The tourist lens

XF18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 lens for work and play

DCraig_140710_XF18_135mmLens_007

This past week, Fujifilm sent me a sample of their new, weather-sealed, high-magnification zoom lens, the XF18-135mmF3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR, to try. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to use it as I believe it is intended. I took it with me on a day trip to a nearby island for the Saturday market. Fortunately, it was raining, so I tested it in optimum conditions (for a weather-resistant lens, that is). I also tried it for work this week, when I was photographing a protocol event in Vancouver.

First, the play report

This may be the only lens many photographers need.

This lens is perfectly suited as a travel/all-around lens. Particularly for shooting outside. The relatively slow maximum aperture creates some limitations for shooting indoors in low light. That said, the image stabilization is really fantastic, so if you are not shooting fast-moving subjects, you can capture in-focus images, in poor light, at very slow shutter speeds. The image quality it produces is also fantastic. Both of these features are at least as good, if not better than, the other two Fujinon XF zooms. I came away from my day of shooting with the XF18-135mm lens very impressed.

I also felt like a tourist. Although not a really large lens, the XF18-135mm lens on the X-T1 (OK, I had the battery grip on too), is not as discreet as I am accustomed to when I use the X100s or even the X-E2 and a small prime XF lens. And, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the tradeoff was that I had the equivalent of a 27-206mm (35mm FF) lens, allowing me to capture a huge variety of subjects, without having to change lenses.

Now, the work report

After my a happy weekend of shooting with the XF18-135mm lens, I decided that I would use it for the visit of a foreign delegation this week. Again, fronted on my X-T1, I was fine with the variable maximum aperture because I would be shooting with flash, at f/5.6, for most of the job. The lens performed really well. Focus was fast and accurate.

Normally, in these situations, I would shoot with two bodies, each with flash, and a wide (18mm or 23mm) prime lens on one body and a longer (35mm or 56mm) lens on the second body. With the zoom, I only need one body, which is definitely simpler than using two bodies. However, I still prefer using the faster primes as I have a lot more latitude to react to changing lighting conditions and I could shoot without flash, wide open, which I would not have been able to do with the XF18-135mm lens.

As for the mechanics of the lens, there seems nothing to fault. Very fast focus speeds using either AF or back-button-assisted MF. The focus, zoom and aperture rings have a very good feel to them. And the weather sealing worked perfectly, as I experienced on that rainy Saturday.

Would I consider buying this lens for work? Only if I was primarily shooting outside. However, that is not what I encounter on a regular basis, so I will not be purchasing this lens. But I realize that the point of this lens is not to accommodate the type of photography I do for work. It’s purpose is for travel and primarily outdoor photography. Purposes for which the XF18-135mm lens is extremely well suited.

All images captured with the Fujifilm X-T1 fronted with the XF18-135mm lens. Weekend photos are OOC JPEGs with minor adjustments in LR, while the work photos are RAW files, also processed in LR 5.5.

14 Comments

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  1. Dear Don,

    Thans so much the lens review. I first got interested in the Fuji X system for travel primarily and this lens is perfect for that use. Of course, I got “hooked” and own all the Fuji lenses now too!

    I aslo have many Nikon flashes left over from my Nikon days too. I use them in manual mode with the Fuji but am interested to better understand what you mean by using them in “automatic” mode when on-camera. Could you elaborate on that? That’s one weakness with X-system is the flashes.

    • Bob, just ’cause you own the other lenses, doesn’t mean you can’t acquire the new XF18-135mm!

      To your Nikon flash question. I own two SB800s and an SB28, with external battery packs, plus I have an SB900 and SB600 at work, that all get used in one capacity or another for work photography. I tend to use the SB800s and SB28 on my X-cameras because of their relatively small size, compared to the monstrous SB900. I also use them because, aside from TTL and M modes, they also have an automatic (A) mode. In A mode, you select the ISO and aperture. The flash does a bit of pre-metering when you half-press the shutter release on the camera and adjusts flash output based upon the lighting conditions and the ISO and aperture you have set.

      When I use them on-camera with the X-cameras, I set the ISO to the same or slightly higher than I have set for the camera. I set the aperture to match the camera. The camera is set to a specific ISO, aperture and shutter speed (needs to sync with the flash). After testing the setup before an event, I might adjust one of the parameters on camera or the flash to increase or reduce the relative power of the flash. But, it is effectively working like a TTL flash, in a crude sort of way. You have to be able to quickly calculate what type of adjustment you need to make, increase or decrease an aperture stop or increase or decrease aperture and/or ISO on the flash, to increase or decrease relative flash power output. But, it works.

      Off-camera, when shooting portraits for instance, I use the SB600 and SB900 with softboxes and in Manual mode, because I have complete control of the ambient light and want to get consistent results. With the on-camera, A mode, I might have to make a 1/2 stop exposure adjustment in post.

      So, I have stuck with Nikon flashes because I can use them in A mode on camera and because I have battery packs for the cameras, which means I can shoot rapidly. When I can get a professional-quality Fujifilm flash that I can use in TTL that has an external battery pack available, then I will migrate that direction.

  2. Yes, this should be a fine tourist lens and good for outdoor events, such as parades, festivals where a good zoom range can come in handy. Nice shots, Vancouver is a beautiful area.
    Are you shooting with the EF-42 for the meeting/delegation shots? Thanks!

    • Alan, thanks for writing a comment. Vancouver is beautiful and provides me with many great backdrops.

      As for which flash I use, I use Nikon speedlights. I have a number left over from my days of shooting with Nikon DSLRs. They are great units and I can use them in Automatic when on-camera and manual when I shoot with them off camera.

  3. Short and sweet report unlike others talking about CAs and distortions and light fall off and such things.

    Started liking Fujinon lenses since my first purchase of Fujifilm camera – a X-S1. Now with a X-E2 and XF18-55 and 55-200 my DSLR kit is sleeping in the cupboard. Fujifilm lenses are top notch and is an advantage for us in the Middle East. All mid-range DSLRs are sold here with the kit lenses that mostly you have to change to a G Lens or a Zeiss (coming from SONY) for better IQ . The kit lens thus becomes redundant.

    With Fuji that is not the case. Though you spend a little more than an average mid range DSLR kit and get a top quality KIT LENS and without redundant lenses filling your cupboard.

    You have shot one of the Royals of the UAE in the second set.

    • Subramoniam, thanks for the comment. I’m not very good at writing about CA and other, more technical aspects of lens design. I react to how it feels in my hand, how it works on the camera and the resulting images. All of which are generally very good to excellent with Fujinon lenses. As for my work photography, I it does provide me the opportunity to photograph interesting people.

  4. What kind of minor adjusment you did on LR?

    • Pepe, for the JPEGs, I might adjust exposure, perhaps recovering highlights or opening up shadows. For the black-and-white of the beach tree, I converted to monochrome and increased contrast to emphasis the shadows.

  5. Nice images and a very interesting report. I can easily see the attraction that this lens would have, although I personally favour a moderately wide prime, as on my X100s.

  6. The lens performed very well from what I see on your images. It looks like a jack of all trades for a traveling lens. That and perhaps the 35mm 1.4 would be a stellar kit. I’m still on the fence to acquire this lens as I have the 18-55, although weather sealed coupled with the XT1 would be great for our extreme weather conditions down in Florida. Great write and thanks for sharing.

    Cheers.

    • Jorge, thanks for the comment. The lens isn’t much larger than 18-55, and it certainly performs as well, in my opinion. It’s about a stop slower, but has a very nice zoom range. And in Florida, you may never have to worry about low light. It fits well on the X-T1, too.

  7. Gaston Plourde July 12, 2014 — 17:45

    Mr. Don Craig, let me tell you that I appreciate very much your review. It was short & sweet with all the essentials. Fujinon certainly knows how to make lens…

    Thank You very much…

    Gaston Plourde.

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