QUALITY - SIZE - WEIGHT
Just like the recently released 50-140 f2.8 lens, the 16-55 feels 100% pro; a very smooth and precise zoom and manual focus ring mounted. The friction in the aperture ring, which is labeled f2.8 to f22 and can be set at 1/3 stops, is just right. The lens is weather resistant and I experienced no issues when shooting in moderate winter rain in Belgium. It has the same fancy Nano-GI coating as the 50-140 2.8 lens, which severely reduces the lens flare when shooting into the sun and increases contrast.
Keeping a constant f2.8 aperture across the full zoom range, obviously means that the lens needs to be larger and slightly heavier. Having said this, the lens balances reasonable well on the X-T1 without any additional grips. Unlike the 50-140 the lens does extend slightly when zooming; length varies from 106mm(at wide end) to almost 130mm (telephoto).
With a 77mm filter size this is the widest Fujinon lens so far. Ideally I would have preferred limiting the barrel to 72mm, but I guess there must have been a physical limitation in the lens design.
At 655gr, the lens is quite a bit lighter than the Nikon 24-70 2.8 lens (900gr) it would replace. Having said this, it is more than double the Fujifilm 18-55 (310gr) weight.
The 16-55 lens hood is not very large; only marginally larger than the 18-55 and significantly smaller that the 50-140 one. There is no need for the little removable hatch to turn circular filters due to its smaller size. While the 50-140 one can be a bit hard to fit, the 16-55 hood feels a little too loose and occasionally comes off when bumping into something. Not sure if this will be different in the final version of the lens. Having a small hood, also means that rain drops fall quite easily on the front element. If one is shooting frequently in rain/snow, I would invest in a third party "deeper" lens hood specifically for that use.
To me the 16-55 autofocus feels the fastest of all Fujifilm zoomlenses. It is remarkably good in low light and is completely silent.
Below are a few images of a brick wall; no specific lens correction editing software has been applied to these RAW files. The Lens Modulation Optimiser (LMO) was in the OFF position; not that this would make a difference given the files were shot in RAW.
WHO IS THE LENS FOR?
To me the new 16-55 is primarily for the pro/serious amateur landscape/architectural photographer, who is regularly shooting in harsh conditions (snow, rain, blowing sand) and who is after the best image quality. He/she likely shoots on the tripod most of the time. Together with the recently announced 50-140 f2.8 lens, it makes for a great lens combination!
Even though, I do not like to shoot portraits at less than 100mm, I know some wedding photographers will love this lens. As long as the environment is not too dark and would need OIS! ;-)
It is not a lens I would recommend for the casual travel and/or street photographer. For the latter the 18-55 will do fine and has the OIS advantage combined with a smaller form factor.
Pricing is expected to be around 1200,-USD.
I must admit that I'm rather disappointed that the lens does not have OIS. This is exactly why I'm still undecided whether I'll buy the lens after I return it to Fujifilm Middle East end of the week...
All of the images below are shot with the 16-55 2.8 lens. Some of them are single shots, a few are multiple exposures blended into one through post-processing. As some image editing has been done to all of the files, the images should not be used for pixel peeping. They are purely a representation of how I personally would use the lens. Please click on the images for a full screen view.
ISO 800 - 102mm - f5.6 - 1/2400s
ISO 200 - 39mm - f6.4 - 1/1250s
ISO 200 - 29mm - f11 - multiple exposures/shutter speeds
ISO 200 - 18mm - f11 - 1/3s
ISO 640 - 55mm - f4 - 1/250s