Praising the 135mm

In a post dateline eight days ago, Phoblographer publisher Chris Gampat explains “What You Should Know Before Buying a 135mm Lens“. He describes my favorite Prime focal length: “a magical wonder for many photographers”; “optically speaking, no one looks bad on the other end of this lens”; “notoriously hard to get in focus”; and “render[s] super tight if you don’t have a lot of room”. Also calling 135mm a “pain”, he acknowledges: “I’ll admit they can create beautiful photos”.

If shooting an interchangeable lens camera, rather than fixed-28mm Leica Q2, I absolutely would favor 135mm. Honestly, I might go 85mm for close spaces but otherwise mainly use the longer focal length. I love 135mm.

Some of my best photography comes from the Canon EF 135mm f/2 USM lens attached to 20D. That was my mainstay, circa 2007. The Featured Image and companions, captured during Cherry Blossom Festival parade in Washington, DC. on April 14 of that year, come from the kit.

The focal length makes long shots, like these, seemingly intimate—with great bokeh and portraiture, as seen in the first of the four photos. Vitals: f/6.3, ISO 160, 1/500 sec, 135mm; 10:11 a.m. EDT.

I would dispute Chris Gampat’s grumblings about focus, which never presented a problem for me. Precision made dynamic and more interesting in some shots, particularly when shallower depth of field blurred objects before and behind. The second shot is good example and the third more so; focal point is deliberately the trumpet bell (and what’s reflected from it). Vitals: f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/500 sec, 135mm; 10:12 a.m. The other is same but ISO 160 and 10 a.m.

The last portrait brings from afar a rider seemingly close. Vitals: f/5.6, ISO 200, 1/500 sec, 135mm; 9:55 a.m. If I rightly recall, shutter speed was preset and everything else auto. All four are composed as shot.