July 8, 2019 /
Sony 135mm f/1.8: A Review
It’s here, folks. We asked – heck, I practically begged – Sony to give us a sub-f/2 prime telephoto, and here it is…the Sony 135mm f/1.8. After learning to shoot with an 85mm as my long end lens for the past year and a half, I’ll admit, I was a bit skeptical of trying to jump back into something that would put me so far away from the action. Would I feel disconnected? Was it really going to be THAT much better than the Sony 85mm f/1.4? What would the size be? And, ultimately, would it be worth the price tag? Read on to find out my thoughts on these topics and more in this Sony 135 review!
FAST STATS FOR THE SONY 135MM F/1.8
- Retails for $1,898
- Sony E-Mount/Full Frame Lens
- Dust and Moisture-Resistant Construction
- Aperture Range of f/1.8 – f/22
- XA Element, Super ED and ED Elements
- Rounded 11-Blade Diaphragm
- Nano AR and Fluorine Coatings
- XD Linear Motor AF System
- AF/MF Switch; Internal Focus
- Physical Aperture Ring; De-Click Switch
SONY 135MM F/1.8: UNBOXING
Unboxing the Sony 135MM was exciting. Finally, Sony delivered a telephoto prime! I was beyond excited to have a native prime lens longer than the 85mm. Opening the box, the 135MM comes with a padded bag, warranty information, and manual. There wasn’t much fanfare here, but it’s not about the “stuff” they could add to the box. It’s about the lens itself, which I couldn’t wait to get into the wild and try out!
(It’s not bad, just not much to write home about.)
SONY 135MM F/1.8: ERGONOMICS
I may be biased, but after using the Sigma 105mm f/1.4, the Sony 135 feels absolutely manageable. It’s not much bigger than the Sony 85mm f/1.4, and the weight is similar. While the barrel is a bit longer, it’s not that much different, and it’s actually a bit of a feat, when you consider the difference in length. Sony has certainly figured out how to keep their lenses to a manageable size – something Sigma has not.
Now, if you invested in the Sony camp for a lightweight setup, this is not for you. It feels similar to a DSLR loadout weight-wise, but it’s not unmanageable by any means. The brushed black metal finish is lovely, and the turning click ring for aperture is present, as it is on all G Master lenses.
Which, if you’re new to G Master lenses, let me share a tip that took far too long for me to find out: you can click the aperture ring all the way to “A,” and then your standard wheels manipulate the aperture, not the click ring. That may sound simple, but I remained frustrated by a G Master lens for too long due to the inability to change the aperture on the fly with my standard wheels for too long. Avoid my rookie mistake and take that ring all the way to “A” to make them work just like any other lens. Boom!
Additionally, there’s a AF/MF toggle switch on the left hand side if you prefer to manually focus. Maneuvering the focus ring is easy, and the lens fits comfortably in my hand. I don’t find that I struggle to reach any parts of the lens, and it’s a seamless interaction between lens and camera body.
Weight distribution between the lens and the body is a bit skewed, but that comes as no surprise. That being said, it’s still a beautiful combo, and one that isn’t overly burdensome. The heft you feel is from a solidly built lens, and I’m okay with that.
SONY 135MM F/1.8: BUILD QUALITY
As with all G Master lenses, you get what you pay for. Sony leaves no stone unturned with the reassuring heft, but not overdoing the excellent craftsmanship of the 135. When you hold this lens in your hand, you know you’re holding quality. It’s still a size that you can hold and not be overwhelmed, but you’re certainly left with the sensation that you’re holding an excellent product.
The focus ring moves smoothly, but gives just enough pressure that you can sense when you’re making moves, but it’s not too loose. The aperture click wheel gives you the option of a smooth twist, or a click confirmation twist, allowing its users to customize their experience with the lens. Personally, I prefer the click, but your mileage may vary.
Additionally, the Sony 135mm f/1.8 boasts weather sealing – something I desperately need in my lenses. Enjoy peace of mind when encountering elements with this lens. The weather sealing is fantastic. Now, that’s not to say you should go into a monsoon with it — please don’t. But knowing you can stand up to adverse weather conditions now and again isn’t a bad thing at all.
SONY 135MM f/1.8: IN THE FIELD USE
Using the Sony 135 in the field is an interesting thing for me. After photographing weddings using primarily the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 as my long lens for the past year due to Sony not having a longer telephoto prime, I’ve become accustomed to zooming with my feet. Before using Sony, the Canon 135 f/2 and Nikon 105 f/1.4 were staples in my bag, and switching to the 85 was difficult. Now, I can say the same about readjusting my shooting style to incorporate the 135 range back into my workflow, after getting used to the 85 being my go-to “long” lens.
That isn’t to say I don’t love the 135. Rather, it’s simply a mindset shift. Many times I feel disconnected from my couples when I’m so far away, which is why I honestly prefer the 105 range if given the choice. However, the Sigma 105 is just so massive, it’s nearly unwieldy in the line of work I perform. The Sony 135 has the size factor on lock, providing a lens that’s so buttery smooth, compresses the subject off the background, and gives me the look I’ve missed from a longer prime. It’s just…I feel SO far from my couples when I use it! It’s definitely a personal trade off and a readjustment of mindset.
That being said, I really enjoy using the 135. As I mentioned, the compression this lens provides, as well as the stunning 3D feel of falloff it gives, are truly remarkable highlights while using this lens. Physically, the weight and balance is nice, and while it’s not a “small” setup, I’m not overwhelmed by the weight. It’s an enjoyable experience to use this lens, and the results are top notch, as expected from any G Master lens.
(Simply because I feel disconnected from my subject at this distance)
SONY 135MM f/1.8: IMAGE QUALITY
I’m not saying anything that DP Review or any other review hasn’t said…but man, this lens is SHARP. But, it’s not even about being sharp, though it is. Its gorgeous falloff, its precise tracking, and the compression that comes from this lens is otherworldly. Combining the three things creates a lens that can’t compare to anything else on the market.
When you have such a sharp lens, sometimes you lose character or personality within the lens. It becomes a clinical feeling lens, which is what I feel when using some of the Sigma lineup. They’re beautiful and sharp, but I don’t “feel” when I use them. What Sony has done has create a lens that not only has the technical sharpness, but also doesn’t forget about the fun and character that a great lens can possess. Win!
The closest lens in comparison would probably be the Canon 135mm f/2, but even that doesn’t compare adequately. The Sony 135 is in a league of its own, and I’m thankful I get to use it. It’s a joy to create images with it, and I know when I create with it, the results will be astounding for both me on a technical level, but also visually for my client. And I love when those two things coincide!
SONY 135MM f/1.8: FINAL VERDICT
The Sony 135 came a time that I had given up on using a longer prime lens in my bag. When they announced this lens, I had a feeling of mixed relief, excitement, and a little curiosity on how I could re-incorporate that length into my bag. I’d picked up the Sigma 105 in hopes of having a longer prime again, but realized the size was simply too prohibitive with how I shoot. When I saw the 135, I wondered if that could potentially be my option.
After having used the Sony 135 on multiple weddings and shoots, I can safely say that the Sony 135 is that long lens option for me. It’s technical marvels make the gear nerd in me rejoice, and the beautiful images and results make the creator in me jump for joy. It’s a fantastic lens, and I love having it in my lineup.
That being said, will it be my go-to lens? I’m not sure about that yet. I’ve learned and become extremely comfortable with the 16-35/85 combo that I wield on the regular, and the 135 length does make me feel disconnected from my couples at points. But, for Brenizer Methods and inside churches where movement and proximity aren’t possible, this lens will absolutely be my go-to option. I’m so glad the Sony team heard our requests for a long prime lens, and I can’t wait to create more images with this beauty in the future.
FINAL SCORE: 9.3/10
Solid Build Quality
Colors are Insanely Beautiful
Longer Focus Distance
Took a bit longer get used to the length again