Fuji XF18-135 F3.5-5.6 R OIS WR lens review (Part 2)
Bill has been serious about his photography for over 30 years, using Contax, Nikon and for the past 20+ years, Leica M rangefinders. He shoots mainly monochrome, travel and street, and describes himself as a "gentleman amateur photographer", shooting for enjoyment rather than personal gain. He started using Fuji X Series cameras and lenses two years ago; today it has become his keystone system, giving him the best of rangefinder and SLR form factors with a single lens mount - something he really appreciates when travelling. Bill is a moderator on FujiXSpot and shows his work under the name Lightmancer.
I picked this lens up from my friendly local crack dealer, London Camera Exchange in Guildford, with £250 off courtesy of the Fujifilm offer on the X-T1. It didn't take me long to take it out for a quick wander. The results are what you see here, plus some real-world shooting in London a couple of weeks ago.
Full disclosure - I'm writing this review as a dedicated user of prime lenses. I have never been a big zoom user, although I do "get it", and I already have the 18-55 and 55-200. In real-world terms the 18-135 (35mm equivalent 28-205-ish) is a "superzoom", and as such is designed to cover a range of focal lengths. In Fuji-prime-world, it "replaces" not only the 18, 23, 27, 35, 56 and 60mm focal lengths but also the 18-55 - probably it's closest competitor in focal length terms. So, is this a jack of all trades - or a master of none?
This is a chunky lens. It tips the scales at just under half a kilo (490g) which makes the 18-55 at 310g look like Twiggy. In fact it's not much lighter than the 55-200 which comes in at 580g. In terms of size it comes neatly between the two
Fit and finish
Finish is what we have now come to expect from Fuji - solid, chunky and well-made. The barrel extends when zooming and is clearly plastic. There are two vents on the underside for the WR capability, but otherwise it is familiar territory for anyone who has used a Fujinon lens before; nicely weighted zoom, aperture and focus rings with the finely milled "dust trap" grips. There is some resistance to zooming out to 135mm but otherwise everything is smooth. Held face down there was no zoom creep. The lens hood is a petal-type affair as we have seen on the 18-55 and others, although this one is significantly bigger, as befits the 67mm filter thread. It's not a tight fit, and I feared I might knock it out of true, although this didn't happen today. The only other controls on the lens are the familiar aperture/auto and OIS sliders in the same place as on it's older siblings.
Above: The 18-135 mounted on various X-series cameras: Left to right: X-T1, X-T1 with grip, X-Pro 2, X-Pro 1
Mounting on a camera
I bought this lens to fit on my X-T1, thereby giving me a weather-resistant DSLR capability - ideal for Frimley in the Autumn. It fits, of course, on the other cameras in the X stable, balancing surprisingly well on the X-Pro1 but looking (and feeling) more than somewhat top-heavy on the X-E1.
Fair to say, however, I wouldn't try it on the X-T1 without the vertical grip attached. Together the body and lens would make a substantial dent in the floor if dropped - I wouldn't recommend it.
Trying it out
Now, there is nothing scientific about the following shots. I have simply set out to use the 18-135 as I would in real-world conditions. For the purposes of this exercise, I left it mounted on the X-Pro, just because I could. I used it (mostly) in aperture priority mode, wide open. A couple of the shots are in Program mode - the slider switch is quite easily knocked as you heft the weight of this lens. On the X-Pro I used it solely in EVF mode; it would work with the optical viewfinder at the wider settings, but I didn't see the point for today's exercise. All shots are uncropped unless clearly stated and have received no PP. The camera was set to "vivid" throughout; the mono conversions were done using Topaz Labs.
Subject matter is my desk, followed by the local cemetery, a short walk away. The statues stand still and were ideal for the purpose. It was an overcast but mild day; when it rains I'll take it out with the X-T1 for a "wet test".
So, first meet Tigger. He holds my business card, for I can never remember my 'phone number:
And here is the poor feline cropped by 100%
Now off to the graveyard:
Above: These shots illustrate the difference in angle of view between 18mm and 135mm; they are taken from the same spot in each instance. The second pair compares 55mm (the top end of the 18-55 lens) and the 135mm in practice.
Below: The first two frames illustrate the difference between 55mm (the top end of the 18-55 zoom) and 135mm in practice. The second shot is not a crop of the first. The third is another 18mm shot. Finally, the statue of Jesus in 135mm, wide open at f/5.6 shows interesting blur in the OOF highlights. This is more noticeable in the mono renditions.
And some plinth action: Colour, monochrome and 100% crop of the colour shot
Real world use
A short while after this initial try-out I took the lens up to London for a look at the "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" installation at the Tower of London. It was a good choice for such an outing, given that it was not possible to get too close, the weather was unpredictable and showery and the crowds impatient and constantly moving; no chance to take your time over an arty composition, believe me.
To my surprise, the petal hood was actually quite effective at keeping the drizzle off. I have bought an adjustable rubber one, but it may not see much use unless global warming provides us with a monsoon season. I wiped the worst of the moisture off the barrel every so often, and kept the camera (the X-Pro in this case - I wasn't expecting heavy rain when I set out for the day) covered when not in use. When in use my Peaky Blinders-style cap kept the worst of the rain at bay (and away from my spectacles).
The 18-135 is a flexible lens by any standard and this type of use is where it comes into it's own. The ability to zoom from wide to a quite respectable tele meant I could frame accurately and not have to worry about exposing my sensor to the rain with multiple lens changes. In terms of performance, the OIS came in handy in the variable light to give me a decent result.
Afterward, we walked back towards The City. Again, the 18-135 provided perspectives that I would have to have been carrying two or more lenses to obtain.
Overall, as a committed "prime person" I am surprised by the extent to which I like this lens. It isn't as sharp as the primes, but it acquits itself well in real-world use. I was surprised how well it matched with the X-Pro1, although for me at least that isn't the intended body. I toyed with the idea of selling off the 18-55 as surplus to requirements, but the weight of this lens in comparison means that the 18-55 still has a place in the bag for a day spent wandering around in the city if I don't want to carry all those extra grams. I like the handling, and although I haven'r really challenged either the OIS or the WR yet, I don't doubt they will do the job.
In really bad weather I'll attach the collapsible rubber hood - although the petal hood acquitted itself well at the Tower on a drizzly Autumn day I suspect that it won't really protect that big front element from wayward drips and splashes in a downpour. My lens wears a filter already and I would advise anyone else to do the same. This isn't the cheapest, fastest or lightest lens on the block, but it is a damn useful range of focal lengths in a handy package and deserves to sell like the proverbial hot cakes.