What caused the demise of 135 mm lenses?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Pete A, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. Pete A

    Pete A Guest

    35 years ago I bought a Hanimex 135 mm f/2.8 m42 mount lens. It was
    inexpensive yet it delivered acceptable images on 135 format film. It
    was built like a tank and had a delightfully precise focus ring.

    Around that time it was quite common for amateurs to have 3 lenses,
    such as 28 mm, 50 mm, and a 135 mm, because they were about the only
    affordable lenses around. I was told that 135 mm was the easiest
    telephoto lens to design and manufacture.

    During the following decades I've experimented with various focal
    lengths and I've come to the conclusion that using less than 135 mm for
    portraits gives the "large nose effect" due to the camera being too
    close to the subject. E.g. I use my 85 mm to capture the full height of
    a person in their surroundings and for group portraits; I use my 180 mm
    for head and shoulder portraits; a 300 mm for head shots.

    An aside so that the reader knows I've considered it. For a given
    subject to image size ratio, the following give about the same DoF and
    background blur: 85 mm f/1.8; 135 mm f/2.8; 180 mm f/3.7; 300 mm f/6.2;
    400 mm f/8. Of course, the 85 mm includes much more of the background
    due to it having the widest angle of view - this may or may not help
    composition.

    I'm wondering if the 28, 50, and especially the 135 mm lenses became
    unfashionable because their images were so commonplace they were
    boring/predicatable. I'd be very interested to know what others have
    experienced.

    Pete
     
    Pete A, Dec 1, 2011
    #1
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  2. Zooms, I think. These days people start with a kit lens in the 28-90
    range, and the second lens is pretty often in the 70-200 range. And if
    they're in the mood to spend money, upgrading to a *better* zoom is more
    tempting to many than buying primes.
     
    David Dyer-Bennet, Dec 1, 2011
    #2
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  3. Pete A

    Alan Browne Guest

    Probably so. I always assumed that 50mm was the cheapest and easiest
    and that it got more expensive wider or longer from that low point.
    I assume you're using a cropped sensor - as the 85mm is a very common
    portrait lens and is appropriate for closeups and full body shots, at
    least in a large enough studio and usually with full-frame.

    However, even at full frame, many longer lenses are used for all sorts
    of people photography right up to long telephotos - even in the studio.
    I know one studio co-owner who shoots some of his fashion shots at
    400mm. The studio is large enough for that. It gives a very flattering
    effect.
    Perspective does not change from a given position to the subject
    regardless of focal length. Conversely, using a long lens for an
    equally framed subject increases the distance thereby flattening the
    appearance of the image. The sense of volume is lost.

    Or, exactly that which makes long lens shots flattering to subjects also
    robs the environment of volume.
    The zoom lens (I believe) removed these lenses from more common use.

    I've never had much use for 28mm. I have a personal deadband between 20
    and 35 or so for reasons I can't really fathom. (Full frame).

    One of my favorite lenses however is my 135 f/1.8.
     
    Alan Browne, Dec 1, 2011
    #3
  4. Pete A

    Pete A Guest

    IIRC, 45-55 mm lenses for 135 format are the cheapest and easiest
    because of their angle of view rather than focal their focal length.
    This "standard lens" for each format has a roughly 47 degree diagonal
    angle of view, which approximates human vision, and seems to be the
    least complex optical design.

    As you say, the cost increases either side of 47 degrees, even without
    the extra complexity of the retro-focus elements required for
    wide-angle lenses on interchangeable lens cameras. Quite why the 135 mm
    for 135 format (18 degree angle of view) became a dip in the cost curve
    is something of a mystery to me. I'm very curious to know if this cost
    dip was evident in larger format lenses.
    That's interesting because I don't use a cropped sensor. I know 85 mm
    lenses were and still are often used for close-ups; they have a 29
    degree angle of view and if the print subtends this angle or wider to
    the viewer then human perception will automatically remove the "large
    nose effect" I mentioned. I became acutely aware of the effect by
    viewing 6x4 inch prints from a distance.
    Indeed it does. I learnt this from a friend who has a big enough studio
    to use 300-400 mm lenses. There is an uncanny sense of ease and
    naturalness to his images.
    Ha! How many times do we still read the urban myth that long focal
    length lenses foreshorten perspective? It is propagated by those who
    look yet do not see.

    Perspective is determined solely by the position of the lens entrance
    pupil within the scene. Focal length only changes the magnification
    factor/angle of view.
    That is the most eloquent description I've ever read. May I borrow it
    for illustration purposes?
    To get equivalent optical performance, until recently, a zoom would
    cost far more than the three lenses. I guess it was the convenience
    factor that stole the market.
    Years ago, 35 and 135 mm were my most used lenses. Heck, I even bought
    a 35-135 zoom to save me changing between the two lenses: unfortunately
    the zoom didn't match up to the manufacturer's description of it :-(
    Luckily, I was too lazy to get rid of it: it's come to life on my D700
    and has been responsible for me getting established as a photographer
    in my locality, bless it :)

    During the last two years I've gone back to photography, after an
    eleven year gap, I haven't used my 20 or 35 mm lenses for anything
    serious. Most of my work is with lenses between 85 and 300 mm, often
    with my 180 mm. This year I decided to go far beyond my comfort zone
    and have had great success with a 16-35 mm zoom. Most people would
    hopefully not need optical image stabilisation on a wide-angle lens,
    but it is essential for my shaky hands. The sheer joy of getting razor
    sharp images in poor light is very hard to convey to anyone with
    reasonably steady hands.
    Yep, I've seen your results from it so it's your fault I spent my
    savings on a superb 135 mm f/2 ;-)
     
    Pete A, Dec 1, 2011
    #4
  5. Pete A

    Alan Browne Guest

    Plagiarize away. I bet others have said it better.
    Fine lens. And get in close with it. Can be amazing. Nothing is my
    fault. Nothing!
     
    Alan Browne, Dec 1, 2011
    #5
  6. Interesting seeing how many people disagreed when I said an equivalent crop
    zoom produced a different perspective. They forgot the position of the lens
    entrance would be at a different distance.

    PS. I have a natural ability to warp space in my mind which is why I solved
    Carmack's inverse shadow algorithm in 30 seconds when it took him the rest
    of the week.

    PPS. I am shit at maths.
     
    Charles E. Hardwidge, Dec 1, 2011
    #6
  7. Pete A

    PeterN Guest

    On 12/1/2011 4:52 PM, Alan Browne wrote:


    Everything is my fault, everything, according to my wife. When she
    backed her car into a dumpster, it was my fault, even though. I was
    about twenty mile away when it happened. It seems I told her to use the
    rear view backup camera. Sun glare prevented her from seeing clearly,
    therefore it was my fault.
     
    PeterN, Dec 1, 2011
    #7
  8. Pete A

    Pete A Guest

    That's the wonderful thing about living on my own: everything is still
    my fault, but nobody keeps reminding me about it :)
     
    Pete A, Dec 2, 2011
    #8
  9. Pete A

    Robert Coe Guest

    : 35 years ago I bought a Hanimex 135 mm f/2.8 m42 mount lens. It was
    : inexpensive yet it delivered acceptable images on 135 format film. It
    : was built like a tank and had a delightfully precise focus ring.
    :
    : Around that time it was quite common for amateurs to have 3 lenses,
    : such as 28 mm, 50 mm, and a 135 mm, because they were about the only
    : affordable lenses around. I was told that 135 mm was the easiest
    : telephoto lens to design and manufacture.

    Funny you should say that. I had exactly those three lenses for my Nikon SP
    and again for my F-2. But I considered myself unusual, because it seemed that
    the combination of 35, 50, and 105 was more common.

    : During the following decades I've experimented with various focal
    : lengths and I've come to the conclusion that using less than 135 mm for
    : portraits gives the "large nose effect" due to the camera being too
    : close to the subject. E.g. I use my 85 mm to capture the full height of
    : a person in their surroundings and for group portraits; I use my 180 mm
    : for head and shoulder portraits; a 300 mm for head shots.

    I found the 135 to be a very good portrait lens, even for head shots.

    : An aside so that the reader knows I've considered it. For a given
    : subject to image size ratio, the following give about the same DoF and
    : background blur: 85 mm f/1.8; 135 mm f/2.8; 180 mm f/3.7; 300 mm f/6.2;
    : 400 mm f/8. Of course, the 85 mm includes much more of the background
    : due to it having the widest angle of view - this may or may not help
    : composition.
    :
    : I'm wondering if the 28, 50, and especially the 135 mm lenses became
    : unfashionable because their images were so commonplace they were
    : boring/predicatable. I'd be very interested to know what others have
    : experienced.

    I'd guess it was because of the rise of decent zoom lenses and because that
    combination wasn't necessarily the best match for an APS-C digital sensor.

    Bob
     
    Robert Coe, Dec 2, 2011
    #9
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