I recently bought a Canon 135mm f/2L. So far I love it and so I thought I’d offer a brief “real world” type of review with samples.
First my motivation for getting this lens: In early January I had some jobs lined up and I knew the lens would get some heavy use and I could justify the expense of having a great lens for head shots as well as low light events and other things. My friend Tim King recommended the 135 so I decided to investigate that.
I wanted a very fast portrait lens and also something I could use at indoor events instead of lugging around my 70-200mm f/2.8, which weighs 3lbs, 11oz. without caps. Generally, at corporate events, etc. I had been carrying two 5d bodies (mark I and II), two speedlights, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8. That combination of cameras flashes and lenses weighs 12 lbs, 4oz. Tendinitis deluxe.
The new 135 went straight from the box into the bag and straight to work with me.
The most noticeable thing about the lens is the super smooth bokeh, great compression and light weight. It has an 8-blade system, stopping down to f/32. Without the caps, it weighs just 1lb, 11oz. The USM focus is nice and quick, very comparable to the focusing speed on my 24-70mm f/2.8. It also has a focus switch which allows for limiting the focal range to 1.6 meters to infinity. With this feature enabled the focus will not hunt as much.
The only feature missing is the rubber weather seal at the camera end of the lens which is found on other L series lenses. I am not sure why they left this out.
Here is one place I did not think the lens would excel but it actually does- event candids. Its smaller and less conspicuous than my 70-200. You have to move a bit closer to capture a candid but you don’t stand out as much as you would with the big white bazooka on your camera, so that kind of balances the “stalker factor” out. You also will not have to push your external flash as hard since you will be closer, an added benefit.
Using something 1 full stop faster than the 70-200mm also means you won’t need to use as much flash power to get decent light on your subject. This makes for a more seamless blend of ambient light with on-camera flash, something that is always a hurdle in dark ballrooms.
My 70-200 has not come out of the bag since I bought this. It may come out for sports or wildlife or the occasional fashion/beauty work, but I’m definitely saving my wrist a world of pain not having to break out the “bazooka” as often.
I typically use my 100mm macro for food work, but for unstyled food at events this has a nice compression and enough speed to do a nice job on the fly. When used wide open, I experienced a high success rate with sharp focuses, more so than on other lenses.
Side note, I’ve been doing quite a bit of work for flagship, one of my all time fav clients to shoot for. Their executive chef Brian Gist and their marketing team are a great group of folks to be around. Working on a yacht pretty much rules as well! Thanks for reading.