Review: Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS (Sony E Mount)

The Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS isn’t our favorite option, but it also isn’t that awful

If you’re a user of the Sony a6000 series cameras, then you can probably imagine yourself using a lens like the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS. It is targeted squarely at photographers who travel and for those who want a lens designed for a hobbyist. Want to photograph your kids? What about candid moments? The way I see it, the folks who would buy the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS would probably take their Sony a6500 or a6300 and set it on auto or some sort of scene mode to shoot. Now that’s not to say that those are the only people who may use it, but that’s who I imagine most of the buyers will be. With the variable apertures, image stabilization and a range of focal lengths, I can’t say that I blame them. In fact, I clearly see the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS being offered as a kit zoom of some sort. That’s where this lens probably belongs.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Variety of focal lengths in a small body
  • Lightweight
  • Fun
  • Pretty darned good image quality

Cons

  • Price could be a bit lower.

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS with the Sony a6500 camera.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from Sony’s website

MOUNT
Sony E-mount
FORMAT
APS-C
FOCAL LENGTH (MM)
18-135
35 MM EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTH (APS-C)
27-202.5
LENS GROUPS / ELEMENTS
12–16
ANGLE OF VIEW (APS-C)
76°-12°2
MAXIMUM APERTURE (F)
3.5-5.6
MINIMUM APERTURE (F)
22-36
APERTURE BLADES
7
CIRCULAR APERTURE
Yes
MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE
1.48 ft (0.45 m)
MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION RATIO (X)
0 29
FILTER DIAMETER (MM)
55
IMAGE STABILIZATION (STEADYSHOT)
Optical SteadyShot
ZOOM SYSTEM
Manual
TELECONVERTER COMPATIBILITY (X1.4)
TELECONVERTER COMPATIBILITY (X2.0)
HOOD TYPE
Petal shape, bayonet type
DIMENSIONS (DIAMETER X LENGTH)
67.2 x 88 mm (2-3/4 x 3-1/2 “)
WEIGHT
11.5 oz (325 g)
  • Hood (model): ALC-SH153
  • Lens front cap: ALC-F55S
  • Lens rear cap: ALC-R1EM

Ergonomics

The Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS is designed to be overall pretty darned simple. I mean for the most part, the entire exterior of the lens is rubber rings for focusing and zooming. then there’s some smooth bits, but we don’t really care about those. This makes sense because as I’ve stated, this is essentially a glorified kit lens.

Zoom the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS all the way into 135mm and what you’ll see is that it doesn’t become that much larger. This is one of the best parts of the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS. Most other lenses pretty much double in size otherwise.

Turn to the side of the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS and you’ll spot the AF/MF switch. Sony has been putting this in more and more in recent years vs foregoing it. And it honestly makes sense. What isn’t there though is the OSS on/off switch for using a tripod.

The front of the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS requires a 55mm filter. Keep that in mind in case you want to shoot landscapes or seascapes.

Build Quality

The Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS isn’t weather sealed. It’s plastic and for the most part it feels like a hardened, higher end lens. Surprisingly, it almost feels G quality–almost. But for what’s essentially a glorified kit lens, the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS feels very solid. If I were to buy an a6500 and get this lens as a kit, I’d really enjoy it as a first option. Granted, I’d probably appreciate a nice pancake prime more or Sony’s motorized power zoom lenses.

Ease of Use

Besides watching out for the AF/MF switch on the side, photographers won’t really have a whole lot to worry about with the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS. It’s easy to use and you just need to point it, focus and shoot. I put it in the hands of a few folks who knew nothing about photography and they were easily able to take a good photo. If anything, Sony needs to add a focus selection joystick to the a6000 series of cameras. That will make it even easier. Despite this, Sony allows photographers to manually select the focusing point by turning the LCD on the a6500 into a trackpad. And that’s nice, but not ergonomically the most comfortable thing to do depending on how big your paws are.

Autofocus

I rarely ever had problems with the autofocus on the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS, and any major problems I’d much rather blame on the a6500. Did it misfocus sometimes? Yes; but those were in pretty low light or backlit situations where it’s bound to be difficult for most cameras anyway.

Image Quality

Image quality on the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS isn’t bad. Are there sharper lenses out there? Yes. Are there lenses with better bokeh out there? Of course. But not a whole lot can do it while offering a variety of focal ranges for enthusiast photographers. This lens does that indeed.

Bokeh

As far as we go with bokeh, the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS has fairly subpar bokeh. It’s hazy. It’s what you’re going to get with a lens like this. But in some ways it looks like something that Apple or Huawei could create with some sort of out of focus rendition software tweak. I’m just not that impressed on this front. Yes, I’ll stand by that statement and I think that most people won’t be able to tell the difference.

Chromatic Aberration

In extreme cases, you’ll see a bit of purple fringing. These can be easily corrected in post-production but the fringing that you’ll see is also not that awful and not something that will completely break the image that you’re shooting.

Color Rendition

Colors from the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS are one of the lens’ saving points. They’re nice and a bit vibrant. But Sony has lenses with much better color and overall nicer tones. Specifically I’m speaking to some of Sony’s prime lenses that seem to just make colors pop.

Sharpness

The sharpness on the Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS is adequate. Again, I’m going to call it a glorified kit lens. That isn’t a bad thing, but instead it is something that has to do with what the lens really is. Kit lenses these days are pretty darned good, but realize that with this lens you’re getting convenience over ultimate image quality.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Compact size

Dislikes

  • Sony, with all their money, should be striving to innovate at every single angle at this point in an effort to drive their competitors and the industry forward. Not just replace something or make something. I feel like this lens is a weak effort by Sony.

The Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS isn’t a bad lens (I genuinely feel like there is no such thing like that anymore). But something about this lens and the technology inside of it feels like this is a lens that should have been released in 2010, a year after I founded the Phoblographer. Then consider the price point on this lens. If you’re going to go for a superzoom option of some sort, then perhaps consider Tamron or go for the Sony and know what you’re getting. I’ll stand by my statement that primes are better for the a6500 and the a6000 lineup of cameras. Just go with those.

The Sony 18-135mm f3.5-5.6 OSS gets three out of five stars.