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.

Stranger in coffee shop

Stranger in a cof­fee shop.

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.

Tilde the cat

~, the cal­i­co cat. Her eyes are ex­cep­tion­al.

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.

Fuji X-T1 with Samyang 135mm F2 attached

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:

Dead leaf

Here are por­traits of light fix­tures:

Arts & Crafts light fixture
· · ·
Light fixture

There are oth­er ad­van­tages: At 135m­m, you can take a pic­ture of the up­per third of a tree from a re­al­ly long way away.

Tree against pink sky

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.

author · Dad · software · colophon · rights

January 20, 2018
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