What’s your go-to portrait lens? I must admit that when I started out, I was shooting in small spaces on a crop sensor, so my nifty-fifty was probably my most-used lens. And I kind of got used to it. Even now, I seldom use longer than a 105mm lens for portraiture, mostly because I like to boss my subjects about, and if I’m too far away, it’s hard for them to hear! But perhaps I should branch out and try an even longer lens.
In this video, Stefan Malloch shares his thoughts about the 135mm lens and why he thinks it’s the best lens for portraiture. So why might you want to consider using a longer focal length?
One very good reason you might want to consider a 135mm lens, especially if you shoot Canon, is the overall quality. By all accounts, this was an exceptionally sharp and fast lens. I’m sure the newer RF version would give the older EF version a run for its money. But what if you don’t shoot Canon? Well, there are still plenty of other reasons to use it.
The long focal length of 135mm appears to flatten the distance between objects, minimizing distortion and elongating facial features. The result? Subjects look their absolute best in every shot. It is, in short, a flattering lens for portraits.
Another excellent feature of the 135mm lens is its innate capacity for natural background separation and beautiful bokeh. With this lens, a shallow depth of field can be achieved effortlessly, allowing the subject to pop against a beautifully blurred background.
One disadvantage I mentioned earlier is the photographer-to-subject distance. Conversely, this can also be an advantage, depending on what you’re shooting. Concerts, weddings, events…these can all benefit from a more covert approach from further away. Similarly, if you’re shooting someone a little timid or your genre is boudoir, it might help to be further away so that you don’t invade your subject’s personal space.
One final great thing? Images shot on the 135mm lens look nothing like anything you can shoot on a smartphone. Unlike wider-angle lenses, an image shot with a long lens cannot possibly be mimicked by a phone, no matter how good the software.
Ultimately, it’s up to your artistic vision and your budget which lenses you choose to shoot with. But don’t be limited to shooting with medium focal lengths all the time, the 135mm is a great option for portraits as this video shows.