135mm SLR lens; Why are they so cheap?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by Hamster, Apr 21, 2009.

  1. Hamster

    Hamster Member

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    I have notice that 135mm SLR lens are really cheap and very plentyful, is there a reason for that? Perhaps it was once a coveted focal length that had since fall out of fashion? Just curious.
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    They were easier & cheaper to make compared to wide angles and very popular.

    Ian
     
  3. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Before the advent of decent-quality zoom lenses, the 135 was, generally, the first telephoto acquired by non professionals. It was long enough to seem to be worth while, but not so long as to bring on problems with hand holding. As a general rule, as the photographer gained more experience, the 135 was the first to be sold off. It is neither fish nor fowl--too long for portraits and landscapes; not long enough for "real" telephoto work. My two cents.
     
  4. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    Don't forget that they made a lot of 135mm for all those amateurs, used them too in my early days.
    High production > many on sale > lower prices.

    Now adays I use zooms for 35 and the 150SF for 6x7.

    Peter
     
  5. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Anscojohn summed it up pretty well. There were lots of them made, and the focal length is just all wrong. It is too long for portraits and too short for what would normally be considered telephoto work. I suppose a lot of folks bought them thinking they were going to do bird photography only to find that it was woefully lacking. I have one that doesn't see much use. For portraits on 35 mm something around 85 to 105 mm seems about right for a head and shoulders or upper body shot. 200 mm lens is the low end of what I consider to be a useful length as a telephoto lens. Birders are just getting started at 400 mm, and then often with a 1.4x or 2x converter.
     
  6. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    Ditto all the above and the ubiquitous 135/2.8 was the longest glass you could get with decent speed for a non-pro price.
     
  7. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    Falls in between. Better an 85mm f:1.8 for portraits and a 250mm f:2.8 for sports or wild life.
     
  8. Chaplain Jeff

    Chaplain Jeff Member

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    Hello,

    My thoughts:

    Too long for portrait work. Too short for telephoto.

    Lots of third party 135mm's were sold with "kits" in the 70's and 80's. That's how I got mine. I nearly never used it. Couldn't give the thing away.

    Luckily, someone stole it about 20 years ago and it was insured along with everything else.
     
  9. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I agree with most of the above comments. There are some nice 135mm lenses out there, though, and if one could find a use for the focal length, one could take some nice shots. My 135mm lenses have produced some very nice results. I recently picked up an EX+ condition Minolta MD Tele Rokkor 135/3.5 for almost nothing--$16!--and that is from KEH...and thus it is in truly fine condition. I cannot wait to see the results.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2009
  10. Hamster

    Hamster Member

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    Talking about uses for 135's, the only use I ever found for mine was photographing friends playing tennis. Seems to be just the right distance. What's your use?
     
  11. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    I tried my 135 mm with a 2x converter recently and really liked the results. I was shooting landscape. It gave me enough to fill the frame with, but I didn't have to get too far off the beaten track (or in this case, the walking trail) to do it.
     
  12. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    My first "kit" was a Nikon FM, Nikkor 28/3.5 and a 135/2.8 series E. Used the 135 for HS football, basketball sometimes, and a lot of candid street type shooting. That particular 135 is very sharp, light and - used wide open - makes really good "isolation shots" picking faces out of crowds etc.
     
  13. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    The 135mm as a focal length is something of an historical holdover. It was 1.5 times longer than a 90mm, and was the longest somewhat practical lens for use with a rangefinder camera. It was relatively easy and inexpensive to produce one that performed well, was small, and was a good option for a rangefinder using pj needing a lens with some reach and decent speed before SLRs. After SLRs, many people went to the 200 f:4 as a standard amateur telephoto for more reach than the 135, as it was still affordable.

    I have some candid head shots with 135's that I like a lot.

    My son uses an older Minolta 135 f:2.8 as a macro lens and gets excellent results, very good bokeh, and comfortable working distances.

    Lee
     
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  15. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I appreciate the question in regard to use of the 135mm lens. I have not found a specific or particular use for it yet, but it has, indeed, been useful in certain situations. For instance, I found my Pentax SMC Takumar 135/3.5 especially useful in photographing a ship that was docked just across a small inlet. I could have never fit in the ship "comfortably" (i.e. with some scenery) if I had used a longer lens. It also was very handy in that I was able to shoot hand-held (pun intended).

    Overall, I find that 135mm focal length is perhaps the most useful of any tele length. The 135mm lens is like the poor cousin of the 50mm lens: all the pros seem to despise the ol' 50...but I use a 50 more than any other lens.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 21, 2009
  16. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Tell that to all those folks plonking down close to a grand for the Canon 135 F2 L. I've been taking a portrait photography class at the Smithsonian, and on a number of occasions I would have loved to have the 135 F2 instead of my 24-105 that came with the camera kit. At 105, I still feel a little too close to my subject when filling the frame with their face. And the F2 gives an amazing compressed depth of field with super smooth out-of-focus areas.
     
  17. Pumal

    Pumal Member

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    The Pentax Super-Takumar 1:3.5/135 is another story. This is a little jewell. Sharpness, contrast and bokeh that are unbeliebable.
     
  18. Q.G.

    Q.G. Inactive

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    I think it unfair to say that the 135 mm was only popular in circles of unwitting "non professionals" / "amateurs", and that it was dumped deservedly as soon as these people started to catch on.
    It's not so.

    Supplies of these lenses are plentiful, because they were popular. Period.

    And that, because they were (still are) great lenses. Versatile enough, and of high quality. No worries.
    The abundant supply is a reflection of how many were bought. And remember that unlike the 50 mm, you did not (!) simply get one with any body you bought. People who bought one had to decide to buy one.
     
  19. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I have a 135mm and I agree it is a inbetween lense but it does give good images.

    Jeff
     
  20. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    ...all excellent points, Q.G...
     
  21. unohuu

    unohuu Member

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    I love my 135mm

    I love this portrait length in both 35mm and Dslr and have one for both the Minolta Manual (f/2.8) and Nikon AF (f/2). I also have the 85mm (Nikon) and 100mm f/2.5 (Minolta). Depends on what I am shooting and why. The studio works well for the 135s and there are environmental/location shots work with the 85mm and the 100mm (forgot there is also a 105mm Series E).
     
  22. wayne naughton

    wayne naughton Member

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    my most used lenses are 35mm and 135mm focal length. I guess that makes me seriously unprofessional

    wayne
     
  23. Chazzy

    Chazzy Member

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    But why aren't 85mm lenses as easy and cheap to make? I would love to have the Minolta MD 85mm/2, but the speed of the lens seems to keep the price up on eBay. Why wouldn't Minolta have made an 85/2.8 at a more economical price point? As regards Minolta MC and MD lenses, the original poster is definitely right: 135s are plentiful and cheap.
     
  24. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    In my distant uni days (25 years about) 135mm was one of the lenses we were required to use for H&S portraiture and candids. Haven't used one of this f/length for a good few years now. It does not surprise me an earlier post mentioned the Canon 135 f2L; being an L-series lens I wouldn't quibble with its optical quality!
     
  25. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    Short answer: go ask minolta ~why~

    Sorry to be snippy, but your question sounds more like a complaint.

    Long answer:
    Regarding manufacturing: I think that at the time, consumers were more interested in a telephoto lens to get close to the subject. 135mm seems to be the longest focal length available in a compact size lens. I dont think too many people would want a 200 or 300mm metal barreled lens around their neck. Also remember that fast films were not as good as they are now, so shooting with a long lens may have required a tripod. Finally, note that most 135mm lenses share the same filter thread as their shorter cousins.

    Regarding current trends: ask around for advice on a focal length for portraits and the majority of answers will probably say 85mm or 100/105mm. Not many will reccomend a 135mm for anything.

    Personally I have a Nikon Series E 135mm f2.8 and I like the focal length very much for walking around with. It is reletively compact yet bright, and gets you closer to the action than a 50mm. I've used it at a local nature preserve where I can get pretty close to the animals and at the zoo.

    That said, I think a good tele zoom like a 70-210mm gives you better options for most situations than a 135mm. The 135mm is too long for family photo type shots where a perosn will usually be 5-10 feet from you.
     
  26. Jerry Thirsty

    Jerry Thirsty Member

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    I find 135mm to be a very good focal length for astrophotography. It captures some of the larger nebulae at a decent size while showing the star fields they are located in. Also, it seems to be a sweet spot for minimizing optical aberrations: too short for chromatic aberration to be a problem, and too long for astigmatism and coma. I've found that I can shoot astro with my Pentax 135 wide open without getting defective stars in the corners of the frame.