The Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM is a prime telephoto lens that focuses fast, shoots well in low light situations and produces extremely sharp results. Its L-Series designation and trademark red ring mean that it is manufactured with high build and optical qualities, and is found near the high end of the Canon lens price spectrum.
The Canon 135mm f/2 L is a prime, telephoto lens. Its focal length is fixed at 135mm and does not change -- if you want to recompose a frame, you'll need to physically move yourself. Being a telephoto lens, it brings you in close to distant subjects. It also compresses objects in the frame, making it appear as if subjects at varying distances from your position are closer together. For example, take a look at the following frame and note how the city skyline seems to be very close to the bridge, despite those buildings being miles away in reality.
Portrait photographers often agree that the perspective compression qualities of telephoto lenses are pleasing to facial features, making this lens a great choice for photographing people… just make sure you can get far enough away, as it won't focus on anything closer than 9 tenths of a meter.
Fast f/2.0 Max Aperture
This lens boasts a very "fast" f/2.0 maximum aperture, meaning the opening through which light passes through the lens and onto the camera's sensor can be opened up very wide to allow a lot of light to enter at once. This is said to be "fast" because using a larger aperture allows for faster shutter speeds, which is essential for eliminating blur caused by hand movement. This is especially useful in low light situations which often demand slower shutter speeds in order to get enough light into the camera.
Using a large aperture also decreases depth of field, giving you the ability to isolate subjects from backgrounds. Take a look at the photo below and note how the subjects are in focus while the background is blurred out of focus. This scene was shot at f/2.0, which is the largest maximum aperture of the EF 135mm f/2L USM.
The combination of a long, telephoto focal length and wide f/2.0 maximum aperture in this lens results in very diffuse, blurry out-of-focus backgrounds. Of course you can always stop the lens down to a smaller aperture to get more of the scene in focus as well.
If there's any category where this lens is going to disappoint, it's certainly not the image quality department. With the EF 135mm f/2L USM, you'll see great colors, excellent contrast, and perhaps most notably, incredible sharpness. The first few frames I saw out of this lens were astounding -- photos taken with this lens are so sharp they're dangerous. You'll see sharp results at it's widest f/2.0 aperture, and things get even better as you stop it down. Things especially pop in scenes with tiny details like architecture and landscapes.
Size & Build Quality
Like other L-Series lenses, the EF 135mm f/2L USM is manufactured with a rugged build quality. It is weather resistant (a lens filter is required to complete weather sealing), and features solid construction.
As far as fast telephoto lenses go, this one is small and light. It doesn't add much weight to your bag, and its dark color and small size won't have people staring at you on the street. I find that these factors make it a great travel telephoto lens.
The most commonly heard application for this lenses are indoor sports and performing arts, since it gets you close to the action and does very well in environments with little available light. Gymnasiums, theaters and auditoriums are all places were this glass will shine.
The EF 135mm f/2L USM is also a star when it comes to street and urban photography. If you're shooting people, they're less likely to notice or be intimidated by this small, black lens than say, a huge white Canon telephoto zoom like the 70-200 series of lenses. Its long focal length and ability to isolate subjects with a shallow depth of field give you the ability to capture images of individual elements -- walk down a city block and you'll find endless photo opportunities. Or, use it on a parade or performance to pick out individual participants, performers and other elements.
As I've already mentioned, this lens' small size and light weight makes it a great travel telephoto lens. It makes street shooting and tight landscapes in far off lands much easier to capture.
The Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM is an excellent lens, and one that I use frequently. It's easy to carry, unobtrusive, features excellent image quality and performs extremely well in low light. Remember that this is a prime lens -- the only zooming that will happen with the EF 135mm f/2 is you walking closer to your subject. The 135mm focal length may also feel a bit foreign if you haven't used telephoto lenses much. In that case it may take some getting used to, and might not fit everyone's style of shooting. But if you do put in the time to shoot with and learn this lens, its results will leave you satisfied. And if you are a telephoto shooter looking for something like this, I think you'll be very happy as well.
Where to Buy the Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM
- Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM at B&H
- Canon EF 135mm f/2.0L USM at Adorama
- Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM at Amazon.com
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