A Practical Comparison of the Fujinon 16-55mm vs 16-80mm Lenses

Here’s a reasonable comparison of the Fujinon 16-55mm vs 16-80mm lenses. We’ll look at the ten-thousand-foot view to find out which one of these lenses is best for you from a practical standpoint.

And both lenses are great. The 16-80mm lens obviously isn’t in the same class as the 16-55mm lens, which is an outstandingred-badge” lens, but the 16-80mm is still a great lens.

I just wanted to get that out of the way now, because you’re not going to see “image comparisons” in this post, though I’ll include some sample images from the 16-80mm lens for the dubious folks. They’re both great choices for those photographers who just want to take pictures (and don’t analyze each pixel at home).

Is this lens the answer to those of us who wished the 18-55mm lens was a little extra wider and was weather resistant? Or those of us who wished the 16-55mm lens was a little smaller and had image stabilization?

Let’s find out!


Fujinon 16-55mm vs 16-80mm Comparison Table

 Fujinon 16-55mm F2.8 R LM WRFujinon 16-80mm F4 R OIS WR
Price (Apr 2020)$1,199$799
Max aperturef/2.8f/4
Min aperturef/22f/22
FocusAuto focus linear motorAuto focus stepping motor
Minimum focus range11.8"13.8"
Size3.28" x 4.17"3.08" x 3.5"
Weight23.1 oz15.5 oz
Filter size77mm72mm
Weather sealingYesYes
Image stabilizationNoneYes (6 stop)

What do R, OIS, LM, and WR mean? Learn how to decode Fujifilm lenses in this post.


The main differences of the Fuji 16-55mm vs 16-80mm

The obvious difference is the focal length. The Fuji 16-55mm f/2.8, Fujifilm’s “flagship zoom,” has an equivalent focal length of 24mm to 84mm. The 16-80mm f/4 has a little extra reach, with an equivalent focal length of 24mm to 120mm.

Size & weight

The Fujinon 16-55mm f/2.8 is a beast of a lens. Its fast (for a zoom) fixed aperture of f/2.8 means it can’t get much smaller than it already is. At nearly a pound and a half, it’s heavier than every camera that it’ll mount to. And when mounted to Fuji X cameras, it certainly stands out. Like a pimple on your forehead that people can’t help but notice.

The Fujinon 16-80mm f/4 lens isn’t significantly smaller than the 16-55mm f/2.8, however, it weighs only 67% of the 16-55mm lens.

But you’ll see in the photo below that when the 16-80mm lens is extended to 80mm, it is quite long (much more than the 16-55mm lens, which has a hardly noticeable extension).

Here’s a comparison of the 16-55mm and 16-80mm lenses on my X-T2, with lens hoods attached:

fujinon 16-55mm vs 16-80mm
1) 16-55mm, 2) 16-80mm @ 16mm, 3) 16-80mm @ 80mm

Build & Ergonomics

Both of these lenses are constructed of metal and weather-sealed.

And when Fujifilm says their lenses are weather-sealed, believe it! I’ve taken my weather-sealed Fuji lenses into some crazy places full of fine dust and sea spray and have never had any problems. Not a single speck to remove after years of ownership, knock on wood.

Both lenses have a standard aperture ring at the rear of the lens barrel, marked in whole stops.

The zoom control ring on both lenses is wide and textured, easy to grab on to. The zoom ring on the 16-55mm lens is more prominent than the focus ring, while the focus ring on the 16-80mm lens has the same outer diameter as the zoom ring. I personally prefer the way it’s set up on the 16-55mm lens because of the way I’ve gotten used to refining manual focus, but no complaints for either.

Optics

You’re going to get one extra stop of light with the 16-55mm f/2.8 – but again, you’re paying for it with added size and weight (and literally paying for it too).

But if you need a faster aperture because you mostly shoot in low light, versus wanting extra shallow depth of field, the image stabilization of the 16-80mm lens will make up for the slower aperture. It’s rated at an incredible six stops of stabilization, up from the five stops of the 18-135mm zoom.

So don’t worry about the fact that it’s “only” f/4. You’ll still be able to get some good subject isolation when zoomed in at f/4.

The image stabilization on this lens does seem a bit louder than the OIS on both the 18-55mm and 18-135mm lenses. Maybe it’s just my copy. Not annoying, but noticeable.

Both lenses have a nine-blade diaphragm. The 16-80mm lens has one extra-low dispersion element while the 16-55mm lens has three, one of the reasons why the 16-55mm lens is sharp everywhere, all the time! That’s not to say the 16-80mm lens isn’t sharp – it’s still plenty sharp.

Price

The price difference between the Fujinon 16-55mm and 16-80mm lenses is quite substantial, though they’re both not cheap. The 16-55mm f/2.8 is about $400 more than the 16-80mm f/4 (check current prices at B&H Photo).


Some 16-80mm samples

I know that corner softness, diffraction, and aberrations do matter somewhat, especially with the “cheaper” 16-80mm f/4 lens, so here are a few sample images. Hopefully, they put those fears at bay. Standard Lightroom sharpening applied.

Click on the images to view fullscreen.


Which one of these lenses is better for your photography?

Casual photographers

If you’re taking pictures of your pets, your family, and your adventures, you’ll be plenty set up with the 16-80mm f/4.

There’s honestly no reason to pay for that f/2.8 aperture – save your money for another trip! The image stabilization will let you take photos in low light with slower shutter speeds, always a great thing to be able to do.

The smaller size and weight will also feel better if you’re going to be carrying it around for extended periods.

Documentary & travel photographers

I’ve absolutely loved taking my 16-55mm f/2.8 on international documentary trips. It’s incredibly sharp and I love the fast aperture. But…it’s so damn big and heavy!

I’ve always complained that the 16-55mm lens just doesn’t reach enough. The 18-135mm lens is a bit excessive and not quite wide enough. I always wished there was something in between. And the 16-80mm range is perfect.

Additionally, I’d often find myself indoors under low light, or shooting at dusk, as most travel & documentary photographers do, when that f/2.8 just isn’t fast enough. I’d have to really bump up the ISO to be able to hand-hold images. But this is no longer an issue with the six stops of stabilization that the 16-80mm lens offers.

No, the 16-80mm lens isn’t as sharp from corner to corner at all zoom ranges. But this isn’t as much of a factor for this type of photography where our images are at most viewed on computer screens and magazines. That extra sharpness is unnoticeable on those mediums and thus unnecessary.

For environmental portraits with a shallow depth of field, an aperture of f/4 is just fine. You don’t want to blur your background too much because that takes the environment out of the environmental portrait.

Portrait photographers

If you’re primarily shooting portraits, you’re likely not schlepping gear around all day long. Weight isn’t as critical. And you’re probably also looking for sharp photos with a shallow depth of field. This is why the 16-55mm f/2.8 lens is the better portrait lens.

Landscape photographers

Landscape photographers are obsessed with pixel-peeping on the computer (I used to be like that, I know). And yeah, sharpness is important, because you never know when you’ll want to enlarge one of those gorgeous photos for display.

Landscape photographers also love their tripods, and OIS isn’t an important feature here (in fact, OIS should be OFF when using a tripod; the 16-80mm lens does this automatically).

I’d definitely sacrifice carrying the extra weight of the 16-55mm f/2.8 on backpacking trips (and I have without problem) just to get that little boost of extra image quality that makes landscape photographs stand out.

Street photographers

Why aren’t you using the X100V? Haha, kidding.

Many street photographers use prime lenses, but you may like the versatility of a zoom. If that’s the case, I’d definitely recommend the 16-80mm f/4. The 16-55mm f/2.8 lens just stands out too much, and larger lenses tend to make strangers uncomfortable (one reason why primes are so popular for street photography). The 16-80mm f/4 isn’t that much smaller, but maybe it’ll make your subjects less uncomfortable than that 16-55mm f/2.8. Take advantage of the OIS for some cool slow-shutter shots.


In conclusion, Fujinon 16-55mm vs 16-80mm lenses

Hopefully, this post helped you see the important differences of the Fujinon 16-55mm vs 16-80mm lenses from a practical perspective. I’m sorry/not sorry I didn’t include MTF charts and detailed pixel comparisons.

I think that choosing the right lens for the job is more important than these things, although these things may be the job, as outlined above. All I’m saying is, don’t just go off the charts and numbers! It doesn’t make sense to take a Rolls Royce on a safari. Yeah, it’s nicer, but a dirty Land Cruiser is more practical.

The 16-55mm f/2.8 is the clear choice for serious portrait photographers and landscape photographers.

The 16-80mm f/4 is an amazing alternative for documentary, travel, street, and casual photographers.

Please feel free to leave any questions or comments below.

16 Comments

  1. Hi John,
    Thank you for your review of the two lenses, the extra reach of the 16-80 is very appealing to me and your sample photos look very good.
    The 16-80 lens does seem to have some mixed reviews, I often print up to A3 and occasionally up to A2, would there be any obvious difference in perceived quality between the 16-55 and the 16-80 at these print sizes. Where does the 18-135 fit in in terms of quality?

    John

    • Thanks John. I don’t know if I’m 100% the right person to be answering this question since I haven’t printed with the 16-80 yet, but I can give you my hunch based on my printing experiences.

      If you took the same photo with both the 16-55 and 16-80 then compared them, yeah you’d notice some differences like a little softness around the edges. It’ll probably be hard to tell at those sizes and you’ll have to be actively looking for it. If you just looked at the photo made by the 16-80 you’re not going to stop and say, “wow the edges are soft.” I don’t want to assume to tell you what’s important in a print since it’s just my opinion, but I’ve always believed that strong content makes all of that irrelevant. And it’s usually only the photographer who notices that stuff anyways.
      All of that is going to be more noticeable in the 18-135, which suffers a bit more simply based on the zoom range.

        • If you don’t need the extra stop of aperture, the 16-80 is probably a better choice, given that it’s smaller and lighter (for gimbals), and also has its own image stabilization to add extra smoothness with the X-T4. As far as image quality, the difference is insignificant, especially with video.

  2. Hi john,

    nice review, thanks for that!

    Currently i have the 16-55 2.8, it is a great lens but i am not blown-away.
    I have been thinking of trading it for the 16-80 or the 18-135.

    Another option would be keeping the 16-55 and add the 50-230 to get more reach.

    Most of the time i am using it for hiking, backpacking and ski-touring, thats why i am leaning towards the 18-135. ( with 14 2.8 and 35 1.4)

    Other lenses i got: 14mm 2.8, 35mm 1.4, 16-50 II

    What would be your recommendation?

    thank you, christoph

    • Hi Christoph, thanks for the comment.
      For your intended application – backpacking & skiing – the 18-135mm without question. It keeps your kit light and small, gives you pretty good reach, and is a great image-stabilized weather-resistant lens. And you’ve got your 14mm for wide angle, so I think you’re set with that!

  3. Hi, I was just curious why you list the 16-55mm f2.8 as an internal zoom when every video i’ve seen of it, including the promotional video on Fujifilm’s webpage, shows that the barrel extends when zooming in? Are there multiple versions of this lens?

    • I don’t know why I put that in there…perhaps because the extension of the 16-80 is so much and I’ve never even noticed the minimal extension of the 16-55…like when you go from being outside in 10°F to inside your car that’s 20°F and you say “wow, so nice to be out of the cold!” Thanks for correcting that.

    • The quality and versatility of the 16-80mm would make it my choice over the 18-55mm, despite the larger size. I’m coming to love that lens more and more every time I use it!

  4. Hi John,

    Thanks for your great post. I own a 35mm f/1.4 and a 90mm f/2, and to cover the range in between I recently purchased a 16-55, but it’s rarely mounted on my camera. Based on your post I was thinking of trading it for a 16-80. But then I’m afraid I won’t have a use for it either. As I do portrait and street photography, what is your suggestion for my third lens?

    • As much as I love primes (both of those are amazing), nothing beats having a zoom in your kit for flexibility. That’d be my recommendation as another tool to have that can “do it all”. Like having a Swiss Army Knife in your pocket instead of carrying a screwdriver, a bottle opener, a knife, a nail file, etc.
      But if you want another prime lens instead, something wider for environmental portraits and street photography would be a good choice, like the 23mm f/2.

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