What happened was, I stumbled across Why you should own a 135mm F2 lens in DPReview (another Amazon property, hmmm) and boy was it ever convincing, so I clicked over (to Amazon, natch) and picked up the Fujifilm X-mount version. DPReview’s piece opens with: “Image quality, weight and value for money. Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
It’s actually hard to find the lens’s home page behind the barrage of reviews and retailers, but I managed. And if you’re another click-through-to-Amazon type, here ya go. You gotta respect Samyang for shipping all those mount options: Canon, Canon M, Nikon, Pentax, Sony α, Sony E, Fujifilm X, Samsung NX, µ4/3. The focal length varies: On my Fuji, it’s actually 148mm.
Image quality? · Yes, but… First off, you might want to expand this one.
I’d call that luminous and sharp, which is great. Of course, to get that extreme bokeh effect you want to be shooting wide open at F2 most of the time, and this is a manual-focus lens. Now, Fujifilm X-cameras have the best manual-focus aids I’ve ever encountered, but damn do I ever miss a lot with this thing. When you hit though, oh my goodness.
You might conclude from the above that this is a hell of a portrait lens. You’d be right. I have a couple of my daughter in a dark room that just explode off the screen; the shading on her face looks like it’s by Da Vinci. Since I don’t publish pix of my kids’ faces, here’s the only family member you’re going to see.
I really wanted a human face so I shot the first portrait above surreptitiously in a café, something made possible only by the tilting LED on the back of my Fujifilm X-T1. I really like the look of the new X-E3, especially since I never use the dial it omits (ISO); but no flexi-LED so no can do.
Weight? · Are you kidding me? This sucker is heavier than the camera body. It’s also heavier than my 55-200mm zoom. Let’s check back with the “Low Weight” section of that DPReview article. Um, 830g, that’s light? Ahhhh, by comparison with a bunch of other “legendary” glass from Canon and Sigma. Fair enough, I guess; making something as long as 135mm as bright as F2 requires, well, a whole lot of glass.
But I have to say, it barely fits in my ten-year-old camera bag, my wrist feels it, and there aren’t gonna be any one-handed fast takes. Which means that shooting strangers in a café is not exactly its forte.
Value for money · Yep, way under $1000 (even in Canuck bucks) and I’m having lots of fun with it, so no disagreement here.
What’s it for? · It’s a portrait lens. You can point it at things that aren’t human faces, but you need to think like a portraitist, for example of a long-dead leaf:
Here are portraits of light fixtures:
There are other advantages: At 135mm, you can take a picture of the upper third of a tree from a really long way away.
And at F2, you can crank it up to 1/2000 of a second to freeze a waterfall, even on a grey Pacific-Northwest January day. Having a camera that’s comfy at ISO 5000 helps. I guess they all are these days. If you’d told me ten years ago that this shot would be technically possible I’d have laughed at you.
This thing, it’s really a lot of fun.