Image Quality: Sharpness
The Fujinon XC 16-50mm is a mixed bag when it comes to sharpness. Center sharpness is quite good throughout the range right from the widest aperture. Unfortunately, edges of the frame are noticeably softer at wider apertures. On the wide end, the edges sharpen up considerably about one to two stops down, so that by f/8, the picture is reasonably sharp across the frame, though the edges are never quite perfect. At the longer end, I’ve found the edges to be a little better wide open than at the wide end, but the lens still needs to be stopped down a bit for optimum sharpness.
Overall, not a bad result here, especially considering the lens’ paltry $100 entry fee when paired with the X-M1, and the wide starting focal length. It’s good for a kit lens, but falls short of the Fuji 18-55’s performance.
Image Quality: Bokeh
The out of focus areas on the 16-50mm are quite neutrally rendered. They are not perfect, but for a kit zoom, it’s a rather impressive performance. There are no obvious rings around specular highlights at the long end, and while wider views do have a little more nervousness, it’s not terrible. There isn’t a lot of blur to be had with the 16-50mm unless you’re focusing relatively close, but it can provide some subject separation, and does it rather nicely here.
Image Quality: Chromatic Aberration, Color, Contrast and Flare
While the XC 16-50mm might be only average in sharpness, it’s in the control of other lens characteristics where it starts to shine a little bit. Chromatic aberration is relatively well controlled, with a minor amount of lateral CA being visible in some shots, but very easily corrected. The lens is very resistant to purple fringing and there’s really not much longitudinal chromatic aberration, which is seen as magenta and green fringes in front of and behind the focus point.
The 16-50mm has really nice color and a great contrast curve that really give the lens a great rendering. I said to a few people after shooting with the lens for a while that the 16-50mm isn’t the sharpest lens, but images out of the 16-50mm don’t feel like those out of a kit lens. Most kit lenses are very sterile in their rendering, with plenty of lens aberrations and no depth to the images. The 16-50mm, on the other hand, gives really deep images with great color and contrast, even if they aren’t the sharpest shots in the world on the frame edges. In real world use, I’ve found that I prefer this approach. Sharpness can be great, but if a lens is sharp, but makes pictures that look flat, it takes a lot more work to bring out the magic in the image. The 16-50mm gives a great look right out of the camera, and that makes using it quite nice.
The 16-50mm is also quite resistant to flare, which is a nice surprise. I have found it difficult to produce any sort of complex flare when shooting into the sun, and even veiling flare, which displays as a loss of contrast at the frame edge, is largely absent.