I was definitely interested in the capabilities of this lens as a replacement for my Nikkor 70-200mm VR1, so in many ways I was a bit more critical. Although it’s an older lens, the old school Nikon crinkle texture and hefty metal construction is really quite timeless. From this feel alone, this made the lens feel really solid and definitely at pro-level. Compared to the plastic construction of my Nikkor 50mm 1.4D and 85mm 1.8D, this lens definitely felt like it meant serious business. Unlike most lenses, which have a bit of a bezel around the actual glass on the front element, this lens barely had any, which really made it seem like the glass was bold and in your face. The lens uses a rather irregular 72mm filter size and has a built-in hood that slides outward. On the camera, it definitely feels on the heavy side and while I don’t have the exact numbers, it feels heavier than my Nikkor 24-70mm. This weight could be a problem in some usage. It really isn’t that tall for a telephoto (especially compared to the 70-200mm), but the weight, range, and lack of VR actually proved to be a bit problematic for me in practical use. To get a nice, in-focus, hand-held photo indoors or in relatively low light (such as right after the sun goes down), I often had to raise the ISO up pretty high (ISO 800+) to get a fast enough shutter speed. While I’m quite happy with how my D700 handles noise, I typically shoot with my D300 for telephoto during weddings and motorsports events, so having to really crank up the ISO on it is usually something I try to avoid (that isn’t to say that the D300 is bad at noise handling, just isn’t anywhere as good as the D700). However, when there’s plenty of light, this lens truly shines. The special Defocus Control of the lens was fun to play around with, but unfortunately I didn’t get to do much experimenting with it. Even without adjusting the Defocus Control, this lens produce silky smooth bokeh and some of the sharpest portrait shots I’ve ever taken. It’s so sharp in fact that I honestly don’t believe my venerable 85mm 1.8D could produce the same sharpness, and I even once said that my 85mm would have to be pried from my dying hands! This lens is really that sharp. After renting and testing, is the 135mm a viable replacement for my 70-200mm? In terms of sharpness and bokeh, I’d say the 135mm wins, for certain. However, the lack of VR is probably going to make low-light and indoor shoots troublesome, especially if I want to use longer shutter speeds and lower ISO settings. I also noticed in testing that the 135mm creates a lot of chromatic aberration at wide apertures, and while this is quite fixable in post-processing, it’s still something that I’d rather not have to deal with. Finally, regardless of the new 70-200mm VR-II’s focus breathing issues, I did find that the 135mm was still a bit too short to shoot with full frame, although it probably would be fine on my D300′s crop sensor. Given these criticisms, I believe that the 135mm might be a better replacement for my 85mm rather than my 70-200mm. I very well may just end up with the new version of the 70-200 to suit my specific needs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to have the 135mm in my arsenal as well.
Nikon 135mm f/2D AF DC
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Note: Auto-focus is not supported by D3000, D3100, D5000, D5100, D40 and D60 cameras.
Lens rental package includes: Front cap, rear cap, and UV filter.