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Sunday, 03 January 2016


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Canon 135/2 is likewise optically impressive. I suspect the usefulness of it depends on the angle the photographer sees with. Mine is 90mm to 100mm-e, others see wider or longer. The main feature of the Fuji entry is the 60cm close focus, making it more useful than most of this length.

Back in the days when still shooting film with my Canon A-1, I had one. The 135mm/2.8 was a nice lens, but indoors I always wished for a nice 85mm/1.4 which I could never afford during that time.

This is what keeps me from buying the M.Zuiko 75mm/1.8 - at 150mm-e it's even longer, and tho I've seen many good photos taken with it, I guess it's just not for me, at least not for indoors. And yes, I'm taking lots of close portraits (or, as you Americans sometimes name it, "head shots").

Perfectly happy with my M.Zuiko 45mm/1.8 tho - so I guess for APS-C I would be looking for 60mm, and with "full frame" for 90mm. Or a 100mm (-e) macro lens, like my Zuiko 50mm/2.

Most of my New Year's Eve music party pictures were with a 135mm f/2, as it turns out, and I've gotten unprecedented good response to them (more likely because some of the people at the parties I was at aren't my usual crowd so I have more than the usual people viewing them, but still).

And I know a *bunch* of Canon photographers who swear by the Canon 135 f/2 ("L", I guess).

There seem to be 'productivity zones' for lenses in terms of focal length: 15-21mm, 28-50mm, 75-105mm, and 150-210mm for me. I've owned 24mm and 135mm lenses almost all my life, but can hardly point to any decent pictures taken with them.

But as you once pointed out, it is helpful to regard lens collecting and making photographs as separate hobbies. I currently own the Zeiss 135, f2.0 in Nikon F mount (although I don't have a DSLR). It is without any doubt "perfected to a minute and hyperfastidious degree". The longest lens I use on my Leicas is 90mm, but in these days of adaptors and live view, I could certainly use the Zeiss 135 on my digital Leica. I haven't actually done that – but I could!

C'mon man, Mike you know if we had the Morgan, we'd be driving it as often as we could! I agree about the lens though.

I beg to differ, but then I'm the kind of guy who despite having a bunch of lenses, likes to go out with just one and see what I can get. With a great 135mm, like the Canon f/2 or the Sony f/1.8, results can be stellar. I prefer it over 85mm, which is considered a must-have lens by many.

Never tried the Fuji 90mm, as I see Fuji a bit like your three-wheeler: a great system that's too large to compete with MFT and not good enough in terms of image quality to compete with Sony FF. Beautiful cameras and lenses, though.

I used a Canon FD 135/2.8 as my main lens for a couple years back in the early 70's, it fit pretty well the way I see things. It was pretty soft wide open, but that wasn't an issue for me then.

It got shoved to the back of the shelf, though, when I fell in with a bad crowd, specifically macro lenses, respectively 100/4, 200/4 and 50/3.5 Canon FD for bugs and weeds.

Today its the Sigma 150/2.8 and Olympus 50/2 macros with an Olympus E5 for most of what I've been doing.

Back in the early film days, I've owned them, but soon realized that the 135mm is ... an awkward length. Something in the 50s makes sense as a 'base' lens, then a lens in the 85-100 range, which is a nice portrait, and other object, length. Having a lens in the 85-100 range, makes the 'jump' to 135 too small, so perhaps it should have been, as Pentax did at one time, a 150, or as Nikon did, a 180? Certainly the jump from a 50 range lens to 135 is too large.

Mike, the only person that I know who uses a 135mm lens regularly is Don McCullin; and I was surprised too. I personally haven't used a lens longer than 50mm for a very long time.


Mike, c'mon! EVERYBODY needs a 135mm lens. It's perfect for... ahem... actually it's a bit too short for distant subjects and too long for portraits. And it compresses depth, bringing the backstage too close to the fore for comfort.
But somehow I can't let go of mine. To the point that I, who am a standard and wide-angle guy, found myself inventing new subjects in order to use it. Somehow it's an addictive focal length.

". . . my cousin Chris. She took very nice pictures with just a 50mm and a 135mm. I don't know of anyone else."

Well, now you know two. When I finally bought my own SLR, a Pentax, in 1975, those are the two focal lengths I bought with it. The fifty came with the body, if I'm not mistaken. Being young at the time I regarded it as horribly boring. The 135 I was really excited about and used at every opportunity. When student poverty later led me to sell my gear, that lens was the last thing to go, even after the body.

I've since read that 135mm was the go to focal length at the time for fashion photography, but that it fell out of favor due to overuse, or longer focal lengths, or shorter focal lengths, depending on who you talk to. It's still out of favor, as far as I know - all the more reason then to pick it up again.

I'm definitely planning to do exactly that, for use with my X-T1 - even as I resist the siren song of Sony. If I can use it half as well now as I did back then, I'll be a happy man.

[If you're inspired by the focal length, so much the better that the 90/2 is so good. Enjoy it! --Mike]

I've shot several weddings and events with an 85mm f/1.4 on crop frame as my primary camera, which is about 135mm f/2 on full frame. I really like it.

Why? (1) it's a fast lens, so helpful for low light when you can't use flash, (2) the long focal length combined with the wide aperture helps give you narrow depth of field for subject isolation, (3) the long focal length allows you to keep your distance as a photographer and capture moments without intruding.

Depending on the particular lens, there is also typically a considerable cost, weight, and aperture advantage of an 85/1.4 (or 135/2) over a 50-150/2.8 (or 70-200/2.8) zoom.

Food for thought anyway. If I shot the Fuji system, you can bet I'd buy that 90mm. I just wish Fuji had made it f/1.4 - they could have and should have.

Spot on. Well, almost. If there is one less useful focal length than 135mm it must be 150. The Olympus 75mm I own is gorgeous. Really (look here: https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5749/23522404894_ab25983154_b.jpg). So why is it covered with cobweb?

The first photograph I sold (to Camera 35) was taken with a 135mm. Don't think I ever used one again.
Just my two cents.

OLOCOY challenge? ;)

I don't know, I've always heard the old adage that the 135mm focal length is "too long for this, and too short for that..." like a red-headed bastard step-child or something but I like it. My personal sweetspot is the short-tele's so I give a very subjective answer but for taking photographs of my 14-year old son and his friends skateboarding and my 5-year old daughter in the playground the 135/2.8 Sonnar on my Contax SLR bodies is often just the ticket. It allows me to stay a good distance from the subject to gain some semi-anonymity for good candid images yet bring me in intimately enough to get good head-shoulders shots or from slightly farther away some nicely compressed full-body shots. Best part was the price! I got mine VERY cheaply from KEH. The 135/2.8 Sonnar is a wonderful lens!

Geez, Mike, you're talking to someone who can barely find a use for a short tele around 85mm-e. 135mm? The mind boggles. It doesn't have a full frame capable image circle? A sort of stealth pre-release for a full frame X mount, does it?

Anyway, you are cracking me up. Good job! I've needed my first real laugh of the year.

Also, why don't manufacturers make inexpensive, slow, weather resistant lenses? I would think a 24/2.8, 35/2, and 55/2.5 would cover most people's basic use cases in the rain, and if they all cost about 550$, they'll sell like hotcakes, and wouldn't compete with even slightly better spec'd lenses.

On my recent trip to Cuba, the Zuiko 75/1.8 was on my EM-5 most of the time -- for gorgeaus street-side portraits

Didn't Don McCullin prefer a 135mm and 28mm as his go to set?

As quoted from David Bayles's and Ted Orland's classic book Art and Fear, "What counts, in making art, is the actual fit between the contents of your head and the qualities of your materials".

If the 135 mm focal length (or equivalent) fits the way you see, then it will be a great lens for you. If not, then not. I use mine all the time for portraits of people, plants and trees. The focal length seems just right, whereas I find 50 mm or even 85 mm require me to crowd the subject a bit. That may just be a reflection of my tendency to be a shy introvert, but there it is.
Gratuitous grandchild shot:Happy baby

Meanwhile, my 16-35 mm L zoom mostly gathers dust between infrequent uses; it just doesn't match how I see things.

In my film days, I used my 135mm lens a lot, despite being a fan of wide angle lenses. My usual kit comprised of a 24, a 35-70, and a 135mm lens. I could have done with a smaller gap between the long end of the zoom and the 135, but that was down to the zoom needing to be a 35-85.

That was no fault of the 135mm lens, which I found was just right for many subjects. Just the right amount of flattened perspective, just the right angle of view, not too big or too heavy or hard to hold still. It even took the same 55mm filters as my other lenses, and was fast enough at f/2.8. I carried it in preference to my 80-210 zoom, which at f/3.8-4 wasn't huge, but still took up about 70% more space.

Whether my preference for the 135mm lens was down to another one being my first long lens, and also being the first lens I bought after the standard 58mm lens that came with the camera, I don't know.

These days, I don't possess a 90mm prime lens (with the equivalent angle of view with my camera as the 135) but I do have a couple of zooms that cover that length. I do sometimes set them to 90mm, to get that angle of view. But I'm not much of a one now for longer lenses; I've changed over the years.

I know one of my friend specializing in outdoor portrait uses only 135L...
I find 135 mm to be more amenable than 85mm, but my favorite focal length is 50. Now my kit has a 24/28, a 50 and a 135

Same as Mike. For me a 50mm is like a short tele. I am a 28mm kind of shooter...

Back in my film and full frame days, I'd carry a 24, 50 and 135 combo as a fast and light weight alternative to the 24-70 and 70-200 combo. I felt that there was little I couldn't do with this set up, from events to documentary type work, it was very flexible and allowed for dramatically different looks. Now, in my m4/3 phase, it's the 12, 25, and 75 combo that lights my fire. And if someone would make a 65 or a 67.5, I'd jump on it.

I still use my Canon FD 135 f2 on my Panasonic bodies as a 270mm equivalent, and having the speed is a bonus in low light. It's easy to focus and very sharp despite being a 30+ year old design.

In a situation where you want to pick out a person from the crowd, I've always found the 135, or equivalent, far more practical than an 85 or 100, and with the wide aperture, I can shoot in low light. And, it's still very easy to hand hold without stabilization. Plus, it really melts away the background into a soft mush, but doesn't obliterate it. The other aspect to the 135 is that it doesn't flatten out perspective as much as a longer focal length, and still allows a bit of a 3D feeling to the image, which is really beautiful when photographing people.

I have kinda the same problem with the Olympus 75mm, even though it is more like a 150mm equivalent. Excellent optics and a sexy lens i just have to own, but a strange focal length.

Since going to m4/3 I find using a Nikkor ais 135mm f2.8 which becomes a 270mm f2.8. Small, light and useful. Manual focusing via peaking is easy as pie.

This post nailed my experience with the 135mm focal length.

Shortly after getting the original Canon 5d, I found myself lusting after the 135mm L lens that everyone raved about. It was ridiculously sharp and had almost zero distortion, something that I felt was important at the time (before lens profile corrections and such in camera raw). I purchased the lens and remember using it exactly twice. Once it felt too long (for portraiture) and the other time it was much too short. After a few months, I sold it and fell in love with the 70-200mm f4 IS lens.

And now I'm much more of a 28/35mm focal length guy for my work. It's a strange thing how these preferences develop.

It appears that the distance between perfect and useless is exactly 100mm. And speaking of the "perfect" focal length, I'd be interested in your thoughts on the new stabilized Tamron 35mm with the D750. Does the stabilization even the playing field with the A900's IBIS?

Outdoors, I use the 35/1.4L and 135/2.0L.
Indoors, I use the 35/1.4L and 85/1.2L.
All on a 5D3 body. Never use more than two lenses at a time. Sold all the others

The reason I bought Canon when they went autofocus was to use the 135/2.0L. I'm on my second copy - wore out the first one.

A similar setup worked pretty well for Don McCullin.

135 is a fine focal length... on M4/3.

The old preset Takumars are light as a feather, and sharp wide open across the frame - and because they're adapted, you can even make them focus close if you wish.


The reason for the 135mm's popularity during the early SLR days was the ASA 25 speed of our color film (until the mid '70s we had two film choices, Kodachrome II or garbage). With a daylight exposure of 1/500 @ f/3.5, we didn't have a lot of options if we wanted to use a tele.

When I shot dance concerts, I was up in the sound/light booth at the back of the theater. I started out with a 70-200 zoom, but found that the movement was too fast for me to change the focal length effectively. I found that the 135 was a perfect compromise for me -- although I did crop after the shot, anywhere from a little bit to 1/4 of the image or so. In saying so, I'm probably discounting my own statement, but I'm very glad I had that lens.

In other circumstances, I'm a teacher at a boarding school and often take photographs at some of the school events and send them out to parents. They're always appreciative, but the two lenses that get the results that get the most compliments back are the Minolta 50/1.4 and the Canon 135/2L, both usually shot 1/3 of a stop down.

If John Krill thinks that 135mm is still the perfect focal length for Laguna Seca, my guess is he hasn't been back there since '72. With the current track layout (which was debuted in 1988) and the current FIA/FIM regulations regarding runoff, 135mm is woefully short for shooting at Laguna. When I was working as an official track photographer there from 2003 to 2009, the majority of my images were taken at between 300mm and 500mm.

I used to like my Pentax screw-mount 135 until I bought the k-mount 100.

I at one point made 100% of my high school student side job earnings with a 135f2.8 lens - at basketball games. A 100mm would not have been better. A 200mm would have been hopeless.

I've actually met professionals who swore by all manner of weird things. 135f2. 50f1.0 with kodachrome pushed. 600mmf4 (how often would you use that Mike?)

And in each case, it was about a task, a subject, a market. I think the 135f2 was just the right length for some kind of "fresh pictures of the governor at every press conference" done from inside a crowd in an awkward room on film. And that was the guy's day job.

I think that the attitude toward a 135mm lens is a case of different strokes for different folks - and for the same folks at different times.

In my manual focus film camera days, the two lenses that I used almost all the time with my Minolta SRT-101 were the 55mm f:1.7 that came with the camera and the Minolta 135mm f:2.8. I have quite a few images taken with the 135mm that pleased me then and still please me. I almost never used the 28mm f:2.8, although I carried it with me most of the time. Nothing really bad about the lens - it was just wider than I preferred to shoot most of the time.

Yesterday I was working in Lightroom and happened to look at the tabulated metadata for the images I took this past year. It struck me that almost every picture last year was taken with the NEX-6 or the A6000, and that the vast majority of the images were shot with the Sony/Zeiss 24mm f:1.8. I keep intending to buy the Sony 85mm f:2.8 SAM lens for use with the A6000 and NEX-6 to give myself a 135mm equivalent, but I never get motivated enough to get off my tush and do so.

Basic optics has not changed over the last 45 years, but it appears that the way I look at the world has done so.

- Tom -

I bought a Pentax Spotmatic back in the 60s, at the PX when I was in the Army, along with a kit of 35, 50 and 135 lenses. I had that kit for four or five years, and got a lot of use out of it. One thing that it taught me was that I see best in the 70-85 range. Lenses in that range were a bit exotic at the time (it seems like the go-to portrait lens was a 105), but it was the first non-kit lens I bought after I sold the Pentax and changed to Nikon. I think it might have been a Nikon 85mm f1.8, not a great lens but I pounded it to death. What I really wanted was something closer to 70, but I don't think I ever got one until I got a zoom.

I had a Nikon 135mm f2 DC that I used with a D700 - it was beautiful beyond belief. I used it a lot, but most importantly, that lens gave me the best pictures I ever got of my late mother. I would not want to lose those pictures, and I'm glad they were shot with that very special lens with its luminescent glow and its rare combination of sharpness and kindness.

I upgraded to a D800, and the lens didn't work very well anymore. Had to sell it...

Looks as though many images in your favorite book Multitude, Solitude - The Photographs of Dave Heath, are made with a 135mm lens.

A few people have mentioned Don McCullin's use of the 135. Here's a Canon informercial where he talks more about it, and as far as infomercials go, it's about as good as they get: the subject is more interesting than the thing being sold, and they give him lots of room to talk. It's also interesting rewatching this in light of his recent comments about digital photography, because this was supposed to have been his first time using a digital camera:


His lens set apparently is 28 and 135 for street, and 24 for landscape. I also like that he's walking around with two full-frame DSLRs for street photography, and more importantly looks as comfortable doing it as a fish in water.

I guess 2016 is going to be the year we disagree:} I paid my way through college with a Miranda G & 50 mm lens along with Tamron 35mm & 135mm lenses. Shot everything from events, ballet, portraits, sports, and concerts with the 135mm. I wish I still had the negatives because I'll bet nearly 50% were with the 135. Now its mostly 35mm but I still have, and use a Nikkor AIS 135mm F2!

Back in the late 70's I did a lot of pictures of bands and singers in small venues and coffeehouses with a Minolta SRT-101 and a 135mm F2.8 Vivitar. My favorite lens by far on that body - just felt right somehow, excellent balance and I was able to handhold in low light amazingly well. My hands were a good bit steadier then, too. Anybody else out there remember shooting with Kodak 2475 Recording?

I've always considered the 135 the perfect landscape lens. Just the right amount of compression.

When I first started photography all I had was a 50 and a 135mm. I used the 135 a lot, portraits and concerts mostly and turned out some really good images that sold well. I then changed systems and got a 35-105 lens and never picked up a 135 again.

And perfect for all weather...
Have had mine for three years and some 20,000 miles and driven it round several countries.
Never had a 135mm though.

]Calum, that's really fabuloso. I love it. --Mike]

I always thought the 135mm Symmar-S 5.6 was pretty nice if a little wide.
Wait, what size cameras are we talking about here

The Don McCullin videos are quite fascinating. He seems to be thinking strictly of conveying his feelings about his chosen subjects, and not letting the camera get in the way. I liked his comments about how "chimping" breaks the connection. And it didn't take him long to recognize the improvement in productivity.

I'm most comfortable with a 28 or 35 mm lens and a rangefinder camera, but there are times when a medium telephoto seems just right. The 105/2.5 that I used for theatre work on my Nikon F in the 1960's and 70s was just right. The 4/3 50 mm macro that appeared with the E-1 was also just right, but the M43 45 mm lens that has replaced it is not, while the supersharp 75 mm is wonderful. I'll stand on a chair if I have to, to bring things into its field of view. I bought a 135 for my Leica M; it's in a drawer. I thought I might bring it out when I started using a Leica SL in the last month, but I haven't yet. Instead I discovered two wonderful lenses from the old Leica R line, the 80/1.4 and the APO-90/2.0. On the SL I can see what they are seeing, and everything feels just right. The 80 is for people, and the 90 for all sorts of other stuff.


Used a Hoya 135mm f/2.8 off and on for about twenty years of film photography, for similar reasons expressed by Geoff Wittig.

Part of the reason for buying a Tamron 90mm f/2.8 (macro) lens was that it had a similar angle of view on APS-C DSLR's. Have been considering changing that for the newer VC (stabilised) version, to lengthen the periods of the year that I'd use it.

(Any views on that Tamron 35mm f/1.8 VC? Or did you not have it long enough?)

I suspect I agree .... with my old LX I used my Pentax 77 a lot. With the K200D and K5 hardly at all.

But I cant quite get round to selling it.

However like my old flares ... If you wait long enough .... Things go round ... Just maybe I will go FF again ...then we are talking!

I've tried hard to like Fuji but just can't reconcile its Hobbit-pawed ergonomics with its ticket price. The giant-killer Nikon 85/1.8g on my D7200+MB D15, along with the old school 100/2.8E, makes me smile plenty for way less dough.

I just can't see the point of the 90mm when the 50-140mm is so extraordinary and has unbelievable IS.

I've been shooting 85mm on APS-C for quite a few years now and enjoy it so much that I'd have a hard time moving to FF without a similar FL for candids. I could probably get by with a 105. But 85mm on FF is too short for me. The 56mm Fuji is nice and I applaud Fuji for at least making a lens that a lot of people want, but I'd be happier with a longer lens. (Contrast Fuji w/Sony where your e-mount APS-C option was, for the longest time, 50mm ... if you think nobody is asking for 135mm equivalents, who ever asked for a 75mm equivalent ?) If I could have just two primes, I'd pick a 40mm and 135mm (or equivalent). Maybe a tad shorter than 135mm, say 120mm, if I could make up my own lens.

I would love to get that Fuji 90/2. During my Sony A700+A850 years, one of my two favorite lenses was the Sony/Zeiss ZA 85/1.4. Especially on the APS-C A700. That's not too different to Fuji's 90/2.

(I won't be purchasing the 90/2, or any lens, as I focus more on printing and less on gear collection. I've done enough of that!)

Cheers and Happy New Year!

I think the 135mm focal length gets picked on too much. Like it's some kind of "wrong 'un".

Isn't lens choice a personal thing, related closely to how you photograph?

A focal length is just that. A focal length. That is to say: neutral. Whether it fits a particular photographer's preferences or style of shooting is a subjective matter. It's not the fault (as it were) of the focal length if a photographer doesn't like it. Just like you can't blame an orange if you don't like oranges.

Me? I love my 135mm lens and have never understood people who are down on the focal length. For how I work, it fits beautifully. I have used it a great deal indeed, and still do. (Though assignments are thinner on the ground, these days).

[Okay. But if you don't like Brussels sprouts, you can blame it on the Brussels sprout, can't you? --Mike, who is still wondering about the first hominid who tried a Brussels sprout and decided it was edible]

I feel a new challenge coming on: "One Camera One (135mm-e) Lens for a Year". So sue me!

I have never really owned a 135mm(e) lens until recently. I once had a borrowed CZJ 135/3.5(?) in M42 and used it a few times before the owner needed to have it back. So that doesn't count.

I now own a Ricoh TLS EE with 50/1.4 & 135/2.8. That kit is in near mint condition; it formerly belonged to a top-notch high school photography program here in Rochester. Every year Kodak gave this program new gear. I suspect all the kids wanted to use Nikon, Pentax or Canon, so the "lowly" Ricoh languished. (The body could double as a sledge hammer or weapon for 'hood self-defence -I'm sorta impressed.)

I've never really "seen" in this focal length, but I think it's a good challenge - "re-learn yer brain" and maybe discover a perspective and some images you never would have otherwise.

Maybe I'll screw the 135 onto the body and use that combination exclusively for 35mm M42 work. Yes, the Ricoh is my only M42 body, so I can call that "OCOL" ... sorta.

I used to love my Canon 135 f2.....as a 200mm on a crop frame. I do use and like the Olympus 75mm but wish they had made it a 100 f2!

I'm glad they made a 90 - because it's less likely I'll get it. I've got a Elmarit 90 2.8 and my Nikon 85 1.4 in use on my XT-1, it's a good outdoor portrait lens length for crop frame, but usually too close inside. So I've already got two truely great lenses at this length, which lets me ignore it for a while....but if t it's as good or better as the 16, I might be persuaded in a bit...

The Morgan may be a lousy car but it's a good alternative for a motorcycle. Or maybe an antique airplane. Peter Egan bought one.


Morgans were popular with young men of the Royal Flying Corps. One called it, "The nearest thing to flying without leaving the ground."

Back when I was shooting commercial headshots my favorite focal length was 135mm. However, I shot the portraits using my 70-200mm f2.8 VR Nikkor, at the 135mm length.

I have never owned a prime 135mm lens.

Still haven't stopped using the 135. Film or no film, it just has the ideal combination of focal length and sharpness to isolate a subject when/where I want it. Yes, yes, a zoom at 200mm can do the same without having to walk. What's the fun in that? ;)
(even more fun is a 90mm or 105 on m4/3: smooth, greased lightning for portraits and street!)

I'm using an old pre-ai Nikkor 105mm 1.8 on a Fuji XT-1 a lot, mostly for portraits and product shots. It's great for isolating objects. The lens is 40-50 years old and has a much smoother look than the Fuji 55-200 at the same focal length. I also use it for shooting musicians at my coffeehouse. I think it's kind of ideal.

Yes, I use my Olympus Zuiko 3.5 135mm much more than my f4 200mm---on my m4/3 cameras, so it ain't 135mm any more. I did not often use it on my Oly OM-1 and on the rare times I wanna use film (for the now instant art effect of film) I almost never use it. That's because as you wrote, I don't find a lot of use for that length.

Best non-Professional use of a 135mm? Easy - when your kid gets tired of you taking pictures, you can get great candid shots with this focal length while they're running around outside. And at f2 tight head shots can't be beat.

If you don't like Brussels sprouts, you can blame it on the cook. They are really delicious when done right. That said, I was 50 years old before I found out what they can taste like if cooked right.

On the other hand if you are like about 25% of the population and have a variant of the hTAS2R38 gene, you are pretty much doomed to dislike glucosinolates, present in most cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower, along with stuff like coffee, tonic water, and dark beer.


I would love a Morgan trike for every day getting around.

When I was getting my first SLR, a Nikon FM in 1978, the standard 3 lens kit consisted of a 50/2, a 35/2.8 and a 135/3.5.

The 135/3.5 was the least expensive Nikkor available other than the standard 50/2. Which made it the least expensive pro lens available, since, back in the day, all Nikkor lenses were built to pro standard.

You could make do with a 135mm as your standard telephoto in many situations. Sure, sometime you framed pretty wide but you made up for it with composition using the extraneous elements. Or you cropped later. Similarly, for portrait work, you had to back up a lot, and that basically made you go outdoors with your subject, never a bad option in terms of light quality.

Sure, I wished I had the 105/2.5, a full 70% more expensive, or the 200/4 or even the pricey Vivitar 700-200/4.5.

But back on planet Fiscal Prudence, quite a few of us made do with a 135mm, until the miracle of Japanese manufacturing economics delivered a flood of other options to us beginning circa 1980.

Never was a focal length more forgotten after that. But I salute Nikon for showing love for its old stalwart by developing the very expensive 135/2 DC in the 1990s.

CANON 135 F2
Taken in a small room. What was that about blaming your tools.

[Very nice, but couldn't you just as easily have taken that with a 105mm-e or even 75mm-e? Just sayin'. --Mike]

The only happy time I had with a 135mm was when I was using a two prime set, the other lens was a 35mm. Together they worked a lot better than expected.
I wanted a small and cheap set up for landscapes when I was camping, and went for second hand gear. I wanted a 28mm and a 100 mm, but they were not easy to find or too expensive. One store offered me these two with a possibility to return them. Both were a bit tighter that what I wanted, but in the end the combination worked surprisingly well for me.

Sounds perfect for a one lens/one camera/one year challenge.

Back in my film days, I eschewed the 135 as an "amateur" lens. Zooms were all crap then, so I bracketed that focal length with a 105 and a 180.

In my digital days, I avoid long, heavy lenses, yet I want (I think) a little more reach than the long end of the 18-55 delivers. So I am trying out the 85, which I recently got at a relatively decent price in an "open box" deal.

If it turns out to be just a pretty paper weight, it'll move along to someone who may use it more and doesn't read TOP.

Back in the day my favorite Nikon lens was the 75-150/3.5E, a nice little zoom lens that was super sharp and super easy to use. Yeah the zoom would creep, but whenever I tried to take pictures of mountains that lens had my back.

So here is the best landscape photo I ever took, at 11am in the hotel parking lot after getting up at 5am for sunrise washed out.


150 is pretty much like 135 right?

Sharpness is one measure of technical quality. It's strange and a bit reductive for it to be a stand-in for overall quality. But I guess it sells and that's what counts.

And now Kirk has his say...

Clearly not an utterly unloved lens.

It would probably be fairer to say that there are more 135mm lenses out there than photographers to use them, I guess.

You appear to have set yourself a challenge for the one-camera-one-lens-one-year project. Just leave everything else behind and you'll have to get good at the 135mm :)

Further to Calum's splendid picture, here's more praise for the Morgan:

There is something so intrinsically right about a tricycle properly planned - the most vital criterion being that the centre of mass should be as low as feasible…

Wow, how did I miss Don McCullin over the years? I had to do a quick Google catch-up and enjoyed this recent Guardian article

Don McCullin, Saul Leiter, Ernst Haas and … Leni Riefenstahl!

At Art School in the seventies we first learned the basics with 5X4 glass plate cameras before we all had to buy our own camera. Nobody could afford a Leica or Hasselblad, so we all started with a Nikkormat, Minolta or Canon equipped with a 50mm standard lens. Zooms were still poor or very huge and expensive. Our teacher advised to get an 135mm or a 28mm as next. Since the 135mm was the most affordable one, for most of us this became the second purchase. Thus the 50mm and 135mm became a part of our brains. The arty photography we imitated in those days was abstract and modernistic, like the style of Leiter, Haas or Callahan. Leiter also used the 50mm and 135mm I believe.

In the early eighties I bought several books on design and photography published by Parco, the Japanese retailer. Boy, these guys new how to use long lens photography as an important element in their visual communication. The images were iconic. Strong enough for covers or posters, all shot very graphic: close, tight and flat, without any space for irrelevant visual noise or information. The most eye catching ones were of the African Nuba and Kau tribes. Made by Leni Riefenstahl using a Leicaflex with mainly her longest lens, which was a 135mm. (Yes she new how to use the longer lens to make strong images for communication, but let’s not go into that).

A 135mm proved very useful to me. It was a Tamron model I think, probably f2.8, that I bought from an obscure little camera store in a small town back in the 1980s. I was a poor student at the time, but the lens was on sale at $75, which was about 90% off the retail price. It was a white elephant that the guy couldn't sell (who, in a small town, would pay $700+ for a non-zoom 135 when they could get a 70-210 for half the price or less?) so he pretty much gave it away.

I needed a Tamron adapter so it would fit my Minoltas. To make a long story short, the adapter never fit right, the aperture ring was broken (fixed on the widest aperture) and the lens was huge, so it was like carrying a canned ham around in my bag. I probably shot ten frames with that lens over the decade that I owned it.

It proved useful when a burglar broke into my apartment in the early 90s and relieved me of every bit of camera equipment I owned with the exception of a kit 50mm f2 that for some reason was in a desk drawer instead of a camera bag. Fortunately, I had insurance that paid at "replacement value." So I got about $750 dollars for it. Very useful indeed.

Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
This recipe answers the question: Why did God give us Brussels sprouts?

  1. Trim the stems and funky leaves from a pound of Brussels sprouts, and halve lengthwise. Sprinkle cut sides with salt and pepper. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.

  2. Add 2 cloves garlic, crushed, stir them around in the oil until they just start to brown. Add the Brussels sprouts, cut side down, to the pan.

  3. Adjust heat until they sizzle merrily (this is about half way between calm sizzling and angry sizzling).

  4. Cover and cook about 5 minutes or until cut sides are a toasty darkish brown. Turn and cook until you can pierce the base somewhat easily with a fork, (but not too easily or they'll be mush).

  5. Serve immediately, still sizzling, by sliding straight from frying pan to plate.

  6. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

Recently shot a Senior portrait set using the Nikkor 85mm f1.8G on a D7200 (129mm FoV equivalent) and thought it nearly the perfect lens for that subject. Fast, sharp, light, good bokeh, and very good at removing perspective aberration. Clients (parents and senior) liked it, too.

For me it's a special-purpose portrait lens, not short enough or long enough for the vast majority of things I shoot, but I'm very glad I have it even though it doesn't go in the bag except for portraits.

Mike: "Okay. But if you don't like Brussels sprouts, you can blame it on the Brussels sprout, can't you?"

I suppose I blame bindweed when it gets in my yard, so blaming the Brussels sprouts for existing might be fair, just not for ending up on your plate -- that's always the fault of a specific person.

Side note: I love the retro look of those three wheeled Morgans. For people who want something racier looking, these Campagna T-Rex things are built here in Quebec but sold all over North America:


Another three wheeler built here is the Can-Am Spyder, which is more motorcycle than car. The roads up here are full of these things every summer:


The reason for the existence of the 135mm focal length is historical.

Before the advent of zoom lenses most photographers who could afford a number of lenses bought them in a series in which they increased focal length by a factor of 1.5x.

These were rounded up or down slightly in some cases, but in the case of standard to telephoto the range was, depending on the manufacturer, 50 to 58, then 85/90, 135, 200, 300.

To answer your question, yes I do own the Fuji 90mm f2, yes I do use it for at least 25% of my portrait work, the other 75% is now covered by the 16-55mm f2.8 and the two lenses together form a brilliant outfit for portrait photography.

I own a couple of 135mm lenses for my film SLRs, but find them very difficult to use. You have to be so far away from your subject that even making a headshot in an apartment is a no go. I expected I'd have the same problem with the Sigma 60mm f2.8 on my m43 setup, but it has turned into my "go to" headshot lens.

I tend to disagree that the 135mm is less useful than many lenses, as I find it the perfect focal length for tight head-and-shoulder portraits, along with its magic qualities (especially @ f/2.0) when photographing 'people in landscape'.

I won't toot my own horn, but if you've never seen the 135mm work of Russian portrait photographer Elena Shumilova, you're missing a rare treat. https://www.flickr.com/photos/75571860@N06/with/10949174803/

I was tempted by the 90mm but then I remembered that there are two 35mm equivalent focal lengths that I dislike: 28 and 135mm. To my taste the 28's either too wide or not wide enough and the 135 is either too long or not long enough. I don't recall a time when that wasn't the case.

[For my own shooting and from my own experience (i.e., not saying what others should think or do), I agree. —Mike]

You have a sensible cousin! My preferred focal length is 50mm, and 135mm is the perfect second lens. It's quite a bit longer than 50, yet not too long. Landscaping, somewhere between 135 and 200mm you go from detailed scenes to scene details, and that's just not what I'm looking for. I've tried 85mm; it's a focal length with many uses. Which is just why it messes with my picture taking process! It competes with the 50mm for time on camera too much, and I end up swapping all the time. I prefer a distant second, which I'll know when to use.

My beef with the new Fuji is that it is big and heavy. You've recently derided the F2.8 versions that Zeiss used to make like the 85mm for being too slow, but I always found them just right. I'd have much preferred a smaller 2.8 lens from Fuji, a bit like their new 2/35 to the 1.4/35mm. I do use the above mentioned Zeiss on my X-T1 but with the hefty adaptor it takes on weight and size. That, and I find the manual focusing very tedious without auto-closing of the aperture. So I'll probably cave in...

As for the three-wheeler, to me that would be the 35mm :-) Nice, for the very few times i'd see something that fits!

My most often used lens in the last two years is and continue to be a 65mm-e lens (on a cropped sensor Pentax body).

Not counting the iPhone's 28mm lens, and perhaps I should...my second most often used lens had been a 150mm-e lens with the flattening of a 100mm lens. I see images I want to compose that way quite often.

Mind you, this 100mm 2.8 lens is quite light and compact. And being a macro lens it is very sharp - not that this is always necessary of course.

I see naturally at 35mm (wide field vision) and 135mm (concentrating on detail).

28mm was too wide, 85mm was too wide, and 200mm was too long. Had all those.

I don't do zooms. Yuck.

Not forgetting that like the Sopwith Camel (and some large format cameras) the Morgan is still made of wood.

Top Gear showed why these aren't great cars for winter driving in the UK.


Even the Stig put it around the track.

I have had a Canon EF 85mm f1.8 lens for a few years now, I bought it originally to be my portrait lens on FF. I recently got a Canon Eos M3 and suddenly via the lens adapter I am now the proud owner of a relatively inexpensive insanely sharp 'equivalent' 135mm f1.8. As the EosM3 is quite lacking in the AF department I mostly use it in MF and with the EVF it works surprisingly well! I must say I have grown to like it a lot and h/s portraits benefit, imo from the extra perspective...so much so that I seldom use the 85mm with FF and rather use my 70-300 zoom as my FF portrait lens, zooming in as much as space will allow...

You've reminded me that when I was starting out on 'proper' photography, I borrowed a Praktica SLR kit from my father-in-law that included a 135mm lens. Gorgeous piece of kit, very smooth focus ring to my recollection and impressive optics. Can't recall using it for much other than a zoo trip though, and once the kit went back because I had my own, I never gave it another thought. So maybe it is dispensable.

OTOH, I have a 105mm lens that's ~160mm-e on my D50 and I've had made lovely portraits of the kids with that. So maybe 135mm would have a place if it weren't for that.

Uh oh, I just realized that my featured comment might be inaccurate. I forgot that I took one of my all time favorite pictures (http://photos4u2c.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Kids/G0000N2kck2Dowmg/I0000nhayyMPc_hM) with the 135mm. In fact, the cumbersome focal length is the reason for the photo. I had to back up so far to fit both kids in the frame that I couldn't stop my daughter when she stole my son's cup of water. Can't be a good parent? Then at least be a good photographer.

Here's a working link for my previous comment. First time in TOP history that someone linked to Instagram? My stupid portfolio page is too security sensitive to make links.. https://www.instagram.com/p/BAKegnIDvnR/

SeanG, Jeez, posts like this are among the reason I always come back to TOP.

Re focal lengths I find one thing funny: consider the obsession with zoom lenses in the age of point-and-shoots. People just wouldn't understand how you can go along with a prime, or didn't even understand what a prime is - uncomprehending the idea of not being able to zoom.
But now that smartphones took over, no one seems to be missing zooms, and not even noticing that smartphones can't zoom. Weird, isn't it?

I just returned from a trip to NYC and Boston. I mostly shot the Zuiko 75/1.8 on my E-M5. It sings.

The other lens I used a lot was the Zeiss 28/2 on a D700 -- another lens you didn't quite gel with.

Doug Sundseth: "I suppose I blame bindweed when it gets in my yard ..."

Such a beautiful plant! ;-)
Andreas Weber: &emdash; Echte Zaunwinde
Shot with - the Apo-Sonnar 135mm ƒ/2, of course ...

You know, I took both my "blue red tide" and Ctein shots with the EF 135mm f/2L USM. :)

I'm hoping that, now, the prices on the Zeiss 135mm ZF crash on eBay....

Thanks to Andre for posting the McCullin video on YouTube. It's actually quite touching to see such a master in awe of the tools we tend to take for granted. Puts things into perspective indeed. His response to the gradient tool in Lightroom is something I won't soon forget.

"Has anyone ever really needed a 135mm? Used a 135mm as a main go-to lens? Done more than a little good work with a 135mm?

I only know of one person—my cousin Chris. She took very nice pictures with just a 50mm and a 135mm. I don't know of anyone else."

Me :) I love 135mm and use the same combo as your cousin: 50mm & 135mm. A 135mm is a smaller alternative to a big 70/80-200 zoom (135mm sits right in the middle of that zoom range).

Whenever I need tele, I reach for 135mm. To me, 85mm and 100mm lenses are too close to 50mm. They feel more like a long normal than a true tele.

Let's be honest, for portraits you can use a 50mm or a tele zoom. No need for a dedicated portrait lens. However, for candid shots, 85-100mm is too short, you need a longer lens.

Another point: so-called 'portrait primes' have poor magnifation. Canon's 135mm f2 for instance focuses just as close as Canon's 85mm f1.2, 85mm f1.8 and 100mm f2. This makes the 135L a more flexible lens, suitable for both candids and portraits.

Here's one taken with a 135mm prime, a few months into photography. It was a direct hit, even though later I switched to a tele zoom.


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