This is the eleventh of a series of posts for photographers who want to try cheap but fast manual focus lenses on an APS-C DSLR. This mini test is the Zuiko 135mm f2.8, a 216mm equivalent on a crop frame sensor and one and a half stops faster than a 70-300mm zoom lens at this focal length.
It’s worth pointing out that there’s no image stabilisation (or AF obviously) and as the focal lengths increase, the advantages of older tele lenses decreases quickly. The max aperture advantage closes quickly with modern AF lenses, and the performance wide open is often not that good. Unfortunately these are just at the apertures you’d want to use them at rather than your AF zoom lens.
At f2.8 focussing seems easy, but critical evaluation of the shots in post-processing shows that it’s difficult to get very precise focus with the normal 60D screen.
Like the Zuiko 100mm lens, image contrast is relatively low, and post-processing work will be needed on most shots. That said, there’s no flare (the built-in lens hood works very well) and other than a predictable tendency to underexpose by up to 1 stop at maximum aperture, there aren’t any major problems. There’s a hint of red/green CA in out of focus highlights but you’d have to look very closely to find it.
Physically the lens is very well-built, relatively small but not as compact as the 100mm or the 85mm tested recently. The filter size is 55mm, there’s a built-in lens hood and the focus rack goes from infinity to 1.5m in rather more than 180 degrees. The aperture range is f2.8 to f22.
So – is it worth the £100 to £150 on the secondhand market? On balance the answer is a qualified ‘yes’. The attraction of these tele lenses is mainly the shallow depth of field and colour ‘analogue look’ they give to images at a more reasonable price than their modern AF versions. In that respect this lens is excellent.
Viewed independently of cost, it’s much more difficult. The speed advantage is levelled by image stabilisation in modern lenses, and the differences in bokeh, speed and sharpness are much less obvious than at focal lengths of 24mm to 100mm.
I’m afraid then it’s up to you. If you already have one, or can buy one cheaply give one a go. It’s a very well behaved lens and a good 200mm equivalent as long as you’re happy doing some PP work and focussing through the viewfinder (the LCD is pretty much useless at these focal lengths unless you’re using a tripod).
If you’re interested in using other MF lenses on your DSLR have a look at the other reviews on the film, camera and lens review index tab.
To see how this – and virtually every other known Zuiko lens known to man – performs on four thirds and micro four thirds sensors have a look here – an excellent series of tests at biofos.com!
Thanks for looking and hope you find this useful!