on March 12, 2012
Sony 135mm/f2.8[T4/5] is one of the great but underappreciated lenses in the market. Part of that may be due to Sony's lack of marketing initiatives and a part of it the price tag. But, to a greater part, it may also be usability challenges as this is not a lens for the casual photographer (see below).
Build Quality: Superb. This is a substantial piece of metal and glass, that comes nicely wrapped in its own soft, well padded leather bag, a lens hood with black non-reflective lining and covers for the front (72mm) and back. The focusing ring is smooth, as is the aperture control ring.
Image Quality: Outstanding. While the STF (Smooth Transition Focus) is revered for its unmatched, silky smooth rendering of out of focus areas (bokeh), it does so while also being one of the sharpest lenses even wide open. The images tend to have a unique 3D feel.
Usability: This is a manual focus only lens, hence not for people who can't do without auto-focus. In fact, there is no focus confirmation. For them, Sony's 135mm/f1.8 Zeiss would be the answer. It is also a better lens for low light performance. Outside of that realm, and if you're a willing participant in the system's focus-on-the-subject for its great rewards, like I have become, the STF lens has a lot to offer.
Focusing with this lens has been easy for me, even without using any manual focus assist feature. And if your camera has an assist feature similar to my primary camera (Sony SLT-A55), which allows a 7x-14x zoom (Live View as well as Electronic View Finder), it is even better. My back up camera (Sony NEX-3) goes a step further, with its Focus Peaking feature (All NEX-series cameras, and SLT-65 and SLT-77 now have it).
Unlike other lenses, this lens has two modes to control the aperture. Each mode affects a specific aperture diaphragm.
Auto Mode: This mode allows control of a traditional diaphragm through the camera, as in "Aperture Priority" mode. For this mode to take effect, the aperture ring should be set to "A". The aperture size ranges from f/4.5 thru f/32.
Manual Mode: This mode shifts the control to, an unconventional, step-less diaphragm with aperture size ranging from T4.5 thru T6.7. This is achieved by turning the aperture ring past the click (which identifies the Auto Mode selection).
Personally, I leave the conventional aperture wide open, while varying the step-less diaphragm given that for most practical purposes specific to this lens, I would be using aperture around f/5.6.
Another thing to note is that, although this lens is identified as 135mm/f2.8[T4.5], the f2.8 only relates to DOF, as the aperture is indeed wide open to f/2.8. However, due to couple of apodization elements used inside the lens, the transmissive setting "wide open" is f/4.5, hence the T4.5 denomination.
on March 4, 2013
I had been reading about this lens for years, I just had to have it! If you have read the articles and seen the pictures posted all over the place, you either know you want this lens, or you don't. If you do (and you know who you are), it is everything you dreamed it was. There is simply no lens ever made that is better for pretty flower pictures and bright light still portraits.
But let's be honest-- this is a difficult lens to use. It needs a lot of light. Anything short of bright sunlight might not do. It is manual focus only, and the nature of the lens disables the PD focus confirmation in manual mode (the green box that lights up).
Here is where the innovations of Sony's digital approach come into play, and help overcome these difficulties quite well. Focus peaking works perfectly, and thus it becomes a much more usable lens. When you are controlling the aperture, you can see the background melt away as the shot is composed. Image stabilization works also, which is nice on what is effectively a 200mm lens.
If you have an a77 the two make a great pair. Some of the more recent sample images have been from an a99, and it looks like that is great pairing as well. It has received high marks for use on a FF sensor, with minimal vingetting, softening, or distortion. On my a77, there is absolutely none I have noticed.
If you know you want it, you do. If you just *think* you want it, you probably don't. Seriously, it is expensive, heavy, and can be a real pain to get the shot you want.
In my opinion the unique qualities of this lens are well worth the extreme extra effort (and price). The results are beyond anything possible with other lenses, and probably even beyond what you can manipulate digitally.
on February 21, 2013
Excellent prime lens, perfect circular and creamy bokeh, sharp, great image quality. All metal body and crystal glasses. It is a little heavy but you can feel the quality.
Is a very specialized and unique lens, only manual focus but you can use the Peaking Level and Focus Magnifier functions to make focus easy; check your Alpha camera handbook.
If you are a only "auto-focus" person this great lens is not for you. But if you have experience manual focusing like old 135 film SLR camera times you are going to love this lens and shoot amazing pictures; the knowledge curve are going to be short. This lens is perfect to portrait, nature and many other kind of pictures.
It is only for Sony A-mount. You can not find it for any other camera mount.
I bought it directly on a Sony Store.
on March 5, 2015
There are a lot of nice medium primes out there, but no other lens can do what the 135mm STF can. It is designed to give you the smoothest, most perfect looking bokeh both in front of AND behind the focus point while retaining exceptionally high contrast and resolution. It’s also sharp from the center right out to the edges. The resulting images are truly remarkable.
I had the original Minolta version of this lens and sold it only to buy the new Sony version. The optical formula is the same but the Sony version is lighter and has better build quality. The barrel is rugged all metal and the focus and aperture rings are well dampened and smooth. It is quite an impressive lens when you see it in person with its big font element (72mm threads) but it fits quite nicely in one hand.
Recently I've been using it on my a7II (for lighter travel) with a cheap “AF-NEX” adapter. It works great with this body and it’s very easy to nail focus using peaking and focus magnifier. Plus, the IBIS is a big help for taking sharp handheld pictures even indoors.