I love camera gear. Since my first DSLR camera (Canon 350D) 15 years ago, I’ve used many different cameras from various brands. Currently I’m settled with Sony with my main camera being A7iii, a low light beast, along with my recent addition of A6400 which is a lighter setup that offers comparable image quality while being a lot more compact in size & weight.
Hiking and camping are my go-to outdoor activities and a lighter camera setup makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable so if it can deliver great images, I’m all up for it. That’s why I recently got A6400 to cater for my outdoor needs and I came to a point where I want something more than a kit lens (though I love the compact size) that is more versatile and delivers better photos and videos.
My needs are simple. I need a lens that is still light and compact yet produces decent image quality for both photo and videos. It must also have image stabilization because I shoot mostly handheld. And I wanted around 200mm (full frame equivalent) telephoto range to shoot some wildlife and a crop sensor is perfect for that as its 1.5x crop factor works in our favor to give us that extra reach.
Now that I got my needs sorted out, I was down to two clear contenders. Sony E PZ 18-105 F4 vs Sony E 18-135mm F3.5 – F5.6.
Image Quality, Size and Weight
Despite all the hypes of the 18-105mm from many videographers out there, my biggest issue with this 18-105mm was its size and weight that seems quite off balance with A6400. Getting this lens would conflict my reason to get a6400, a compact camera, in the first place.
I recently sold my 24-105mm f4 which I used on my A7iii because it was just too bulky that I was reluctant to take it outside with me. Having this recent experience made it certain that I need to go with a lighter setup.
At the end of the day, it really comes down to what you are willing to compromise. If 18-105mm was a lens that blows all other contenders out of the water with image quality, I would probably be okay to live with its size and weight but it didn’t look that way. Image quality that 18-135mm produces seemed very promising, if not, better in some aspect. I mean, think about it. Why would Sony release a lens that is worse than its similar older brother?
18-135mm is newer, lighter, has more zoom range and produces sharp images. It’s slightly more expensive but not by big margin. The only category that 18-105mm clearly wins is its constant F4 aperture. My take is that it’s for an APS-C sensor camera and F4 is already slow that it wouldn’t make it noticeably better. If variable aperture is an issue, I can get away with fixing 18-135mm at its maximum aperture F5.6 so aperture, exposure, white balance, all can stay as I zoom in and out.
These were some of the images I took with 18-135mm. All shot in RAW and edited slightly in Lightroom.
I’ve used 18-135mm on a6400 for this video with some wide angle shots taken with 16-35mm F4 on A7III.
Verdict – Is the 18-135mm for You?
People also speak highly of 18-105mm’s internal focus/zoom and power zoom but I personally don’t need a smooth zoom transition for my video shots nor I use gimbal to make use of its internal zoom. I shoot indoors a lot and power zoom did me more disservice than being useful as it resets to its default focal distance every time it goes to sleep making it extremely frustrating when trying to continue shooting at the same focal distance.
Many people say 18-135mm is for photo and 18-105mm for video. I don’t know if I agree with this general consensus. With some workaround solution, 18-135mm is a solid all rounder option for both video and photo despite being variable aperture lens. And, that’s exactly what I did. I went for 18-135mm and I think I made the right choice for my use case. So which lens sounds like the one for you?
Here are the links to the camera and lens mentioned in this article.
- SONY E 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 OSS SEL18135
- SONY E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS SELP18105G
- SONY a6400
- SONY A7III
- SONY FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS
I no longer own 18-135mm lens. I was generally happy with the images that came out of 18-135mm, but I had to let it go when I switched to a smaller camera RX100M7 (1-inch sensor) for even greater portability. I recently got my a6400 back as I wasn’t super satisfied with the images I was getting from the RX100M7. A slight downgrade on image quality was to be expected due to the smaller 1-inch sensor, but it was just nowhere close to a6400.
So with a6400 back in my possession, this time I chose 18-105mm F4 lens which is the bigger and the older lens that I wasn’t convinced with initially. Recently, I came to realize that I use my camera to shoot videos more than taking photos and I grew to appreciate the constant F4 aperture of the 18-105mm. I wrote a new article about 18-105mm F4 so please check it here. At the end of the day, it really comes down to your needs. Having used both lens, I’d choose 18-105mm F4 for video shooters and 18-135mm for photographers. I hope this article helps you choose between the two lens.