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Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM lens, the bright telephoto lens ideal for portraits.

|  Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

Canon Ef 135mm F2 L Usm (5)

A telephoto lens, which sports a fast maximum aperture of f/2 and silent focusing with full-time manual focus override and costs around £860. In this review we'll take a close look at how it performs.

Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM Handling and Features

Canon Ef 135mm F2 L Usm (2)

This lens has been around for quite some time now, having been introduced in 1996. Even so, the design and build needs no update as it is typical of Canon's L series lenses, with tough black plastics and a metal lens mount. However, this lens is not weather sealed like most current L series lenses are today. This lens weighs around 650g and it balances well on the Canon EOS 5D MKIII used for testing.

Canon Ef 135mm F2 L Usm (8)

Auto focus is powered by an Ultrasonic motor, and focusing is very fast and is virtually silent. Manual adjustments can be made at any point by turning the focus ring. The focusing ring is smooth, with just the right amount of resistance to make applying fine manual adjustments a pleasure. Minimum focus is 90cm from the sensor plane, which is typical for a lens of this focal length and aperture.

Focusing is performed internally and the 72mm filter thread does not rotate, which makes this lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters.

Canon Ef 135mm F2 L Usm (6)

Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM Performance

Sharpness in the centre of the frame is already excellent from maximum aperture, although clarity towards the edges of the frame falls behind somewhat. Stopping down improves sharpness towards the edges of the frame, whilst maintaining the same high levels of clarity in the centre. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8 where the clarity recorded approaches outstanding levels.

MTF @ 135mm
MTF @ 135mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are extremely well controlled, just exceeding a quarter of a pixel width at f/22 towards the edges of the frame. This low level should no issues, even in large prints and harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

CA @ 135mm
CA @ 135mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners is typical of a lens of this focal length and aperture. Here the corners of the frame are 1.7 stops darker than the image centre and illumination is visually uniform with the lens stopped down to f/5.6.

Distortion is stronger than you might expect with Imatest detected 1.3% pincushion distortion which may become noticeable in certain circumstances. As the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, it should be relatively simple to correct in image editing software afterwards.

A deep circular hood is supplied as standard with this lens, which does an excellent job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare. Even without the hood, the lens is not overly susceptible to flare and contrast remains high when shooting into the light.

Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM Sample Photos

Value For Money

This lens currently costs around £860, which seems like good value for money, given the excellent optical performance and build quality of this lens.

The closest equivalent to this lens is Canon's EF 135mm f/2.8 SF lens, which costs around £350 and includes a soft focus effect control, but is a stop slower at maximum aperture and lacks the optical quality of this lens.

Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM Verdict

Despite its age, this classic lens still manages to hold its own against more modern competition, thanks to fantastic optical quality and build. Being priced at around £860, it's not overly expensive either and is a particularly good value way to add one of Canon's best performing lenses to your collection.

  The Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L is one of Canon's best performing lenses with fantastic optical quality and build.

Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM Pros

Great build quality
Excellent sharpness
Low CA
Fast f/2 maximum aperture

Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM Cons

Sharpness not as good towards the edges at maximum aperture


Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Canon EF USM
Focal Length135mm
Angle of View0 - 15
Max Aperturef/2
Min Aperturef/32
Filter Size72mm
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus90cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details


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