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03-19-2009, 05:10 AM   #1
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Why all these 135mm primes?

I have been browsing the web around in hunt for nice old glass to my new K200D and found something interesting: the 135 mm primes are really common. It seems like every manufacturer had made these with different max apertures. So, I'm wondering, why? Is the 135 mm some kind of magic number regarding tele lens designs? Finding other prime focal lengths (like 85, 100, 150, 200) are not that easy like the 135...

03-19-2009, 05:43 AM   #2
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This probably is an accident of history - the old large format 'standard' lenses started off with 135 for 4x5. (What's today called medium format used to be lumped with other miniature formats, and the standard lenses there are approx 105mm and 75-80mm).

Then Leica's first interchangeable set of lenses was 35-50-135mm which became the standard in 35mm photography. Perhaps due to Leica's decision?

These standard lengths became 'sticky' as pre-computers, the optical formulas were worked out and well understood, and thus cheaper manufacture was possible.

The 135mm length on 35mm is also approximately the longest easily hand holdable telephoto. Probably more significant: the 13.5 cm length is about the max the early Leica range finder could focus - and before range finders, about the max you'd want to point with reasonable accuracy.
03-19-2009, 05:57 AM   #3
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The 135mm also makes beautiful portraits (on 35mm film.) It was often the aspirational "next lens" to buy after your 50mm kit lens, because people are a popular photographic subject

The focal length is a little long on an APS-C digital SLR, so I think that also contributes to their used availability these days.

I think the 85mm would probably be the ultimate APS-C portrait lens.
03-19-2009, 05:58 AM   #4
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Good 135's are so great on APS-C. You can basically get the equal a super sharp, small and light 200/2.8 for $10!

03-20-2009, 01:59 PM   #5
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As others have said, just the history, during the film 35mm era, the classic ensemble was the 50mm "standard", the 135mm "tele" and the 28mm "wide", all the manufacturers made them, as well as the 3rd party makes, (halina, cosina, et al).
A 135mm was considered a nice fast telephoto which could be used hand held (I know I have 4 of them!), and considerably less to purchase than a 200mm upwards, which were the preserve of the Pros, for sports etc.
It only changed when zooms came out in the 80's and photographers found the flexibilty (if not the ultimate IQ of primes) and increasingly lens ranges of 80-210 strarted to appear.

Of course now, with APS-C sensors, the 135mm is getting a bit of a comeback, not only for its IQ and light weight, but also for the fact it is a useable, small tele of around 200mm (or more accurately 202.5 on APS-C) effective FOV.
Just think in film days, how much would a 200mm F3.5 would cost, let alone an F2.8 or F2.5? pretty steep!
03-20-2009, 02:29 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by filmamigo Quote

...It was often the aspirational "next lens" to buy after your 50mm kit lens...
That is so true. Before quality zooms were available, the expectation was that the first lens purchase would be a 135mm. This was considered to be a moderate tele on 35mm film. Many were purchased with a 2X converter to add the "long" end to one's kit. Since this was a popular focal length, the competition was pretty stiff and as a result the optical and build quality was consistently very good to excellent.

I never owned one, back in the day (too poor), but finally picked up a Vivitar 135/2.8 (made in 1971), a few weeks ago. So far, I have been really impressed with the lens. The optical quality is quite good and stays good even when paired with a Vivitar 2x converter of the same vintage. In fact, the results I have been getting have been on a par with any of those I get from my 50mm lenses. It is truly a nice piece of glass.

Steve
03-20-2009, 03:02 PM   #7
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I'd just like to thank the OP for the question and everyone else for the thoughtful and illuminating answers!

The only thing I can add is that there are some very unique 135s too. Like, the Close Focusing Vivitar or, like the Lentar preset I just got, that has 16 aperture blades!

Regards,
Mike
03-20-2009, 09:13 PM   #8
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Here's something else i discovered about the 135's, in particular the M 135 f3.5

They are much more discrete than a hulking big black zoom. Case in point, my Tamron 18-250 sticks out over 8 inches at 135mm. The M 135 f3.5 sticks out only a bit over 3 or 3 1/2", something like that. The 18/250 weighs about 450 gms while the M 135 f3.5 weighs about half that. In a crowd or from your car, you're going to be a lot less noticeable with the 135, and yet you still have 4X magnification for an APS.

The M lenses were derived from the K designs but effort was made to make them more compact and lighter. I ended up with the M but now i'm thinking that in a crowded indoors event, it would be better to have the f2.8 or f2.5. Anyone agree?

My original thinking was, on a backpacking trick or other travel, it would be a lot easier to carry around a 135 and some primes, rather than a great big zoom like the Tammy.

03-20-2009, 10:49 PM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by Erik Quote
Good 135's are so great on APS-C. You can basically get the equal a super sharp, small and light 200/2.8 for $10!
Agreed! I've owned several of them, and found them to be great concert lenses (for my cheaper seats). You get reasonable speed and reach, for a great price.

I just gave my last one to my sister along with the Samsung GX-1L I got for her. Of course, I have my 50-135 now, so I'm happy.

But yeah, to me the 135/2.8's are one of the great bargains out there.
03-21-2009, 04:03 AM   #10
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Thanks everyone for the replies. Interesting to find out the reason behind the 135. And yes, they are easy to obtain - without much effort, I already have five of them, both K and M42 mount (and one Nikkor-F), none specially expensive. Maybe, I should hunt down a 135/2.8 in K-mount (missing that) to be used with 2x tele converters...
03-21-2009, 05:21 AM   #11
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Phil B's right: a 135mm is nicely discrete for indoor candid portraits. The size/working distance is optimal for shooting skittish subjects--like my in-laws ;~)
03-21-2009, 05:55 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by filmamigo Quote
The 135mm also makes beautiful portraits (on 35mm film.) It was often the aspirational "next lens" to buy after your 50mm kit lens, because people are a popular photographic subject
Dad was a photojournalist for the Newark News and Star Ledger in the late 1950's.

When he gave me my first camera, among other things he gave me a fast 135mm. He told me that the 135mm was great for portraits and "head shots."

I do think you are correct in that that was one of the common, slotted uses for this focal length.

woof!
03-21-2009, 06:03 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by dadipentak Quote
Phil B's right: a 135mm is nicely discrete for indoor candid portraits. The size/working distance is optimal for shooting skittish subjects--like my in-laws ;~)
Still hunting for those in-laws, huh
03-21-2009, 06:15 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by Miserere Quote
Still hunting for those in-laws, huh
I adore my 135mmF2.8


Taken with a lowly DL at iso 1600







Huge file

http://www.pbase.com/danieltong/image/70731924/large.jpg














Candid at F4








http://www.pbase.com/danieltong/image/70731924/original.jpg


Daniel
03-30-2009, 01:49 AM   #15
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One of my favorite walk in the park/outdoor nature lenses would have to be a $15 eBay purchase 6 years ago. My Image brand 135mm f/2.8 lens just produces overall good photos I'm always pleased with. Could be sharper but I haven't complained for what I paid for it.









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