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Nikon 18-135mm AF-S. enlarge
This 18-135mm lens is nice enough, but seems overpriced for what it is.
It's sharp and agile, but I suggest saving your money for the spectacular Nikon 18-200mm VR (Vibration Reduction) which you know you really want. VR is important at longer focal lengths like 135mm. See Why VR Matters for examples. Without VR it's hard to get consistently sharp shots at 135mm due to camera vibration. Blurs that were invisible on film can be visible on today's 10 megapixel cameras.
The 18-200mm VR is not that much more expensive if you look at this over the space of a few years. As the saying goes, "the poor man pays twice," and I suspect you'll eventually want the 18 - 200mm VR which I greatly prefer.
An 18-135mm lens on a digital camera gives the same view as a 28-200mm lens does on a 35mm film camera.
This lens was announced 09 August, 2006. It sells for about $400 in the USA. Nikon knocks off $100 if you get it with the D80.
There's good news and bad news about this 18-135mm:
1.) It has a plastic bayonet mount. This isn't as bad as you'd think, since this lens is not likely to be mounted and unmounted very often.
2.) It lacks a focus scale, which confuses me. I always am looking at my focus scales.
3.) It has a lot of distortion, if you care.
4.) The distortion at the wide end can't be removed completely in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter.
4.) It has a lot of side color fringing at the very wide and telephoto ends of the zoom range which you will see in prints.
5.) Expensive for what you get.
6.) Zoom ring crowded at the telephoto end, making precise composition tougher than with the 18-200mm lens.
1.) Very sharp.
2.) Light and compact; fast and easy to use.
3.) Real anytime instant manual focus override. Just move the focus ring!
Don't let me rain on any parades. The 18 - 135mm is going to be a very popular lens for many normal people who just want great photos. I suspect if you're curious enough to be reading this page that you'll probably appreciate the benefits of the 18-200mm VR as I do. The 18 - 200mm VR is enough to be the only lens I take everywhere, the 18-135mm is too much of a compromise for me.
If you're just looking for a decent lens, the much less expensive 18-55mm is just as sharp and perfect for general photos. Save your money and get something else with what you save.
ALPHABET SOUP EXPLAINEDNikon calls this the Nikon AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G IF-ED.
AFS: Quiet focusing and instant manual focus override.
DX: Only works on digital cameras, not film.
ED: Magic glass for sharper images
G: No aperture ring. Only works on cameras newer than about 1992.
IF: Internal Focusing. Nothing moves on the outside of the lens when it focuses.
SWM: Silent Wave Motor for fast, quiet focusing.
All this and more explained in greater depth on my Nikon Lens Technology page.
18 - 135 mm, similar to a 28 - 200 mm on a 35mm film camera.
f/3.5 - 5.6
Optics: 15 elements, 13 groups, including one ED glass element and two hybrid aspherical elements.
Diaphragm: 7 blade rounded, stopping down to f/22 - 38.
Filter Size: 67mm.
Close Focus: 1.5' or 0.45m from the image plane (the back of the camera). At 135mm the lens pops out, so your subject is only 9" (23cm) from the front of the lens while the back of the camera remains 1.5' from the subject.
Size: 2.9" x 3.4" (73.5 x 86.5 mm).
Weight: 13.510 oz. (383.1g), measured, naked.
Hood: HB-32, included.
Case: soft pouch, included.
Made In: Mine is made in Thailand. The front cap is from Thailand. The rear cap is from Japan.
Nikon Product Number: 2162, in catalog as of spring 2008.
Announced: August, 2006.
Shipping Since: September, 2006.
Nikon has this to share from here:
Bokeh (how out-of-focus areas look) is neutral, and pretty nice. I discovered this quite by accident photographing a kid. I explain Bokeh at my Bokeh page.
A Kid at 135mm, f/5.6 (slight crop).
Notice the nice, soft, undistracting background even though I wasn't careful about it.
A Dove at 15 feet, 135mm at f/8 (slight crop).
Again, a nice, undistracting background.
Bokeh Comparison: My Bokeh Comparison page shows examples of five other lenses to this 18-135mm.
Distortion is as bad as Nikon lenses get.
Even using Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter you'll have residual waviness left over at the wide end, if you really care. The distortion is complex, which means it's not a simply bent curve and not easy to correct. You'll want a different lens or fancier software if distortion concerns you.
At 28 mm and above it corrects completely in Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter without wavy lines. At 24mm and below you'll have some residual waviness after correction.
Here are the results of my research. More to come; this takes a lot of work! Plug these into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion. These figures are for you to enjoy in your photography. This is all ©, so you'll need permission to re purpose this research for anything else. Thanks! Ken.
* Some waviness remains, if you're looking for it.
For portraits and many other subjects, falloff makes a better picture by concentrating the viewer's attention on the subject and away from the corners.
For photos of blank sky or brick walls it's bad.
This 18-135mm lens is normal. The only time it will be bad is if you're shooting something against a blank sky at 135mm at f/5.6. In this case you'll see darkening of the corners. If you like photographing birds in flight or aircraft you'll see this, but if you like these subjects, you want a longer lens anyway.
The falloff at 18mm wide open is almost never obvious because the sky or other objects themselves aren't evenly lit across this wide an angle. The falloff at 18mm is also more gradual, unlike the more abrupt darkening at 135mm..
If falloff bothers you, simply stop down a stop or two and it goes away.
Here are shots of an Expodisc. This is a tough test which shows even the slightest falloff. You'll almost never see this in normal photography. Ignore the minor exposure variations between frames.
Here's the line up at Beacons as seen from the top of the bluff at 135mm at f/5.6. See how the corners are a little darker? That's the falloff. This would look worse if the background was a sky, and you wouldn't see it if the background was more varied. Of course this isn't a problem for a real photographer, because a real photographer would do any of 1.) paddle out and get real photos from in the water, not from the bluff a mile away, or 2.) A technically astute, but still bad, photographer would have shifted the D80's program and shot at f/8 or f/11 to make the falloff go away. The D80 shifts its program at long focal lengths to favor high shutter speeds, which usually means this lens almost always gets shot at f/5.6 when set to 135mm in Program. Of course you folks ought to be glad I didn't choose option 3.), which is to ditch this website and go surfing - conditions were excellent this weekend!
Lineup at Beacon's, 10:45 AM September 18th, 2006.
Forget it. It chops off the corners at every focal length and focus distance, except infinity at 135mm.
If I let the sun hit the lens I seem to get a lot more ghosts than I'm used to on other modern lenses.
The mode switch on the 18-135mm says simply "A" and "M" instead of "M/A" and "M." Nikon updated it's lettering: "A" on this 18-135mm is the same as the "A/M" mode on earlier AF-S lenses. This is great, because this A mode allows you instant manual focus override by grabbing the focus ring. Tap the shutter again for autofocus.
AF speed on a D80 is the same as my 18-200mm VR. It's fast enough for everything I shoot, but not instantaneous like the Canon 17-85mm IS.
Sound and Noise
It's quiet. It makes only a very soft plastic-sliding-on-plastic sound like my 18-200mm VR.
Excellent! The ring can be moved with just the tip of one finger.
Instant manual override works great: just grab the focus ring.
It needs no separate macro range, which is great because you never have to fiddle with a switch. It focuses to 1.5' (0.45m) at every setting, and that's measured from the back of the camera. If you get out your tape measure you'll discover that at 135mm the lens pops out so much that the front of the lens is only 9" (23cm) from the subject.
I get perfect focus with the AF system of my D80. I wouldn't expect to see any problems: this lens isn't fast enough or long enough to have a small enough depth-of-field to make it a potential problem.
LATERAL CHROMATIC ABERRATION
Lateral chromatic aberrations are colored fringes seen on sharp, contrasty edges in the sides and corners of pictures. It's something you'll see if you enjoy photographing white lawn furniture against dark backgrounds.
This happens because lenses can have focal lengths that vary very slightly different at different colors. This means the image can be very slightly different sizes at different colors. When this happens, all the colors don't line up perfectly and you'll see colored fringes towards the sides.
This is the aberration most often seen today.
It doesn't vary with aperture, although a lack of sharpness will hide it.
Like most zooms, the 18-135mm has this at the extreme ends of the zoom range, and it goes away in the middle.
18 mm: Strong red/cyan. The red image is larger than the blue. You're going to see this in prints if you look for it.
24 mm: Moderate red/cyan. The red image is larger than the blue.
35 mm: Moderate red/cyan. The red image is larger than the blue.
50 mm: Mild red/cyan. The red image is larger than the blue. Not a problem.
70 mm: Almost none. If you can see it, it's slightly yellow-violet, with the yellow image larger than the violet. Not a problem.
100 mm: Almost none. If you can see it, it's slightly green-magenta, with the green image larger than the magenta.
135 mm: Moderate green-magenta, with the green image larger than the magenta. You'll probably see this in prints if you look for it.
Sharpness is fine. It's sharp wide open, which is critical, because that's where you and I will be shooting it almost all the time.
So long as you stop down a stop or two, your technique will be your biggest barrier to sharp photos. I have a page on How to Get Sharp Photos.
Here are my observations on a 10 MP Nikon D80. Letters correspond to center - edge. Possible ratings are E - VG - G - F - P. These are subjective. Don't fret over differences between adjacent grades.
* Since there is no VR, most shots in daylight at ISO 100 will be blurry at 135mm. I need about 1/200 of a second or less to get sharp shots, and at 1/200 I make a few shots and pick the sharpest. Use a higher ISO at 135mm to get sharp shots.
There is no VR, making use of the longer focal lengths iffy in anything but the best light.
At 135mm I get blur at 1/200 and slower. Crank up your ISO if you're not in sunlight.
I like evenly-spaced focal lengths on the zoom ring.
Actual Focal Lengths
The focal lengths appear accurate at infinity.
As expected, the apparent focal lengths are reduced as one focuses closer at long focal lengths.
This is how IF (internal focus) lenses focus. They don't get longer on the outside: they move elements around inside to reduce the effective focal length to focus closer.
At 9 feet at 135mm it gives an angle of view similar to about a 120mm conventional lens. This discrepancy will increase at closer distances, and is normal.
If Nikon didn't do this, then the lens wouldn't be able to focus as close as it does.
18 mm: f/3.5
24 mm: f/4
35 mm: f/4.5
50 mm: f/5
70 - 135 mm: f/5.6
This is a slow lens throughout most of it's focal range. Contrast this to the old 70-210mm f/4-5.6 which still was at f/4.5 all the way out to 135mm.
Focal Length Encoding
Here are the focal lengths I've seen in my EXIF data:
18mm, 20mm, 22mm, 24mm, 26mm, 28mm, 31mm, 32mm, 35mm, 38mm, 40mm, 42mm, 44mm, 48mm, 50mm, 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 66mm, 70mm, 75mm, 80mm, 85mm, 90mm, 95mm, 100mm, 105mm, 112mm, 120mm 125mm and 135mm.
This 18-135mm is nice, but too expensive for what you get. Without VR the 135mmrange isn't very useful.
The 18-135mm lens is great for portraits and head shots, especially for pets, since it focuses so close and has nice bokeh.
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Thanks for reading!