Which Lenses Should I Buy?

This post is a companion to the "Which camera should I buy?" blog post. You may need to read that post to understand the recommendations in this post.

The lens or lenses you should buy depend on what you plan to shoot. For most people, it takes a while to figure out what it is they truly enjoy shooting. The Fujifilm X-T2 and the Fujifilm X-T20 have a "body only" option, which means you buy the camera with no lens, and they have a "body + kit lens" option. The Fujifilm X-A3 is available only in the "body + kit lens" configuration. The kit lens is a general-purpose lens that is the only lens that many people will ever need. It covers a zoom range that is perfect for everything from landscapes to portraits.

When I bought my camera, I chose the X-T2 "body only" option and bought the Fujinon XF 16-55mm lens, which covers a similar range as the Fujinon XF 18-55mm kit lens, but it produces sharper images and it is better for working in dimly lit venues, which I often have to do. But the XF 16-55 lens is heavier than the kit lens and it doesn't have the Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) feature that the kits lens has. OIS offsets the small movements in your hand that can result in "camera shake" and cause your images to be slightly blurry. So, for some people, the kit lens will produce sharper images than the more expensive XF 16-55 lens. Just as with choosing the camera, the correct lens for you depends on your specific needs.

I do recommend purchasing one of the two pancake lenses that Fuji offers.

One is the Fujinon XF 18mm pancake lens

and the other is the Fujinon 27mm pancake lens.

Either of these lenses makes the camera super portable and the easier it is to carry your camera with you, the more pictures you'll take. I bought the 18mm because I prefer to shoot with a wide angle lens. But a wide angle lens requires you to get close to your subject, which works for me. Others will prefer to maintain more distance from their subjects, so the 27mm lens will work better for them. So figure out which camp you fall into and buy the corresponding pancake lens. These Fuji cameras are incredibly fun to shoot with and they're even more fun when you make them super small with a pancake lens.

To get started on your photography journey, all you need is the kit lens, which you should buy as a package with the camera because it will be cheaper that way. Or, if your needs dictate it, order the XF 16-55mm lens instead of the kit lens. When you've shot with the kit lens (or the XF 16-55 lens) for a while and have figured out how and what you like to shoot, invest in one of the pancake lenses. My 18mm pancake is my default lens and is 50% of why I bought into the Fuji system. Fuji had a camera and a lens that created the "fun size" package I knew I wanted to shoot with. I only bought the XF 16-55mm lens to use for work. If I'd bought the Fuji just for recreational shooting, I would have chosen the "body only" option and bought just the 18mm pancake lens. But that's because I have a full complement of lenses with my Canon system.

For those who need to build out a complete range of lenses, I make a few recommendations below. Fuji makes many more lenses than those I list here. The recommendations I'm making are for beginners who need simple guidance about what lenses may work best for them. If you're looking for detailed reviews and comparisons and image quality tests, etc., there are many sites on the web where you can find those. It is not my aim to duplicate that effort here. Here, I'm providing simple answers to the "Which lens should I buy?" question.

Fujinon XF 18-135mm

This is for the person who just wants one lens to cover everything from wide angle to zooming in on things at a distance. Some people like to use this kind of lens as their walkaround or travel lens because it covers all the bases in one lens. You won't have to worry about switching to the correct lens because this superzoom covers a very broad range. The cost for that broad coverage is

  • Size: It's a big lens, especially when zoomed all the way out.
  • Low light performance: This lens won't do well in dimly-lit venues.
  • Image quality: Only in a relative sense. This is not as big a deal as the camera nerds make it out to be. If you magnify your images on the computer by 100% and look for deficiencies in this lens, you will find them...just like you'll find deficiencies in $2000 lenses if you do the same thing with images shot with those! The most significant factor in determining image quality is not the camera or the lens, it's the photographer. ANY camera gear on the market today is a hundred times better than what was available twenty or more years ago and yet the photographers in those eras were able to create great images. I put image quality here as a "deficiency" because it has to be addressed, but it is not the big deal that people make it out to be.

Fujinon XF 50-140mm

This is an outstanding, high performance, general purpose zoom lens. This lens is great for portraits, for sports, for event photography (even in dimly-lit venues), and so much more. If I didn't already own the Canon equivalent of this lens, I would need to buy this for my Fuji. But that doesn't mean you need it. This is an expensive lens. It is worth the price, but it is expensive. And large. And heavy. But with better lenses comes increased size and weight. That's just the physics of optics.

Fujinon XF 56mm

This is an excellent portrait lens. If I didn't already have the equivalent lens on my Canon system, I would buy this lens. If you like those portraits you see with the blurry backgrounds, this is an excellent lens to create those kinds of portraits with...once you learn how to use it. If you don't learn how to use it properly, you'll have a blurry subject to go along with the blurry background. This lens will also allow you to create quality images in very low light scenarios.

Summary

Fuji makes many more lenses than these, but these are the ones that I recommend beginners choose from to start out. A great way to figure out if a particular lens is the right one for you is to head on over to LensRentals.com and rent it for a few days. You can rent cameras there, too.

This post is part of my How Do I Get Started in Photography? series. Check out the complete series below and share it with anyone in your network who wants to get into photography and could use some help getting started.

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