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Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master Lens Review

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master Review - John Riley reviews the Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master lens for Sony's full-frame mirrorless cameras.

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Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master Lens Review: FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master

At one time, before the onslaught of the ubiquitous zoom lens, the 135mm was the second lens most amateur photographers would be buying; after the 50mm standard lens that invariably came with the camera. The market was full to the brim with 135mm f/2.8 lenses. This in itself was an anachronism, as the reason for a 135mm lens in the first place was that it was the longest lens that could be reliably focused on a Leica rangefinder camera. So the 135mm lens stuck, even with the rise of the SLR design, and was widely used as a first telephoto. Even today there are quite a few 135mm lenses, many of them with fast, bright maximum apertures, such as this new Sony G Master. It must be said that I always found 135mm a bit on the long side, preferring 100mm lenses, but I'm prepared to be wowed by another fine G Master lens if it delivers the stunning quality of the rest of the range. Let's see if it lives up to those expectations, using the 42MP Sony A7R III body.


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Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master Handling and Features

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master Lens Review: Sony Fe 135mm F1,8 GM No Hood On A7RIII

Weighing in at a substantial 950g, the lens instantly feels well made and close examination reveals excellent finish, using quality materials. Despite the weight and bulk, it does balance well with the Sony A7R III. It is dust and moisture resistant, so shooting can continue as the weather deteriorates.

Starting at the front of the lens, a generously sized round lens hood is provided. This bayonets securely into place and has a secure locking catch. Within this fitting, we find a standard 82mm filter thread. Immediately behind this is the wide manual focus ring. This has no function in normal AF settings but activates when either the MF option is selected in the camera menu or DMF (Direct Manual Focus) is chosen. DMF means that the manual focus ring is active whilst AF is being employed. AF is driven quickly and silently by 4 XD Linear motors. Focusing is down to 0.7m, or 2.3 feet, a maximum magnification of 0.25x, or 1:4. This is much closer than usual for a 135mm lens and means really tight portrait shots can easily be obtained. It increases the versatility of the lens significantly.

Next up are the two focus hold buttons, both having identical function and offering the same convenience for landscape and portrait orientation. It does assume though that the photographer uses the shutter release up position for vertical shots, rather than shutter release down.

Behind this is the beautifully designed aperture ring, worthy of being fitted to the most expensive cine lenses. The A setting enables the aperture changing to be done by the camera. The ring otherwise offers very precise click stops in one-third stop increments. The clicks can be turned off via a switch on the lens barrel just behind the ring. On the opposite side of the barrel is the AF/MF switch, which is self-explanatory, and a focus limiter. The limiter options are Full, 0.7-2m and 1.5m to infinity.

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master Lens Review: Sony Fe 135mm F1,8 GM Left Side View

Optical construction is 13 elements in 10 groups, with 1 XA (Extreme Aspherical), 1 Super ED (Super Extra Low Dispersion) and 1 ED (Extra Low Dispersion). The diaphragm has 11 blades, aiming to produce the smoothest bokeh possible, the softest gradation in the out of focus areas in an image.

In terms of handling, there are no particular vices with the lens. All the controls are well placed, focusing is fast and accurate, the aperture ring is delightfully over-engineered, and the longer than average 135mm focal length proves to be much more usable as the lens focuses so much closer than traditional ones ever did. In the 1950s, a 135mm might focus down to 13 feet, by the early 1970s this might have been more like 4 or 5 feet, and now this new Sony brings that down to a very respectable 2.3 feet. It does make all the difference and the lens has exciting close-up potential.

In fact, the original question about the focal length being too long is somewhat answered by the ability to focus as close as this lens does. If the performance matches the handling, then we will have a very likeable lens.

Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 G Master Lens Review: Sony Fe 135mm F1,8 GM Rear Oblique View

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