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Canon 135mm F/2 L USM Interchangeable Lens Review

Canon claims this lens as the fastest 135mm prime lens and we canít find a faster one available. So what use is a fast, short telephoto lens. We take a look.

|  Canon 135mm F/2 L USM in Interchangeable Lenses
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Canon claims this lens as the fastest 135mm prime lens and we can’t find a faster one available. So what use is a fast, short telephoto lens. We take a look.

Canon 135mm F/2 L USMSpecification

  • Focal length 135mm
  • Aperture f/2.0
  • Angle of view
  • Filter size / type 72mm
  • Construction Elements/groups 10 elements in 8 groups
  • Focusing type Internal
  • Closest focus 0.9m
  • Weight 0.750kg
  • Dimensions (Dia x length) 82.5x112mm
  • Mounts available Canon,
  • Tripod bush No
  • Price £900

Build and handling
As with all of Canons L series lenses, this one is built for professional use and will stand a fair bit of miss handling. The simple design of the prime lens helps with the single focus ring and a pair of small switches for AF/MF and focus limit being the only moving parts on the lens, a standard distance window, with a basic depth-of-field scale being the only other accoutrement.

The focus limit switch restricts focusing to 1.6m to infinity from the full 0.9m to infinity and cuts down the short focus time even more. It also helps if you are not doing any close work or are trying to shoot through a fence or the like. The USM motor keeps things nice and quiet as well as quick. Internal operation means the front element does not rotate, another plus point.

The focus ring doesn’t rotate during autofocus either, but can be manually over-ridden without switching. So generally, it is a very usable lens. The focal length is at the long end of what is normally recommended for portraiture and with the perspective it gives, this still holds true in the cropped digital age. The wide aperture does mean that this lens can be used in low lighting conditions where others might well struggle. This includes indoor sports in confined conditions as well as Gig and stage photography.

Optical Quality
L glass from the Canon camp is legendary in its reputation for producing the goods and this example is no black sheep. The simpler construction of prime lenses does make high quality easier to obtain, but even so, this is a top quality piece of glass in all respects.

Contrast, as is usual, is good and the control of chromatic aberrations is well handled. Sharpness wide open is certainly usable and improves as the lens is stopped down, peaking at around the f/8 mark.

Where this lens does score is in the out-of-focus areas, giving a pleasing effect that helps the main subject stand out.

A useful focal length for close quarter sport action, the fast aperture makes this lens just as effective indoors.

Even with a cluttered background, the depth of field helps this grabbed portrait shot jump out in the full size file.

The low light ability of this lens scores dividends where other lenses might struggle.

Click on each comparision photo below to view full size versions

135mm at f/2

135mm at f/8

Below is our lens test data. To find out how to use these graphs look at this article: How we test lenses

A lens of this nature is a reasonably specialised piece of kit. It’s speed, both light gathering and focussing, make it ideal for indoor sport and event work. It also scores highly if you want portraits with OOF backgrounds where the focal length is near perfect.
So if you have the need for a lens of this type and can warrant the price, you will not be disappointed with the results.

In summary the main positive points of the Canon 135mm F/2 L USM are:
Fast and silent Autofocus
Simple operation
Good optical quality with nice OOF ‘Bokeh’

Negative points are:
Unusual size filters.

Check the latest price of the Canon 135mm F/2 L USM here


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Great review of a great lens. I don't leave the house without this lens. Here's my in-depth review if you want another photographer's perspective.

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