Fuji Fujifilm Fujinon XF 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR - Arrived. The Fuji X system and where it fits in.

Arrived today. The Fuji 18-135mm zoom isn't small, nor is it light. In fact, as you can see above, this isn't the smallest example of the mirrorless / CFC / E.V.I.L camera systems available by some distance. And before I go on to talk about the lens itself, I would like to address that system.

The Fuji X range of cameras and lenses, to a certain extent, suffers from a mistaken identity I believe. Because the system started with the X100 rangefinder styled compact, the whole system seems to have been filed under 'retro yet digital' or perhaps more accurately 'digital yet retro.' However, I don't think that this is doing it justice. In the case of the X-T1 I think the camera and system which it should be compared to is the Nikon D4 /D4s. Because, for the most part, this is the camera that it's emulating or competing with. Both cameras turn out 16MP, both are weather sealed, both are built for speed, ease of use, good low-light performance and a versatile workload. The Nikon is (I assume) better at high ISO, faster, has a larger sensor, is more rugged and offers more options. But by how much? 

Certainly the price differential is huge and by no means reflects that difference, which from the samples I've seen in terms of image quality is minimal. Add in the implications for carrying these outfits around and I believe that a system built around the Fuji X-T1 is nothing short of a cheaper, lighter, more manageable D4s in which the differences in the final product i.e. the image, are pretty marginal,

And though I'm a great fan of Nikon lenses, but I'd be hard put to think of better Nikon equivalents than what Fuji offer. With the 18-135mm zoom Fuji have kept up their record of every lens they turn out being nothing less than excellent. I had a job recently where I was shooting indoors and all this came together. The brief included some publicity shots for the owner of the company and some general 'in-situ' shots. I had no hesitation in using the X-T1. The 23mm f/1.4 and 56mm f/1.2 lenses, in combination with the cameras high ISO performance coped with everything effortlessly. The Fuji had the advantage of being lighter, quieter and much less intimidating than a Nikon, which in the situation was what was needed. And thats's the thing about cameras like the D4s. People are certainly well aware that you are using it. There's really no hiding place.

As expected the images I shot with the Fuji turned out fine and I was able to email the client the OOC jpgs. with some minimal tweaking, Photographer happy, client happy, job done. My only reservation about the X-T1 is it's poor battery life and lack of a reliable meter for the power left. But I had spares so that is (reluctantly) something I can cope with.

So what of the 18-135mm and where does it fit in with this? Well as I indicated it's a very good lens indeed and I saw excellent results from my initial tests around the apertures and focal lengths. The lens stabilisation seems to be pretty good and confirms my belief that the Fuji system is the best out there. As to the weather sealing, I'll let somebody else check that out!! It is however a pretty normal superzoom. No great speed at either end, so for non-static subjects, that has to be borne in mind. Used indoors it will need to take full advantage of the Fuji high ISO performance. 

In terms of design, it's the usual Fuji no frills functionality. Built well, really nice zoom, focusing and aperture rings and a feel that reminds me a lot of the Panasonic / Leica 14-150mm 4/3 lens. It's not a 'sexy' lens, but then no lens of this range or type is. Beautiful? No. Useful? Hell yes. And that's what makes lenses like this so desirable. For an outdoor job I could do everything with this. I do have the 10-24mm, 18-55mm and 55-200mm zooms as well, so there's not a lot I would have trouble coping with, but it's obviously helpful to just stick one lens on the camera, leave it there and get on with it. 

So, no matter what my adventures with Smartphones, 'Micro cameras' and the like, I still have a need for and indeed a liking for a good solid 'pro-spec' system. And for me that has been Fuji for some time. The extra high ISO smoothness gives it the edge for me over my Sony's and for any kind of pro. job I'd certainly be packing the Fuji stuff rather than anything else I have, at least one that doesn't involve video. 

And to me this is the problem with all these 'I gave up my Canon / Nikon for a Fuji' yarns. Because as far as I'm concerned it's a given that a Fuji X system can do virtually any job thrown at it. Particularly since the X-T1 arrived. And Fuji converts from DSLR's who think they are somehow at the experimental, revolutionary and cutting edge of camera use and ownership are sadly deluded. That ship sailed some time ago. And though it is the case that this Fuji 'pro-spec' system is still pretty 'chunky' to say the least, it is worth pointing out there are still some welcome savings in terms of size and weight over a comparable DSLR outfit.

But for me the largest savings are in terms of the cost of the system. For a relatively small company like Fuji, who won't be producing anything close to the numbers of cameras and lenses that Canon and Nikon turn out, they price very competitively. Some of the mirrorless / CFC / E.V.I.L systems are too expensive and overpriced for what they are, but I've never felt that about Fuji. The 18-135mm is no different. £700 for a quality, well-built superzoom is decent value as far as I'm concerned, particularly when you factor in the IS system and weather sealing. 

So, in the next few days hopefully I'll be able to get out with my 'poor mans Nikon D4' and the 18-135mm to find out what it's capable of. But then I don't expect any surprises and I fully expect a good solid all-round performance. The fact that I have that certainty and faith in what I've bought, says everything for me about the production values Fuji seem to employ. And I'm sure the lens will provide me with top class results in a convenient package. And who can ask more than that? I can't.

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