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Old 6th of February 2006 (Mon)   #1
schmoelzel
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Default Canon 135f2.8 Soft Focus ....kind of a review!

Greetings from WINTER here in Southwestern Ontario Canada! I recently moved into a very well-established and historic neighbourhood here in London Ontario and I was approached by a neighbour whilst taking shots of Julia. He mentioned that he was also into photography but hadn't yet taken the digital plunge! He was also a Canon shooter and went to show me his favourite lens, the EF 135f2.8 SF lens. I have heard and read about this prime but hadn't seen or touched one before. After a little photography chit-chat, I suggested that he borrow my 135L for a day and I would try out his 135f2.8. That was yesterday and here is my brief experience with this lens:

Build

Not even close to the 135L but actually feels fairly robust. He didn't have a hood so I am not sure if the 135L hood would fit......I assume it doesn't. The only comparison I could make is to my ex-50f1.4 which is not too shabby. But again, the 135L feels more substantial and just exudes confidence.

AF Speed

No USM (I think this is one of Canon's older lenses) but it isn't loud or raspy as some other consumer primes. I think I am spoiled by the 135L and its super-fast AF so this did seem a little slower but in actual use, I found it more than acceptable. Remember that Julia is now a fast-moving toddler so the AF speed is beginning to make a noticable difference in my shooting. I have to say that unless you are very very picky with AF speed, you won't be bothered by the slightly slower AF that this lens offers.

Optics

Here is where I can say that I was rather impressed by this lens! It is sharp. Is it as sharp as the 135L? No, but very few lenses are and it is very very close wide-open. I have heard that CA can be a problem with this lens but I didn't really check since I rarely take shots of Julia climbing up a tree!! The colour and contrast were also very good even though I prefer the more saturated colours that I get from the 135L. That said, many will appreciate the lighter colour tones and accurate skin-tones that I got with the f2.8 version. The rather fast aperture is also a nice thing to have........I was shooting next to a window and it was cloudy and snowing yesterday. I did try the SF feature that this lens boasts but I didn't like it at all..........I guess when they originally made this lens, Photoshop was in it's infancy and to get this type of soft effect for portraits was something that was done in-camera. I found that the colours and contrast were also too muted for my taste with the SF on.........needless to say, I took two or three shots with the SF on, chimped to see what they were like, hated them and switched it off!! All in all, for a lens that is 1/3 the price of the L, it is rather good and I am happy with quite a few of the shots that got! If I didn't have the L, I would be happy to have the 135f2.8 SF!

My neighbour thankfully returned my 135L today and said he also enjoyed using it very much!! I was just thankful that he returned it!!
Anyhow, not too make this too long, here are a few of the shots (Julia of course!!) that I took..........I think that if you can find a good used copy, this lens is quite good! Thanks for looking and comments and critiques are always welcome!!



Camera: Canon 1D
Shutter speed: 1/250 sec
Aperture: 2.8
Exposure mode: Manual
Flash: Off
Metering mode: Spot
Drive mode: Single frame shooting
ISO: 320
Lens: 135.0 mm
Focal length: 135.0mm
AF mode: One-shot AF



Camera: Canon 1D
Shutter speed: 1/250 sec
Aperture: 2.8
Exposure mode: Manual
Flash: Off
Metering mode: Spot
Drive mode: Single frame shooting
ISO: 320
Lens: 135.0 mm
Focal length: 135.0mm
AF mode: One-shot AF



Camera: Canon 1D
Shutter speed: 1/160 sec
Aperture: 2.8
Exposure mode: Manual
Flash: Off
Metering mode: Spot
Drive mode: Single frame shooting
ISO: 250
Lens: 135.0 mm
Focal length: 135.0mm
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Old 6th of February 2006 (Mon)   #2
Mark_Cohran
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

I have both of these lenses - and I have to agree with all of your conclusions.

Mark
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Old 6th of February 2006 (Mon)   #3
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

Thank you for this wonderful little review. After the advice you gave me last week I played around with my 50mm 1.8 some more and found that it just blows my Tamron away (Sharpness) for candid shots of my daughter. I have decided that I need some more primes and this will be on my list if money for the L isn't available.
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Old 6th of February 2006 (Mon)   #4
rdenney
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

The 135/2.8 SF uses the same lens hood as the 85/1.8.

Rick "who also doesn't like the soft focus effects on this lens" Denney
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Old 6th of February 2006 (Mon)   #5
JMHPhotography
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

Once again you've proven that it's not as much the gear as it is the operator. these pictures are just beautiful and I'm having a tough time seeing any lack in color saturation. You must have enhanced the color in PP? Either way Julia is adorable and your photography is inspiring. I think if I were able to produce shots like this, I'd be thrilled regardless of the glass used to get them.
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Old 6th of February 2006 (Mon)   #6
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

schmoelzel, I was just going to say is that you - and it is when I looked!

Those shots are you're signature. I look at the exif data and there is no clue to how you achieve such immaculate shots. I have read your workflow, but there is still something missing from my shots (with 50mm 1.4 - see pic).

I have a theory that it is the wonderful light in Ontario, (along with far too much talent, of course ). That last shot could almost be with a 85mm 1.2

Sounds like the 135 SF's are going to be flying off the shelves pretty soon!

Thanks for the review (still like my f2 though!).

Graham

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Last edited by blue_max : 6th of February 2006 (Mon) at 16:00. Reason: add pic
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Old 6th of February 2006 (Mon)   #7
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

schmoelzel: I love your work. As a request, could you please shoot with some cheaper lenses? Maybe like the 50mm f/1.8 or Sigma 24-70EX or something.. hehe. I want to see how you fare with those, as I bet you will produce brilliant images!!

London eh... mind if I drop by one day and we'll go shooting! Maybe you can teach something
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Old 6th of February 2006 (Mon)   #8
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

Great shots Michael( as usual )

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Old 7th of February 2006 (Tue)   #9
schmoelzel
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

Thanks for the nice compliments! I had a PM asking why I used a high ISO (320).........to get a decent exposure I had to bump it up a little. Not one of the 1D's strong suits but works in a pinch!!
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Old 9th of February 2006 (Thu)   #10
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

Quote:
Originally Posted by KevC
schmoelzel: I love your work. As a request, could you please shoot with some cheaper lenses? Maybe like the 50mm f/1.8 or Sigma 24-70EX or something.. hehe. I want to see how you fare with those, as I bet you will produce brilliant images!!

London eh... mind if I drop by one day and we'll go shooting! Maybe you can teach something
Stalk his posts and you'll find some shots as you describe... it doesn't matter, the guy is a portrait god!
Good going Michael... what a nice guy to trade away your 135L for a day. WOW!
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Old 9th of February 2006 (Thu)   #11
rdenney
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

Quote:
Originally Posted by blue_max
Those shots are you're signature. I look at the exif data and there is no clue to how you achieve such immaculate shots. I have read your workflow, but there is still something missing from my shots (with 50mm 1.4 - see pic).
You didn't ask me, and I hope you don't mind if I presume to comment.

The difference between your image above and Schmoezel's image further up is not that great. But here it is: He took care of his background, came in close to get rid of what didn't contribute to the story of the picture, and adjusted color and mid-tone values to achieve brightness and warmth. Your skin tones are cool by comparison, and the background is too much in focus and too much of the composition. If you had moved in much closer, showing only the face and the portion of the "art" that tells the story, then selected a white balance that warmed up the skin tones, and increased the center of the tone curve to brighten up the middle range, you'd be a lot closer. Compare the percentage of the frame taken up by face in your picture compared to Schmoelzel's.

Edit: I see that you've allowed edits, so I've taken the liberty of testing my own comments, attached.

Okay, that's enough from a guy whose portraits aspire to be as good as what you have presented, heh, heh.

Rick "just another idiot critic" Denney
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File Type: jpg elliot_letter_rick.jpg (94.5 KB, 4551 views)

Last edited by rdenney : 9th of February 2006 (Thu) at 21:29.
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Old 27th of June 2006 (Tue)   #12
cjm
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

I'm looking into buying this lens, does anyone have any more samples with the soft focus and hows the SF with things other then people?
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Old 27th of June 2006 (Tue)   #13
liza
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

In the review on www.fredmiranda.com, there is a comment or two to the effect that the SF is a bit too overpowering, although the lens is very sharp and great without the SF feature.
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Old 11th of April 2007 (Wed)   #14
cjm
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

No one uses this lens that can contribute any more samples?
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Old 24th of June 2007 (Sun)   #15
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Default Re: Canon 135f2.8 SF....kind of a review!

I have used this lens for a couple of months for sports, birds, portraits, and everything that my shorter lenses just can't quite reach. While it's not a phenominal lens, I've been very pleased with its performance in almost every avenue. It's AF speed, however, simply isn't good enough, so i've now set it aside in favor of the 70-200 f/2.8, which is much better suited to my needs.

Here is a cropped photographic comparison of a shot from the 135 SF and one from the 70-200, both at f/2.8. It is a 100% crop, but the image has been resized to 50%. I can post a 100% image later if somebody is willing to host it. Take a look for yourself.





Oh, the 135 SF is on the left, and the 70-200 is on the right. Both were focused on the corner intersection in the center of the curtain.
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