135mm AF/DC Lens: Any point in using for landscapes or . . .

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by rob f., May 3, 2016.

  1. . . . or other photography at a distance? In lurking through the archives, some members who know their stuff have said it's a fine portrait lens, with out of this world background bokeh. No one seems to say it's a go-to for general photography, landscapes, etc. And it apparently is quirky for focus accuracy on some Nikons, requiring some diddling with the DC control just to correct this.
    So is it worth getting just because I, a non-portrait type, would like a very fine lens, to use at distances of 100 feet or a mile? It seems very exotic and really neat; but should I just get over it and move on?
  2. The Nikon 135mm f/2 AF DC is designed to give the photographer control over the rendering of out of focus areas, either foreground or background, and also to create a soft-focus effect.
    How much use will you make of the speed of this lens or its unusual capabilities? My guess is that the comparably priced Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR will be much more suitable for landscapes at short to medium telephoto focal lengths. It is very sharp. If you must have a lens of the DC design, the 105 is cheaper and said to be a little better than the 135.
    By coincidence, yesterday I ordered the 135mm f/2 AF DC, but my purpose is very different. I sometimes shoot events where flash is not permitted, and I have a tendinitis in my hands, which makes it painful to shoot with a 70-200mm f/2.8 without a tripod. I also like to shoot portraits.
  3. I probably wont use it at full aperture very often, but I would use it some, and f/2 would be good for viewing. I read that the DC lenses are very sharp, and very well built, and that is what attracts me to them. The DC function is interesting, but somewhat less important. I'm no portrait photographer.
    I had been considering the 80-200mm f/2.8 AF/ED two-ring but our threads here on it say it is not that good wide open; is too heavy (3.5 lbs); and despite the "professional" metal shell and the nice crinkle paint job is not well made. Someone took one apart to fix it and found the focus ring was held on by melted plastic tabs!
    I can't use the 70-200 you mention because it's a G lens, and I need to use it on everything from an FE2 to an N90s to a D700.
    Right now I'm using a Leica 135/2.8 R adapted to Nikon with a Leitax flange. No complaints about its optical quality, but I get tired of using it in stop-down mode. Maybe I should just stay with it, and find something else to worry about?
  4. I have the 135 DC and use it in a variety of situations mostly sports and probably less then 100 feet but farther then portrait distances. I think the lens would work well for landscape work and at the farther distances some of the focus quirks will go away.
    I am one of those people really like this lens and have no focus problems with it.
  5. I would personally not use it for this application. It is not particularly sharp, it produces images with prolific CA (at wide apertures), does not bring out the detail in the landscape well and is difficult to focus.

    The Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar by contrast is excellent for landscape.
  6. My 135 DC is probably my favorite lens when it's appropriate to use it. On mine if you match DC and aperture you'll have a slight bit of softness throughout. I'll often set DC to 2 and aperture to 2.8 and this provides extremely sharp in-focus and gorgeous background. A buddy's lens is sharp even at DC 2 and f2.0 so like many lenses each can be a bit different. I'd thought about getting mine 'repaired' several years ago but fear it'd not be the same lens I love so much.
    I've used mine in landscapes but a lot obviously depends on distances. I shot a pine tree growing out of a cliff with a lake and forest in the background that worked great with this lens since there was enough separation. For general landscapes like when hiking though it'd often not make the cut. It is a great prime at f2.8 and beyond (not so much at f2.0) but I'd usually rather have my 70-200. If it's a place I hike somewhat frequently then it'll go in place of the 70-200 sometimes.
  7. "135mm AF/DC Lens: Any point in using for landscapes or . . . or other photography at a distance?"​
    I have an older Nikon 135mm f/2 lens that I primarily use for female portraits. It is not sharp enough for me to use it for landscapes or other distance photography.

    I also have a newer Zeiss 135mm f/2 that is much sharper than the Nikon. I could use it for landscapes and other distance photography. I do, however, primarily use it for stage work, portraits (especially tight face shots of males), and available light wedding candids.
  8. Probably you already own one, but if not, worth considering: one of the 105mm lenses? 105mm f/2.5 if you don't care much for AF, else the old AF-D 105mm f/2.8 macro? The focal length difference with a 135mm is not enormous, and they're good performing, small, light, affordable.
    I've had the 80-200 f/2.8D (2 rings model); mine sure wasn't bad wide open, but better from about f/3.2 on - so that's still quite respectable. It sure is heavy (and that's why I sold it). Its weak point is 200mm at close distances, given your description of what you'd use it for, not an issue. If the weight isn't a dealbreaker, I would not discount it.
  9. Of course you can use a 2/135DC for landscape, why shouldn't you?
    After all, if you disregard the DC function (IMO more of a gimmick then a real added value, and I have a 2/135mm DC myself) and the fast aperture number, it's just a 135mm.
    Way back in the film days (in the 60's and 70's) the 'standard' set for the ambitious amateur photographer were a 3.5/28mm, a 2.0/50mm and a 2.8/135mmm, with the 135mm considered the 'telelens' (long fast lenses were not as affordable back then as they are nowadays, or at least people were as willing to go into debt to buy one as nowadays. The 'attraction' of credit cards I assume).
    But of course landscapes were not really what this lens was designed for, but rather for portrait etc. So if not used for that portraits/people, it's just a fast 135mm lens, and then the fact that it's a 20+ year old design starts to weigh in. The 135mm DC is designed with a specific use in mind, and will shine if used in that way, but question marks can be placed when it's used for other, more general purposes.
    And at that moment of course the DXO lovers can start sharpening their knives over the fact that the Otis, Batis, Fotus, Art or whatever name lenses apparently need to have these days, are 'sharper', have less Chromatic Aberrations, etc. (which of course is more important then whether the picture is actually any good).
    A bit like the 1.4/58mm AF, which in many reviews is considered outclassed by lower priced competitors based on DXO and MTF charts, but in the hand of m the actual users cherished for the unique way of image rendering and bokeh.
    So IMO, if you already have it, sure, why not use it for landscapes. Maybe not the first and best pick, but you have to work with what you got.
    But if on the other hand landscapes are what you intend to use it for most of the time, there probably are, technically speaking, better, and maybe even cheaper, alternatives around.
  10. My guess is that the comparably priced Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR will be much more suitable for landscapes at short to medium telephoto focal lengths. It is very sharp. If you must have a lens of the DC design, the 105 is cheaper and said to be a little better than the 135.​
    I'ld have to agree. I'm using a $30 film legacy Sigma 70-300mm on my Pentax DSLR shooting in local parks that sprawl across over 50 acres and the one thing I love about this lens is that I'm forced to frame landscapes close enough to get good detail at a distance at the same time provide flat field compositions without wide angle barrel distortions.
    Why would one need a wider angle lens to shoot landscapes if only to make trees bowed or appear so far away that there's very little center of interest=boring landscapes.
  11. if you have a landscape "idea" that you think can only be achieved with this lens then by all means get one. If you ideas are more general then there's little point in getting it.
    My favourite landscape lenses are PC-E 45 and Lensbaby Edge 80
  12. Somehow when I read about this lens I had imagined a really tack-sharp subject against an OOF background. But since, as Ilkka says, it isn't particularly sharp, there goes that fantasy. I can do that with any of my sharp fast lenses anyhow.
    Thanks fo the reality check.
  13. I don't agree the lens is not sharp. It is extremely sharp. I think Illka was referring to wide open sharpness, something I don't expect would be used often for landscapes. I suggest you google some examples of shots with the lens and see if it meets your needs. I use it for it's intended purpose, sharp subject against beautiful wash of background oof. I believe the sharpness contrast with the oof bg gives the impression of even additional sharpness. The bg is like budda. CA is completely gone on mine at f3.5-4 and at about 2 stops closed down, it is really sharp as are most lenses. I see little if any difference in the quality of the oof bg between 2.0 and 4.0. With the high iso capability of today's bodies and my frequent use of strobes, I really don't need the f/2 to compensate for low light often the way I shoot. I use it for head and shoulders/torso shots so need at least f3.5 to get both eyes sharp when the head is turned off the camera axis. I have less than 2 inches dof at about 7 feet. If I have 2 or more subjects in the shot, even trying to get the eyes on the same plane leaves little room for error sub 3.5. Mine is sharp matching the dc ring to the aperture. Like poster said above, could be differences in lenses, but also could be a focusing issue. Remember,test numbers are just that, it is how the photographer uses the tool that is important. There is a reason this lens has been made unchanged for 21 years. Know it's limitations and if you can work within those parameters, it is magical. Like I say, google some images taken with one.
  14. I swear I posted this just a little while ago.
    I don't agree with this lens not being sharp and having lots of CA.
    Here are some links to images I shot with the 135 f/ DC shooting X Country. THe first group was shot at f/3.2 on my D4
    First the full image
    Now a partial crop
    And now 100%
    Here are two at f/2.0
    Full image
    And 100%
    Wide open there can be some CA but ACR deals with it very well. I normally shoot this kind of stuff at 3.2 or 3.5 just to have enough DOF to keep the horse and rider in focus.
    I have thousands of images shot with this lens and the ones that get tossed for not being sharp are the ones where I screwed up not the lens.
  15. I owned the lens for a time. My copy was quite sharp but there was a lot of CA wide open. I sold it to finance other lenses. 135 is tight for landscapes, in general.
  16. "135 is tight for Landscapes."
    Yes. Especially for someone like me who considers a 24mm to be the normal lens (at least when shooting in Colorado). But I keep a 135 Leitz Elmarit, in Nikon mount, in the bag for detail shots. And I thought I might do more of those this year. I should probably just keep the Elmarit. I have to use it in stop-down mode. But no complaints about the IQ!
  17. i dont think the issue so much is lack of sharpness, contradicting anecdotes aside, but whether the 135, a portrait lens optimized for headshots, is sharp at long distances. my gut tells me no, although it might be a good choice for cactus portraits with OOF backgrounds at closer ranges, notwithstanding CA.
  18. Having owned the 135DC, and still own the 135/2 AIS and 135/2 Zeiss APO I would say that certainly the Zeiss is in its own league compared the the two Nikons, but if you have a choice between the DC and the 135/2 AIS go with the AIS for landscapes as it's:
    - Optically equal if not slightly better at far distances
    - Much cheaper
    - The AF of the DC is not all that reliable and for landscapes you'd likely use live view anyways
    - Neither of these three 135/2 lenses is all that great for flare/ghosting when pointed into the sun, so that's not a consideration (the Zeiss is in fact NOT perfect!).
    The AIS and Zeiss when stopped down a bit are actually not that far apart when accurately focused at landscape-type distances.
  19. If you buy this lens primarily for portraits, I don't see a problem with using it for landscapes as well, like I do occasionally. However, if you're always going to stop it down to 5.6, 8, or even smaller, you need to ask yourself whether there's a point in buying an f/2 lens. It's big, heavy, and expensive. If you need a 135mm prime for landscapes, the Ai or Ai-S 135mm f/2.8 is perhaps more suited for your purpose.
    The DC lens is plenty sharp stopped down. It is also very nice wide open, but not because of absolute sharpness. You have to look at the whole picture, and when you see the focused subject against the creamy background, it appears really sharp. After all, it's the appearance that matters in a photograph.
  20. For landscapes, the large aperture gets lost and the inability to zoom is very restrictive. I travelled with a 135 prime, which was fine, but a zoom, even a slower zoom, would have been more useful.
    I had been considering the 80-200mm f/2.8 AF/ED two-ring but our threads here on it say it is not that good wide open; is too heavy (3.5 lbs); and despite the "professional" metal shell and the nice crinkle paint job is not well made.​
    It's as sharp as every other pro tele, it's less heavy than the 70-200/2.8 VR i & ii and the paint job is a non-issue.
    I prefer the 80-200mm f/2.8 AF to a 135 prime.
  21. " I prefer the 80-200mm f/2.8 AF to a 135 prime."​
    I have the Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 D AF-S (77mm filter size) and the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO Sonnar ZF 2 (77mm filter size).
    The zoom is indispensable for the times when I need auto focus, when I cannot zoom with my feet, and when I do not wish to carry my 85mm, 105mm, 135mm, and 180mm prime lenses.
    The prime is indispensable for the times when I need the extra light gathering, when I need to shoot hand held, and when I need face shots tighter than the zoom can deliver.
    It would be very difficult for me to part with either.

Share This Page