Review: Fujinon 18-55mm lens and image stabilization

The Fuji XF 18-55mm f.2.8-4.0 R LM OIS lens has image stabilization. How well does it work?
The Fuji XF 18-55mm f.2.8-4.0 R LM OIS lens has image stabilization. How well does it work?

The standard kit lens for most of the Fujifilm X-mount cameras, including the X-T1 I just purchased, is the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 R LM OIS zoom lens. There’s a lot of alphabet soup going on with that name, but the main feature here is OIS, or Optical Image Stabilization. This in-lens stabilization system is intended to improve the sharpness of hand-held images of static subjects at lower shutter speeds. As someone who’s used Nikon’s VR lenses for nearly a decade now, I’m very much happy with the feature, especially when shooting indoors. Keep in mind that no stabilization system will prevent subject motion blur at low shutter speeds.

I was doing some test shots with the 18-55mm lens, and I just wasn’t getting satisfactorily sharp results. As I was shooting hand-held, I had OIS enabled. Just for fun, I thought I’d test my lens with the OIS turned off. What I saw was amazing as my image sharpness rivaled that of my 24-70mm f/2.8 AFS G Nikkor lens. It is true that in certain situations, stabilization systems can actually introduce softness when using fast shutter speeds, but it’s not something I found to be an issue with my Nikkor glass. But with this particular lens, it makes a huge difference!

Note: I tested my lens with Firmware Version 3.11, which is supposed to improve OIS functionality.

Just for fun, here is a series of hand-held test shots captured with the 18-55mm lens, with OIS off and on. These images were in-camera jpegs which I cropped and saved with mild sharpening applied. The point is to evaluate relative sharpness with OIS. In the images below, click to enlarge.

1/15s OIS off 1/15s OIS on

Shooting at 55mm (83mm equivalent in 35mm format) and 1/15s, you can clearly see that OIS stabilizes the lower image.

1/60s OIS off 1/60s OIS on

OIS also improves image sharpness at 1/60s. Again I expected this because I’m still shooting slower than 1/1.5x focal length.

1/125s OIS on 1/125s OIS off

At 1/125s, the differences are minimal at best. I’d call this a tie.

1/250s OIS off1/250s OIS on

At 1/250s, the image at top (OIS off) is actually sharper than the image captured with OIS on. Click the image to see a larger view.

I’ve seen this kind of result consistently with the 18-55mm Fujinon. Fine detail seems to be lost at shutter speeds faster than 1/125s. For that reason, I’ll be keeping OIS off on this lens unless I’m shooting indoors at slow (1/60s or longer) shutter speeds.

4 thoughts on “Review: Fujinon 18-55mm lens and image stabilization”

  1. Just confirming that I’m also running lens firmware 3.11. I conducted a similar battery of tests on a complex landscape scene with varied textures. At faster shutter speeds (1/400 to 1/3800), low level detail like a grass field with OIS on was clearly smeared versus non-OIS. I was really surprised. The difference was not subtle. I would have preferred to leave OIS on and have it option out at higher shutter speeds on its own, but that’s clearly not the way it works. I’ve turned off OIS and set the X-E1’s (firmware 2.20) lowest shutter speed threshold to alert me when I get lower than 1/60, which seems to be a consistent wash for me even at 55mm, so I can remember to turn OIS back on when I’m in the field. 1/4 to 1/8 OIS clearly shines, no question. I seem to be pretty good at hand-holding even at 1/15, but OIS is way more reliable at this level. I suspect personal technique may influence where the cross-over is at the lower level, so experimentation is a good idea. That said, I can’t find any loss with having OIS on until I get into the 1/100s and faster, so 1/60 is a good bet for me personally.

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