Review: Rokinon 135mm f2 ED UMC (Canon EF)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 review product photos (6 of 6)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.5

Many years ago, Rokinon wasn’t as much of a household name amongst photographers as they are moreso today–and I would never have thought that they’d come out with a 135mm f2 lens. They were associated with the likes of Vivitar–and indeed it took a long time for them to erase that history. Today, they’re regarded amongst the photography community as being synonymous with a budget Zeiss option.

In fact, that’s kind of what the Rokinon 135mm f2 performs like.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 lens review portraits extras (2 of 3)ISO 8001-160 sec

The Rokinon 135mm f2 is a lens that sports a 9 bladed aperture, a plasticky exterior, 11 glass elements in 7 groups and can come with a AF confirmation chip. The lens can focus as closely at 2.6 ft. For $549.00, there honestly isn’t a whole lot for anyone to complain about–especially if you’re very serious about portraiture.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Stunning image quality on every front
  • Very precise focusing ring

Cons

  • Kind of big, but that’s natural for a lens like this
  • Rokinon needs a new exterior. I’d pay extra for metal for sure

Gear Used

The Rokinon 135mm f2 was tested with the Canon 6D, Alienbees Einstein E640, and Westcott six foot umbrellas.

Tech Specs

Tech specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the lens.

Performance
Focal Length 135mm
Comparable 35mm Equivalent on APS-C Format Focal Length: 202.5 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2 – 22
Camera Mount Type Canon EF
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Canon (APS-C)
Angle of View 18.8°
APS-C Picture Angle: 11.7°
Minimum Focus Distance 2.6′ (.79 m)
Elements/Groups 11/7
Diaphragm Blades 9, Rounded
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus No
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 77 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.2 x 4.8″ (8.13 x 12.19 cm)
Weight 29.28 oz (830 g)
Packaging Info
Package Weight 2.55 lb
Box Dimensions (LxWxH) 7.716 x 5.197 x 5.118″

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 review product photos (2 of 6)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

The Rokinon 135mm f2 is a lens that in many ways embraces the looks embodied in a natural evolution of the Rokinon lens. It looks serious, but could surely be much more serious looking.

We start the ergonomics tour with the front of the lens. Here, you’ll find that massive 77mm filter thread. There are no brandings or markings on the front. For what it’s worth, you’ll want to keep the lens hood on to protect it from dings and scratches.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 review product photos (3 of 6)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

Move to the top of the lens and what you’ll find is the manual focus ring, the distance scale and the aperture ring. All of these highly complicated markings aren’t Cuneiform, but instead depth of field and distance scale markers. With a lens like this, you’re best off just using an LCD screen to focus along with a good, solid tripod. However, focusing with the distance scale can give you a decent idea of where you should be, but fine tuning should be done with an LCD screen unless you’ve got perfect vision.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 review product photos (4 of 6)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.5

Since this is a manual focus lens, it doesn’t offer any other controls on it. Both the Canon and Nikon versions have an aperture ring; and so you’ll control the aperture that way unless you’ve got a Nikon camera body.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 review product photos (5 of 6)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.5

Rokinon’s lenses are all pretty similar: they have a very plasticky exterior, an aperture ring, a rubberized manual focus ring, and that’s all. For the price point, you really can’t complain but you’d also want better build quality externally when other third party competitors are making lenses with lots of metal for an affordable price point.

Of anything, this is probably this lens’ weakest point when speaking comparatively. In real life use, it’s really not that bad.

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 review product photos (1 of 6)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.8

135mm lenses are best used with the camera on a tripod and this one is no exception. To get the absolute best portraits, I really, really recommend shooting on a tripod and not handheld. Add into this the fact that the lens is a manual focus optic, and that when you turn the focusing ring you’ll also be shifting the camera/lens around. For that reason, a tripod lets you do the least amount of work and helps you get the results you really want.

Focusing

The Rokinon 135mm f2 lens is a manual focus lens. Because of this, you’re best off using it with a tripod if you’re aiming for precision in your images. Considering that you’re probably buying this lens to shoot portraits, that’s exactly what you’re going to need.

Image Quality

Yes, that's me.

Yes, that’s me.

Most of the times that I review a Rokinon lens, I find the image quality to be incredibly, superbly razor sharp and overall quite unique an beautiful to what Rokinon themselves are trying to do. Indeed, for well under $1,000 you’re scoring yourself a super sharp, bokeh filled lens with very little contrast. In fact, you’ll want to dial it back in if you want a sharper look and if you want a more Kodak Portra or CineStill 800T look, then you’ll keep it as is.

Bokeh

When looking at the bokeh, you’re surely going to get something beautiful and rather creamy. All the circular bokeh balls that you’re all in love with are present. You’ll have to expect this with a 135mm lens.

Zeiss 135mm f2

Zeiss 135mm f2

These two shots aren’t at all done comparatively, but they’re the closest I can offer at the moment. Zeiss and Rokinon both have nice bokeh with their 135mm f2 offerings and it’s only when looking at them side by side will you sit there and complain about one vs the other. When your clients are simply looking at their images, they won’t care about any of this.

Sharpness

Model: Justin Kirck

Model: Justin Kirck

Pixel for pixel sharpness has never been a major priority for this site since everyone using these lenses are bound to do some sort of post-production to their images. The sharpness though is indeed there. You’ll for sure spend lots of time doing extra retouching because of it.

Color Rendition

Using the Canon 6D, this lens was found to be a bit too cool for my liking. I personally tend to reach for more warm colors. For what it’s worth though, Kodak Portrait and CineStill 800T lovers will be smitten with this lens and when it can render.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 lens review portraits extras (1 of 3)ISO 8001-160 sec

In my tests, I couldn’t find any fringing straight out of the camera that was worth talking about. To that end, I should also hit home on the fact that it’s 2016 and all this is easily fixed in post-production.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 portraits of Bec (4 of 4)ISO 4001-50 sec

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 portraits of Bec (3 of 4)ISO 4001-50 sec

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Rokinon 135mm f2 portraits of Bec (2 of 4)ISO 4001-50 sec

Conclusions

Likes

  • Sharpness
  • Bokeh

Dislikes

  • Build quality

The Rokinon 135mm f2 is a lens that belongs in the hands of every aspiring portrait photographer. It will teach you things about composition, focusing on details, being very careful with the elements of a scene, etc. Plus, it’s pretty affordable at $549. It’s a beautiful lens and it’s highly capable of delivering beautiful images. But for what it’s worth, my major complaint has to do with Rokinon’s build quality. I’d really like metal to be part of the exterior.

four-star-Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Rokinon 135mm f2 received four out of five stars. It’s an exceptional lens, though the build quality is a bit lacking. If that isn’t a problem to you, get it. Want one? Check out Amazon for the latest listing.

  • longzoom
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2515374007

    Well done, thanks! BTW, your own image – what aperture? Insane sharpness, indeed!

    • ChrisGampat
      Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
      Disqus/1.1(2.84):2515404939

      I think it was like f5.6 or f8. I don’t really remember and the lens/camera obviously don’t retain the data. Considering what I usually meter at when I use that giant six foot umbrella though it’s bound to be one of those.

      • longzoom
        Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
        Disqus/1.1(2.84):2515414980

        Just stunning! Thanks!

        • ChrisGampat
          Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
          Disqus/1.1(2.84):2515441077

          135mm is where it’s at honestly. It can render an almost medium format style look.

          • longzoom
            Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
            Disqus/1.1(2.84):2515501750

            Out of questions with optics like this one. Yeah, metal parts as much as possible, then AF, then VR… Will take its place in nearest future, I believe, somehow. Market calls, you know… With optics like this I will pay extra, you right!