Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 DC - an "about to buy, final opinions please" thread

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by bmm, Jun 14, 2009.

  1. bmm


    As some of you might know I've been playing around with the idea of getting a lens in the 100-150mm focal length for a while. Reasons are to fill a gap in my lineup of primes (my lineup currently goes 24/2.8, 35/2, 50/1.4, 85/1.4, and 180/2.8), and also as the last step in 'readying' myself for D700, as a 135mm lens in FX will do for me in FX what my beloved 85/1.4 does in DX.
    So I'm now at the stage where I've read the formal reviews, I have one hand in my pocket about to take the wallet out, and I've found a copy of the lens at a decent price and have it on hold (I was lucky enough to be able to test and choose between 3).
    So just seeking those final valuable views, whether enouragement to proceed or things I should watch out for, from those of you who use this piece of glass (I know Nina and Ilkka both do for a start). To be clear I'm pretty excited about the possibility of having this lens, but my only little question is about the 105VR micro as an alternative - only because it would give me a macro option in my line-up which is something I don't have (then again there is always next year's bonus...).
    Thanks as always for your advice and shared experience.
  2. I love mine. Its very sharp, can have super bohken with the DC, its focus is accurate and fast.
    the only down size is it weight. It a heavy lens thats off balance on a small camera. It confortable on a D200 and up, specially if you have a grip.
  3. The 105 f2 DC has a special look to it that the 105 VR doesn't have. The 105 DC is a no compromise peice of glass, for macro, go grab an old 55mm f3.5 AI-s and you'll be set. Manual focus is best in macro anyway.
  4. It is a very special lens.
    There is one small problem I just recently noticed.
    On my D300 @ f/2, it front focuses so much so, that even AF compensation can't fix it.
    However, all I have to do it set the DC ring to R2 or F2, and AF comp to -20 and it's fine.
    After about f/2.8, the focus is sharp with no front focus. At f/8, this lens is the sharpest i've ever seen, and the quality of photo (colour/contrast) is incredible.
    I hope you enjoy it as much as i do Bernard!
  5. Check the auto focus accuracy b/4 you buy. Issues have been reported and supposedly they are not solveable.
  6. Tobey, F2 or R2 seems to fix it for me. I think it's just an issue with the 'floating' DC lens inside.
    Issues are purportedly worse on the D300, so the D700 may have no problem. I've seen a few photogs here (Taiwan) using the lens on a D3 and a couple D700's, and these guys were professionals. :D
    Still, if used properly, CRAZY sharp at f/2
  7. It's my understanding that the focus issue is with 105DC's on D700's.
    Do some searches about focus issues w/ 105DC's on D700's. This combo tends to front-focus. I don't know if the 135DC does the same thing, but 105DC users experiencing the issue find that one of two adjustments work well:
    setting AF Fine Tune to +10 to +20 (back focus)
    turning the DC ring just slightly towards the F 2.8 value. (not a full click, about 1/3 to 1/2 of the turn from DC Neutral to DC F 2.8.
    I have the 105DC and love it on my D700. I do have to set AF Fine Tune to +20 back focus, though.
  8. Thanks for the info. A 105DC is back on my want list.
  9. The 135 DC is one of these lenses you buy, and then you go around wondering why you did wait so long before buying. It has a particular beauty in its rendition, a gorgeous transition to out-of-focus, that I have never seen in anything else I used. It is really, really sharp. Besides, it is extremely well built, a beautiful object that is a pleasure to use.
    Defects, it has some. It flares with relative ease on my D200 at wide apertures, and be prepared to face some important purple fringing when using it in high-contrast situation below f4. Again, at f4 and below longitudinal CA is well visible (but there is basically no escape to that on any fast tele).
    I have some examples in my gallery, here , here and here (there is some more, look for tag "135").
  10. The DC lenses are magic for people photographs. And you don't need to be a geek to appreciate it - when I do head shots with one of the DC Nikkors with lights, I always seem to get a "wow" from my subjects when I show the images - they appreciate the other stuff but to get my subjects to love me I put on one of the DC Nikkors.
    I think the DC Nikkors are not ideal for use with DX; focusing accuracy issues arise and there is CA at wide apertures with the small pixels. These are lenses that have magical image quality on full frame and something is lost when used on DX; you have to stop down quite a bit to get good results on DX (f/3.5 on the 105 DC; f/5.6 is excellent).
    On FX all apertures f/2 to f/11 are useable; with the 135 DC wide open is a bit soft, on the 105 DC it is good. f/2.8 is good on both and f/4 excellent. Flare performance is better on the 105 DC than almost any other lens; 135 DC is more susceptible. I will post a sample from Saturday (135 DC at f/4) when I get home. The DC Nikkors also seem to be fast for f/2 lenses - the image wide open is quite bright.
    With respect to the 105 VR I think it's a good lens for weddings as you can take a ring close-up hand held and continue to shoot portraits but the fact it's not that sharp at f/2.8 and has falloff (over a stop) - I put up with it because no other lens can be used to take hand-held available light close-ups in very low light.
    Some body and lens need AF fine tune adjustment; I had issues with focus accuracy with my D200 and 105 DC (larger apertures than f/3.5) but with FX I have not had issues.
  11. On FX all apertures f/2 to f/11 are useable​
    Look what you did. Now I have one more reason to desire a D700. Do you believe I have unlimited money perhaps? ;-)
    I never had focusing problems on DX on my 135, except for the general fact that external focus points on the D200 are not nearly as good as the central one, and any fast lens suffers from this when used wide open. PF is instead a significant problem with the 135 below f4. I tried the 135 on a D3 but not in conditions apt to trigger PF, so I'm not sure: are you saying it disappears or is strongly reduced when on FX? this would be one more major advantage for me.
  12. Luca, this is one of the key reasons why I bought FX cameras in the first place; improved performance at wide apertures on fast glass.
    The appearance of purple fringing is reduced when using D3/D700 vs. D200, yes. This is partly because the photosite density is smaller and therefore the lens doesn't need to render all the colors so finely together. Also the sensor optics in the newer cameras have been designed to minimize CA together with Nikon's own raw conversion software. I haven't done much testing of how much of this is optical and how much software but there is prescious little CA that I have seen with my old or new lenses on the D3/D700. When I got the D3 and shot with it a while I felt it was a 10-year jump in technology ... ;-)
    Here is an f/4 shot of Saturday's samba carnival in Helsinki. I may dig up a shot at f/2.8.
  13. 100% crop.
  14. You can see something of PF in the white mesh. Do I care? Not really. The nearest completely CA-free alternative is the 200/2 which is a heavy and expensive.
    Here is an image at f/2. It's not quite sharp but useable.
  15. The 135/2 DC isn't as good wide open as the Canon 135/2L (I have David duChemin's new book and there are a few stunning images taken in available light wide open with that lens). If you shoot a lot at f/2, another lens such as the 85/1.4D AF, the 100/2 ZF or the 200/2, would be a better choice. But stopped down a bit I am pleased with the rendition of skin and fabrics, and general cleanness of the images of the 135/2 DC.
  16. Ikkla,
    many thanks, quite interesting. The PF is surely less than I would expect, although at f4 is really rarely a major issue on the D200 as well. But I would expect to see more than this. You were mentioning the possibility this can be the software correction as well. So I assume these are either in-camera jpeg, or Capture NX conversion? Not using NX, this might make some difference for me, although I never heard software conversion to act on PF, which is much more difficult to handle than standard CA. But I don't know for sure.
    My main problem with FX is on the wide angle: below 35mm I have "only" the 12-24 dx, and I cannot afford the D700 AND a WA zoom. I have to do a couple of tests to see how the 12-24 fares on fx where it covers the whole format: it shuld do so down to 15 or 16mm, which is plenty for me, but I wonder with which quality...
    Thanks again!
  17. I would not be without mine. Near perfect focal length for my style of portraiture. Sharpness and good bokeh. And the thinkg is built like a tank.
  18. I use NX2 for raw conversion - yes, "auto lateral color aberration" correction is on. Here is the image with CA corrections are off.
    If you don't need high quality wide open on the wide angle, the Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 is excellent at f/8 on FX and is not very expensive (at wider apertures the peripheral image is not quite perfect). The other really good FX wide angles are quite pricey but on the other hand the quality is very high. I use the 24mm PC-E myself and think it's fantastic for tripod based, thought out photography, but it is expensive. If on a budget I would just get the Voigtländer.
  19. I have the 105 f2 DC as I couldn't find a suitable 135 DC but I have never regretted it - they are two of the finest Nikkors ever - I have used both but own the 105. Both are pin sharp - I use it on a D3, D700 and D100 IR - no problems with any of these bodies. As for the 105 VR Micro, you are talking about a different beast altogether. I have the older one as VR from a tripod is a no no as far as I am concerned and my micro work is either done from a tripod with the 105 Micro Nikkor or on the hoof with a 70-180 Micro Nikkor.
  20. I've had my 135DC for years and use it primarily for indoor sports with my D300 and for weddings on my D3. Its always been a stellar performer and I wish I had another. --Rich
  21. bmm


    Guys - thankyou SO much for your thoughts so far. (Luca I should say 'merci bien' to you of course given my own half-French heritage!)
    All you images in particular just strengthen my anticipation of having this lens. And I'm of half a mind next time I'm in north Asia for work to pay Nina a visit and just watch and learn from her for half a day - I'd kill to do 1/10th of what she does with this lens.
    Ilkka - re your comment about the 135/2 wide open and other options, you will see from my OP that I have both the 85/1.4 and the 180/2.8 in my bag - both of renown sharpness - sitting on either side of this potential purchase in my line-up of primes.
  22. Ikkla, thanks again , this goes from the impression that NX is not correcting for PF but for CA only. But it also means that PF is visibly mitigated on D3... interesting.
    Bernard, happy (or, to appeal at your half french heritage, "ravi") of having been of use. One small curiosity: After roughly one year I own my 135 DC (which is a non-D one I found used in very good state), some days ago went to look about its serial number, and was amused to discover it is a very early sample, the 577th ever produced, out or roughly 25000 between D and non-D. If they kept a constant production rate, it came out of the plant within 3 or 4 months of production start, at some point between 1990 and the very beginning of 1991 (depending how much earlier of introduction they started producing it). At the time I was 16, and not yet into photography...

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