Now this lens poses some tricky questions. Let me explain.

The price for this new Canon RF 135mm f 1.8 L IS is a whopping 32.300 SEK - somewhere around 2950 € (albeit in Germany it is 2700 €) That is an astonishing high price, and located somewhere between RF 50L and RF 85L.

Compare it to the older Canon EF 135mm f 2 L version (which you can easily adapt to the newer Canon EOS R cameras) - cost in Sweden in year 2022 only 11.000 SEK or 950 €, and likely cheaper in other countries, or even second hand. In all - that is a pretty good price for an excellent lens. I remember however, that I bought it for around 7500 SEK/ 750 € back in the days around 2006 i believe.

 

My first thought: WTF ?!

That is just ridiculous high priced for a 135mm focal length lens - suddenly for the cost that is 300% higher. However, later I realized, that it MAYBE isn't as easy like that - because there is a twist, IF you look at the lens from a different vantage point - which I will explain along the way.

 

The older Canon EF 135/2 L USM

It has a good reputation, and given that it was introduced back in 1996 - it really holds up well. As a portrait lens, when used wide open, it performs with good sharpness - and gets very sharp when stopped down.

The good aspect of this lens is, that when you use it wide open at aperture ƒ2.0, it isn't so painfully sharp. It has a gentle sharpness which is very pleasant. And so is the bokeh, by the way. One of the reasons it was so highly regarded for such a long time. Having too sharp images for portraits, would be and is counterproductive. I would say, the EF 135/2 L it is ideal for portraits, because it has a beautiful not over the top sharpness.

See below the corresponding MTF chart. The black line is for wide open aperture ƒ2.0 - while the blue lines are for stopped down aperture ƒ8.0 ( I believe)

 




 

 

The new Canon RF 135/1.8 L IS USM

Well, it is a optically perfect lens. A marvel. Literally. No fringing. No chromatic aberration. And extremely sharp micro details - if that is your thing. In other words, it does play in the same league like the RF 50L and RF 85L.

The MTF chart shows this pretty dramatically: no matter if you use it wide open at aperture ƒ1.8 or stopped down to ƒ8.0 (where it is a fraction less sharp, corresponding the blue line) - it is extremely sharp - which also holds up for high resolution sensors.

So at least for the price of 2100 $, 2700 € or 32.300 SEK - it is really a lens which has been created to perfection. Nevertheless - it still is an awful lot of money for "just a 135mm lens" - and the question is, do you really use it that much ?

The close focus has been decreased to something like 70 cm, compared to the 90 cm in the older EF version. Here I am sure the new one, performs perfectly even at close range !

 




 

Perhaps - it's a "mini EF 200/2 L IS" ?

So. We have a lens which costs extreme much: 2700-3100 € and seem to perform admirably perfect (what ever that really means - is a definition of the human photographers ego; the size of it, I mean)

But then i thought, after i saw the MTF chart - that this lens performs more like a smaller EF 200/2 L IS lens. Remember, the white chubby giant, the EF 200 mm f 2.0 L IS - is a big and heavy lens. Also a lens I don't really take out that often - while the new RF 135 is rather lighter and "neat" in comparison - but razor sharp at wide open aperture ! So, this makes the new RF 135/1.8 L IS suddenly a different beast - one you also would use far more often than the big EF 200/2 L IS lens - at least in theory.

Therefore the high price makes a little bit more sense. But that's about the only excuse I could come up with, really.

 

 

How often do you really use 135 mm ?

I personally do not.

I made around 7000 images with the old EF 135/2 L lens during 16 years of use. I did use it heavily in Turkey back in 2006 - and together with the bright light, it was a delight to use it. Here in Stockholm... well, I didn't use it as much, really.

A common issue was that older cameras back in 2006-2017, where not that good in focusing exactly... The OOF shots were more than i'd liked (except in bright light)

However, since the mirrorless EOS R6 camera came along, also adding built-in stabilization - any EF lens becomes a better autofocus performer ! Plus they all gain IS - which is fantastic, when you think about it. So, for me using older EF lenses on new mirrorless Canon EOS cameras, is fantastic. I never felt that I suddenly need a lot of new, expensive RF lenses - when the old EF lenses work to well !

When it comes to sharpness - I find the old EF 135 one to be plenty sharp, plus that it has a gentle rendering in sharpness. It isn't so "into your face" kind of sharp that it almost hurts. When I need painful sharp images on overdrive - I use the Topaz Sharpen AI software - which works many times like wonders in that regard. So, this makes super-über-sharp lenses not that necessary anymore. Well, and for my purposes, really not necessary. I mean, I don't blow up my images to 1 meter.

There are also other options: The Sigma 135/1.8 in EF mount is a top performer, and i believe there is the Samyang AF 135 mm lens - albeit I am not sure if they ever made one in the EF mount. RF mount if closed to all third party lens makers - unfortunately. Because if Canon would open the RF mount - Sigma would punch Canon into the ground - simply because of the highly overpriced lenses Canon is selling, while Sigma makes nowadays stellar lenses for half the price.

Go figure, why Canon keeps the RF-Mount closed. It's simply a major cash cow for them - without any real competition allowed.

Bitches.

 

 

 

Canon Price are now a lá Leica 2010 style

I find the huge price increase on the Canon RD 135/1.8 L IS not that attractive - and wouldn't suddenly want to buy it. I always considered that lenses in the 3000 € price class must be special or truly needed. Otherwise it is a waste of money.

In essence the top Canon lenses are now coming with a Leica price tag á lá year 2010-2012. Which is a bit frighting, if you think about it... It only took 10-12 years to get there.

 

For whom is the RF 135 L ?

Hard to tell - I really don't know.

People who don't want to switch adapter, and go adapter-less. But changing all EF lenses into RF, is like trying to exchange all your lenses over time into RF lenses, where you spend 3 times as much just to replace them.., maybe you get in real life a slight increase of sharpness. (Not all the new Canon RF lenses are top performers, remember !)

However some lenses I am safe to say - are indeed top performers who surpass their predecessors by aa larger margin; such as RF 50L, RF 85L, RF 135/1.8 L IS, RF 70-200/2.8 L IS. are coming to my mind. With other new RF lenses I am on the fence, when it comes to optical performance vs extra big premium price added, because I cannot see any true benefit there, compared to the EF lens versions (give or take)

 

Indoor / Outdoor sports ?

The new Canon RF 135/1.8 L IS might be a perfect lens for indoor photography, like a Mini version of the EF 200mm f 2. L IS lens - only a lot lighter, more easy going and not so much in the way, and apparently stellar wide open aperture sharpness at ƒ1.8

 

 

No need for me to switch, because:

1) The old EF 135/2 L is plenty sharp !

2)
I don't use 135mm that much really, and for what I use it - I use the EF lens version.

3)
I use Topaz Sharpen AI, if I want to squeeze out extra sharpness (often not even necessary)

4)
The Canon EOS R6 has built-in stabilization, therefore any lens is stabilized - which is truly a strong bonus for any high performing EF lens on a modern Canon R camera. By the way - I made plenty of Aurora and night clouds photos without tripod, handheld down to 1/2 seconds, with stars sharp like a dot !

5)
Real time cost - when you already have an EF 135/2 L is 0 €.

What is there not to like ?

 

Sigma ART 105mm f 1.4

On top I also got the Sigma ART 105mm f 1.4 lens - which works in the same league as a RF 85/1.2 L or 135/1.8 L IS type of lens - and I have the Canon EF 200/2 L IS lens... Both hugely bulky and heavy with it's 1.6 kilo, the other 2.4 kilo - both stellar performers.

So, really - for me personally - the RF 135 L IS simply has no space in my shelf - but I can understand that people are lusting for one. I sometimes find 135mm a bit too crammed, and prefer the 105mm or better the 85mm perspective instead.

 

 

 

A thought reflecting past times in a mirror

It is strange, or perhaps it is age, or whatever it is - I find writing about lenses more and more... BORING. It is like trying to be a wannabe, like I used to be back in 2005... but I just can't find that feeling of passion, putting effort into writing about theoretical, optically stellar lenses.

It's like... well, a world of illusions, which take you away from what really matters in life; the spirit behind images you take. The creation.

Instead, writing about lenses and cameras is like a never ending geeky road of nothingness - which only captures the geek with all the new whistles and bells, the repetitions, the blablabla which do not truly have much to do with the creation of photography; the image, the content, the "Geist" behind images.

It's like a LOVEBITE... all these technical, electronic and digital gadgets. They can capture a soul and trap it for over decades chasing after something better... something you think is better, and will give you better images.

In the end, it turns out to become so important, that the road of gadgets becomes more important, more interesting, than the making of images.

Deep down, I know this, always have known this. The soul changes - and can't find the same commitment and passion of writing about camera and lens gadgets anymore. It just doesn't feel convincing to me anymore.


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