Friday, February 10, 2017

Review of the Nikon Series E 135mm f/2.8

I have reviewed several Series E lenses on AmateurNikon (check the reviews page for more) and my general impression of the Series E lenses is generally a very favorable one. Optically, at least the primes are very good. Mechanically they are a click below the Nikkor AI-S lenses, but when the comparison is with the modern plastic-is-fantastic things made in China, the E(conomy) lenses seem to be like a pretty decent deal. Today, I'm taking a look at the Nikon Series E 135mm f/2.8 lens.

On film, few would notice any flaws

+ Series E or not, it's sturdy and dependable mechanically.
+ Superb bokeh, great news for portraiture
+ Sharpness reasonably good wide-open, gets very good by f/4

- Chromatic aberrations are higher than what I would've liked wide-open
- If you count your pixels, you'll probably get diffraction-limited before you reach the optimum aperture of the lens (which seems to be between f/8 and f/11)
- Value is good, but you must realize what kind of lens you're getting (more in "Final Verdict")

On a digital camera, things get bit trickier due to the introduction of color aberrations (which occasionally blur micro-contrast)

Intended Users
Great for:
  • Portraiture, though watch for chromatic aberration wide open
  • Poor man's lens for low-light performance photography (theater, concert, etc.)
  • FX users testing the focal length before committing to a more expensive solution - the Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/1.4 comes to mind, but also the AF DC 135mm f/2

Not for:
  • DX, especially entry-level (manual focus, manual exposure...)
  • Landscape photography, I'm afraid the optical performance wasn't very consistent across the frame
  • Shots in deep contrast; the chromatic aberration is the weakest point of the lens.

Final Verdict
I really wanted to like this lens, but I'm afraid it left me with a bitter taste. Basically, there's nothing tremendously wrong with it, but also nothing outrageously special either. You get about what you pay for, but the compromise for a 135mm f/2.8 lens seems to be a bit too much on the favor of construction quality and against optical quality. In other words, I feel as if Nikon this time cut corners from the optical design to keep the price tag low, rather than the quality of the materials. Back in the days of film, few would notice. Today, we do.

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