RUSH HOUR: fashion editorial shot with the 135mm F2 and Nikon D800E

RUSH HOUR: fashion editorial shot with the 135mm F2 and Nikon D800E

I am very pleased how my last editorial turned out, I will post the full spread once published (in about 1 to 2 weeks). Some of you emailed wondering if I will review the newly released Zeiss 135mm f2 and I thought this would be a good opportunity to share my experience shooting with this focal length and why I think a manual focus 135mm, regardless of its optical performance, is totally useless for anyone who shoots moving subjects….
more after the break

if you happen to only shoot static subjects, read no further and just order the Zeiss 135mm.
it is a fantastic lens.
get it in Nikon mount here from BH
or in Canon mount here BH

pictured in Nikon mount, focusing direction reversed on the Canon mount
you can also preorder it from Adorama in Nikon mount here
and in Canon mount from Adorama here

However, if you ever even consider shooting moving subjects with the 135mm, you will be much happier with the results from the Nikkor DC 135mm f2 or the Canon L 135mm f2.
You can also get the Nikkor DC 135mm here at Adorama
and the Canon L135mm here at Adorama

I have extensive experience with both lenses and love them. A 135mm on a full frame produces fantastic bokeh wide open-even at 2.8- and both, the Nikon DC 135mm and the Canon L 135mm produce tack sharp images. I regularly shoot with the Nikkor DC 135mm on the D800, D800E, and the L135mm on the 5Dmk3, both lenses focus extremely fast (even the Nikon with the screw drive impresses) and neither lens exhibits back or front focus issues, hitting the mark every time. I can’t imagine shooting a life style fashion spread with a walking model, a 135mm wide open in manual focus . There would be too many missed shots, I guess the keeper rate would be around 2~3% . Depending on the distance to your subject, lets take a full figure example, the focus zone at 2.8 is a whopping 6 to 8 inches! This means we have to refocus every time our subject moves. In the studio, strobing at f8 or 11 with a stationary model, the Zeiss will do very well, however, you will have to pin a Simens star on the front of your subject to really see and appreciate the difference in resolution when viewed at 200%. My advice for anyone considering the Zeiss, take a minute or two and really think about what you want to use it for, it is a fantastic piece of equipment, the focusing ring has a great feel to it and if you happen to shoot video, you should definitely take a closer look at this lens. Otherwise, you will be much happier with the Nikkor 135mm DC or the Canon L 135mm. I rarely shoot the 135mm DC in defocus mode, however, it is a very nice thing to have:)
UPDATE: Rumor has it Nikon has plans to replace the 135mm DC with an updated nanocoated G lens, possibly starting at f1.8, get this one while you can, you won’t regret it.

If you find this article inspiring or entertaining, please consider helping me maintaining this blog by purchasing your gear through my product links to Adorama and B&H and Ebay. It will cost you nothing and allows me to keep adding! Or consider making a direct donation using PayPal, thank you!

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6 thoughts on “RUSH HOUR: fashion editorial shot with the 135mm F2 and Nikon D800E

  1. mike.kobal Post author

    Thank you, Derek, totally agree, the AFS70-200mm is excellent optically and a truly versatile lens. And as soon as you stop down to 5.6 or 8 the Zeiss advantage, despite the slightly higher resolution, wont be obvious in most photos. What separates all those 135mm lenses from the 70-200 is that one magic f stop, shooting wide open truly produces stunning bokeh, a 70-200 can get close but side by side, the 135mm at 2.0 has that WOW factor built in. Of course shooting anything live at 2.0 with manual focus will be a very frustrating experience.

  2. derek

    hi Mike , appreciate your hands-on preview on that interesting lens.
    I think the Sony Zeiss 135mmf1.8 is still better than this new expensive MF only 135mm ZF2 lens.
    and I agree regardless of its optical quality it is really not practical to shoot MF-only 135mm.
    in addition to that, this Zeiss 135mmf2ZF2 is too heavy to as a prime, if I want to carry something like this or the Zeiss1.4/35mmZF2, then I just simply use my AFS70-200f2.8GEDVRii zoom,which is optically not far worse than the best prime in its range, with much more usable range + VR.
    But your samples are amazing and I think this Zeiss 135mm f2ZF2 is optically quite promising for any one shoot in a studio or landscape type of things.

    as always thank you for your time and effort.

  3. mike.kobal Post author

    the Zeiss 135/1.8A is an awesome lens! I am sure the Nikkor is a different design because of its defocus control feature

  4. Chris K.

    (oh and forgot to mention, my use case is concert photography and wildlife photography. Given I often use 35mm f/0.95 for concerts and 400mm at f/5.6, I’m guessing I’ll have similar experiences with shallow DoF on this lens…

  5. Chris K.

    Looking forward to my Zeiss 135/1.8 A-mount; here’s hoping Sony takes the 36MPix sensor from the 800E and puts it in an Alpha body…someday. (I’m sure Nikon has an exclusivity period.) Surprised the Nikon mount 135 tops out at f/2 (not like that’s a big difference.) Did they decrease max aperture to control vignetting or is it a different optical design?

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