canon 135 f2L usm review

Canon EF 135mm f2L USM review. Part 2.

canon 135 f2l with lens hoodI already wrote about this lens Article... I recently rented it for filming conferences with a lot of participants and was very happy.

Canon EF 135mm f2L USM Is a portrait prime lens. The catch is which ones they should take portraits. It is inconvenient for staged filming. 135mm is a specific focal length.

135mm in wedding photography

In the first review, I wrote that I prefer 85mm for weddings and walking photo sessions... At 85mm, it is convenient to work with people, you don't need to move too far away from the person with it, and at the same time, it gives an excellent background blur. 135mm forces you to be at some distance from the subject. I would say the average distance is 5 meters. Of course you can talk to a person at that distance and you can walk around him with a radius of 5 meters, but this is uncomfortable. Especially if you are filming a wedding in some popular location, for example, in Mezhyhiria... It would seem that a location with an area of ​​140 hectares ... In practice, when you appear in Mezhyhirya in the summer, it is very crowded there. Lines of couples with photographers stand at each bridge / arch / bush. In such conditions, it simply will not work far back with a telephoto lens. This situation is not only with Mezhyhirya. Even on an ordinary street, the photographer often has nowhere to go so that the newlyweds fit into the frame. It is worth remembering that the result will be quite similar between 85mm and 135mm. For weddings, it is better to opt for the practical option.

What is the Canon EF 135mm f2L USM for?

I began to write my second review when I saw the true purpose of this wonderful lens. It forces you to be at a certain distance from the subject. This is also its advantage.

When you shoot people at 135mm, the distance to them is such that they no longer pay attention to you. With 85mm this effect is absent. For me personally, this is a decisive factor, because this focal length allows you to take portraits discreetly. The appearance of the lens is also beneficial: it is not a long white tube like any 70-200, but a medium-sized black lens. Not small, but not gigantic either. At any event, be it a wedding, corporate, birthday etc. with 135mm, you can catch vivid emotions on people's faces without attracting their attention. This is a very important point. With 85mm, you need to approach a distance from which you will be clearly visible. The situation is different with 135mm. Now I will show you a series of portraits made in this vein.

I find 85mm optimal for working with people when you need their attention and communication. 135mm, on the contrary, is needed to work with people in incognito mode. As a result, these two lenses give completely different photographs.

I really like Canon 135mm f2L in conjunction with 24-70 f2.8L for reporting. The 2 lenses offer tremendous focal length coverage and therefore a lot of flexibility.

The frames were taken from the same distance. At 24-70, I deliberately closed the diaphragm so that both men were in focus. At 135mm it would not help, but it isolates the person from others.

135mm or 70-200mm?

I don't like 70-200mm lenses. I took a few years for the f4 version and sold it as unnecessary. All 70-200 lenses are large, white and eye-catching. That one thing, that another interferes with my work.

Review-comparison Canon EF 70-200 f4L IS USM vs Canon EF 135mm f2L USM

In the 70-200 series, the stabilizer pleases. With it, you can shoot at fast shutter speeds. The main drawback of 135 f2 I see is not that it is a fix, but that it does not have a stabilizer. The Canon 70-200mm f4L IS can shoot at shutter speeds up to 1/80. On Canon EF 135mm f2L USM less than 1/200, I would not bet. Also 135mm is not very suitable for video because of this. Camera movement will always be jerky. Only software stabilization will help, reducing the quality. However, this is not so critical for photography, f2 allows you to set short exposures in any room.

The advantage of 70-200 still appears if you are shooting someone in the distance, and they come up to you and ask them to take a picture. With 135mm on your camera, you quickly go into your bag to change lenses. On the other hand, at 70mm you can shoot a group portrait without changing the lens.

There is one more nuance of using 70-200: most often you shoot them just in the 135mm region, that is, in the middle of the range focal lengths... 200mm is rarely used and 70mm doesn't feel like a good telephoto.


Overall, I find the Canon EF 135mm f2L USM more interesting than any 70-200 lens. You need to learn how to work with a fixed focal length and the lens gains some advantages as a reportage telephoto. For productions, I see it as meaning only for a change. This will already be more a whim of the photographer than a practical necessity.

Also read: portrait comparison on Canon 50mm f1.4, Canon 85mm f1.8 and Canon 135mm f2L.

How to shoot with fixes?

Convenience or picture quality? This is the main question when choosing a zoom or prime lens for shooting. Moreover, this is relevant even for top-end zooms. 24-70mm f2.8L... The image on a prime lens is an order of magnitude better compared to a zoom. It is sharper, more contrasting, with better geometry, better rendering of midtones and colors in general.

How big is the difference in quality?

This is subjective. Not all clients will notice and appreciate it, and not all photographers see it. Especially when some photographers in post-processing apply a lot of filters in such a way that the original color rendition is not important at all. Therefore, it is impossible to say unequivocally that fixes are better. They are not better for all tasks and types of filming.

What to choose: fixed or zoom?

Everyone's business. I prefer to work with fixes, though not always. This is especially true for photography weddings и christening... Churches inside, as a rule, are always in a mysterious twilight. It is in small and difficult lighting conditions that the potential of such lenses is revealed.

On the other hand, for example, in Registry office I prefer to have a zoom. When the whole shooting lasts about 7 minutes and you are very limited in movement, only the zoom saves. You can of course in Registry office take off everything on 35mm, but then you will need to crop a lot of frames to get close-ups, and wide-angle angles will be completely lost. Moreover, when using outbreaks on closed diaphragms, the differences from fixes will not be so obvious.

Back to fixes... Using this example filming the wedding I want to demonstrate why I take 4 small lenses with me to church instead of 1 large one :) These shots were shot with 4 fixes:

I roughly indicated in percentage how much the lenses from this set were in demand. Lenses had to be changed frequently. I want to warn you that in order to afford it, you need to know thoroughly the course of the wedding ceremony. Otherwise, due to changing lenses, you may simply miss an important point like the sacrament or putting on the rings.

Photos at 14mm

Shooting with an ultra-wide-angle manual lens is a specific matter. The greatest difficulty is in finding an angle and building a successful composition. I do not many such shots, but they are always very atmospheric. The huge coverage of the space allows you to show all the beauty of the church.

color correction example

wedding photo

wedding photo

Photos at 35mm

It is convenient to shoot at 35mm to show all the guests in the frame. A more natural perspective and comfortable angle of view allows you to capture the entire scene without losing the focus on people, as with the 14mm.

Wedding photo

Wedding photo

Wedding photo

Photos at 50mm

Most of the shots were taken here for fifty dollars. The 50mm lens allows you to shoot from a comfortable distance in a church setting. The wedding couple and the priest just get into the frame. No one more. And the zoom with your feet makes it possible to frame the scene according to the circumstances.

Wedding photo

Wedding photo

Wedding photo

Photo at 85mm

A telephoto lens allows you to focus on detail and also capture close-ups without getting too close. But it is not as comfortable as 35mm or 50mm. In particular, due to the fact that with him you need to cover the diaphragm more in low light in the church.

wedding photos

About using fixes in general

With fixes in the church, you can easily shoot without the flash, which makes the photos natural and atmospheric. And the light of the flash does not distract others from the sacred rite. The shots were taken at apertures f2-f4 and ISO 2500-4000. The room was dark. With a flash, you could shoot at lower ISOs, but the photos would not be as interesting.

Video on the topic: fixes or zooms for wedding photography?

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The philosophy of using prime lenses.

I previously did comparative tests prime lenses. Now I want to talk more about the sensations and perception of shooting with the use of such optics.

Higher contrast, richer and more vivid colors, beautiful bokeh, small weight and size are the clear advantages of prime lenses. But that's not all…

The inability to change the focal length in such optics is usually considered an inconvenience that you have to put up with for a better picture. Zoom lenses seem to be more convenient and multifunctional due to greater flexibility in building the composition of the frame. But this is actually deceiving. For example, when shooting indoors, you can get by with fixing 28mm or 35mm, and shoot whatever you want by zooming in or out from your subject.

After shooting with a zoom lens, try to see at what focal length you took most of the frames. Most often, the range is quite narrow. And the lack of zoom is easily compensated for by nimble feet.

The disadvantage of a variable focal lens is that it makes the photographer lazy.... A person does not need to move. The zoom will do everything for him.

If you have a fix in your hands, you need to immediately imagine the frame of the future frame even before looking through the viewfinder. Seeing in the imagination, which thus develops and trains, the future frame, you move to take a more comfortable position and do deliberate snapshot. And here is the key idea! Using prime lenses makes the whole process of shooting more deliberate and balanced. When working with a model on street photo shoot, I see a plus in the fact that you don't need to think about zooming. The frame is perceived as a picture with a fixed frame. Over time, this frame already appears in the head instantly. Thoughts are already focused exclusively on working with the model and choosing a good background. If you have a zoom, you will always be tempted to try twisting the zoom ring, which in fact only distracts from the creative process.

There are situations when zooms are irreplaceable and there is simply no alternative. These are situations when you are in a dense crowd of people, or there is a barrier between you and the subject that you cannot get around. For example, filming concerts... It is simply impossible to move in the crowd to make the shot better. Therefore, a zoom like 70-200 is just optimal. You can remove everything for one fix of course (85mm or 135mm), but then you have to spend a lot of time doing the subsequent cropping on the computer. But this is a specific task. In most situations, fixes can handle all the tasks a photographer faces. As a rule, there are always 7-10% of scenes when a different focal length is desperately needed and you may not have time to change optics. But this sacrifice is worth it.

As for framing and versatility ... here reportageshot exclusively at 35mm. A little post-processing and we end up with a very wide angle and close-ups and medium ones.

Read the continuation of this article in the following material: The philosophy of using prime lenses. Part 2.

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