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Products >> All Products What Photographers Say About RF Lenses- Part

Lens Review: RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM in Nature & Landscape Photography

2023-02-24
7
2.45 k

The addition of built-in image stabilisation is one of the biggest updates on the RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM, the RF version of one of Canon’s most popular medium telephoto prime lenses. With more handheld shooting possibilities, what kind of images are possible? Landscape and nature photographer Chikako Yagi took it for a nature walk, and shares her review along with breath-taking images. (Reported by: Chikako Yagi, Digital Camera Magazine)

In this article:

Introduction: A renowned classic updated for the RF mount

A renowned classic updated for the RF mount

The RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM is an official update of the renowned EF135mm f/2L USM. Compared to its EF counterpart, it bears a larger f/1.8 maximum aperture. It is also newly equipped with the built-in Optical Image Stabilizer (Optical IS). When combined, the large maximum aperture and medium telephoto length produce the beautiful bokeh often sought after in portraiture. This is one reason why it is often described as a “portrait lens”. 

However, the lens is good at more than just portraits: its excellent resolving performance and built-in image stabilisation make it well-suited for landscape photography, too.

Close-up shooting capabilities

Capturing slices of nature: close-ups and abstracts

One of the joys of shooting landscapes with a medium telephoto lens is that it lets you take close-ups of smaller parts of a larger scene. This makes it easier to draw attention to the main subject. The RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM takes this further with its strong close-up shooting capabilities: its 70cm closest focusing distance gives a maximum magnification of 0.26x. These let you capture small plants and insects from a comfortable distance away while creating beautiful bokeh that makes that subject stand out.

EOS R5/ RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/5000 sec, EV -2.3)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

A tiny fallen maple leaf becomes the centre of attention in this image, shot at the 70cm closest focusing distance. The lovely bokeh created at f/1.8 accentuates the leaf and isolates it from its surroundings.


EOS R5/ RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/40 sec, EV +0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

The in-focus areas are sharp and clear. They transit seamlessly into the out-of-focus areas (foreground and background bokeh), which have the buttery smooth, intense blurring you would expect from a large aperture medium telephoto lens. This helps to simplify distractions in the image so that our eyes stay on the red maple leaf.


EOS R5/ RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/13, 1 sec, EV -0.3)/ ISO 50/ WB: Auto

The lens’ 135mm focal length provides compression and a tighter framing that comes in useful for creating landscape images that are more abstract. Here, I’ve captured just part of the waterfall to showcase its motion amongst the intricate details of the leaves and rock walls. These details are beautifully resolved all the way to the edges of the image.

Size, handling, and image stabilisation

Size, handling, and image stabilisation

The lens' specifications suggested a relatively big body, but one thing they don't reveal is how well it balances with the EOS R5 body. In fact, it felt lighter than what the numbers suggest.


Highlight #1: Lens Function button

The RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM is the first non-super telephoto lens to feature Lens Function buttons. They stop the AF by default, but can also be assigned other custom functions. I like how they let you change camera settings faster, just like the control ring!

I assigned the buttons to magnify and reduce the preview image. During horizontal shooting, I use the button on the top of the lens; during vertical shooting, I use the button on the side. This allowed me to magnify my view for more precise focusing without taking my left hand off the lens.


Highlight #2: Up to 8 stops’ image stabilisation

The RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM’s f/1.8 maximum aperture makes handheld shooting possible even in low light, and the built-in image stabilisation further expands such possibilities. It is one of very few large aperture 135mm lenses to be thus equipped. When combined with a camera body that has the In-Body Image Stabilizer (In-Body IS), up to 8 stops’ equivalent image stabilisation effect can be achieved through Coordinated Control IS.


Shot at 1/15 sec

IS ON

IS OFF

The powerful built-in image stabilisation makes handheld shooting viable in many more scenes, including those that involve slow shutter effects. Just look at the sharpness of the image above, although I shot it handheld at 1/15 seconds! It was also useful for ensuring images were sharp, even with the extremely shallow depth of field at f/1.8.

Image quality

Image quality: Excellent clarity and resolving performance

The lens provides the signature clarity and excellent resolution of a prime lens, together with smooth, creamy bokeh that provides beautiful subject-background separation. Three UD lenses reduce chromatic aberration. Images shot in backlight are clear with minimal ghosting and flaring due to ASC coating, which minimises internal reflection.

When there are point light sources, slight mechanical vignetting may be visible in the bokeh lights at the corners, but only upon close scrutiny. The bokeh is so intense and the vignetting so slight that it shouldn’t be an issue.

EOS R5/ RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 10 sec, EV 0)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

I used the compression available at the lens’ 135mm focal length to capture this scene from the hill, placing the focus on the lakeside town in front. Shooting at the maximum aperture gave the town more dimensionality. This also reflects the excellent resolution and rendering capabilities of the lens, even when shooting wide open.

In summary

In summary: A lens that provides unparalleled expressive possibilities

The beautiful bokeh, sharpness, colours, and clarity of this lens are simply delightful, whereas the built-in image stabilisation expands the range of scenarios that you could use the lens in in. From Japanese-style clean, high-key images that have a sense of softness, to dramatic, contrasty shots filled with intricately resolved detail, the RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM will help you achieve it—with a unique quality impossible to find on other lenses.

EOS R5/ RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/100 sec, EV +0.7)/ ISO 100/ WB: Auto

This was shot on a cloudy day. The lighting was even, but still quite dim. The f/1.8 maximum aperture allowed me to use a fast shutter speed. The in-focus areas are well-resolved and the colours rendered beautifully.


EOS R5/ RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM/ Aperture-priority AE (f/1.8, 1/1600 sec, EV +1)/ ISO 50/ WB: Auto

I turned the globe amaranth flowers in the foreground into bokeh to achieve a softer look. Shooting from a low position so that the sky formed the background simplified the image, separating the flower that was my main subject from the others in the field.

Key specifications

About the RF135mm f/1.8L IS USM

Mounted on the EOS R5

 

Key specifications
Lens construction: 12 elements in 17 groups
Closest focusing distance: 0.7m
Maximum magnification: 0.26x
No. of aperture blades: 9 (circular blades)
Minimum aperture: f/22
Filter diameter: 82mm
Size: φ89.2 x 130.3mm
Weight: approx. 935g

 

Lens Hood ET-88B

Lens diagram

Lens diagram

A: UD lens
B: ASC (Air Sphere Coating)


Still torn between this lens and something else? These articles might help you decide:
Prime Lens or Zoom Lens: Which Should I Buy?
RF Lenses vs EF Lenses: What's the Difference and How to Decide?

Another medium telephoto lens to consider:
RF85mm f/2 Macro IS STM: A Closer Look at Nature

About the Author

Digital Camera Magazine

A monthly magazine that believes that enjoyment of photography will increase the more one learns about camera functions. It delivers news on the latest cameras and features and regularly introduces various photography techniques.
Published by Impress Corporation

Chikako Yagi

Chikako Yagi was twenty when she started teaching herself photography using a film SLR camera. She left regular employment to become a full-time landscape photographer in 2016. An apprentice of renowned photographers such as Kiyoshi Tatsuno and Tomotaro Ema, she is a member of the Shizensou Club, which was founded by the former and is one of Japan’s most famous landscape photographers’ clubs. In 2013, she was selected as one of the Top 10 Photographers of the Tokyo Camera Club.

www.chikakoyagi.com
Instagram: @chikako_yagi

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