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Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 with Softfocus

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27 118958 Feb 21, 2014
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100% of reviewers $262.67
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
7.53
9.58
9.2
ef135mmf_28soft_1_

Specifications:
Telephoto lens with a softfocus feature. It can give razor-sharp snapshots as well as softfocus shots that do not look blurry. You have a choice of two softfocus settings. Even for softfocus shots, focusing with AF is quick and accurate.


 


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Gunzorro
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Registered: Aug 27, 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 6830
Review Date: Feb 21, 2014 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Small, light, sharp without SF effect, good value, decent AF speed and not too noisy. Considering the age and introduction of the lens, it still holds its own like the 50/2.5 Compact Macro -- two great lenses.
Cons:
None, knowing what you are buying.

The lens is really quite sharp without applying the SF, from f/4 on. The SF can be decreases with smaller apertures. The #1 setting at f/5.6 only has a hint of softness and halo. The #2 setting is pretty "normal" at f/8. The SF effect is enhanced as the lens is opened up toward f/2.8. For me, the effect is too strong at #2 setting f/2.8 and needs to be nearer to f/5.0 to not seem too overdone.

Very good balance on 1D-series cameras like the 1Ds3.

This should make a nice companion to my 50L.


Feb 21, 2014
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king76
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Registered: Dec 6, 2008
Location: Netherlands
Posts: 0
Review Date: Dec 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: sharp and small
Cons:
dust sensitive, slowish AF

I bought this lens because I wanted a portrait lens that wasn't to close to my 50mm f1.4. The 135L was just a bit too expensive at the moment, so I checked out this soft focus lens. There is little reading on this lens on the net, but what I found was encouraging enough to give it a go. Found a used one and bought it after a few on the spot tests.

I've used it on my 5D, 40D and 350D.

pro:
This lens is very sharp. At f2.8 it is very usable, but from f4 it is just great (very comparable results as from my 50mm f1.4). I love the bokeh you get, you can really isolate our subject while the background gets a nice pro-look. On my 5D I get spectacular portraits.
This lens is very small for a 135mm and light too.

con:
Build quality is not great. There were spots of dust in my version and I heard of others with the same problem. Good thing is you don't see it on the photo's. The AF is ok, but not as good as some of my other lenses.

With what do I compare?: 24-105L, 50mm f1.4 and a couple of good Sigma zooms (so I don't have many primes).


Dec 6, 2008
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cor55
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Registered: Apr 15, 2008
Location: Australia
Posts: 0
Review Date: Dec 4, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: lightweight, sharp, versatile - 2 lenses in one - sharp 135mm prime, and a softfocus lens as well.
Cons:
cheap construction - dont get it wet.

I picked this lens up for the softfocus feature to add some creativity to my portraits. I never really considered getting a 135 prime because I have the 200mm f2.8 L which makes very nice portraits indeed. But when I was looking as some pictures in books of the softfocus effect, I decided to buy it.

If you dont want, need, or even consider using the softfocus feature, this lens is still a nicely priced, fast, sharp 135mm 2.8 prime. Great for standard portraits and street scenes etc, light weight, so good for travel, and relatively inconspicuous. It looks a bit strange sticking on the end of a 5D, and has a strange rubber band encircling the end of the lens. Also, the front glass element is set back inside the barrel, so you have like a mini hood, about 1cm, with a thread inside it that goes down to the glass. Strange 1987 design.

AF seems ok - you cant override the AF with manual, but I find the focus switch to be fairly easy to flick with my thumb, it should be a bit lower on the lens to make it more ergonomic, and the focusing ring is way too narrow. It's still useable, but it should be wider so it's easier to find. When you turn the ring, MF is fine. Sure it's not like the 200mm 2.8 L, a solid, well designed, expensive lens, but it does the job. AF noise is there, but so what. The lens records light, not sound.

Soft focus is an art in itself that I am only just starting to learn. You need the right lighting - back or side lighting, a darker background that the subject to show off the 'halo' soft effect, and there are many settings to use to get the desired effect. The soft focus ring has a notch for settings 1 and 2, and locks off at 0 for no effect. But you can set the ring anywere on the dial between 0 and 2. And by adjusting the aperture between 2.8 and 5.6, you have many combinations of this effect to try. After 5.6, the effect basically can not be seen.

So, a nice, fast, lightweight, inexpensive, 135 prime, with the added bonus of soft focus. What is there not to love?



Dec 4, 2008
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Fulcrum
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Registered: May 23, 2008
Location: Finland
Posts: 3
Review Date: Oct 6, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, lightweight, awesome bokeh, fast and quiet motor, accurate AF, softfocus feature is a nice addon
Cons:
None, except the plastic feel.

What can I say that has not already been said?

This lens is a versatile multitool of a lens. Rather surprising for a prime, you will not believe it until you experience it.

I got the lens for a bargain price of 250 euros (the price rating I gave is for the list price - I think all photography equipment costs too much)

The softfocus feature is useful to me, someone else may not like it. A matter of taste, really.

Anyway, I am happy with this product. Could not hope for a better portrait lens. This works really well with flowers and as a nature photography tool.

An excellent choice for a medium telephoto lens.



Oct 6, 2008
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24Peter
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Registered: May 4, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 1434
Review Date: Feb 17, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $275.00 | Rating: 8 

 
Pros: sharp; small, lightweight, cheap
Cons:
focus is slower than USM, slightly less accurate

Recently picked up my 3rd copy of this lens. This is the best one. First one was also nice and I regretted selling it. So.. second one wasn't as sharp. Held on to it a short time and then went without one for a while. Then while looking at some old photos taken with this lens I decided to pick up another.

Never use the soft focus feature. I use it as an outdoor, natural light portrait lens and more recently indoors with my strobes.

Samples at F3.5
http://photos.imageevent.com/24peter/emilyr/IMG_3746.JPG
http://photos.imageevent.com/24peter/emilyr/IMG_3736.JPG


Feb 17, 2008
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200231786
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Registered: May 12, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 1043
Review Date: Jan 8, 2008 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Price, f2.8, light-weight, good sharpness, internal focussing.
Cons:
AF is a little noisy, but only a little. MF-ring isn't as nice to use as on modern USM lenses, but better than on 'cheapo' Canon lenses.

I've had this lens for a few months now, using it on film and APS-C DSLRs.

I bought it mainly for these 3 reasons;
Image quality
Soft-focus
Price

I knew that it was a bit of an irrational purchase, I don't think I've ever needed soft-focus before, I've only used diffuse glow in PS a handful of times. This lens just seemed to be one of those 'special' lenses, and as primes were waht I was looking for, it was hard to resist.

Soft-focus was what initially attracted me, but the reviews stated its excellent IQ, which I suppose you should expect from a prime lens. I'd let one bargain 2nd hand lens opportunity pass me by, so the next one I saw on ebay I had to go for.


I can confirm pretty much everything all other reviewers have said. If the lens was USM-focus and had L build quality it would be perfect.

The IQ is more than good enough for me, by F4 the sharpness is as good as I could ever want, and F2.8 though a little soft when viewed at 100% is still more than sharp enough for most applications. It has not been tested to the limits yet, when I go FF it will see much more rigorous action. For a while I had just been using mid-priced zooms, so having the faster aperture, better IQ and smaller size of the prime was a nice change. The SF is of limited use for me, I'd still buy the lens without it. I'd echo that the effect at SF#2 is too strong for almost any application, but if you buy an SF lens you might as well have every strength available to you, especially if you like the more dreamy/retro images.

One criticism (alomst the only one) is that the AF (and MF-ring) are behind the times. My experience is that the MF-ring is not as good/smooth/large as a nice USM lens, but a heck of a lot better than the sort of experience you have with an EFS 18-55 type lens. The AF is noisy compared to USM, but in most real-life situations it will not be a problem. When the lens is AFing a small amount it is almost as quiet as USM, but when AFing from one extreme to another it is more noisy.
The AF is a lot quicker than I had expected (on an EOS 3), and I've never wished for more speed from it. Overall the AF is below modern standards, but still very good.

The build quality is solid, the internal focussing adds to the pleasant handling. The SF switch is fine, the AF/MF switch could be better placed and a little bigger, but is acceptable.

On crop cameras it's quite a good fast mid-telephoto, though I don't find the focal length so useful. On FF (film in most cases until I get a 5D) the lens focal length is just perfect for portraits, candids and detail shots (architecture and abstracts etc...).


I never regret taking this lens with me:

If you like the idea of soft-focus (which cannot be matched by software IMO) then this lens is essential.

If you just want a nice, well priced short telephoto this lens is still well worth buying.

James :D


Jan 8, 2008
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pfogle
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Registered: Sep 10, 2003
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 7
Review Date: Jul 18, 2007 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: classic EF non USM lens - great feel, very comfortable to hold, especially with the hood (highly recommended!). The SF effects can be very subtle, such as improving the bokeh at f5.6 without the soft focus being visible in the foreground. Very sharp, very versatile. A winner!
Cons:
lens hood a bit loose on my copy (it's nearly 10 years old, though). Some CA in the corners.

this lens is very nice to use... the AF is quick, though not silent, and very accurate on the 5D.

I thought the soft focus feature would be a waste of space, but a small amount, say 1 at f4-5.6, give a nice glow very much like the old Zeiss Softar lenses that went on the Hasselblad and created a whole fashion look in the '70s. There's nothing else quite like it - as someone with an interest in fashion and beauty, this lens is a definite keeper.


Jul 18, 2007
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kevmar
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Registered: Sep 25, 2005
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 98
Review Date: Nov 1, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros:
Cons:

This lens is an odd lens in my lineup, as with my 20D, the lens turns into a 216mm lens - in other words - a pretty far reaching telephoto lens.

In standard mode, (no soft focus mode) I found the lens to be nice and sharp

In soft focus mode 1, it was giving out very interesting soft effects, especially at the maximum aperture (f2.8). Soft mode 2 seemed to be a bit too excessive, and thus wasn't giving out pictures I personally liked. Soft focus at night made for quite romantic pictures out

The build is pretty sturdy for my liking - not L quality, but remember the price you're paying. The motor is defiantly out of the dark ages, and is pretty noisy - again down to taste. The rear element focusing means you can use your polarizers till the cows come home.

I've used this lens a bit now - certainly - it is WAY to long for studio work on a 1.6 crop body. Outdoors, it can be good for close candid shots from a distance so you don't interfere with whats going on. Optically, it needs to be around f4 to perform... and it will perform.

If Canon was to put a USM motor on this lens, I think it would be an improvement - but not a deal breaker.

For the price I paid for it, I thought it was worth a punt. Seems i was right.


Nov 1, 2006
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tsaraleksi
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Registered: Sep 15, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 538
Review Date: Jun 6, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Quick focusing, sharp even at f/2.8, sf can be fun, price is right.
Cons:
Wish it focused a little closer, and build leaves something to be desired, but what can you expect from this price point?

I use this lens for close up sports, candids, and assorted stuff, and it works very well- I've never really had a problem with the focus speed or the sharpness, and the SF can be kinda neat.

Jun 6, 2006
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januarys_v
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Registered: Mar 16, 2006
Location: Belarus
Posts: 13
Review Date: Mar 20, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Very sharp and very small
Cons:
No USM

I bought this lens and another prime 24/2.8 because could not afford a quality zoom and these lenses are very sharp and deliver a lot of fine details. I tested them against my friends (a professional photographer with a bunch of L lenses) 70-200L and 16-35L respectively and the primes at 2.8 were sharper than zooms. At around 4.0 and smaller they performed the same and i was very satisfied with that. I wish it had USM motor but I guess the price would be different then.

Mar 20, 2006
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susi
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Registered: Sep 28, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 2584
Review Date: Feb 11, 2006 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: extremely sharp! Lightweight!
Cons:
None

I bought this lens from the B&S here and I couldn't be happier, it is as sharp as my 50mm 1.8 . It has a fast focus and wonderful DOF. I haven't tried the SF as I have no need for it with PS. This one is a keeper!!!!!!!!

Feb 11, 2006
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Desmo
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Registered: Aug 20, 2005
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 97
Review Date: Dec 21, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: funny as it seems: incredibly sharp, even at f 2.8.Awesome bokeh. Beautiful dreamy look to the picture when the SF feature is correctly set
Cons:
SF effects difficult to handle and to predict !

I came across a mint second hand copy of this lens, for the equivalent of 100$ !! I was looking for a "fast" tele lens, so I bought it not for the SF feature but for the f2.8. I felt in love with the lens as soon as I had seen my first pictures taken with it!!! It's perfectly sharp at 2.8, fantastic creamy bokeh, beautiful colors and contrast, in line with my L lens. Even if build and AF are quite old I used it for basket ball with very good results !!!!! On a 1.6 crop camera it's a 216mm f2.8 !!!! A real bargain for who can't afford a 135 L (like me...)
I did try the SF feature with some beautiful dreamy pictures as a result. But I find it very difficult to handle. One really need to take a lot of pictures with different aperture/SF setting combinations to get a keeper.
If only for the price I paid and the pictures I get, I'll never sell this lens!!!!


Dec 21, 2005
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a.rivard
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Registered: Apr 13, 2005
Location: United States
Posts: 0
Review Date: Oct 31, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $230.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: Absolutely sharp. Optical quality is high & price is low. Unique softfocus capability.
Cons:
none......

Group f64 would not approve, however
interest in the Canon f135mm soft focus is not misguided, this lens is one of a kind - (at least among Canon lenses).
It is a special lens, and as stated previously requires a learning period to understand. I do test shots frequently while
using it for best effect.
The lens is inherently sharp, with a dial in continuous soft focus effect - w/engraved setting stops at zero (no effect);
1 (half effect); & 2 (maximum effect). Also placement of a setting anywhere between the stops is appropriate.
For the most part I recommend restraint with the dial. I am pleased with lower settings at wide open up to f5.6.
I bought it for portraits, but users will find it will help eliminate - add on filters,
nylon stockings, vaseline & software approachs to any soft focus work.
Using an adjustable and dedicated optical system is efficient & less arbitrary .
It is more natural, with I feel - a more true control of effect than use of filters or software .
Canon slr/dslr users and portrait makers wanting soft focus should consider it.
I also use the lens as an ordinary sharp prime.
Auto focus is reliable, but this lens is a old design af.


Oct 31, 2005
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Thang
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Registered: Jan 25, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 8761
Review Date: Oct 19, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $200.00 | Rating: 10 

 
Pros: images from this lens are sharp as a tack. The Softfocus feature really works. The price is unbelievable.
Cons:
maybe AFD?

Hehehe - I bought this lens from Bellyface (below) couple weeks ago for $200!!! It's the best non-L Canon lens I have used. It's extremely extremely sharp wide open. Even though I don't use this lens that often, but it will be another keeper just because it's such a good copy and at such an amazing price!

Oct 19, 2005
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bellyface
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Registered: Mar 17, 2003
Location: United States
Posts: 5104
Review Date: Jun 24, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp, compact, light, fast focus, super-accurate on a 1D. Colors are warm and inviting. Soft focus feature pretty nifty, but used in "0" soft, this lens gives the 135 L a run for it's $850's worth. Internal focus.
Cons:
AFD mechanism, manual focus ring too small, minimum focus around 3.5 feet, to achieve real soft affect, you have to shoot wide open. Really, overall, the negs are nothing compared to how awesome this lens is. Can't complain!

I picked this lens up for a blistering $200, and to my surprise it's sharp as a tack. Really, this is the closest you can get to "L" without buying "L"

To start off, I've been shooting wide open or near wide open, and it's sharp. I cant' believe how small this lens is. It's not thick and clunky, it's rather thin and small and bright.

As far as mechanism, the AFD system is pretty responsive, not so loud like the other older lenses, possibly since it is an internal focus design.

on a 1D, 1.3x body it gives you pretty close to a 180mm, a welcome angle since I used to use a 180mm ED/IF on a nikon F4. On a 1.6x body, you're looking at a 216mm, still not so bad, but some people might find it a bit limiting.

All in all, buy this lens if you can. It's economic price will keep you shooting Smile


Jun 24, 2005
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DavidWEGS
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Registered: Apr 15, 2004
Location: United States
Posts: 3799
Review Date: Jun 15, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $250.00 | Rating: 9 

 
Pros: Sharp enough for its price and use. light weight :) which I love when shooting outdoors portraits.
Cons:
Feels a tad weak (compared to the 135/2) and is very slightly soft wide open.

As a backup to the 135/2 and for its SF effects this was purchased and barely used.

Recently I had to send in my 135 and 70-200is for calibration which left me only this lens, to do the portrait work I like this focal length for.

It is very slightly soft at the widest (F2.8) aperture and to my eye quite pleasing when used for people shots. I will probably take this one out more often in future when I don't require the f2 or that shallow a DOF.

Highly recommend this lens for portraits and the like. A great backup to the 135/2


Jun 15, 2005
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Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 with Softfocus

Buy from B&H Photo
Reviews Views Date of last review
27 118958 Feb 21, 2014
Recommended By Average Price
100% of reviewers $262.67
Build Quality Rating Price Rating Overall Rating
7.53
9.58
9.2
ef135mmf_28soft_1_


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