Fujinon XF18-135mm F/3.5-5.6R LM OIS WR Review
Fujinon XF18-135mm F/3.5-5.6R LM OIS WR Review
The XF designation signifies that this lens is part of the upper-range series. Admittedly, this includes all but two Fuji X-mount lenses. The basic specifications though are much more ordinary with a relatively high magnification and dim maximum aperture, particularly at the telephoto end. However, it retains a mechanical aperture-ring like its siblings and is one of the few stabilized lenses among them.
Build quality of the XF18-135mm is exemplary. The lens is primarily constructed of a metal lens barrel with independent rings for focus, zoom and aperture. The lens itself feels heavy for its size because of the metal barrel and high number of optical elements. As a weather-sealed lens, all components fit tightly together.
We have to give it to Fuji for being consistent. The detents of the aperture-ring on this is is too soft, just like on every other Fujinon lenses. This often results in images taken at an unintended aperture. There are also no aperture-markings since the lens has a variable maximum aperture. This means that steps are relative to the maximum at the current focal-length. A small switch behind the ring toggles between automatic and manual aperture. Together with the shutter-speed dial, this allows all traditional PATM exposure-modes.
The broad zoom ring operates with some resistance but is relatively smooth. There is a good amount of movement from wide-angle to telephoto, so that precise zooming is easy. This lens does not exhibit any zoom creep at all.
The focus-ring rotates extremely smoothly. It takes a lot of movement to go across the focus-range, making it possible to manually focus with a high-degree of accuracy. While the ring turns easily, it is fly-by-wire and only active during manual-focus, so turning it accidentally is not much of a risk. The Fuji X-T1's EVF is extremely sharp and shows focus very clearly, so an inadvertent change in focus would easily be seen.
A built-in image-stabilization system within the XF18-135mm F/3.5-5.6R LM OIS WR offers effective reduction of camera shake using two high-precision gyro-sensors. Based on informal testing, it seems effective between 3 and 4 stops compared to hand-holding. This is particularly important towards telephoto where the maximum aperture gets rather dim.
The WR designation stands for Weather-Resist. It easily handles light rain which we would expect from a such a lens. Fuji says that more than 20 weather-seals protect this lens against rain, dust and moisture. Combined with the X-T1, it makes for a complete weather-proof system. Fuji also makes the VG-XT1 vertical-grip which is weather-sealed too.
Optically, the XF18-135mm performs well above similarly specified lenses. Sharpness is excellent overall except at the very edges of the frame. At wide-angle, center sharpness is perfect even wide-open. Edges are noticeably soft until stopped down to F/5.6, so down just over one stop from the maximum. Still, they never get as sharp as the center.
Sharpness is very good near the middle of its focal-range and much more even across the frame. One still needs to stop down to F/5.6 to get comparable sharpness along edges, Towards the telephoto end, corners get quite soft and stopping down to F/8 is required to make them acceptable. Considering that diffraction occurs before F/16, there is not much latitude left at that point.
There is a moderate amount of barrel distortion near wide-angle. It can easily be seen while photographing objects with straight edges. This quickly diminishes after zooming in. By mid-zoom, distortion is no longer noticeable.
The XF18-135mm F/3.5-5.6R LM OIS WR is surprisingly resistant to vignetting and chromatic aberrations. Neither shows up noticeably in any way. Aperture and focal-length appear to make little difference here which is quite impressive. Fuji's image-processing may have a hand in this but does so with little impact on image-quality.
Autofocus speed is very good. When mounted on a Fuji X-T1, this lens can focus in under ¼s in good to moderate light. It takes slightly longer when light is low, which is normal. Still, it rarely takes more than ¾s. With Contrast-Detect, focus is very accurate and never suffers from front or back-focus issues.
Unlike the majority of interchangeable lens cameras, the X-T1 has a Macro mode. This is a software focus-limiter which enables faster autofocus by not hunting at close distances from the camera. Note that this does not make any lens a Macro Lens. One still needs a specialized lens for macro photography. With this lens, the normal range starts at 60cm from the sensor, while the macro range starts at 45cm where the maximum magnification ratio is 0.27X.
The overall impression of the XF18-135mm is good. It makes a good walk-around lens which is capable of producing nice sharp images. Softness near edges means that fine-art prints are only possible withing a narrow aperture-range, but for general travel photographs, it is quite sufficient and versatile.
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