Fujinon 18-135mm : The holiday lens.

This is a review, or perhaps more of a practical, first impression, non-technical summary using the Fujinon 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 R LM OIS lens on holiday. Reviews and further reading are listed at the end.

I’ve been warned several times, by different people, mostly people who earn money as photographers, that superzooms are the worst thing ever and must be avoided at all costs. When using the Panasonic GH5 I bought a 14-140mm (equivalent to 28-280mm in 35mm terms) lens with image stabilization and soon realized that it was my most used lens, mainly because of the versatility of the wide focal range. It required light and preferably lots of it to deliver good results, but if I were going to an event where I had to stay in the background or didn’t really know what to expect, I’d grab the super zoom in a heartbeat.

So after switching to Fuji I felt there was something missing. All my primes were great, and the Fujinon 55-200mm was perfect for some occasions, but when I could just bring one lens the Fujinon 18-55mm felt a bit short on the long end so I started looking at reviews for the 18-135mm.

It’s not much bigger than the 18-55mm kit lens, but with an f/3.5 aperture, it requires more light, and to get any kind of bokeh you have to use the long end of the tele. It has optical image stabilization which works great, but the same lame aperture ring as the 18-55mm with no full stops. Still, the aperture ring feels nice and clicky. What I don’t like is how it looks and feels when zoomed all the way out.

It also has, at least mine does, a strange sluggish feel to the zoom ring when zooming past 100mm. Yuck! Other than that it’s pretty much the same build quality as the 18-55mm.

The main reason, perhaps only reason, to get such a lens is the versatility; At 28mm (in 35mm speak) you can get wide enough shots to use in tight spaces. When zooming in you can get pretty close to your subjects while staying at a comfortable distance, which is nice for introverts like me.

The reach

In the photo below I was standing at the bottom of this nice waterfall, while my wife and daughter went up to go under it.

I could get both shots without moving much and even zoom in on the top of the waterfall.

I intentionally used this lens for most of my photos during this holiday, only swapping it out for the X-T30 with the 16mm f/2.8 when my wife ran away with the X-T3 with the superzoom mounted.

A few more shots from the trip:

From our apartment in Bergen
A tiny cabin at Hardangervidda.
Some sheeps in Karmøy. I was standing way outside of the fence and once again the reach came in handy to get closer to the sheep.
The family taking a ride at Kongeparken amusement park, zoomed in to about 100mm.
Standing in the same place, almost at the wide end. Versatility is the key 😉
Norwegian street photo at Hardangervidda/Haukeli.
Some dude in Bergen, being appreciated by the seagulls.
A boat at Odda.
And zooming in at the background.

The verdict

This lens is a special purpose lens with great usability, huge reach, nice enough wide end and it delivers decent quality, given enough light. By calling it a special purpose lens, I mean it replaces the need for a bunch of lenses, saves you time and hassle swapping those lenses and is perfect for all-around shooting on holidays or at events you cannot plan for. All of this versatility comes with a price though, and that is a bulky lens, clunky zoom ring at the long end, severe autofocus problems in low light and good, but not perfect optical performance.

In conclusion, I like the lens a lot, and it gave me the opportunity to get shots I wouldn’t have otherwise, like the one in the waterpark, zooming in to 100mm and then out to 18mm in a matter of seconds. It only struggled with autofocus in low light, the stabilization was impressive and I liked the photos. But when I compared it to my Fujicrons under the same conditions it doesn’t look as good, but that’s to be expected. This will never be my main lens, but it will likely be my primary holiday lens in the near future.

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Further reading