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Review of CANON EF 135 f / 2.0L USM (compared to Canon EF 85 f1.8 USM)

canon 135 f2L usm review

Canon 135mm f2L USM Lens - legendary. It's hard to find at least one negative review about him on the Internet. This is Canon's high quality L series prime. Already one red ring in front of the front lens makes it an object of pride or desire. I am not the proud owner of this lens. I used it several times and managed to form some impression about it during this time.

canon 135 f2l vs canon 85 1.8My main portrait lens is a Canon Ef 85mm 1.8 USM, so I will be comparing this lens with this one. On the Internet about these two models everywhere they write that the comparison is inappropriate. Like, 85 1.8 is a fix in the middle price category, and 135 f2L is glass of a completely different class. I disagree with that. It was not without reason that I started this article by mentioning the adored red ringlet. I do not consider it advisable to overpay for 135 f2. Why?

The picture given by 135mm cannot always be distinguished from 85mm. It blurs the background a little more. Gives slightly more space compression. He's a little sharper. It's all about this "little". Below I will give examples of photos for both of these lenses.

I am especially confused by the last 2 frames.

I can understand the rave reviews from people who bought a 135mm f2L, and before that they used only a kit lens, or a budget 50mm f1.8. An important point is what to compare with what. There is a noticeable jump in quality when changing the kit 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 to 24-70mm f2.8L, as well as with 70-200 f4L at 85mm f1.8... But there is no such leap between 85 f1.8 and 135 f2, no matter what is written on the Internet.

The Canon EF 135mm f2L is always written about its phenomenal sharpness and color rendition. Yes it is. But at 85mm they are also on top. Looking through photos at 135mm and at 85mm in a row, you need to strain to tell where is what. This basically says it all.

What are the advantages of 135mm?

canon 135 f2l usmThe 135L catches exposure accurately. 85mm sometimes has overexposures (cured by setting -1 EV).

No chromatic aberration. When shooting portraits, they never appear.

Better color rendering. Yes, but you can't always tell the difference and not in every shot. 85mm also gives a great picture.

Sharpness. While 85mm is a very sharp lens, 135mm is phenomenally sharp. Pixel-by-pixel detail accuracy. How important is this for a portrait lens? A rhetorical question. Sample photos: on 135mm and 85mm.

Autofocus speed. 135mm focuses very quickly and accurately. Is it faster than 85mm? I can’t say. I didn't notice the difference.

Focusing distance. This is an indisputable advantage of this lens, which made me very happy. With a focal length farther than 85mm, this lens can focus from almost the same distance (0,9m). It's comfortable.

The combination of 135mm and f2. A TV set with such aperture is a godsend for shooting indoor sports events. For example, 200mm f2 is already worth insane money. And the difference between 2 and 2.8 is very significant in low light conditions.

Perfect picture quality at open aperture. Any good fix is ​​expected by default.

Disadvantages of 135mm lens

Price is the biggest drawback. Happy owners of this lens write everywhere that this is a little money for such a fabulous glass. I'm ready to argue with them. The price / quality ratio is perfect with the Canon 85 1.8.

This is not the heaviest lens (708g). It all depends on the specifics of the work. My specificity is that I have to walk a lot during the filming process. Every additional 100 grams is sensitive for me. I would compare it to hockey. Professional ice hockey players use the lightest golf clubs. The difference of 50 grams is critical for them and they immediately feel it. This is my opinion, because someone is satisfied with dragging around with 70-200 2.8.

canon 135 f2l with lens hoodDimensions. It is also not the most bulky lens. But in a bag, it takes up significantly more space than 85mm. And with a pale one, its length reaches about 20 cm. If I have a choice to get the same quality with a more compact counterpart, I prefer the compactness.

Less comfortable focal length. It is clear that 135mm cannot be filmed indoors. But even on the street it is less convenient to work with it than with the 85mm. It would seem - it's easy to take a few steps back from the 85mm. These few steps already create a distance of 4-5 meters between you and the model. In terms of communication, this still does not cause difficulties. Difficulty in strangers. I shoot a lot in city parks. When I shoot at 85mm, the model and I are walked around behind us. With 135mm, the two of us already take up more space, respectively, outside pedestrians no longer bypass us, but walk between me and the model. Naturally, this interferes with filming. Another 135mm requires faster shutter speeds compared to 85mm. Out of habit, I got a few blurry shots at 1/100, although shooting at 85mm is not problematic. It's a matter of skill, as is composition at this focal length - each focal length takes some getting used to.

At closed apertures, the bokeh takes the form of polygons (example).

Background blur comparison on Jupiter 37A 135mm f3.5 and Canon 135mm f2L


Summing up

Canon EF 135mm f2L USM - a wonderful lens. It has excellent optical properties and makes it possible to shoot beautiful portraits. This lens allows you to capture sports events at close range. But it is still a fix at 135mm, which means that its scope is still limited. 85mm is more versatile focal length and lens Canon EF 85mm f1.8 USM will give comparable quality at a lower price. Only photographers can appreciate the difference in the picture. Whether the client will appreciate this difference is a big question.

As with any lens, before buying, you need to understand what you need it for. Therefore, I cannot say whether it is worse or better than 85mm, and whether it is worth the money. Rent it, try it and you will understand everything for yourself.

Also watch the video review of Canon EF 70-200 f4L IS USM versus Canon EF 135mm f2L USM:

In continuation: Canon EF 135mm f2L USM review. Part 2