at kids playing in the street, and you're unlikely to capture anything other than bemusement and concern. I've prefer to capture the look of innocent playfulness like in the image below.
Now, although the Fujinon XF35mm F1.4 R Lens is not technically weather-sealed, with its metal solid construction it's robustly built to last. I've owned this lens since switching to Fujifilm and my Fujinon XF35mm F1.4 R Lens has been dropped, banged and generally abused and it's still producing gloriously sharp and detailed images.
Without going into a slew of photo-tech babble, I just say that the Fujinon XF35mm F1.4 R Lens is one of my favourite lenses. It's easy to use, and wonderfully reliable, whether I'm shooting street portraits or setting it up on my tripod to create a super-wide panorama. The utter lack of distortion and chromatic aberration make this a beautiful pano lens. Tie the resulting images with the new and improved stitch and panorama features in Adobe Lightroom 2022 and you've got a winning combination that makes it easy for anyone to produce professional-quality pano's.
Verdict: This one lens we never travel without
Thanks For Dropping In
We're busy building our website and we'll be sharing more great content soon. So, make sure you check in again soon. I hope you found our Fuji Best Travel Lens Post helpful.
Grab a brief insight into what it's like to photographic life on six continents, from the seat of BMW motorcycles. Our passion to photograph and share the incredible experiences that present themselves as we wonder the globe is the glue that holds our journey together. From tribal chiefs and mountain shepherds to high plateau deserts and wild tigers, we discovered opportunities, and photographed them all. The search is half the fun and we hope you enjoy this glimpse into our travelling lives. A big thank you to @Fujifilmx_usa and @Skylum for all their support
If you would like to see what to long term motorcycle riding Adventure Photographers are usually getting up to check out the video below.