In the Field: Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens

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Spring has finally arrived, for the most part, and for those looking to spend some time traveling or outdoors, we have been testing an excellent compact lens for you: the Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS. Designed for Sony’s APS-C mirrorless cameras, such as the a6500 I used here, this all-in-one offering provides an equivalent zoom range of 27-202.5mm. If you are wishing for just one lens to cover all the basics, read on to find out how Sony’s latest option performs.

All-in-ones are far from my standard choice, mainly because they sacrifice too much when it comes to image quality and sharpness, to maximize the zoom range. This lens, however, immediately impressed me because it is very sharp throughout the range. It could easily retain details in distant trees, and I could make out the individual branches and read the tiny details in close-up shots.

To get the light weight and compact size, there was a sacrifice made to the maximum aperture, which is a variable f/3.5-5.6. The zoom I use most frequently for my a6500 is the E 16-70mm f/4 OSS, which is almost the exact same size as the 18-135mm when both are fully extended, though it must sacrifice range to get that constant aperture. The E 18-135mm has a variable aperture, which is perfectly fine if you are taking it out in good light. If it starts to get dark, you may struggle to get the shots you want, though Optical SteadyShot performs quite well, when needed, to stretch your shutter speeds. Another aspect of the aperture is that you won’t be able to get the super-smooth bokeh of, say, an f/1.4 prime.

One thing I would be cautious about is autofocus—it seemed to get sluggish when I went indoors. This lens tends to want as much light as possible. During most of my time with the lens, the AF was responsive and quick to lock-on; although it’s not as quick as the G Masters, it was nothing to be worried about. This is just something to be aware of if you intended to use this lens for dim events or night work.

The overall feel of the lens is good; it is assembled well. On the side, you will even find a physical AF/MF switch, something much appreciated after the many early E-mount lenses that lacked any on-lens controls. Zoom and focus rings turned smoothly without any obvious hang-up points, though the focusing system is focus-by-wire, so it can seem a little “loose” compared to physically linked systems.

Digging into the overall IQ, there are always a few things I check when it comes to zoom lenses: distortion, chromatic aberrations, and vignetting. Beginning with distortion, I didn’t notice anything too bad with the 18-135mm, likely because Sony applies in-camera corrections to take care of anything too egregious, and that the more modest starting point of 18mm allows Sony's engineers to control it better. There really isn’t much to worry about regarding distortion with this lens, beyond the usual. Chromatic aberration can be a bigger problem, but I didn’t find any of it here, meaning it is very well controlled. Finally, there is some vignetting, and at the extreme corners it can become noticeable. Again, this is somewhat expected and isn’t going to ruin any of your images, but there is some loss of sharpness toward these edges, as well, so be aware that you may have to stop down a little to get more even detail across the frame.

I was fairly impressed with this offering from Sony, though perhaps a bit pricier than some similar zooms, the superb image quality of the E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS should be enough to justify the added cost. The size was also a perfect match for the a6000 series of cameras and makes it a great travel option, I know I found it easier to stuff into a bag than my a9 with a 24-70mm f/2.8.

Have you been looking for an ideal travel lens to pair with your a6000? Does the 18-135mm look like it just might do the trick? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section, below!

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What would you recommended for a Sony A6600, this Sony E 18-135 or the Tamron 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 VC VXD (B061)? What are the tradeoff and which has shaper quality? Is the Tamron too good to be true?

Both the Sony E 18-135mm and the Tamron 18-300mm F3.5-6.3 VC VXD offer great sharpness and a high build quality. The right option really depends on how much range you need, with the Tamron model offering the most range. 

I have both the Sony 18-135 and the Tamron 18-300 which I use on A3000 and A6000 bodies.  I strongly prefer the Tamron for its longer reach and less vignetting at the wider end.  BTW, if you are shooting indoors with flash, you will need an external flash unit with either lens, or the barrel will cast a shadow

 

 

 

I have purchased one Sony a6400 mirrorless camera with 18-135mm compact lens. Now after this 18-135mm lens, which lens should I buy in moderate price? please suggest me so that I can utilize this camera with full extent.

Can you post your settings on the photos with bokeh including distance from subject? I want to make sure I can use this in "selfie mode" on my Sony a5100. My husband has a long arm. 😉

I think you'll be okay for selfie work. The shots with the shallowest depth of field were either taken wide and extremely close (~1.5' with the close-up of the branch up there) or at close to the end of the telephoto zoom range (the shot of the fence at the top of the page) and wide open on the aperture. For selfies you will find yourself closer, but not super close, in which case you will okay separation.

Hi,

I am considering switching from my Canon 77D to a Sony a6500 to save on weight while traveling.  I usually have my 18-135 IS STM on my camera pretty much all day and only rarely will switch to a prime or my 70-300 IS II USM.  After every trip, I find that most of my photos are either at the wide or the tele ends of the 18-135 zoom. How does the a6500/18-135 combo compare to the 77D/18-135? At the 18mm and 135mm ends? Any tradeoffs I should know off?  Also, while the a6500 body is "weather-sealed", none of the Sony E lenses are "weather resistant".  Should one go with a Sony FE superzoom (like the FE 24-240mm) to make the entire system "weather-resistant"?  Or, since the a6500 is weather-sealed, the E 18-135 will be OK with some precautions? There have been times when I had to keep my 77D in a wet bag and shoot with my iPhone in the rain...

Switching from a system I am using for many years to another one is a big change and any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated. 

Cheers!

 

The Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens would be excellent in terms of sharpness and the range of focal lengths it offers, but the only downsides are the slower maximum aperture as well as the lack of weather sealing.  What you could do is get a standard zoom such as the Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens for Sony E, B&H # TA172828E which is going to be better in low light, offers a shallower depth of field and offer weather resistance.  You can pair that along with the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens for Sony E, B&H # TA287528SFF which has similar attributes, but would bridge any gap between the wide and telephoto ranges.  While it may be a disadvantage to have two separate lenses, you would be gaining better performance and better image quality going this route. Also, going with the Sony mirrorless system is more user friendly among the mirrorless cameras out there in my opinion. 

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Hello,

I am currently considering buying this lens in exchange to both my kits - 16-50 and 55-210. I find the two kits good for my kind of work. Let's say better than expected considering their price especially when they come as one package with the body. I was just wondering if this 18-135 would replace my kits? Will sharpness and color reproduction be better compared to the kits? Also will I miss the extra 210mm reach of the kit lens? What other options are good to consider for upgrading my kit lenses?

Thanks

The answer is yes, as long as you are willing to sacrifice the super telephoto end of your 55-210mm. I believe this lens will be sharper than either of those offerings. If you have Adobe Bridge, and easy thing to do is pull out your favorite shots or simply your last shoot and see what the distribution of focal lengths is in your Exif data. This will tell you how much you use those longer focal lengths. If you find a large portion are in the 135mm and over range you may not want to ditch the 55-210mm just yet.

Looking forward, if you are upgrading from a kit lens I always like recommending going with a faster prime. It's more limiting in some regards but offers substantial benefits. Something like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 DC DN Contemporary (https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1234027-REG/sigma_302965_30mm_f_1_4_dc_dn.html) would give you a wide aperture and normal perspective to help improve the capabilities of your camera system. But, if you just want to simplify your current kit down to just one lens going with the 18-135mm is a good idea.