After dozens of hours of research on nearly 30 lenses, we’ve found the perfect set of starter lenses for Fujifilm’s X-mount. Regardless of whether you’ve just bought your first Fuji camera or if you’re just investigating what’s out there to see if you want to shoot Fujifilm in the first place, these half-dozen lenses can meet almost any need.
If you’re a new Fuji shooter, you’ve bought into a camera and lens system that offers outstanding image quality in a package that won’t weigh you down nearly as much as a DSLR. But you’re probably asking yourself what to get for your next lens. On the other hand, if you’re simply trying to decide whether to buy a Fuji mirrorless camera in the first place, our lens picks offer a look at the type of system you can expect to build up in the months and years after your camera purchase.
Before we get started, we need to emphasize that pro-level optical quality doesn’t come cheap—and Fuji is definitely aiming at the higher end of the market. The lenses we discuss here are going to be more expensive than those we’ve recommended in previous guides. Some may even cost more than your camera, but you get what you pay for. High performance and rock-solid build quality make our choices worthwhile: these lenses will provide outstanding results over many years. Fuji also has a great track record for releasing firmware updates for its lenses that improve both performance and camera compatibility, ensuring continued value over the life of ownership.
I’ve worked as a professional photographer and digital imaging consultant for close to 15 years. I’m on the faculty of New York City’s International Center of Photography and lead photography workshops around the country. I also spent two years as a staff writer at DPReview.com, the most popular camera gear site on the web. During that time I shot with dozens of new cameras and lenses on a regular basis.
I’m also a Fuji owner myself. I use the X-T1, our former best mirrorless camera pick and current runner-up, to shoot both personal work like a documentary project about Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal and product shots for our sister site, The Sweethome.
In my research for this guide I pored line by line over spec sheets for nearly 30 lenses, read no fewer than 138 lens reviews and reached out to some of the most experienced lens reviewers working today for their personal opinions on Fuji glass.
Fuji’s lens lineup, while offering fewer options than are available to Canon, Nikon or Micro Four Thirds shooters, is growing at a rapid pace, with venerable lens maker Carl Zeiss and Korean manufacturer Samyang both making X-mount compatible lenses of their own. We gave priority to prime lenses (those that don’t zoom) because they generally let in more light, which means sharper and less noisy images when shooting at night or indoors. They’re also more compact and lighter than zoom lenses.
Fujifilm’s X-series cameras all use APS-C size sensors, which are the same size found in many cameras from manufacturers like Sony, Nikon, Canon, Pentax, and more. The size of this sensor influences how much zoom you see when looking through your camera’s lenses.
To standardize this between different cameras using different sensors, when possible we’ll give a lens’s focal length as its true focal length, and also as its 35mm full-frame sensor equivalent. This provides a standard that can be compared between cameras for different systems—if two lenses from two different sensors and systems both are the 35mm equivalent of 90mm, you know that when you look through them, your field of view will be the same. For more on that, have a read of the “focal length” section of our guide to cameras.
One of best ways for any new photographer to practice their craft is to shoot with a fast prime lens, one whose field of view closely mimics that of human vision (known as a “normal view”). Fuji’s best fast prime to start with is the $400 XF 35mm F2 R WR. A “fast” lens has a wide maximum aperture that lets in a lot of light—so rather than its actually functioning any faster, it gives you faster shutter speeds. This design allows you to get sharp photos indoors or at night, and it lets you make use of depth of field to blur the foreground and/or background1 while keeping your subject in crisp focus, a hallmark of pro-quality photography.
This lens has a 50mm-equivalent focal length, nearly matching the magnification and view of the human eye, so images you capture will be a lot like what you see in your head. It is also weather-sealed, a welcome feature if you’re pairing it with a weather-sealed body such as our mirrorless pick, the Fuji X-T2.
This is a compact lens, noticeably smaller and lighter than Fuji’s slightly faster $500 XF 35mm F1.4 R while focusing much more quickly and quietly. A wide f/2.0 aperture means you can take nighttime and indoor photos at hand-holdable shutter speeds, scenarios where slower lenses—which can’t open as wide—would mean you’d have to compensate with a much slower shutter speed to let in enough light, which leaves you with blurry photos.
To get the nighttime photo below (using an aperture of f/2.0), I was able to shoot with a shutter speed of 1/50 second, fast enough to get a sharp image without using a tripod. Like all of Fuji’s “R”-designated lenses, the 35mm f/2.0 comes with both focus and aperture rings, making focus and exposure adjustments quick and easy. Simply rotate the appropriate dial to either tweak your focus or alter the amount of light and background blur in your photo.
Reviewers have a lot of love for Fuji’s second take on a classic focal length. Chris Gampat, editor of The Phoblographer (and a Fuji owner), writes that this model is “the fastest to focus optic that Fujifilm currently makes” and “well suited for candid street photography.”
John Riley at ePHOTOzine praises its “outstanding central sharpness” across a range of apertures. Mark Goldstein at Photography Blog points out that “thanks to an internal focusing (IF) system, the front element and filter thread do not rotate on focus, which is very good news for those using polarisers and ND grads on a regular basis.” In terms of image quality, he found it to be “a great lens in its own right, with virtually nothing to complain about.” Jordan Steele of Admiring Light appreciates that the lens’s focusing motor is “completely silent” and finds areas of “clear improvement in optical quality” over the older 35mm f/1.4 version: “[T]he 35mm f/2 shows what Fuji can do with an extra few years of lens design for the X-Series.”
With a durable all-metal lens construction, a fast-focusing motor, weather sealing, and a wide maximum aperture that lets you blur backgrounds like a pro, the Fuji XF 35mm F2 R WR is an excellent choice to start building a lens collection.
If you’re a fan of the wider 35mm-equivalent focal length (popular with street photographers), we like the Fuji XF 23mm F2 R WR lens. It’s smaller and lighter than the company’s XF 23mm F1.4 R lens that preceded it. And while it doesn’t let in as much light as the older model, this newer lens is weather-sealed, making it a great match for the weather-sealed X-Pro 2, X-T1, and X-T2 cameras.
Zoom lenses, though much bulkier than primes, are popular because using one can actually lighten your load as you’ll carry fewer lenses in your bag. And not having to swap lenses in the heat of the moment means you’re more likely to grab that wildlife closeup or the winning shot at your kid’s game.
The zoom lens we recommend is Fujifilm’s $600 XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR. The name’s a mouthful but those last two acronyms are important. This 27-206mm-equivalent zoom has optical image stabilization (OIS) to keep camera shake from ruining your images, and with it, we were able to shoot reasonably sharp images at shutter speeds as low as ¼ of a second. The industry wide CIPA standard for image stabilization pegs Fuji’s OIS as giving you an additional 5 stops of stabilization (I’ll explain what that means in a moment) but in real-world use reviewers found that shooting at shutter speeds about 4 stops slower than normal was the practical limit to getting sharp images—still very impressive.
A “stop” is a technical term used to describe the amount of light an aperture opening, given length of exposure (aka shutter speed) will let in. For image stabilization, each successive stop indicates a shutter speed exactly one half the duration of the previous one. So having one additional stop of stabilization means you only need half the usual shutter speed to get a sharp photo. A four-stop stabilization advantage means that if you usually need a shutter speed of 1/100 second to avoid camera shake, you can now handhold the camera at a very slow shutter speed of 1/6 second, a huge difference.
The lens is weather resistant (WR) so you can shoot in the elements without worrying about dust or moisture damage (just don’t take it swimming). While the variable f/3.5-f/5.6 aperture doesn’t let in nearly as much light as a prime lens, the broad coverage of this zoom lens lets you tackle both wide angle landscapes and telephoto action shots, making it a great all-purpose optic.
Reviewers were impressed by the effectiveness of the OIS system, with ePHOTOzine finding that in many instances “sharp hand-held shots are possible…between four and five stops slower than might be considered safe without the system.” On his Admiring Light blog, Jordan Steele calls it “among the most effective optical stabilizers I’ve used.” In the photo above, I shot handheld at a 94mm-equivalent focal length using a very slow shutter speed of ¼ second to allow motion blur of the pedestrians, and still came away with a usably sharp image. This is nothing short of remarkable.
Steele found the camera’s AF motor to be both quiet and fast enough for accurate continuous focus outdoors in good light. Amazon users give this lens a 4.8-star rating (out of five); several cite its usefulness as a all-in-one travel lens. “If you’re looking to travel light without worrying about switching lenses; get this,” says one user.
You do give up some image quality for such a comprehensive zoom range. Photography Blog’s Mark Goldstein found that “edge sharpness proved to be a little disappointing at the 18mm setting.” SLR Gear notes that “making a lens with a big range of focal lengths and image stabilization is a game of compromise, and in this case, sharpness has been somewhat sacrificed.” To be fair, this is typical of most affordable zoom lenses and $600 is actually not a lot to pay for a weather-sealed zoom lens with such effective image stabilization.
If you’re looking for a more affordable zoom or one that’s better sized for a smaller Fuji camera like the X-M1 or X-A2, we suggest the $340 XC 50-230mm F4.5-6.7 OIS lens. This 76-360mm-equivalent zoom offers image stabilization, is compact, and weighs about the same as our fast prime lens pick, the 35mm f/2. While it doesn’t cover quite the zoom range of the 18-135mm, your kit lens will pick up where it leaves off on the wide end, and it’s smaller and much more affordable.
Philip Ryan, senior technology editor at Popular Photography, tells me “This is a perfect compliment to Fujifilm’s kit lens. If you’re OK with carrying two lenses and don’t mind the slow aperture at the telephoto end, you can save serious cash going with this lens instead of an all-in-one zoom such as the 18-135mm.”
At less than half the price of our main zoom pick, you can expect compromises in addition to a slow aperture that doesn’t let in a lot of light. There’s no aperture ring so you’ll have to make those adjustments on the camera rather than directly on the lens. Reviewers haven’t supplied test data for OIS performance, but judging by user reviews on Amazon and user forums on DPReview, lens owners are reporting satisfyingly sharp results at shutter speeds about 3 stops slower than normal, which is pretty good, if not quite up to the impressive level of our main pick, the 18-135mm f/3.5/5.6.
Reviewers note that image quality is a bit soft in the corners at all but the smallest aperture settings, and at the long end of the zoom quality drops off even in the center of the frame. For all of its shortcomings, however, Mark Goldstein of Photography Blog says it is “definitely a cut above the usual cheap telephoto lenses.” And while Photozone says it’s not up to par with pricier Fuji lenses, the reviewers assert that the 50-230mm zoom is “a viable choice without sacrificing too much quality.” It’s worth noting that if you’re looking to buy Fuji’s X-A2 camera, you can get an upgraded Mark II version of this lens as part of a kit bundle. The newer version has a slightly improved image stabilization system and sturdier build quality but for some reason isn’t available on its own.
When you’re shooting architectural interiors, tightly packed indoor spaces like parties, or trying to capture a vast landscape, a good wide angle lens is indispensable. Our pick is the $782 XF 14mm F2.8 R. This 21mm-equivalent lens is compact, relatively light, and (like all XF lenses) has an all-metal body built to stand up to daily abuse. Its f/2.8 aperture, while not letting in as much light as our fast prime, is standard for lenses of this focal length.
Reviewers found sharpness to be very good across the entire frame even at f/2.8, and “stopping down to f/5.6-f/8 yields absolutely tack sharp images from extreme corner to extreme corner,” says Andy Westlake at DPReview. “Ultra-wide angle lenses don’t generally get much better than this optic,” writes ePHOTOzine, adding the 14mm f/2.8 is “more than capable of delivering superb results with extremely low distortion [and] barely any sign of chromatic aberrations.”
“For critical detail, it’s very hard to beat,” writes Jordan Steele on Admiring Light. “Of the many high-end wide-angle lenses I’ve ever used across multiple formats and systems, the Fujinon 14mm f/2.8 is the sharpest” he continues. John Shafer, pro photographer and former managing editor at Photography Review, tells me he likes this lens as a wide-angle supplement to the zoom lenses he usually brings on action shoots.
At almost $800, this lens is not cheap. But again, what you’re getting is exceptional image quality in a lens built for many years of use. As DPReview notes “The 14mm is a pretty expensive optic, so needs to perform well to justify its price. Thankfully, it does just that – in fact it turns out to be an exceptionally good lens.”
*At the time of publishing, the price was $320.
If your budget is more modest and you’re willing to give up autofocus, the $320 Rokinon 12mm F2.0 NCS CS lens is a great alternative at less than half the price of the XF 14mm F2.8 R. The lens is made by Samyang, a Korean manufacturer known for good-performing yet inexpensive optics. In the US, Samyang products are sold under the Rokinon brand. Don’t worry: they’re both the same.
This lens’s 18mm-equivalent focal length is wider than our main pick, the Fujifilm 14mm f/2.8, and with a fast f/2.0 aperture it lets in twice as much light as well. You have to focus this lens manually; there’s no electronic autofocus communication between it and the camera. But, as Philip Ryan of Popular Photography pointed out when I asked him about this lens, “part of the charm of Fujifilm’s cameras is using them as you might use a classic [manual focus] rangefinder. The price is phenomenal for what you get, which will likely be sharper than you’d expect.” And on such a wide angle lens, manual focus isn’t much of a hassle since anything from about three feet to infinity is in focus simultaneously. You’ll only be focusing the lens when shooting things at very close distances. The Phoblographer’s Chris Gampat, an admitted manual focus lover, tells me that given the choice between the Rokinon and our main pick, he prefers to have the extra stop of light.
While its build quality is not at the same high level as Fuji’s lenses, reviewers found the plastic and metal construction still felt well-made. They were universally impressed with the lens’s image quality. The conclusion at ePHOTOzine was that it’s “an excellent optic that produces images with excellent sharpness, low distortion and low [chromatic aberration].”
Jordan Steele at Admiring Light wrote “The center is blisteringly sharp, and even the edges produce excellent resolution when stopped down. It renders scenes with excellent contrast and color.” Ian Norman, writing for Petapixel, found that while the depth of field markings on his copy were inaccurate (a problem he’s had with other Samyang lenses) “the Rokinon 12mm has excellent sharpness…and delivers photos that don’t disappoint. Its small size and small price tag make it that much more enjoyable.”
The $841 XF 56mm F1.2 R is a standout portrait lens. With an 85mm-equivalent focal length and a wide f/1.2 aperture it can deliver creamy background blur to enhance any portrait or still life subject.
The lens is expensive, heavy, offers only average focus speed and lacks image stabilization. But reviewers unanimously sings its praises for outstanding sharpness, which is crucial in portraiture. You know those magazine ads where the model’s face is razor sharp while everything else is a dreamy blur? That’s only possible with lenses like this one that let you shoot at a wide aperture and still get amazingly sharp detail in your area of focus.
A wide aperture also means you can use fast shutter speeds to shoot handheld portraits even in low light. At ePHOTOzine, testers found “outstanding sharpness being achieved from edge to edge between f/2.8 and f/11.” Fstoppers reviewer David Geffin calls it “one of the best, fast prime portrait lenses on the market,” adding “if you shoot people, especially in lower light scenarios and love shooting wide open, this is definitely a lens you’ll want to get your hands on.”
One of the reasons the somewhat long 85mm-equivalent focal length works so well for portraits is that you can get a nice, tight head and shoulder composition without putting yourself and the lens right in your subject’s face, and a more relaxed subject means a better portrait. Also, wider focal lengths covering the same field of view would cause noticeable and very unflattering distortion.
This is the most expensive lens in our entire guide, but it delivers top-notch image quality and is built to handle years of daily use. As Jordan Steele at Admiring Light notes, “Other very high-grade lenses in this range tend to cost significantly more than this lens, and the performance puts the XF 56mm into elite status…worth every penny of the asking price.” Amazon users give this lens a very impressive 4.9-star rating.
When your goal is to carry the smallest, lightest camera kit possible, a pancake lens is an attractive option. Named for their squashed appearance, pancake lenses barely protrude from the camera and weigh just a couple of ounces. The $400 XF 27mm F2.8 is the pancake lens we recommend. Measuring less than one inch thick, pairing this 41mm-equivalent lens with a small Fuji camera like the X-M1 or X-A2 makes for a camera/lens combination you can easily stow in a coat pocket.
You do make some compromises for the size reduction. The pancake lets in half as much light as our fast prime pick, the 35mm f/2. There’s no aperture ring so you’ll have to adjust that setting via your camera, and the focus ring is pretty narrow. But there’s no smaller, lighter option in Fuji’s entire lineup.
In a chat, Chris Gampat at The Phoblographer called this “a highly underrated lens that focuses pretty quickly…and great for candids because it doesn’t stick out at all,” though he did wish it could focus closer than a rather long 13 inches.
Overall, reviewers felt image quality was very good rather than great when compared to Fuji’s top primes. Testing at ePHOTOzine found “sharpness at the edges…isn’t so good, requiring the user to stop down to f/8 to get acceptably sharp results.” Both Photography Blog and Photozone made note of a relatively loud AF motor when focusing the lens. Amazon users, however, have been willing to accept these trade-offs for portability, giving the lens 4.5 out of 5 stars. As one owner who favors street photography wrote, the 27mm pancake “probably won’t rival the best of Leica, Canon, Nikon, or Zeiss. But in practice, it’s plenty good enough. I use it with the XM-1 to build myself a very compact camera that looks like a P&S. Most people do not even notice I was taking their pictures.”
Macro lenses are great for getting really close to insects or flowers, offering much higher magnifications than regular lenses so you can fill the frame with your tiny subject. The $550 XF 60mm F2.4 R macro lens is the best choice for shooting your subjects at close distances.
Reviewers found this 90mm-equivalent lens lives up to Fuji’s reputation for superb detail. SLRGear concluded the lens offers “very sharp results, even wide open at f/2.4. Maximum image sharpness is obtained at f/5.6, but the differences are so minute…that you would have to look very hard to see any obvious traces of softness.”
Jim Fisher at PC Mag writes “[it] delivers excellent image quality and does a good job doubling as a short telephoto lens.” Philip Ryan of Popular Photography loves shooting macro and appreciates that the lens’s minimum focus distance is 10.5 inches, a distance far enough away to avoid casting unwanted shadows on your subject (or getting to close an unpredictable insect). And he notes that “as most macro lenses do, this one can make for a nice portrait lens as well.”
Fisher and every other reviewer commented on the lens’s slow AF speed, with Chris Gampat of The Phoblographer saying “the Fujifilm 60mm f/2.4 has to be the slowest focusing lens in [Fuji”s] system.” GIven this and its smaller 1:2 magnification, Gampat tells me he personally prefers the (much pricier) Zeiss macro lens. We don’t think slow AF speed will be too much of an issue for macro shooters though, since at very close focus distances you’re much more likely to be using manual focus anyway. In addition, several users on Amazon reported noticeably faster AF after applying current camera and lens firmware upgrades.
Technically, this lens isn’t quite considered a “true” macro. While the Zeiss Touit 2.8/50 offers 1:1 magnification, Fuji’s lens only provides half that, meaning a subject will be projected onto the sensor at no more than one-half of its actual size. You can read this macro primer for a more thorough discussion of magnification ratios. I’ll simply say that this magnification difference will have few significant real-world implications for most photographers. And the Zeiss will set you back a cool $1,000. The Fuji 60mm f/2.4, at nearly half the price, lets you get close enough to fill the frame with a wide range of subjects. In the photo above, the flowering portion of the orchid measures just 1⅝ inches from top to bottom. The Fuji macro lens still had enough magnification to let it fill the frame.
If you’ve bought a Fujifilm camera, and are looking to expand beyond your kit lenses, these are the lenses that give you the best bang for your buck when you’re building your collection. While Fuji lenses tend to run expensive, their image and build quality make them well worth the investment, and they dramatically outperform cheaper lenses on other cameras. To recap, we recommend starting with the $400 35mm f/2 prime lens. You get incredibly sharp photos and the ability to shoot handheld in low light, and you’ll be able to create beautifully blurred backgrounds. For situations where you want maximum coverage without carrying around multiple lenses, we like the $600 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens both for its excellent image quality and its impressive image stabilization. If that price tag is too steep, the $340 50-230mm f/4.5-6.7 offers huge savings and a much more compact package if you’re willing to skimp a bit on image detail. For ultra-wide coverage we like the outstanding image quality of the $780 14mm f/2.8, or the even wider $320 Samyang 12mm f/2.0 manual focus lens if you’re on a tight budget.
For more specialized shooting, we recommend the $840 56mm f/1.2 for portrait work, the $400 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens if you want to do some street photography with the smallest lens in Fuji’s lineup, and the $550 60mm f/2.4 macro lens for extreme closeups.
This handful of great-performing lenses will have you and your Fuji camera covered for just about any situation.
Originally published: July 24, 2015