Over the last few years Fujifilm has been filling out its X-series lens line up with fast primes. However, aside from a surprisingly good XF 18-55mm f2.8-4 kit lens, zoom lenses have been rather ignored until now. 2014 has been the year of the Fujifilm zoom lens between the Fujifilm XF 10-24mm f4 plus two of the X-series’ first telephoto zoom lenses, the XF 55-200mm f3.5-4.8 and XF 50-140mm f2.8.
Now the Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens caps off the year as an extremely flexible superzoom lens with weather sealing to boot. It has the potential to be a great all-round lens for everyday shooting, traveling, and event photography. However, as with all superzoom lenses I’m going to examine whether the Fujifilm 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 has sacrificed any image quality for flexibility.
Pros and Cons
- Absolutely no lens creep whatsoever
- Solid build quality
- Decent bokeh
- Weather sealed
- Great colors and relatively sharp
- Optical image stabilization
- As big as a DSLR lens
- Fringes quite badly with hints of chromatic aberration
I tested the Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR lens with the Fujifilm X-T1.
Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the lens.
- Fujifilm X-Mount
- 27-206mm (35mm Equivalent)
- Aperture Range: f/3.5-5.6 to f/22
- Four Aspherical and Two ED Elements
- HT-EBC Multi-Layer Lens Coating
- Five-Stop-Effective Image Stabilization
- Inner Focusing System & Linear AF Motor
- Weather-Sealed Construction
- Seven-Blade Rounded Diaphragm
- Filter Thread: 67mm
- Dimensions (Wide-Angle): 99 x 3.85 inches (75.7 x 97.8 millimeters)
- Dimensions (Telephoto): 99 x 6.22 inches (75.7 x 158mm millimeters)
- Weight: 1.08 pounds (490 grams)
The Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 is a big ol’ lens. In fact it’s actually a bit larger and thicker than the Nikon 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 lens designed for APS-C DSLRs. Typically we expect mirrorless lenses to be smaller than their DSLR counter parts because of their shorter flange distance. Having said that, the lens is nowhere as big as some of Fujifilm’s new telephoto additions and it pairs well with my X-T1 without adding too much weight to the front.
At the front of the lens you’ll find a fairly large 67mm filter thread. Behind that, there’s a thumb’s width metal focusing ring and an even larger rubberized zoom ring, which has become a standard on most of Fujifilm’s larger zoom lenses. Past the focal length markings is a ribbed aperture ring devoid of any f-stop markings as this is a variable aperture lens.
The zoom ring twists smoothly to extend the front of the lens, which increases the length of the barrel from 3.85 -inches on the wide-angle end to 6.22-inches.
And of course there are also switches for the lens’ built-in image stabilization and aperture control. Both of these switches take a decent amount of pressure to push and click audibly to prevent any accidental changes in your lens settings.
The Fujifilm 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 lens is almost entirely made of plastic including both the outer and inner lens barrels. The only bits of metal include the front element, focusing and aperture rings as well as the rear lens mount.
For the most part, the plastic body helps keep weight down without compromising on the lens’ build quality. It easily survived several trips on crowded subway trains as well as plenty of chilly rain storms here in NYC.
Ease of Use
Knock superzoom lenses for their often-middling image quality, but having such a wide focal length range makes for a very fun and flexible shooting experience. With just a quarter turn of the zoom ring you can go from a wide angle perspective to a normal lens and then to a short telephoto focal length. Keep in mind the aperture will shrink from f3.5-5.6 as you turn the zoom ring so be sure to compensate for this by lowering the shutter speed or increasing the ISO sensitivity.
The autofocus on this lens was consistently fast and accurate. Of course, I was getting the best results thanks to mounting the 18-135mm onto a X-T1, currently the fastest focusing Fujifilm camera. In low light situations, I ran into a few speed bumps especially when trying to get the lens to focus on a subject several yards away. In these cases, manual focusing with a peaking aid works seamlessly.
The Fujifilm 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 lens produces some astounding image quality. Sure it’s not the sharpest glass in the X-series lineup but it captures more then enough detail to produce a nice image with decent bokeh and excellent colors. The lens has its fair share of chromatic and color fringing issues, but overall I was surprisingly pleased by the pictures I captured with this lens.
Although this image above was shot at 135mm and f5.6, there’s still an appreciable amount of bokeh even if it has the texture of sand paper or an aged canvas. Additionally, the XF 18-135mm can also produce some nice out of focus areas on the wide end. Of course, if you’re looking for the smoothest and cleanest results, you’re better off getting the Fujifilm XF 56mm f1.2 or many of Japanese camera company’s f1.4 primes.
Images taken with this lens look great and extremely detailed as a whole. However, upon closer inspection (aka pixel peeping) things become muddier along the sides, corners, and even the center of the frame.
Fujifilm’s X-Trans II sensor is known to render some very rich colors with nearly perfect skin tones and the XF 18-135mm helps to translate this very well. There were no cases where I felt the hues were subdued but if you ever feel the need to add in an extra punch of intensity, Fuji’s RAW files are extremely easy to work with in the color channel mixer.
In this one image we have a combination of purple, blue and green fringing happening all at once, and this is with an image taken at f5.6. Unfortunately the color fringing issues persists even when closing the lens down to f8. Chromatic aberration also rears its ugly face in some frames with extreme contrast. Luckily both issues can almost completely corrected in post.
Extra Image Samples
- Smooth, meaty zoom ring
- Solid construction without any hint of lens creep
- Focuses quickly and accurately
- Lighter than a DSLR lens
- Excellent image quality overall with good sharpness, color, and bokeh
- Covers a wide focal length range making it a very flexible lens
- Color fringing with every possible color
- Fujifilm could have fitted a real manual focusing system into a lens of this size
- Same size as a DSLR lens
The Fujifilm XF 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR is a great overall lens that offers up a wide range of focal lengths without heavily sacrificing image quality. It has a few bad quirks, namely the color fringing and chromatic aberration problems, but taken as a whole, this is still a very good piece of glass.
The lens perfectly slots into a long vacant gap within Fujifilm’s X-series lens lineup as a jack-of-all-trades tool for tourists on vacation to journalists in need of a flexible lens for events. It’s not designed to excel in any particular field like the sports shooting XF50-140mm f2.8 or architectural wide-angle XF10-24mm f4, but it’s more than decent for capturing any type of photo you need.
With the long zoom you can easily capture far or close subjects without having to move your feet much. Meanwhile, the image quality of the lens is excellent with great colors and an appreciable amount of bokeh. Optically, the XF18-55mm f2.8-4 is a better overall lens, but if you’re looking for something with a bit more reach and weather sealing to boot, the 18-135mm is a sure bet.
Recommended Cameras and Accessories
- Fujifilm X-T1: Fujifilm’s latest and greatest mirrorless camera and a perfect weather sealed body to pair with this lens.
- Fujifilm X-E2: For you rangefinder fans, the Fujifilm X-E2 is a great compact body and it sports the same X-Trans II sensor found in the X-T1 with nearly the same AF performance.
- Fujifilm X-Pro1: The X-Pro 1 is Fujifilm’s reigning, albeit aging, flagship camera and it’s just big enough to counterbalance the hulking Fujifilm XF 18-135mm lens.