With an $899 price tag on a slow variable aperture zoom, my expectations for the optical quality for the 18-135mm were quite high. Much like with the Sony 18-105mm, however, I was slightly let down. The 18-135mm produces very good central sharpness throughout the zoom and aperture range, and even produces fairly good border sharpness in the middle part of the zoom range. However, the edges at the wide and telephoto ends of the range are only mediocre, even when stopped down to f/8.
The 18-135mm is capable of producing quality images, but nothing in them is going to blow your doors off. Both the Fuji 18-55mm and the Fuji 55-200mm show better overall performance than the 18-135mm, though perhaps that’s to be expected given the generous 7.5x zoom range. Still, given the high price tag, I was hoping for performance more in line with the 18-55. Though the 18-135mm doesn’t have the sharpness to compete with the other XF zoom lenses, it isn’t all that far behind, and the resolution produced by the lens is definitely quite good for a super zoom lens.
One thing I did notice is that the 18-135mm does seem to have just that right combination of contrast and resolution to induce the watercolor effect on X-Trans sensors in Lightroom. I noticed it popping up much more when using the 18-135 than with my other Fuji lenses. Perhaps it is the slightly lower resolution combined with high image contrast that causes Lightroom to not do so well in this case, so you may want to stick to other RAW converters when using this lens with landscape images with fine foliage detail.
Most manufacturers tend to leave bokeh as an afterthought in their super-zoom lenses, but Fuji has had a good track record in producing zoom lenses with good-looking out of focus areas. Luckily, the 18-135mm performs rather well in this area. The out of focus areas with the 18-135mm are quite pleasing in most circumstances, with smooth specular highlights and even gradation. While it can get a little busier at shorter focal lengths, it’s still a solid performance for a lens in this range.
Contrast, Color and Chromatic Aberration
The XF 18-135mm produces punchy images with good contrast and rich color throughout the zoom range and right from wide open. If you like the look of most of the other Fuji XF lenses, you’ll appreciate the 18-135mm, as it is definitely cut from the same cloth in this department.
The lens does have some visible lateral chromatic aberration, especially towards the edges of the image frame, though it’s really only prominent with light-colored areas of fine detail. While this can mostly be corrected in post-processing, there is some residual loss of detail as a result of the CA. Longitudinal CA and fringing didn’t appear to pose a problem in my daily shooting.
Distortion, Vignetting and Flare
The Fuji 18-135mm handles distortion rather well for a zoom with this range. The wide-angle end has a fair bit of barrel distortion, but nothing particularly egregious. This can be fixed rather easily with basic distortion correction tools in situations where it’s noticeable. As it moves towards the long end there’s a bit of pincushion distortion, but again, not particularly noticeable. Overall, I was quite pleased with the performance here.
There is some vignetting as well, though it usually only can be spotted in areas of even illumination and little detail, such as the sky or smooth walls. I didn’t shoot against the sun all that much in my time with the lens, but in the few images I did shoot with the sun in the frame, the lens maintained good contrast with no visible ghosts.
11 thoughts on “Review: Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR”
First of all thank you for your excellent review. I must say that I’ve read a few where I had to wonder if the reviewer even knew how to hold a camera. Obviously you do.
Now, may I bother you by asking if the latest firmware for both the lens and the body were available at the time of your tests?
Yes, both lens and camera were on the latest firmware.
Very good review of the Fujinon 18-135 Zoom! As a micro-stock photographer whose main “Focus” is sharpness and image detail, I am researching a smaller, lighter kit for travel, but without sacrificing Quality. So, being that I have the D5300 and very sharp16-85 Zoom-Nikkor, would you still recommend the Fuji XT-1 as a Quality “travel” kit that would maintain (or exceed!) the sharpness I’m getting from the D5300?
Excellent review for a revolutionary lens, at least within Fuji X-line lenses. I’ve found it in Belgium for 700 euros, right now, but I just hoped the image quality would be on par with XF 18-55mm. But as you say, the XF 18-55mm performs better. I have only primes lenses for my X-Pro1 and I just wanted a good XF zoom lens to closely match the image quality I get from my XF 18mm F2.0 and XF 35mm F1.4. Maybe I should wait for the upcoming XF 16-55mm F2.8 WR (with or without OIS)?
It does seem a large beast for the smaller X series, especially the X-Pro1. I’ve been very impressed with the 18-55 but might have to wait until I work up to the X-T1! Good to see the continued great glass from Fujifilm
This lens was included with my X-T1 as Kit-Lens. I had the choice between this and the XF 18-55/2.8-4.0 which I both got to test for 3 days. Optically, the 18-135 is rather Canikonish in APS-C Kit-Lens terms. Except for its colour and bokeh, where the Canikons are rubbish and the Fujinon is good. The 18-55 however is far better in every optical departement. Never the less I got this for good reasons, which potential Kit-Buyers might want to consider.
1) Weather sealing. As opposed to your observation, I had no issues with it. I took it across Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana and it kept moisture AND Sahel-Dust out. Sahel Dust is the most penetrating matter in the universe.
2) It has the best IS of any lens I ever used, including my 70-200/2.8L The 18-55 performs rather poor at this.
3) It (My copy) has the nicer to operate apperture ring.
4) I have the focal length range of the 18-55 covered with primes. At this time I have the 16/1.4, 35/1.4 and 56/1.2 and each of these lenses does everything much better than the 18-55. Be aware that the 56/1.2 – unlike e.g. the specialist 85/1.2L – is not “just” a portrait lens, but a very fast short telephoto, suitable for just about anything you throw at it.
5) It has great ergonomics and a “pro-zoom” feel to it. The 18-55 is too small, too fiddly, too glove unfriendly for me.
I use this lens for snaps of the Kid’s, family events and the like, or if I have to pack tight and rugged. I use this lens because it is convenient and easy to shoot with. However, for more serious photography you have to allways factor its shortcomings into your composition, which i find rather tedious.
From everything I’ve read and seen, including the images here (that all look soft to me), this may turn out to be Fuji’s first sub-standard XF lens. To my mind it belongs with the XC series, but at a lower price, for folks who are prepared to compromise optical quality for convenience (and value… if it were priced according to its performance).
Good article however I wish you had shown an image of the rubber seal against the camera.
I just bought this lens and I cannot see any gasket anywhere.