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Author Topic: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length  (Read 10929 times)

nightbreath

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Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« on: February 09, 2012, 08:35:16 AM »
I have a question related to different focal lengths and want to decide which one would work better for me.

I'm planning to go full-frame this year and want to have better understanding of the difference between 85mm and 135mm focal lengths for portraits. I love fixed lenses and looked through several sample shots made using both, but there are things that you can't predict by just looking at those pictures. I'm not able to try both by myself, that's why I'm asking for help here.

The only thing that comes to mind is different "compression" you get using different focal length (the more is your focal length the less is the distance between objects).

My main question is "could there be a need to own both?"
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Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« on: February 09, 2012, 08:35:16 AM »

7enderbender

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #1 on: February 09, 2012, 08:56:19 AM »
What I find to be a good starting point with that is to go to flickr and search for samples or even groups that show the results from specific lens/camera combos. Sure, that can be a little misleading since the results of the higher grade lenses/cameras may be slightly skewed since people who spend that much money on their gear are probably a little more serious and picky about their results - and might well be able to produce equally good results with "lesser" gear (and a lot do by the way). But to get a general sense of what portraits look like with a 135L vs one of the 85mm lenses it's a good starting point I think. And then you could go rent them for a weekend and see for yourself.

I think both focal lengths are obviously very nice for portraits and it comes down to style and taste what you prefer - or want to buy first ;-)

I personally am perfectly happy with my 135L, and any of the 85mm lenses are somewhat lower on my list of things I'd like to get over time. Many people will probably feel the exact opposite.
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nightbreath

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #2 on: February 09, 2012, 09:02:23 AM »
I've already looked through this: http://pixel-peeper.com/lenses/canon/ and just wanted to hear more on the topic. Maybe someone owns both lenses?

I'm not able to rent them, as we don't have a service for this in my country.
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torger

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #3 on: February 09, 2012, 09:07:10 AM »
Of course, the 85mm has f/1.2 while the 135 has f/2, so if you really want ultra-short dof the 85mm is better suited - with the 85mm you can get as short dof as typical medium format cameras can. One thing about the 85mm is that the near limit is quite long, so if you want to be able to make ultra-tight face portraits the 135 will bring you closer.
« Last Edit: February 09, 2012, 09:08:55 AM by torger »

fotografiasi

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2012, 09:18:44 AM »
if you are interested I can show you 2 photos taken in identical situations with a 85 1.8 (at f/4) and 135 2.0 (at f/4.5). From my perspective both lenses are great. Except what the others said, the 135L would be faster focusing than the 85L. As for compressing the difference is minimal

« Last Edit: February 09, 2012, 09:25:11 AM by fotografiasi »
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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2012, 09:28:57 AM »
Hi,

I have a question related to different focal lengths and want to decide which one would work better for me.

I'm planning to go full-frame this year and want to have better understanding of the difference between 85mm and 135mm focal lengths for portraits. I love fixed lenses and looked through several sample shots made using both, but there are things that you can't predict by just looking at those pictures. I'm not able to try both by myself, that's why I'm asking for help here.

The only thing that comes to mind is different "compression" you get using different focal length (the more is your focal length the less is the distance between objects).
I can't really contribute to helping you decide what focal length lens would best suit your planned work, but I do want to clarify the concept of "compression of distance".

This is a "phenomenon" that occurs as the vantage point of the camera is moved farther from the group of objects (or features) that are included in the frame. It actually has nothing to do with focal length (except through another consideration I will get to in a bit).

Consider for convenience a "landscape" shot. There are two identical telephone poles (same height), one of them 100 feet farther away from us than the other along a straight line from any camera position we choose.

Suppose we first place the camera 100 feet back from the nearer pole. Thus the two poles will be at distances of 100 ft and 200 ft. Thus their heights on the image will have ratios of 1:0.5.

Next we place the camera 200 feet back from the nearer pole.Thus the two poles will be at distances of 200 ft and 300 ft. Thus their heights on the image will have ratios of 1:0.67. Their heights in the image are more nearly the same than in the first case.

Because we judge the relative distances of objects known (or believed) to have the same size based on their relative angular size to our eye, or to their relative sizes on a photographic image, it will seem as if the two poles in the second image are "not as far apart" ans the same two poles in the first image.

If we print both images at a scale such that the nearer pole is the same height in both images, then the second pole will be smaller in the first print than in the second. Thus the second pole will seem less far behind the first pole in the second print than in the first - the phenomenon of "distance compression".

And we will actually see this even if we don't print the two shots such that the nearer pole was the same height in both prints.

Note that I have said nothing yet about focal length. I might have used the same focal length for both shots - or maybe not. But the "distance compression" effect comes only from the distance from which we take the shot.

Now why does focal length seem to get into the act? Because if my object in each case was a picture of the two poles, I would probably have used a greater focal length in the second case (so as to best fill the frame with my two subjects, in the interest of best exploitation of the resolution of the camera).

Said another way, suppose I first took a shot with a 50 mm lens, and located the camera so the nearer pole filled some fraction of the frame height. Then I wanted to try a 100 mm lens. To get the nearer pole to fill the same fraction of the lens height, I would have to position the camera twice as far from the nearer pole as in the first shot.

And, as we saw earlier, that would make the two poles seem "closer together" in the second shot than in the first shot.

Now, I will return to the portrait context. First assume that I set up with an 85 mm lens and position the camera for a certain type of framing ("waist up", for example). I take the shot.

Next I want to try a 135 mm lens, and I still have the same framing in mind. So I will have to shoot from farther back.

The different point of perspective for the second shot causes the face proportions to be different - we have encountered a case of "distance compression" (perhaps desirably). But this is wholly a creature of the difference in camera location - not of the focal length itself.

Best regards,

Doug

Penn Jennings

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2012, 10:09:37 AM »
I have the 135 f2L and 85f/1.8.  The 135 lets me get in closer to the subject and I prefer the shallower depth of field.  Sometimes though I don't have the space to back out of shot to frame it as I would like with the 135 though.  If you are planning to use the 135 on a APS-C sensor for a while before you get the FF you might find the focal length too much though.  The 85 f/1.2L will clearly do better in low light.  I personally don't shoot many portraits below f/2.8 if I can help it so that doesn't bother me.  Most of this is all personal preference though.  My vote would be go for 135.  You can always get the 85 f/1.8 for a half or a third of cost of a 85 f/1.2.  There is no Canon low cost option for the 135.

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2012, 10:09:37 AM »

NotABunny

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #7 on: February 09, 2012, 10:45:53 AM »
You can view the potential background blur of the two lenses at http://www.gardenerofthoughts.org/ideas/photo/blur-all.png

This will show you that everything depends on how you are going to use the lens.

The X axis represents the distance from the point in focus (not from the camera) to the background, and is measured in meters. An X higher than 0 represents the background.

The Y axis represents the blur of the background (beyond the point in focus), and is measured in micrometers. The blur is 0 in the focus point (0 on the X axis), that is, the objects from that point are in perfect focus.

The higher the value on the Y axis, the higher the blur is.

The red line represents the COC for Canon EOS 40D: 19.

If the blur is smaller than the COC (of the camera) then the blur at that distance would be imperceptible in a photo.

In that graph you can see:
* The blue curve represents the background blur for a lens with a focal length of 400 mm and F4.0, focused at 40 meters.
* The green curve represents the background blur for a lens with a focal length of 200 mm and F4.0, focused at 20 meters.
* The yellow curve represents the background blur for a lens with a focal length of 135 mm and F2.0, focused at 13.5 meters.
* The purple curve represents the background blur for a lens with a focal length of 85 mm and F1.4, focused at 8.5 meters.
* The cyan curve represents the background blur for a lens with a focal length of 50 mm and F1.4, focused at 5.0 meters.
* The brown curve represents the background blur for a lens with a focal length of 35 mm and F1.4, focused at 3.5 meters.

However, note that the background blur is the amount of blur, while the bokeh is the quality of blur (and this you can only see in photos).

At http://www.stepheneastwood.com/tutorials/lensdistortion/strippage.htm you can see examples of distortions due to the focal length.

Cannon Man

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #8 on: February 09, 2012, 11:00:05 AM »
Doug i don't think your distance theory is right.. Take a shot of a same subject standing in the same place with different focal lenghts and crop all the pictures to look the "same" and you will see that the focal lenght used will have big differences.

And photographiasi in my eyes the 135 and 85 has a big differences in compressing the image. I like to use the 85mm 1.2 II for portraits and when i want to compress it more i use 100mm from the 70-200mm IS II.

I recommend the 85mm. It also lets me have more in the image with my desired compression.

neuroanatomist

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #9 on: February 09, 2012, 12:25:14 PM »
There is no Canon low cost option for the 135.


What...no love for the 135mm f/2.8 Soft Focus?!?   :P

I have the 135 f2L and 85f/1.8.  The 135 lets me get in closer to the subject and I prefer the shallower depth of field. 


How close do you want to get?  The MFD of the 135L is only 2" (5 cm) closer than 85L II.  You're right about the shallower DoF - at their respective MFDs, the DoF of the 85L @ f/1.2 is 0.32" while the DoF of the 135L @ f/2 is 0.18".  However, with reference to use on a FF camera, the 85L II at its MFD will frame a reasonably tight head shot - about 10" x 15", whereas the 135L at its MFD will frame 6.25" x 9.5", which starts cutting off the ears and hair, so you'll need to back up a little.  If you back up enough to get the same framing, the 85L will give thinner DoF, obviously (since distance and focal length cancel with the same framing, so DoF is determined by aperture alone).

'Classically' (meaning from the days of film, when all SLRs were FF), 85mm was for torso shots and 135mm was for head shots.   

Personally, I have both of the lenses the OP is interested in, and I also have both APS-C and FF.  I started with the 85/1.8 on a 7D, really liked the framing for portraits - so much that I moved up to the 85L II.  After getting a 5DII, I got a 135L to replicate the framing of 85mm on APS-C. 

Given that you're starting on APS-C, I agree with the above comment that 135mm might be too long for portraits, especially indoors.  On FF, you can do tight portraits indoors with the 135L, but the 85L allows more flexibility for framing.  The other advantage of the 85L is that with the f/1.2, for the same framing the 85L will allow you to get a shallower DoF - sometimes that really helps blur out a cluttered background.  Outdoors where you usually have more room, either lens will work wonderfully (but for both, you might want to invest in a 3-stop ND filter - on bright days, even 1/8000 s is not enough to let you shoot wide open).

OTOH, the 85L is basically a lens for one thing - portraits.  The AF on the 85L is quite slow, and can have trouble keeping up with moving subjects.  The 135L focuses very fast, and works well for portraits and also for action shots (it's a great stage lens). 

So...IMO, if you want to pick one of the two lenses, you need to carefully consider how certain you are that you'll go FF soon.  For APS-C, the 85L would likely be the better choice, IMO, whereas for FF the 135L would likely be better.  FWIW, the 85L on APS-C is essentially equivalent to the 135L on FF (FF-equivalent of 85mm f/1.2 is 136mm f/1.9); I've tested them head to head - 85L on 7D vs. 135L on 5DII, and overall the IQ of the 135L on FF wins. 

A reasonable compromise as suggested above would be to start with the 85mm f/1.8.

Some samples, the first with the 85L on APS-C, the rest on FF:


EOS 7D, EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM, 1/2000 s, f/1.6, ISO 100


EOS 5D Mark II, EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM @ 1/60 s, f/1.8, ISO 400


EOS 5D Mark II, EF 135mm f/2L USM, 1/1600 s, f/2.2, ISO 100
« Last Edit: February 09, 2012, 12:31:43 PM by neuroanatomist »
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Penn Jennings

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #10 on: February 09, 2012, 01:22:41 PM »
There is no Canon low cost option for the 135.

What...no love for the 135mm f/2.8 Soft Focus?!?   :P



Haha, Opps, I always forget about that one!

The 135 f/2.8 Soft focus is about $500 vs about $950 for the 135 f/2L, so it is indeed a cheaper option.

Thanks for keeping me honest :-)

nightbreath

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #11 on: February 09, 2012, 01:49:09 PM »
Thank you everyone for your input   :)
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elflord

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2012, 06:34:27 PM »
I have a question related to different focal lengths and want to decide which one would work better for me.

I'm planning to go full-frame this year and want to have better understanding of the difference between 85mm and 135mm focal lengths for portraits. I love fixed lenses and looked through several sample shots made using both, but there are things that you can't predict by just looking at those pictures. I'm not able to try both by myself, that's why I'm asking for help here.

The only thing that comes to mind is different "compression" you get using different focal length (the more is your focal length the less is the distance between objects).

My main question is "could there be a need to own both?"

I have the Canon 135mm f/2 and the Sigma 85mm f/1.4.

In terms of focal length, the 85mm is close to using the 50mm that you already have on APS-C and likewise the 135mm is like 85mm on APS-C.

The 85mm is a stop faster, and about 2/3 of a stop shorter, so you get 1 2/3 extra stops worth of shutter speed.

In terms of usage -- the 85mm I use as my indoor portrait lens, the 135mm as an outdoor portrait lens. The 85 just works better in tight spaces and low light, but if you have some room and some light to work with, the 135mm is quite nice.

The framing of the 135mm is really tight (again, try your 70-200mm at about 85mm on a crop). It really narrows out or blows out the back ground depending on the f-stop you use. It is very much an isolation lens.  The 85mm can be used as an "isolation" lens if you shoot with shallow depth of field, but the fov is wide enough to allow some depth.

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #12 on: February 09, 2012, 06:34:27 PM »

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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2012, 07:35:37 PM »
I have and use both the 85mm and 135mm lenses on my 5D MK II and 7D.  The 135mm L is my favorite on FF, but you do need a bit of room, which is normally no issue for me, since I use it at stage plays.  I use the 85mm when I want a wide fov that includes more than two or three persons.

I am in a small theater, and can and do get back as well as up close.  These images are about halfway back, maybe 10 rows.

135mm L at F/2, ISO 6400.



Here is the 85mm f/1.8, gets a wider view.


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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2012, 08:01:54 PM »
i dont own the 135
I do have the sigma 85 f1.4 and the kenko 1.4tc
which combined give 119mm f2

at the moment I have my sigma in having it looked at to try bring its AF back closer to neutral so i dont have to +13 on it

a friend of mine has the 135 i have been planning to see if i can borrow it to do a comparison vs the sigma 85mm f1.4 as the sigma 85 at f2 is exceptionally sharp

I am really happy with the IQ of the 85mm and for weddings it is my favourite lens at the moment I need to allocate some time to these comparisons
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Re: Canon 85L vs. 135 L in terms of focal length
« Reply #14 on: February 09, 2012, 08:01:54 PM »