So, while I also would often not trade larger aperture (f/1.2-f/1.4) for smaller aperture (f/1.8-f/2. + IS, it is rare that the former offers no disadvantages and the latter no advantages. In fact, I'd say for most the new "IS" range is probably the best bang-per-buck combination in the primes. With Canon zoom lenses, though, getting the more expensive L range is almost a necessity as the non-L lenses are too slow.
I agree with you on the new range of non L IS primes; they are very good and not only the best value for money but also versatility, as you say.
However I don't agree on the 135L; the Sporgon crystal ball doesn't see an IS version of this coming, or at least not in the foreseeable future. Whilst the current lens may be the Holy Grail of L lenses to many aspiring photographers - indeed if CR had Coat of Arms it would probably be two crossed 135L lenses mounted in front of a FF sensor atop a pile of third party junk - it's reached that position because it is 'affordable'. To be worthwhile for Canon to develop a better lens with IS it is going to have to be considerably more expensive, and I suspect at the present time they won't feel there is a financial benefit to themselves as a business. Also the third party manufacturers haven't produced a 135 IS or 1.8 version which is a sign they don't think the sales volume / price point is worthwhile.
I do think we will see a 50 IS very soon, and possibly a 85 version after that which bridges the price gulf between the current version and the 1.2L
For anyone who has used the 135 f/2 for a long time, we understand the quality of bokeh it has, and it's not something trivial. Any new version, or third party version, will very likely have a poorer quality of bokeh. That's the reason I may never sell mine. Sure, it's priced at a point that is accessible to entry level photogs (and for that reason it's spat on by those who won't be caught dead using any lens under $1500). But its overall image quality combined with its usable medium telephoto focal length (especially on a full frame) really is as good as it gets, it seems to me. It simply can't be improved upon.
And given the history of these new IS primes, they seem to favor replacing the older lens with a slower aperture, along with the IS...and making it all very dinky and feather light. Given the existence of (what I say would actually be on a coat of arms instead) the ubiquitous 70-200 f/2.8 ii IS and the 100mm f/2.8 IS macro, there certainly will never be a 135mm f/2.8 IS, especially one that is a macro.
Is a new 135mm f/1.8 stabilized third party lens, going to be enough to make me buy one (let alone replace my 135L with it)? No. Would I if it were f/1.6 or f/1.4? Yes, I would at least buy it and use it alongside the current 135! I'd love even faster primes at other focal lengths also, though...but I guess since the "rebel masses" don't ever want to buy a big lens of any kind, and the "pro photogs" like things the way they are...it will never happen.
I feel the same way its going to be VERY hard to beat the current 135 i always take the 135 over the 70-200 now unless i am shooting something where the zoom is essential
You've touched on an interesting point. The 135L doesn't drop much focal length when it's focussed close to MFD. Most 70-200 lenses drop a little or a lot depending on the design (The newest Nikon version took quite a rap over it). So I find that the difference in framing between a 135L and a 70-200 f2.8 LIS II fully zoomed is only a few foot steps difference. There isn't a great deal between them at the long end if you are prepared to step forward a few feet.
The 135L is one of Canon's finest in terms of image output and rendering. But there is a small room for improvement, it could do with newer coatings. The MFD could do with matching or exceeding the current 70-200 lenses. It could gain an extra 1/3 stop easily by pushing the filter size to 77mm and upping the objective lens diameter a tad. The aperture blades are from an older era and are a round design when stopped down. Drop down to f2.8 or f4 and shoot at a spectacular highlight and you will see a distinct shape to the bokeh, corresponding to the aperture blades. Wide open, it's fine.
So yes, it's a stunning lens to use and in the right hands can achieve lovely photographs, yes it's a lot easier to use than a 85mm f1.2 II L. Yes it has a small margin of potential improvement...as long as all of the benefits which the current model has.
The new 24-70IIL sacrifices some of the older models benefits, the new hood isn't any where near as useful as the old one. The new one flares worse as a result (even with the new coatings). It's slightly wider at the 24mm end...but is no where near a 70mm at the long end. Looks more like a 60mm to me. Plus, it looses focal length as the point of focus draws to MFD and it's MFD isn't anywhere near as close. For wedding work, a stellar copy of the mkI is the better choice. For landscape work, the mkII is the better choice.
Needs new coatings? I see no reason for that. It has superb contrast and very low flare in my experience. The color rendition could be less cool (I'm sure you probably think it's too warm!). As for the aperture blade shape imposing itself on bokeh highlights...never noticed that either, at all. How about posting an example? The 135 has smoother bokeh than the 200 f/2L in my experience, at least wide open. Sure the 200's is more extreme, but it is inferior.
Again, it really can't be improved on, without sacrificing some of its good qualities, even you admit that yourself. Frankly 1/3 stop is not enough, it should be 2/3 and go to an 82mm filter size, or else just use filter inserts and go to f/1.2 or f/1.0. But they'll never do it, because the current 135L, "old" though it is...is just too good and too much value at its price point. They sell so many of them, there's just no incentive to "improve" on it.
Best of all would be, as I keep calling for...a narrow focal range zoom with a really fast aperture, a megabuck lens by comparison. But it would be worth it. And Sigma should make it, rather than Canon. They could call it the "mega art" or something!