I haven’t spent more time wondering if I should buy a lens than I did with the Canon 135mm F2.0. It’s been described as one of the sharpest lenses in the Canon line up. However there are some disadvantages with the lens too, mostly centering around its lack of image stabilization and fixed long focal length. I wondered for years whether I’d feel trapped shooting my long lens fixed at 135mm and having to shoot at least as fast as 1/160th second. Would I not be better just keeping my second body firmly attached to the incredible and reliable Canon 70-200mm F2.8L II? The 70-200 is a staple in the arsenal of most photographers I know. I’m not sure I’d ever turn up to a big job without one in my bag. Recently though I’ve been carrying less equipment to press events. I like to challenge myself a little more than I used to, and shooting with primes certainly does that. You have to give in to the fact that sometimes you may not have the right focal length. You might have to be creative and push the traditional boundaries with more creative cropping or angles. I’ve found the shooting with the Canon 135mm F2.0L lens forces me to do just that. Sometimes on a red carpet it forces me to shoot tighter headshots than I’d like, or allows me to capture distant shots with only ambient light at F2.0. You do have to push the ISO a little more than I want to shoot at 1/160th a second, but compared to shooting with the 70-200 the IS often compensates similarly to the extra stop of aperture. I can’t believe its taken me this long to talk about the speed and accuracy of the focusing ability of this lens. It’s quick, quick, quick and when it’s accurate (which is most of the time) the images are SHARP! I find camera shake from the lack of image stabilization when I’m trying to push the shutter speed to 1/125th or below is the main culprit of soft images.
Canon EF 135mm F2.0 L USM Lens Pros
- Image Quality is superb
- Focus is fast and accurate
- Beautiful out of focus background from wide aperture
- Size and weight is very compact and light for focal length
- Discreet looking long lens
Canon EF 135mm F2.0 L USM Lens Cons
- No image stabilization
- Fixed focal length constricting
Canon EF 135mm F2.0 L USM Lens Competition
Mitakon Zhongyi Creator 135mm F2.8 II – $229.00
Samyang 135mm F2.0 – $599.00
Zeiss 135mm F2.0 Apo Sonnar T* ZE Lens – $2122.00
Canon EF 135mm F2.0 L USM Lens Conclusion
After many years of reading about the Canon 135mm F2.0L lens I finally made the leap last year, and the lens has been used much more than I thought it ever would. It’s size is one of the biggest advantages I didn’t really think about. It’s much smaller and lighter than the Canon 70-200 F2.8L II. The best prime lens to probably compare this one with is the incomparable Canon 85mm F1.2L II lens – the low light portrait beast! They are definitely different focal lengths and offer different perspectives, but the step up in price is significant, so you have to ask, will the 135mm work instead of the 85mm? I’d argue not, as the 85mm is just an incredible lens, but the 135 certainly places a nice long prime on a second body. I find myself bringing this lens when I know I want to travel light and have the ability to shoot more creative long lens images than the extremely flexible 70-200mm lens allows. For me it’s a bit tight as a portrait lens, I like to include more of the environment and the 135mm throws most of that totally out. It’s certainly a hard lens to justify if you don’t have the expendable income, I would often encourage most photographers to go for flexibility when considering their options. I however don’t regret this purchase one bit as another option instead of my professional zoom. The next step up is the Canon 200mm F2.0, which is about $4500 more expensive.