Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Canon EF 135 f/2.8 (Soft Focus) Prime

I was wandering around the net the other day when I thought to check in on Marc W's photo blog. Marc is a Chicago-based photographer and practicing Intellectual Property attorney. Or is he a practicing photographer and an Intellectual Property attorney? I'm not really sure. He either practices photography or practices law or, I guess, he practices at both. Practice makes perfect, I suppose. So that's what Marc does: He practices.

Anyway, one of Marc's updates was about his recent purchase of either a new or a used previously owned Canon 135 f/2.8 (Soft Focus) prime lens. You can read Marc's update on the subject by clicking HERE.

I've long had a fondness for Canon's 135mm prime lens. The 135 prime, IMO, is the near-perfect focal length lens for small format, 35mm SLR, "headshot" portraiture.

Back in the day, I'm talking the late 70s and early 80s (Yeah! That day!) I used to shoot scores of Hollywood hopefuls' headshots in my garage; make that, my small, low-tech, studio that once was a garage. (The ex-wife still bitches complains about having to park on the street.) It was all B&W film (usually Kodak Plus-X) and I developed the negs and made prints in my own (again, low-tech) darkroom which was housed in a (former) tool shed adjacent to the garage... I mean studio.

Ahh... those were the days! The smell of darkroom chemicals filling my nasal cavities. Hours in total darkness practicing my Braille skills as I carefully wound exposed film on developing spools and stuck them in little, stainless-steel cans. Still more hours in the faint glow of a red light, wielding an enlarger, my hands soaked in toxic chemicals as I made prints.

Back then, I mostly shot these would-be celluloid-thespians with a Canon AE-1 that, most-often, had a Canon FD 135mm f/3.5 prime hanging off the front of it.

Marc's update got my photo-juices flowing again for a 135mm prime. Actually, I've been drooling photo-juices for a lens such as the 135 for some time but they (my drooling juices, that is) were dripping onto Canon's EF 135mm f/2 "L" prime: A thousand dollar lens!

A thousand bucks is a fair amount of money to spend on a lens that won't see much action, i.e., it will spend more time sitting my bag than hanging off the front of my camera-- I don't shoot a lot of headshot-framed portraiture these days. But then, after reading Marc's blog post, I thought to myself, "Maybe I should get one of those cheap inexpensive 135 primes?"

So I did.

I went to Craigslist and found a couple of them listed, one for $255 and one for $199, and decided, cuz I'm a frugal sort of guy, to go for the $199 offer.

To make a boring story less boring by keeping it short, I contacted the seller, met him, checked out the lens, and bought it. I even gave the dude a tip! Handed him a couple of Ben Franklins and told him to keep the change. (I'm a big spender that way.)

I haven't yet had a chance to try out this new, inexpensive, addition to my kit but I'm looking forward to trying it out. The guy I bought it from says it's sharp! He showed me some stuff he shot with it and the images sure looked sharp: Sharp enough for what I want to do with it. And BTW, don't let the "soft focus" thing confuse you. The lens isn't permanently in "soft focus" mode. There's a switch on it that allows for the "soft focus" function to come into play. You want that soft, dreamy look? Switch it to "soft focus." You don't? Keep your grubby fingers off the switch.

For those of you who are gear-elitists out there: I know many of you think Canon's "L" glass is the shit. And it is! But it's not the only glass Canon makes that's worth a shit. If, for instance, much of your work ends up mostly remaining in the cyber world, i.e., at 72 DPI, it may be that a few of Canon's consumer lenses are good enough for what you hope to capture. I'm not talking about the entire line of Canon consumer glass, but there are a few which are pretty damn good. The 85mm f/1.8 prime comes immediately to mind. I'm thinking (and hoping) that the 135 f/2.8 (Soft Focus) prime will be another.

Hopefully, I'll have a chance to prove that in the very near future and share some results. I only have two-hundred bucks invested in it so, if I don't like the results, I'll betcha I can blow it out on Craigslist or Ebay for what I paid for it. Maybe even for a few bucks more!

The eye candy at the top is Spider Woman, I mean Chayse, from a shoot a few weeks back. I guess I was trying to get a little artsy with the shot... what with the B&W conversion and all.

1 comment:

EleganceAndChaos said...

Funny, I have been thinking the same thing about the Canon 100m F2. Used it goes for about $400. The 135mm F2 is just a little to expensive for a lens that is not going to used day in and day out.

Photography just has that bad habit of bringing out the "equipment whore" in all of us. :)