Sony 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS E-mount lens review by Miranda F

reviewer#45818 date: Jan-20-2022
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4.6
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Around 50 other A and E-mount lenses (see my other reviews)
Sony FE 28-70mm
Sony E 16-50mm PZ
Sony E 16mm f2.8
Sony E 18-55mm
Sony FE 50mm f1.8
Samyang 18, 24, and 35mm f2.8 FE primes
price paid:£350 s/h
positive:nice construction and appearance
compact size (same length as Sony 28-70 OSS and a bit narrower)
OSS works down to stupidly low shutter speeds.
Seems very sharp at mid to long FL
AF/MF switch
Very sharp near-macro close-ups at 135mm
negative:Usual wide-end softness at one side
Not a lot else.
comment:This lens suffers from the usual consumer-lens softness down one side at the wide end which I guess is due to slight de-centring at the critical (short FL) end where manufacturing tolerances are most noticeable. This usually combines with some mild curvature of field to make one edge much worse than the rest of the frame.
Having said that, the effect is no worse on this lens than most others and better than some, and provided you know which side is soft at the wide end you can allow for it or compensate.
The interesting comparison is between this lens and the Sony FE 28-70mm vario OSS, which in my copy isn't giving significantly more detail (or indeed any) despite being FF and more pixels.
The 18-135mm is practically the same size as the 28-70 and gives better images, so it's likely to be getting more use in the future.
Honestly none of the E-mount zooms I've tried are a patch on the Samyang primes, but the 18-135 is pretty nice over most of the range, especially the long end and that's what the zoom gives you.
I bought it initially for the A7Rii rather than the Nex 6, but since getting the A6300 it is my standard grab and go pairing, which does almost everything well including near-macro closeups. Couple it with the Sony 35m f1.8 and/or the 10-18mm, and you get a compact and effective outfit.

Some thoughts on near-macro use.
Of course dedicated 1:1 macro lenses are the best, but to get the best out of them you need a tripod and static subject (preferably indoors) and good lighting too. Out of doors I find 1:1 is not useable and the advantage over (some!) non-macro lenses is less noticeable. Plus the FE macros are too expensive!
In the past I have found that for non-specialist-macro lenses, APS-C lenses are better near their MFD than FF, Sony are better than Minolta, and A-mount are better than E, the exception being the Min 35-70mm f4 which is superb in close-up. So I've recently compared a load of A, E, and FE lenses on the A7Rii to see which are most useful in the near-macro world of casual (walking-around) nature photography. My test uses the computer monitor as a subject and a mixture of MF and AF, mostly at f5.6.
The results are surprising. The 18-135 OSS proved by far the best non-macro lens, with a close MFD at 135mm, good magnification and excellent resolution of the monitor pixels. Results were much better than cheap macros such as the Cosina 100mm f3.5, and generally more effective than the 30mm DT macro.
The next best non-macro lens was the 50mm f1.8 SAM DT on LA-EA1, which outperformed the 85mm DT SAM on LA-EA3 by a little and 50mm f1.8 FE by a lot. The 28-70mm OSS kit zoom was useable at f11 but not in the same class.
So, in light of this excellent performance at MFD I've upped the sharpness rating to 5 because it deserves it.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 7
  • sharpness: 4.79
  • color: 4.71
  • build: 4.86
  • distortion: 4.14
  • flare control: 4.71
  • overall: 4.64 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania