Sharpness vs DOF / 85 1.8 or 135 2.0

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by kevin_b.|2, Jan 8, 2010.

  1. I am looking for a sharp (very sharp) lens at wide apertures. My current choices are the 85mm 1.8 or the 135 2.0. My specific question; does the 135mm @f2.0 have greater center sharpness than the 85mm @ F2.0. I am looking at taking pictures of outdoor flowers if that helps.
  2. For comparisons that are reasonably objective (yes) see the reviews of the two at .
    If you're talking about getting a lot of depth of field at the same time as wide-open on the aperture then you want something like a 14mm lens. Otherwise, physical laws of nature won't co-operate with your desires.
    I'm sure that there are discussions here somewhere of the bokeh on each lens if you search for each lens by name and +bokeh, if that's what you mean.
  3. Consider a macro lens. 100 2.8. You really cannot get sharper and the close focus will allow better background blur.
  4. Did you mean to type "wide open apertures"? My experience with photographing flowers with wide open aperture is that on a sunny day, the lens takes in so much light that even with the camera's fastest shutter speed, the flower is still blown out.
  5. I saw the numbers at photozine prior to the quesiton. the 135 is sharper at 2.8 but is it sharper at 2.0? I have the Tamron 90mm 2.8 and it is pretty good. But I want sharper. And I also want more shallow depth of field.
  6. The 85/1.8 is still very sharp wide open. I recently bought one myself and you can see my review at
    You're not really going to get significantly sharper than the Tamron 90/2.8 which is a very sharp lens. As for DOF, at any given magnification within the range you'll be using for closeups of flowers, focal length won't matter, only aperture. So that means the 85/1.8 will give you slightly less DOF then the 135/2 (or the 90/2.8).
    So I'd save money and go for the 85/1.8.
    For your application and with your requirments, you should also be shooting with a 5D MkII or 1Ds Mk III.
  7. At ISO 100 you can generally shoot in full sunlight at f/2, 1/8000 second exposures. So that shouldn't be a problem. You can always get a neutral density filter if it is.
    Both of those lenses are pretty sharp wide open, with this link showing the 135mm to have a slight edge - roll your mouse over the image to compare. For most work the difference isn't going to matter.
    (Eric linked to the same site, but compared the *50mm* f/1.8 not the *85mm* f/1.8)
    Neither lens focuses particularly close, so you may need extension tubes or other close-up adaption to shoot flowers.
  8. I think you need to distinguish between background blur and DOF. DOF is not going to vary appreciably from lens to lens, and it varies very little with focal length (provided you move yourself to get the same size image as you change focal length). What DOES change a lot with focal length is background blur: longer focal lengh => more background blur. There are also differences in bokeh that stem from lens designs, e.g., the design of the aperture blades. For a very good explanation of DOF vs. background blur, check out these two postings:
    I agree with Tommy that a macro lens is the way to go for closeups of flowers.
  9. In specific answer to your question, the 135 is sharper at f2 than the 85 is at f2.
    In reply to your taking images of flowers, the 135 is hampered by its 36" minimum focus distance giving you a lousy (for a flower lens) 0.19 reproduction ratio. The new 100macro is stunningly sharp, indeed on ff it is diffraction limited for a good while, that means the optics are effectively perfect, the closer working distance will chew up the 1 stop dof difference too. The best lens for your specific needs is the 100mm macro, if you use a tripod it doesn't really matter if it is the new one or the old one. Just like Tommy said.
  10. Maybe you want a tilt lens, not a faster lens? Canon 90mm f2.8 T/S perhaps?
    Something like a 400/2.8L could work too
  11. Kevin,
    I hear you. 100mm macro and very careful framing. If you work off a tripod then the old one is a bargain, the new one has "nicer" backgrounds due to a better aperture blade shape. If I were you trying to take what you are I would get the new 100 macro, don't know if that is in your budget though.
  12. The 400, or even a 300, would work well for the Wasteland shot but not the Lost Keys one. Bob is spot on with the 90mm T/S, that could do both shots well.
  13. I have to say that worrying about which super sharp lens is a tiny bit sharper than the other super sharp lens might be a bit obsessive... :)
  14. If you're wanting a greater dof but still want the background blurred out then you really need a 300-500mm tele lens. That way you can stop it down for more dof if you need too and still have a soft background. You might look at some macros I did using a Sigma 100-300 f4 and see if this is more like what you're after.
  15. a bit obsessive... :)
    Thats me :) 100%
  16. I'm a bit obsessive about sharpness, too. But I have found that a lack of sharpness in my images is more often due to my technique than it is to the particular lenses I'm using.
  17. I never considered using a long tele lens at large apertures. Not sure if I can afford something that big though.
  18. Would a 180MM Macro lens 3.5 do the job? Thats somewhat affordable.
  19. you should also be shooting with a 5D MkII or 1Ds Mk III.​
    How come? Crop sensor no good?
  20. Either of those lens' will do what you want. The sharpest I have used is 135 F2, then my macro 100 2.5 then there is a tie between 35 1.4 and 85 1.8. v/r Buffdr
  21. FWIW, I'll second Bob's recommendation of the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro. It's up there with the Canon macros in the reviews and costs less.
  22. Since you already have what is reputed to be an excellent macro I lean toward the even more highly touted 135/2 L. The one macro lens I've always considered, available used at a bit more than a new 135/2 L, is the original Leica 100mm f2.8 APO-Macro Elmarit-R. You can use it on your Canon with a mechanical adapter. Manual focus, manual aperture, stopped-down metering, and it will meter with your Canon.
    You could also consider the Canon EF 85/1.2 L. The expensive lens that I really think you would like is the Canon EF 200/2 L or 1.8 L. I used to use my Nikon 200/2 AI on a 10D and while mine was a real bargain, I do sometimes see them for about the same price as the Canon 135/2 L. Extremely sharp wide open, smooth bokeh, and, while hard to imagine, it gets even sharper through f4.
    I use a 14 MP full frame camera and a 12 MP crop body, and yes an upgrade to a 1DsII, 5D II or 1DsIII will take full advantage of the best glass and you will be able to see the difference from your 40D (I think that is your current body).
  23. Center sharpness appears to be much better with the 135 2.0. Judge for yourself:
  24. Why not go for the 85 1.2 L, that's the one I want :)
  25. For a lens that will give you a nice shallow depth of field, and can be shot wide open with great sharp results, I would suggest the 135mm 2.0 or the 200mm 2.8.
  26. The 135F2,0 is sharper but it is marginal really, besides 135 and 85mm are very different lenses seen from pictorial point of view.
  27. I think I am leaning towards the 135MM 2.0, the other option I considered is the 200mm 2.8L. It might not have quite the center sharpness but if I frame correctly I should be able to get the DOF like in the image wasteland. The other reason is sports photography. Thanks for the help.
  28. I'm with Bob. I have both lens as well and while the 85/1.8 is terrific, the 135 is the way to go.
    I shoot most of my stuff wide open with minimal fill light from my strobes and it's a strong, strong performer.
    Plus, the bokeh is to excellent.
  29. Be aware that in addition to sharpness you want good DOF. The farther the subject is from a lens, the greater the depth of the DOF. Therefore, a longer focal length should give deeper DOF than a shorter focal length.
  30. The 135mm L is an outstanding performer, whereas the 85mm is just a good performer. It is much cheaper though

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