135mm lens - what`s it for?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Ridge08, Mar 1, 2009.

  1. Ridge08 macrumors member

    Feb 2, 2009
    So from what I`ve read, 85mm and 105mm lenses are often used for portraits. (Depending on how much of the body you want to show?) Is there any standard use of a 135mm lens?

    Just curiosity, not searching for a justification to buy something.
  2. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    For a DSLR with a smaller sensor, I guess a 50 mm and 85 mm make more sense for portraits.

    For a full frame: 85 mm is the classic portrait lens, while 105 mm or even 135 mm would make sense for some. After all, people still used the 85 mm f1.4 and f1.8 on DSLRs before full frame sensors were somewhat affordable, and on a Nikon, that's equivalent to 127.5 mm on a full frame camera. A focal length of 135 mm wouldn't be a huge stretch.

    Also, it could be useful for those who need reach under very low light conditions (e.g. concert photography in some venus), but can't afford something like the Nikon 200 mm f/2 lens. The 135 mm f2 is a decent compromise on price and focal length. :)
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    Ditto. Back in the film days, focal lengths between 80 and 135 mm were considered `standard focal lengths for portraits.' Hence, most manufacturers had at least three lenses in their line-up: ~80 mm f/1.8 or f/1.4, ~100 mm f/2 and ~135 mm f/2 or f/2.8.

    With digital sensors, the math is different: 50 mm corresponds to 80 mm, 80 mm corresponds roughly to 120~130 mm. 135 mm lenses IMO do not have the appeal they used to anymore -- unless, of course, you have a full frame body.
  4. tamasvarga67 macrumors regular

    Sep 29, 2007
    The 135 mm lens on full frame body is a great portrait lens. I have a Canon EF135f2L and recently a 5D full frame body. It is one of my favorite lenses fast and sharp even wide open.
    Its a very versatile and useful lens also good for indoor sports or other events but when I was on a Kenyan safari I used it a lot on a 30D body. It's a 215mm equivalent telephoto lens on the 1.6 crop body and you can blur the background with it very nicely. The 135f2L is one of Canon's best lenses and I don't have any experience with Nikon or others but who knows... they can be just as good.
  5. mcnicks macrumors regular

    Jan 8, 2006
    The main reason certain focal lengths are suggested for portraits is because wide angle lenses do this to faces:


    But the effect goes away if you stand far enough back. Very roughly speaking, a focal length of around 100mm allows you to get a head and shoulders shot whilst standing far enough back to avoid any unflattering near-field weirdness. There are other side issues as well, such as depth of field and avoiding getting too intimate with the subject (hard to relax and find a natural pose with a lens in your face).

    So there is no reason why you could not use a 135mm lens for a portrait. However, you might end up some distance away from your subject, which can make communication a bit awkward.
  6. Pikemann Urge macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2007
    It is the odd one out, I think. But if your lens set includes 35mm and 75/85mm (as opposed to 50mm and 100mm), then the next step up logically is 135mm or thereabouts. 100mm is too close to 75/85mm and 180mm is to far away.

    Also, it is a hangover from when just about all 35mm cameras were rangefinders. The longest lens you could practically use on a RF camera was 135mm (so I have been told). Leica had a 90mm and a 135mm but with one exception never made a 105mm; Canon did, though.

    I'd love a 135 f/2.0 but for me the 105 f/1.8 was better value.
  7. PeteB macrumors 6502a


    Jan 14, 2008
    The 135mm makes for an excellent portrait lens. The long focal length gives you excellent isolation properties that makes the subject pop out of the background.

    I own the Canon 135L which gives excellent sharpness/contrast/bokeh.

    For other applications, the 135mm works well, but as with any prime, you need to work on your technique and framing to get the effect you need. When you get it right, the results can be extremely pleasing.
  8. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    Portrait lenses are usually 85-135mm, though many will shoot a little wider (like 50) or a little longer (200). Shorter than 100mm ends up distorting the face when shooting a headshot. 135mm was also the go-to telephoto length back when zooms sucked at just about everything.

    Now, 85mm is a popular focal length, and on a APS-C camera, it gives a ~135mm FoV.
  9. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I have one. It's an older manual focus 135mm f/2.8 lens. It is a very useful length for use with film or a "full frame" digital body. When mounted to a digital "crop frame" body the lens acts like a more powerful telephoto than I need. With my digital SLR I prefer to use the 85mm f/1.8 lens
  10. Ridge08 thread starter macrumors member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Mcnicks (and anyone who shoots portraits), what`s a good working distance to avoid distortion without losing intimacy or making communication difficult?

    And I keep reading about people using longer teles when taking portraits outside. Does that mean the person you`re photographing isn`t actually a model posing for you? Or is it just to get better compression of the background, since you`re less able to control that than in a studio?

    Oh, and one more question, though it`s moving off-topic a little. I have a Nikon, so the crop factor is 1.5. I understand the angle of view is 1.5 times greater on full frame. But using a lens on a DX body doesn`t actually increase the magnification compared to FX, does it?
  11. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    a "good working distance" to avoid distortion corresponds to a 100mm lens (minimum) for a headshot. put side-by-side with a 135mm, you can probably tell the difference, but alone you won't.

    outdoors, you want the background blurred. that means fast and/or long lenses.

    correct. what you basically get is a full-frame image with the edges cropped off.

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