Fujifilm 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Hands-on Review

Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak captured with the Fuji 18-135mm OIS lens.
Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak captured with the Fuji 18-135mm OIS lens.

After spending a lot of time using my Fuji X-T1 body this past spring and summer, I decided to purchase the recently released 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Fujinon lens. This lens is the first offering from Fujifilm to include weather-sealing, in the form of a gasket around the lens mount. In this post, I’ll attempt to answer the most common questions you might have regarding this lens, especially as it relates to the existing 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS kit lens. Scroll to the bottom for my video review of these two lenses.

Basics

The 18-135mm Fujinon is a solidly constructed zoom lens that is larger and heavier than the 18-55mm. It weighs just over one pound (490g) and is just slightly smaller than the 55-200mm Fujinon. Its focal length range is equivalent to using a 27-206mm lens on a 35mm format camera.  It uses a 67mm front filter thread and includes a petal-shaped bayonet lens hood. The lens is weather-sealed via a rubber gasket on the lens mount.

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The 7.5x zoom range of the 18-135mm Fujinon allows you tremendous versatility. Top: 18mm, Middle: 53mm, Bottom: 135mm. All shots un-cropped from in-camera JPEGs.

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Handling

I find the 18-135mm OIS very easy to handle on my X-T1, even though it’s a fairly robust lens. Part of the reason I like the way this lens handles is because it is larger than the 18-55mm. The zoom ring has a wide, rubberized grip that is clearly separated from the metal focus ring. On the 18-55mm, the zoom and focus rings are nearly impossible to distinguish, and it’s very easy to rotate the focus ring by accident when trying to zoom the lens. On the 18-135, this isn’t nearly as likely to occur. I found focus to be fast and accurate on my X-T1 body, although in dim light (indoors), it was slower to focus than the 18-55mm. This would be expected given the slower maximum aperture (f/3.5-5.6) as compared to the 18-55mm.

Optical Performance

The big question is how does the 18-135mm stack up against its smaller cousin: the 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 OIS Fujinon, which most photographers agree (myself included) is a very good lens. I did the usual sort of test shots and side by-side comparisons, and I can say that for a 7.5x zoom, the 18-135mm OIS does quite well. If it has a weak spot, it’s at the widest setting (18mm) wide-open. Here, the corners are noticeably soft at 100% magnification, and the corner sharpness does not match what you can get out of the 18-55mm even stopped down. There is also more light fall-off as compared to the 18-55mm. At longer focal lengths, the 18-135mm performs quite well, with corner sharpness meeting or even exceeding that of the 18-55mm at 55mm.

Image Stabilization

Fuji’s Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) works as advertised with the 18-135mm lens, which is important as it isn’t particularly fast. I tested the lens hand-held at 1/15s at 122mm and got acceptably sharp images using OIS. That’s a big plus for anyone shooting indoors or for those not inclined to use high ISOs on their camera.

Enabling the image stabilization system (left) allowed me to get a sharp shot at 1/15s. The image at right is hand-held with OIS disabled.
Enabling the image stabilization system (left) allowed me to get a sharp shot at 1/15s. The image at right is hand-held with OIS disabled.

Performance in Infrared Photography

I also tested the 18-135mm lens on my infrared converted Fujifilm X-E1 camera. Unlike many of my other Fuji zooms, the 18-135mm delivered excellent results without any noticeable hot-spots across the zoom range. I’m excited to have this lens in my kit for infrared photography, as it’s much better than the 18-55mm and 16-50mm Fuji lenses I currently have.

The Fujifilm 18-135mm is excellent for infrared photography.
The Fujifilm 18-135mm is excellent for infrared photography, producing no noticeable hot-spots, even stopped down.

Should you get one?

With all zoom lenses, especially ones with large zoom ranges, there are going to be compromises. The 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Fujinon lens is no exception. It’s bigger, heavier, and slower than the diminutive 18-55mm OIS kit lens. It also doesn’t deliver quite the level of sharpness at the wide end of the zoom range. However, in its favor are the facts that it’s got a much larger zoom range, is very easy to handle despite (or because of) it’s larger size, and its built-in stabilization makes hand-holding shots at the telephoto end easy. The 18-135mm Fujinon is a very versatile lens, indeed.

If you are willing to trade off a slight loss of corner sharpness for an incredibly versatile zoom range, then this lens will make travel a breeze. In fact, if you couple this lens with one other wide-angle lens, such as the 10-24mm f/4 OIS or 14mm f/2.8 prime, you’d have yourself a fantastic travel kit that would cover just about any situation other than extreme telephoto. I do enough shooting where I don’t want the hassle of having to change lenses, and until now, my only option was to pair the (even larger) 55-200mm Fujinon lens with the 18-55mm. Frankly, I’m willing to leave a slightly larger lens on my camera if it means I’m not lugging around another large lens.

If you are an optical purist, or don’t want to hassle with a larger lens, then the 18-55mm f/2.8-4.0 OIS lens remains the go-to choice to pair with the Fujifilm X-mount bodies. It delivers fantastic results, and it’s great indoors where its faster aperture comes in handy.

Video Review: Hands-on with the Fuji 18-135mm OIS lens

Check prices on the Fujifilm 18-135mm lens and X-T1 kits



3 thoughts on “Fujifilm 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Hands-on Review”

  1. What Fuji lenses would you recommend for a IR converted XE-1?
    The 18-55 seems to have a hot spot.

    Thanks in advance,

    Howard

  2. Howard-
    I’d recommend the 18-135 as a general-purpose IR lens, along with the 14mm, 23mm and 35mm primes. The 10-24mm is ok from 14-24mm, too. The 18-135mm is weakest at 18mm on both visible and IR bodies.

  3. Thanks for this wonderful review. As a Fuji user in addition to my Nikons, I was curious on thoughts about this as a travel lens.

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