If you ask a Canon user what the best portrait lenses are, he or she is probably going to mention the 50mm f/1.2L and the 85mm f/1.2L. While both these lenses are top notch, they are by no means the only excellent portrait lenses in Canon’s lineup. One of my favorite is the 135mm f/2L, quite an uncommon sight these days. Perhaps it’s the lack of popularity of the 135mm focal length, but everyone who’s ever used this lens has fallen madly in love with it.
When you pick it up, it’s not a particularly big or heavy prime lens. It weighs approximately 750 grams and like all L lenses the build quality is premium. However, the lens is not weather sealed so it might not be the best first option of if you want to use it in rough weather.
The optical design features 10 elements divided in 8 groups, with two UD elements and an aperture with 8 blades.
In actual use, it stays on top like most of the L lineup. It works flawlessly and it makes everything easy, especially when you mount it on a something like the 5DsR or the 1Dx. It is very well balanced and even if you put it on something lighter, like a Rebel, it still feels great in your hands.
Despite being an older design, the autofocus is fast and accurate and obviously it supports manual override. It’s almost silent and it works very well with every Canon DSLR, including older film cameras.
In terms of image quality, this is without doubt one of the best and sharpest lenses Canon has ever made. It puzzles me how overlooked it is and how so many people go for 85s. Even wide open at f/2, this lens is just as sharp as it is at f/8. That’s something pretty rare even for primes. Only starting with f/11 does a little diffraction start to interfere.
Because it is primarily intended to be a portrait lens, bokeh is very important. Let me tell you that even if it isn’t an f/1.4 lens, the out of focus areas look superb to say the least. Everything is creamy and smooth which is exactly what you want in a lens that usually has to cover a single subject.
Colors have a great natural look to them and the contrast is very good. It’s really hard to say anything bad about the results.
It’s a fantastic choice for portrait and wedding photographers and the extra reach gives it an edge over the acclaimed 85mm. Although it’s “just” an f/2 lens, the bokeh is just as good thanks to the longer length.
You can get an excellent condition one for just under $750. This is by all means a bargain especially when you take the amazing image quality into account. I highly recommend it for professionals and serious amateurs. It will be some of the best spent money.