Canon 135mm f/2L ~ My first real world portraits

Dec 2, 2009 | Uncategorized | 34 comments

Along with the Zeiss glass of my previous 2 posts I bought myself a Canon 135mm f/2.0 L lens on Ebay last weekend. Here are four of my first shots taken with it. All the pictures were shot on my Pocket Wizard creative workshops earlier this week. I shot them hand held and used central zone AF with a focus and re-frame technique.

Silver br

Canon 5Dmk2, Canon 135mm f2L, ISO 200, 1/1250th second at f/2.8

The above shot was lit with a 580EX2 Speedlight firing into a Kood silver brolly clamped to the bridge structure using an Arri Magic Arm and Super Clamp. The backlight was provided by a 580EX2 Speedlight on a Lastolite stand. Both flashes were triggered by Pocket Wizard TTL units.

Canon 5Dmk2, Canon 135mm f2L, ISO 200, 1/1250th second at f/2.8

Canon 5Dmk2, Canon 135mm f2L, ISO 400, 1/60th second at f/4

The above shot was lit with a 580EX2 high on a Lastolite stand from the front with a Honl CTO gel and a 430EX2 (in shot) from behind with a Honl 1/4″ grid and a CTB gel.

Canon 5Dmk2, Canon 135mm f2L, ISO 200, 1/1250th second at f/2.8

Canon 5Dmk2, Canon 135mm f2L, ISO 400, 1/60th second at f/2

I lit the above shot with a barefaced, zoomed in 580EX2 attached to a Lastolite stand with a Lovegrove Flash Bracket. The flash was triggered with the Pocket Wizard TTL system just like the other shots here. Note the shape of the out of focus highlights on this wide open shot. ‘Rugby balls’ at the edge of the frame.

Canon 5Dmk2, Canon 135mm f2L, ISO 200, 1/1250th second at f/2.8

Canon 5Dmk2, Canon 135mm f2L, ISO 400, 1/80th second at f/2.5

The above shot is my ‘student art’ shot on the 135mm lens. Shame it’s not pin sharp.

Please feel free to comment on the pictures,  Damien.

34 Comments

  1. George

    Good move Damien. Let me know how you find it.

    I’m loving this lens for close-ups and for portraits currently. The IS makes one handed camera operation on a 5DMK2 a breeze – easy to forget you’re at 100mm – Great with the Orbis too.

    As I remind myself, This is the only prime lens Canon make with IS – and the best version of IS too.

    And a small detail to boot – this lens comes with the new Canon hoods that don’t scruff and scratch easily.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi George,

      I ordered my 100mm lens from Warehouse Express yesterday. They are not in stock so it will be interesting to see when it arrives. W.E. offer the best customer service so it’s worth the wait.

      Damien.

      Reply
  2. George

    Damien I read you are selling the 135mm F2.

    I’ve decided to do the same. I found the lens to be fantastic sharp , just like my 85L F1.2. BUT, it’s not a lens to drag the shutter with and its uses are limited. On the plus side it is very light and focusing is very fast.

    In it’s place I have the 100mm Macro IS now. If you’re fussy about optics, you really need to give it a try! Stunning lens, edge to edge sharp and superb 4 stop IS.

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi George,

      Your comment has got me thinking. I’m going to buy a 100mm and give it a go. I’m all excited now.

      Regards, Damien.

      Reply
  3. frank williams

    Hi Damien,
    Was wondering if you have used the new 70-200mm 2.8VR2 from Nikon. The reason I ask is that I had the the one before this an to be honest it was not that good on my Nikon D3 as the image were to soft, even tho i had it calibrated to the body.
    If you have have used both did you see a difference as there were a lot of unhappy photographers with the first vr version on the D3 body. I must add that first vr model i had worked perfect on a D300. Must be something to do with the cropped sensor.
    Regards frank williams

    Reply
    • damien

      Hi Frank, I’ve got the original 70-200 VR on my D700 and I love it – pin sharp. Yes, there’s a bit of vignetting at f/2.8 but I like that too ;). I’ve not tried the new one yet. It’s a bit steep at the mo. Regards, Damien.

      Reply
  4. damien

    Hi Karl,

    I looked at the 20mm f/2 but was shocked at the price. I rarely shoot with a wider aperture than f/4 so the cost was not viable. I also love the sharpness and clarity of my 70-200 f/2.8L lens. I’ve not yet seen a shot from the 135 that wouldn’t look as good or better on the zoom. The 21mm Zeiss however is in a different league to the zoom it replaced. My experience as a Canon and Nikon owner is that the latest Nikon wide zooms are the best out there easily matching primes for quality and the Canon Tele zooms are fantastic, also matching primes for quality.

    Cheers, Damien.

    Reply
  5. Karl Bratby

    good to see your investing in prime fast glass, they just have that something extra, using my new nikon 200mf2 makes you realise that these fast tele primes are in a different class of glass and it is pin sharp even at f2 but so it should be for just over 3k.

    Reply
  6. Gwyn Cole

    Thorsten, great link about focus shift!

    Reply
  7. damien

    Thanks will.

    Richard, It was great to have you with us. The chance to be creative and make pictures is always exciting even in the winter. Thanks for your kind words.

    Damien.

    Reply
  8. damien

    Hi Kevin,

    The lens is fine, it’s a combination of me and the 5Dmk2. Because with the right shutter speed it is sharp but not always in the right place :)

    Thanks for the ideas though. Damien.

    Reply
  9. Richard Mortimer

    With regard to the rugby balls I got exactly the same effect on the edge of the frame on that shot using the 70-200 f2.8 so the effect is not just confined to your lens. By the way, Tuesday was just great. I had a fantastic time!

    Reply
  10. Kevin Moore

    Damien,
    Did you by new or used off Ebay?
    If get to the point when you dont think its technique try http://www.lensalign.com
    I found older lenses suffer more.
    Perhaps you could get your friends at Warehouse Express to let you do a back to back with the Canon 85’s? I am very happy with my non L 85. Thinking about all the PW’s I could by with the saved 1k

    Reply
  11. damien

    Hi Mark, Thanks for the heads up on the 85mm f/1.8.

    Reply
  12. damien

    Hi David,

    Line of sight is not the only limiting factor in the 1st shot. The 1/1250th second in order to allow me to use f/2.8 is as much a problem. I doubt if the standard Canon hypersync could have delivered enough power at these settings. Especially as the key light is into a brolly and the backlight is at least 7m away from Natasha.

    Line of sight to the flashes would have been a problem too. The silver brolly was blocking line of sight to the main Speedlight.

    I hope this helps.

    Damien.

    Reply
  13. David

    Damien,

    I note nowadays you seem to use the Pocket Wizard in lieu of the ST-E2. Could you achieve the same lighting effect/set-up with the ST-E2 in photo #1, or was the IR receiver out of sight?

    D

    Reply
  14. Mark Betts

    Damien

    I have the Canon 85mm 1.8 and for the price its a fantastic bit of kit.

    Mark

    Reply
  15. damien

    Hi Andy, I’ll keep on working with the 135mm until I release it’s potential. It’s like driving a supercar, not easy to do but in the right hands and with the right practice the experience is like no other.

    The PWs work well on the new firmware although they are not rock solid yet. The good news is that you can buy now knowing that you will benefit from all future revisions.

    Using softboxes and brollies behind me and without line of sight has opened up a whole host of possibilities, and that alone is exciting. Couple this with f/4 shooting at 1/4000th and holding back the daylight by 2 stops and you have a revolution.

    Cheers, Damien.

    Reply
  16. damien

    Hi Phil,

    I thought the ‘rugby ball’ effect was normal. I get it with my 70-200 too although interestingly I never suffered it on my Canon TV lenses when working for the BBC.

    The 100mm is just a bit short for me. I’d still want my 70-200 in the bag and the idea is to ditch the zoom eventually.

    I’m considering the 85mm f/1.8 Canon and the 35mm f/1.2 Canon to replace my 24-70mm. But I ned to become happy with the 135mm first. Practice, practice, practice is what I’ll do.

    Cheers, Damien.

    Reply
  17. damien

    Hi Thorsten,

    Thanks for taking the time to reply in such a thorough way. I agree with all the strategies you suggest. I’ll shoot the f/2 at f/2.8 and use my monopod. Using IS zooms has made me lazy and this is just the kick up the backside I need in order to take my photography to the next level. It’s like shooting MF again and that is a good thing for me.

    It’s great to hear from you again. We’ll get together again in 2010 I’m sure ;-)

    Damien.

    Reply
  18. Andy mcdonald

    Damien

    Great lens, had one, sold it & bought a second. I use it a lot at weddings rather than my 70-200 now. Once you get used to it you’ll be pleased i have no doubt!

    p.s waiting for a PW beta SW update before i buy a few…..any ideas when you’ll have one up on the blog?

    A

    Reply
  19. Phil

    Hi Damien,
    I have this lens. It took a lot of getting used to but it is extremely sharp. The Rugby ball OOF are normal.

    I was thinking of upgrading mine to tje new 100 f2.8 IS macro. The IS and optical quality on it is said to be amazing

    Reply
  20. Thorsten Merz

    I’ve had this lens a couple of year now and when I first started using it I was very disappointed with the results, having paid so much money for it. So I put it away for a while and considered my options.

    When I started using it again, my results were significantly sharper and I can only put it down to improved technique on my part. That meant mainly shooting at higher shutter speeds than I had been in the past, but also closing down a little from max aperture. Whilst this lens is very sharp at max aperture, closed down even 1/3 to 2/3 of a stop makes noticeable difference, to my eyes at least.

    I’ve also found that in the time it takes to focus, recompose and take the shot, I, or my subject may have moved ever so slightly backward or forward and with such a narrow depth of field, small accidental lateral movements like that can make the difference between a shot that is sharp and one that isn’t.

    One other possibility which I haven’t really looked into yet, is a little known phenomenon known as focus shift – http://diglloyd.com/diglloyd/free/FocusShift/index.html I doubt it’s an issue in this instance, but you never know!

    – Thorsten.

    Reply
  21. Bob Massey

    Damien, great workshop on 1/12, can you confirm the eazybox used was the smaller 15″ and not the larger model.
    Ta Bob Massey

    Reply
  22. Jo Fonseca

    I burnt myself with this beautiful lens the 1st time out, no IS like the 70-200 (which lets you get away with 80th-100th sec speeds).
    I use auto ISO on Av mode for changing lighting conditions which gives me 125th sec. Ideally it needs 200th of sec, so this I set manually when shooting fixed lighting set-ups. Unless I use a support.
    Will check out the rugby ball OOF lights too.

    Reply
  23. Steve

    I had the same problem with the Canon 85mm 1.2 and later the Nikkor 135 F2. Results do get more consistant it takes time and practice. These lenses will suit your style so well. Stick with the 135 and buy the 85

    Makes you appreciate just how good Vr/IS really is

    Reply
  24. damien

    Hi Michael,

    You are right of course. 1/60th is not on with this optic. I can shoot pin sharp shots at 1/60th with my 70-200mm f/2.8L lens at 135mm because of the IS. I want to shoot with prime lenses because I want the shooting style it forces me to take, but I’m not prepared to accept shaky pictures as a result. I think I’ll tape up my zoom for a bit.

    Cheers,

    Damien.

    Reply
  25. michaelbs

    yes it’s normal.
    With shutterspeeds like that (1/60) – no wonder you get a lot of not pin sharp pics!
    :-)

    Reply
  26. damien

    Can anyone else with this lens please confirm the ‘rugby ball’ oof highlights near the edge of frame is normal.

    Thanks in advance, Damien.

    Reply
  27. Sam

    Great shots, I’ve got the same lens and love the very fast focusing and colour balance this lens provides.

    Reply
  28. damien

    Thanks Conor.

    My technique for focusing this lens needs attention though. I’m getting 1 sharp shot for 6 nearly sharp ones. At least with the manual focus Zeiss wide angle, it’s the other way round.

    Damien.

    Reply
  29. Conor

    I love the shots Damien, it’s a really remarkable lens.

    Reply

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