Yes, they’re different. Aside from the obvious, such as the fact that the Fujifilm XF 16mm f/1.4 is a fast, light grabbing, weather sealed prime and the Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f/4 is a stabilized, versatile, non-sealed zoom… they are really different animals. So, why are we comparing them?
I’ll admit it: it’s my fault. I’m the classic landscape shooting wide zoom kind of guy and so the 10-24 has definitely been my cup of tea historically. On occasion, I’ve been out and about and lamented its lack of weather sealing but truth be told, I’ve never complained about its sheer image quality, its ability to help me capture exactly what I wanted to capture.
But then I go on-line and read about the 16, see captivating wide (and more importantly close) shots taken by skilled photographers and I’ve pined for one. So, the question hasn’t so much been: how do the two lenses compare?… but rather, could I justify having both in my bag? And if not, which one would go?
On a recent summer afternoon, Joey and I set out with both lenses. Joey handled his X-Pro2 and I had an X-T2. We walked around downtown Boston and swapped out the two lenses at the relative midway point of the afternoon. We thought we would share our impressions and a few shots from the day here.
Both are great lenses and as the day proceeded, two things became increasingly apparent: first, I needed to hydrate more as the mid-July sun did a number on me and second, it’s not really a fair test to compare these lenses. They really are different and truly could be used for different purposes, though there is clearly an overlap.
For landscape shoots, I think I’d miss having the 10-24 with me. The extra reach getting to 15mm equivalent from the 24mm equivalent is quite a bit.
Here are two shots that Joey and I took from the garage as we arrived downtown:
As you can see, it’s not even close. I’m sure the 16 would capably capture wide scenes as I’m out and about, but I like to get up close to waterfalls or capture the vastness of a slot canyon and so that kind of difference is important to me.
I enjoyed the versatility of the 10-24 with the wide end being a real beast in terms of panoramic width. The 16, on the other hand, is sharp and the close focusing ability is incredible. There are creative shots that make use of either its fast aperture for out of focus renderings or the close focusing ability. There is no question that the 16 gives me possibilities that the 10-24 simply could not.
Given the choice, I would keep the 10-24. It’s sharp corner to corner, has minimal vignetting and I noticed only marginal amounts of chromatic aberration and only in certain lightening condition. The 16 is optically more impressive and the weather sealing is a must in some conditions. Of course, Fujifilm just announced a sealed wide zoom for release later this year, so I’m eager to take a look at that lens which might just be the best of both worlds. [Note: it’s a nice looking lens but at $2,000… ouch, Fujifilm.]
Going into this exercise I thought the 16 would win by a landslide. I have three lenses and all of them are primes. However, after walking around Boston for a day, I learned to appreciate both lenses.
I tend to enjoy the restrictions associated with fixed focal lengths. Having to move my legs in order to “zoom” hasn’t really bothered me when casually photographing. But, the difference between the 10mm and 24mm focal lengths is quite a lot. It is almost like having two different lenses on your camera at the same time. In my slideshow of images, there are two images that appear one right after the other. The first is of a building zoomed in and the other is of that same building zoomed out. To me, those are two very different images and if I had been using the 16 at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to capture two distinct perspectives of the scene.
When walking around a city, it’s hard not to notice the tall buildings, the cars speeding by, and the many people walking around. I enjoyed photographing the city in its traditional sense, but I also tried to capture a few smaller things, and I found that the 16 excelled at that. Again, if you take a look at my slideshow, you’ll see an image of some flowers I photographed with the 10-24. It is nice, but in my opinion, it doesn’t come close to the photograph of the bumble bee on the flower, which I took with the 16. The 16’s close focusing capabilities open up a whole new realm of photographic possibilities. In some ways, having the 16 on your camera is also like having two lenses on at the same time – a wide angle and a macro lens.
At the end of the day, I like these lenses and think they are both very good. If you are trying to decide between them, I think it comes down to what type of a photographer you are (or want to be). I personally enjoy taking macro pictures and I like to take landscapes. I also appreciate the 16’s ability to take photos at f/1.4, making it better in low light than the 10-24. If I had to choose one, I think I would go with the 16. But, if you don’t see yourself taking that many pictures of things close up and want the flexibility that comes with using a zoom, I think you will be happy with the 10-24.