Canon 135mm f/2 L
Canon EF 135mm f/2 L USM (72mm filters, 0.9m/3' close-focus, 25.0 oz./708g, about $1,035.) enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama or at Amazon, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Since it's been made for 15 years, there are also plenty available used at eBay (see How to Win at eBay). Thanks! Ken.
One of Canon's best lenses, the 135/2 L has superb optics in a compact package with great ergonomics and immediate autofocus. Lenses like these simply aren't available for Nikon, which is why so many professional photographers prefer Canon cameras. All of Nikon's 135mm lenses have goofy autofocus controls.
Plastic filter thread. Costs $1,035, but lens prices only go up over time. Get one now while you can and you'll be glad you did.
Don't take my word for it, ask anyone else who owns this lens and he'll tell you it's one of Canon's best lenses of all time. Great lenses like this are why so many people shoot Canon cameras; Nikon simply has nothing that competes with this.
The Canon 135mm f/2 L is extraordinarily good optically, and it's small and light, feels great in-hand, has great ergonomics, and autofocus is immediate regardless of how far the AF system needs to rack the lens in or out. Just like any other virtuoso, the Canon 135/2 L makes everything it does look easy, regardless of how hard it is for Canon to make this lens this good.
AF is almost silent as well as immediate, and you can grab the big manual focus ring for instant manual focus override at any time.
Canon 135mm f/2 L . enlarge.
This Canon EF EOS 135mm f/2 L works perfectly with every Canon EOS camera ever made, meaning every Canon DSLR and every Canon autofocus film camera made since 1987.
This means of course it works great on today's 5D Mark II and Canon 7D, but it works just as well on my original Canon EOS 620 from 1987! I know; I tried it, and autofocus, exposure automation, metering and depth-of-field preview all work perfectly.
Canon calls this the CANON LENS EF 135mm f/2 L ULTRASONIC.
EF means "electronic focus," meaning that there is an autofocus motor in the lens itself. All Canon lenses since 1987 have been EF.
L only means as expensive as L; it means nothing technically.
Ultrasonic means Ultra-Sonic Motor (USM). This means autofocus is almost silent, and you can grab the big focus ring for instant manual focus override at any time.
10 elements in 8 groups.
Multicoated, mostly in amber.
Internal focus: nothing moves externally as autofocused.
Two UD glass elements.
Close Focus top
3 feet (0.9m), marked.
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Use the Canon EF12 II to get close-ups to 0.69 meters or about 0.29x life-size at the image sensor.
Use the Canon EF25 II to get close-ups to 0.58 meters or about 0.41x life-size at the image sensor.
Use the Canon 500D to get close-ups of about one-quarter to one-half life-size at the image sensor.
Angle of View (on 35mm and full-frame cameras)
The Canon EF 1.4x II makes this a 189mm f/2.8 lens with an 0.27x maximum reproduction ratio.
The Canon EF 2x II makes this a 270mm f/4 lens with an 0.38x maximum reproduction ratio.
135mm f/2 wide-open at f/2. (EF diaphragm not visible). enlarge.
8 conventional blades.
Stops down to f/32.
Hard Infinity Focus Stop? top
You have to let the AF system focus for you at infinity.
Focus Scale top
The ring turns from near to far in about 120.º
Depth-of-Field Scale top
No, unless you consider two tiny ticks right next to each other for f/32 as a "scale."
Infra-Red Focus Index top
Filter Thread top
Does not move, ever.
Canon specifies 3.2" (82.5mm) diameter by 4.4" (112mm) long.
24.960 oz. (707.6g), measured.
Canon specifies 26.5 oz. (750g).
$33 LP1219 sack, included.
Standard 72mm ET-72U front, included.
Standard EOS cap rear.
Tripod Collar top
There is no tripod collar available; it's not needed.
Lens made in Japan.
Price, USA top
$999 after rebate, January 2015.
$1,035, September 2011.
128,000 Yen catalog price at introduction in 1996.
Box, Canon 135/2 L.
The Canon 135mm f/2 L is optically superb and handles great. I wish everything were this good.
Autofocus is fast and silent, as we take for granted with Canon.
Just grab the focus ring at any time if you want manual-focus override.
Only move the AF-MF switch if you want to disable the camera from auto focusing.
AF is fast!, as Canons always are.
The AF motor is silent. All you'll hear is some internal sliding.
AF Accuracy and Consistency
I saw no autofocus offset on my Canon 5D Mark II.
Especially at f/2, all my shots are dead-on.
Manual focus is easy; just grab the ring.
It takes only 120º to go from end-to-end of the focus scale.
Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is superb. Backgrounds just melt away.
Out-of-focus backgrounds and foregrounds are soft and undistracting, which is much better than most LEICA lenses.Here are full-frame (5D Mark II) images focused at 1.5 meters, with synthetic vegetation at 10 meters:
Not apparent in these small on-screen examples is that the backgrounds are always soft and undistracting, even at smaller apertures like f/5.6.
Focus breathing, when the image changes size as focused, is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.
The image from the Canon 135mm f/2 L gets larger as focused more closely
The color balance of this 135mm f/2 L seems the same as my other Canon EF lenses.
The Canon 135mm f/2 USM has no visible distortion.
For more critical sceintific analysis, use these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove it completely:
© 2011 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Canon 135/2 L. enlarge.
Ergonomics are perfect. I wish everything was this nice. Just shoot.
It feels great. Just grab the ring for manual focus, and the AF - MF switch falls right under your thumb.
Falloff is visible at f/2, and gone by f/2.8.
My Canon 5D Mark II (at least as of firmware 2.0.4) doesn't have the data to correct this in its Peripheral Illumination Correction menu option, and I'm sure the data is available if you really cared. I don't care enough to stop shooting and fiddle with a computer to download anything.
I've greatly exaggerated this by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background.
Filters are easy.
The threads don't move, and there isn't any problem with vignetting. Feel free to use thick rotating filters or stacked filters.
The threads are plastic, so be careful not to cross-thread anything.
Better than many Canon lenses, there are no lateral color fringes as seen on my Canon 5D Mark II.
Rear, Canon 135 f/2 L. enlarge.
The Canon 135mm f/2 L is made as well as any Canon EF lens.
Filter Threads and Hood Mount
Seem like metal.
Engraved into the bottom rear of lens mount and filled with white paint.
Yes, hot-stamped into the rear light shield.
Use the Canon Date Code Converter to find your lens' birthday.
This sample is stamped XA1012, meaning October 2009.
Moisture seal at mount
Noises When Shaken
As shot on the 5D Mark II under test conditions at infinity, the Canon 135mm f/2 L is super-sharp, even at f/2.
The sharpness of the 135mm f/2 L doesn't vary much except from diffraction at f/11 and smaller. It's just as sharp and contrasty at f/2 in the center as it is at f/8.
Depending on your particular sample, the sides at f/2 on full-frame can be slightly less sharp, but you'll never see this unless you're shooting flat subjects that are actually in perfect focus on the sides. If you're shooting test targets (or landscapes at infinity), the sides get sharper as stopped down; but they're still OK at f/2, and the 135/2's complete lack of lateral color fringes is far more important.
The biggest detriment to sharpness will be lack of proper focus, subject motion, and atmospheric thermal shimmer at long distances.
Here is Canon's claimed MTF curve:
Crop from the center of a 100% 5D Mark II image at f/2.
As expected for a fast, long lens, there is some very minor spherochromatism.
Spherochromatism, also misnamed "color bokeh" by laymen, is when out-of-focus highlights take on color fringes. The Canon 135/2 L behaves as usual, with slight green fringes on background highlights, and slight magenta fringes on foreground highlights. This helps improve bokeh with foliage in the background.
Spherochromatism is a completely different aberration from lateral color fringes.
With its conventional 8-bladed diaphragm, this Canon 135mm f/2 L will make sunstars on brilliant points of light.
Leave the AF - MF switch in AF. When set to MF, it disables the AF system. You always can get to MF in the AF position simply by grabbing the focus ring.
The "0.9 - ∞" and "1.6m - ∞" switch is a focus limiter.
Leave it at "0.9 - ∞" unless the focus is taking too long hunting for your subject. The "1.6m - ∞" position prevents the lens from focusing any closer than 1.6m (5 feet), so it can rack in and out a little faster since it skips the closer range. This switch is ignored in manual focus.
The Canon 100mm f/2 is smaller, lighter, focuses very slightly faster and sells for less than half the price. Compared head-to-head at the test range, the sharpness of the 100/2 USM is the same as this 135mm f/2 L lens. The less expensive 100/2 has metal filter threads, while this 135/2 L is the only lens compared here with plastic filter threads.
By paying more for this 135mm lens, you're getting more magnification (135mm versus 100mm), higher magnification at the closest focus distance, the ability to stop down to f/32 and better bokeh.
The Canon 135mm f/2 L USM is a favorite lens on many professional photographers because of its fabulous optics, great ergonomics and small size. The Canon 135/2 is legendary.
If money matters, the Canon 100mm f/2 is also an extraordinary and very similar lens for less half the price.
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15 September 2011