src="http://www.mirrorlessons.com/wp-content/themes/mirrorlessons A multi-purpose zoom for all occasions – Fuji 18-135mm Review
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18-135mm

Date: 27/07/2015 | By: Heather

A multi-purpose zoom for all occasions – Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Review

fujifilm 18-135mm review

A multi-purpose zoom for all occasions – Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 Review

Whenever I go out to shoot, I’ve noticed that my perception of reality adjusts to the focal length at the end of my camera, and I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way.

It always takes a while for your mind to begin to see just as the lens sees, but once it does, you are able to visualise compositions that would never occur to you otherwise. A wide-angle lens will force you to look at the bigger picture, while a telephoto lens will train you to lock onto individual details, such as a brush stroke of light on a hilltop or a small leaf dancing in the wind. Even a scene you’ve shot numerous times with one focal length will suddenly reveal a whole new series of hidden angles and viewpoints when you begin using another.

This is why I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with all-purposes lenses. Upon encountering a potentially interesting scene, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the numerous ways to approach it. Should I use a wide angle? Should I focus in on the details? Or what about something in between? The truth is that I personally wind up taking far fewer pictures with all-purposes lenses than with any other kind of lens because they provide too much choice.

The Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/4-5.6 is one of these all-purposes lenses. With an equivalent zoom range of 27mm to 206mm, it covers all bases from the standard wide angle to the extreme telephoto. Though it isn’t my favourite kind of lens, it has much to recommend it, from the inclusion of optical stabilisation to weather sealing. Interested to know more? Then let’s keep going!


Build and Design

, 1/50, f/ 9/1, ISO 200
The XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6

The XF 18-135mm isn’t a small lens by any means but this can only be expected from such a high zoom ratio. It is quite light at 490 grams and balances well on the X-T1 but it would look and feel a little oversized on any other X series camera. By comparison, the professional XF 50-140mm f/2.8 zoom is about twice the length and weight of the 18-135mm. The 18-135mm becomes as long as the 50-140mm when zoomed out to its maximum focal length.

, 1/30, f/ 9/1, ISO 200
The 18-135mm zoomed out to its maximum focal length

In keeping with Fujinon tradition, nearly every aspect of the lens has been thoughtfully designed. The barrel is completely weatherproof, which is an additional reason it matches the X-T1 so well, and features a ribbed focus and zoom ring, both of which are easy to turn and accurate. The aperture ring, too, is ribbed and turns in third stop intervals with very satisfying clicks.

, 1/40, f/ 9/1, ISO 200
No aperture markings on the barrel

On the side of the barrel, you’ll find an Optical Stabilisation switch, as well as an Automatic/Manual switch which gives you the option of manually choosing your aperture or leaving it to the camera to decide.

, 1/30, f/ 9/1, ISO 200
The OIS and auto/manual switches

The lens comes with a removable petal-shaped lens hood that protects the front element and reduces flare. The hood is plastic, whereas the rest of the barrel is constructed of plastic and metal.


Through the lens – Image Quality

I wasn’t at all disappointed by the image quality produced by the XF 18-135mm. It is a big step-up from your average ‘kit’ lens with a zoom range that is just as capable of reproducing a specific object within a landscape as it is of reproducing the landscape itself. (Another good kit lens from Fujifilm is the 18-55mm f/2.8-4.)

X-T1, 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 200
X-T1, 1/1000, f/5.6, ISO 200

Being a multi-purpose lens, it would be unfair to expect the same sharpness from the 18-135mm as you’d get from the XF 50-140mm for example. Compared to other all-purpose zooms with this range, however, it is certainly on equal footing, if not better.

X-T1, 1/850, f/5.6, ISO 400

At 18mm, sharpness appears fairly uniform from f/3.5 right up to f/11 with the best performance occurring at around f/8. The same can be said at 135mm, though at this focal length the fastest aperture goes from f/3.5 to f/5.6. The best performance can be achieved in the middle of the zoom range. Diffraction begins to set in after f/11 but only becomes very noticeable after f/16.

X-T1, 1/640, f/8, ISO 200 – 18mm
X-T1, 1/500, f/8, ISO 200 – 135mm

Given the fastest aperture of f/3.5, the bokeh will never match the out of focus rendering of a very fast prime but it is still quite pleasant and does not distract from the subject.

X-T1, 1/340, f/5.3, ISO 200

Flare and ghosting are very well controlled overall thanks to the HT-EBC multi-layer lens coating. The worst I came across were some some oval-shaped rainbow flares and some sensor flare at the slowest apertures.

X-T1, 1/400, f/8, ISO 200 – Rainbow flare
X-T1, 1/45, f/22, ISO 200 – Sensor flare

Vignetting made a very slight appearance at 18mm at f/3.5 but it almost completely disappears once you stop down to f/4. Chromatic aberration is kept in check by the four aspherical elements and two extra-low dispersion elements. I found very small traces throughout the apertures, with the f/3.5 producing the most, but it is barely noticeable. I did not notice any relevant distortion in the images I took.

X-T1, 1/4000, f/3.5, ISO 200 – Some C.A. in leaves
X-T1, 1/120, f/8, ISO 200


Performance – Autofocus and Stabilisation

During our two weeks with the lens, Mathieu had the chance to put its autofocus mechanism to the test at a marathon, off-road bike race and classic car race, where he also used the XF 50-140mm. (You can check out his in-depth autofocus test of the X-T1’s new firmware 4.0 here.)

He observed that the 18-135mm is somewhat slower than the 40-150mm on the X-T1 in both S-AF and C-AF modes but still perfectly good for everyday use.

X-T1, 1/500, f/5.6, ISO 400

In my tests, I found the S-AF very good in normal light conditions, and only slightly worse in low light. It hunts ever so slightly when there is a lack of contrast but it rarely fails to lock onto a subject. Since the lens utilises an inner focussing system and a linear AF motor, focussing is both smooth and quiet.

For those who like close-up photography, the lens has a reasonable minimum focus distance of 45cm at all focal lengths. Should you want to shoot even closer, there is always the affordable option of a macro converter like the Raynox 250, which works with focal lengths equal to or longer than 70mm (35mm equivalent).

X-T1, 1/105, f/5.6, ISO 200

One of the lens’ defining features is its optical stabilisation, which can be activated and deactivated via a switch on the barrel. It works thanks to a combination of dedicated OIS Unit Lenses, a redeveloped algorithm that checks for camera shakes, and two high-precision gyro sensors that detect high and low frequency shakes. With the IOS activated, I was able to take in-focus shots down to 1/5th of a second at 18mm and 1/8th of a second at 135mm if I kept my body very steady.

X-T1, 1/6, f/11, ISO 400

Conclusion

While I’m not a fan of multi-purpose zooms in general, I found the XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 to be a very high performer for its class. However, unlike other multi-purpose zooms for DSLRs and mirrorless systems, it is on the expensive side at around $900.

X-T1, 1/80, f/9, ISO 200

Would I recommend the XF 18-135mm? If you aren’t keen on changing lenses and engage in many different photography genres, I’d say it was a no-brainer. It will give you 90% of the focal lengths you’ll ever need for your photography and won’t disappoint as far as optical quality is concerned.

If, however, you have an appreciation for fast primes – and heaven knows Fujifilm has made a lot of good ones – then I would be less tempted to recommend it. Even for action or wildlife, I would lean toward the less expensive XF 50-200mm f/3.5-4.8 or, for the serious shooters, the professional XF 50-140mm f/2.8.

thumb-up What I like about the XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6:

  • very useful zoom range for all kinds of photography
  • well-built and light with lots of controls on the barrel
  • very good image quality for this kind of lens
  • great optical stabilisation at all focal lengths
  • a good match for the X-T1 in terms of size and design

thumb-down What I don’t like about the XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6:

  • expensive for an all-purpose lens
List Price: $899.95
Current Price: $699.00
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About the author: Heather Broster

Heather Broster was born in Canada, has lived in Japan and Italy but currently calls Wales home. She is a full-time gear tester at MirrorLessons. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    That was rather serendipitous! It is true that you can find some really good deals on kits. I recently saw one on the X-Pro1 and no less than three primes. (The body was essentially free.) Thanks for commenting. :)

  • Sean T

    Oh, yeah, that’s right. f22 end is easy. Wide end is not. Good point! At least it’s still clicky and pretty.

  • David Thompson

    Heather, that’s what my buddy teases me about. I have a bag of Fujinon glass and that 18-135mm stays on the camera! However, to be fair when I’m with my buddy we’re usually in Reno doing street photography.

    I have the 35/1.4 on it at the moment because I’m practicing the discipline of the normal lens. Plus the faster glass gives me more control over depth of field.

    Finally, like all things, patience pays off in the search for a good buy. It took me a bit to find my copy on fleabay. But I eventually found a seller who posted his lens for a reasonable price. It came with a couple of B+W filters as well and the Skylight filter stays on this lens.

    Best…

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    True, I hadn’t thought of that. :)

  • nathanphotographer

    Fuji CAN’T put aperture markings on a variable aperture lens, because they change! Think about it. But why they don’t put it on the 10-24mm is a mystery.

  • nathanphotographer

    While expensive by itself, this lens is a bargain when purchased in a kit with the XT-1. In July, the 18-135mm WITH the XT-1 was available for $1499 U.S., and was only $50 more than the 18-55mm combo. Considering the XT-1 is $1299 by itself, getting this lens for an extra $300 is a steal. Currently the price is higher, but Fuji frequently puts their lenses and cameras on sale.

    Great review, by the way. I ordered the 18-55 XT-1 combo direct from Fuji, and they accidentally sent me the 18-135mm combo. I almost sent it back, but as a professional I’ve been super impressed with this lens. I own over 20 lens, and this is the ONLY variable aperture lens I own, but the quality for a lens of this type is superb, and the OIS is unbelievable!

  • soundimageplus

    Fuji / Adobe’s latest camera raw upgrades are better than before. But the conservative nature of how they approach raw processing i.e. with lots of ‘background’ noise reduction means that apps. like Iridient Developer and Photo Ninja will always produce sharper results. It’s just a shame using them slows down the raw conversions process. But then small alternative companies need to exist to counteract the all-embracing and suffocating multi nationals like Adobe, so I’m always happy to promote and publicise them.

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    I’m not sure why Fuji doesn’t include aperture markings on its zoom lenses. It’s such a useful feature to have. Let us know how you get on with the 18-105!

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    I’ll have to run a few of the Raw files through IR. Even in LR, I was quite impressed with the results!

  • http://www.bestmirrorlesscamerareviews.com/ Heather Broster

    I think my biggest fear with a lens like this is that I’d wind up never changing lenses out of laziness, which would stunt my creativity as a result. It’s all psychological. :)

    It’s good to know that the lens can be found for cheaper than $900 these days!

  • Sean T

    My next rental for my a6000 is the Sony equivalent, the 18-105 f4 G lens. It’s cheaper and suffers from some shocking distortion (that’s automatically corrected!) but I think it would be a terrific walkabout lens on a trip. Give me my 35 mm f1.8 and I think I’d be happy most anywhere but a zoo (need more reach!). I’m curious if the price premium is worth it over the Sony equivalent. It’s longer but slower.

    I’m really confused about the lack of markings for the aperture on the body. It has an aperture ring (that I’m jealous of!) so… where are the markings?

  • soundimageplus

    Excellent lens. One of my lenses of the year last year, As you say great IS. I just wish Fuji didn’t hide what it can do with their processing. Via Iridient Developer it turns out some very sharp files however.

  • David Thompson

    Thanks for the review. Your experience mirrors (pun intended) mine, with the exception that I like a multi-purpose lens for street photography and for just walking around when I don’t feel like carrying a bag. :)

    This lens performs much better than I expected. Fuji did an excellent job with it. It isn’t as sharp or fast as my primes (or expensive zooms), but it is definitely great fun and performs better than I need. In the telephoto range, there is enough isolation of the subject that I can get the effect I want (as you illustrated). Backlit subjects are not a problem. Contrast and sharpness are good, particularly stopped done a bit.

    My buddy always gives me a hard time about this lens. He asks me “Why do you have any other lenses in your kit?”

    There are lots of things this lens can’t do. But for what it was designed to do it is very good. There’s a reason why it costs as much as it does.

    BTW, if you’re patient, you can capture one of these on fleabay at a pretty good discount. I got mine for about $650US.

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