It’s almost impossible to accidentally make a soft image with the new Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena lens. This just might be the sharpest lens ever produced by Nikon. Train this lens on a professional model, and you just could be coming back with some of the best portraits you’ve ever taken. Between its razor-sharp resolving power and buttery soft bokeh, Nikon’s just made the latest lens that portrait photographers will crave.
The Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena lens’s box is deceptively large. The lens itself is only about half the length of the box once you take it out. The rest of the space goes towards the large hood, lens pouch, and paperwork. When I first saw the box, I thought the lens would be as large as their 70-200mm F2.8 VR S lens. The girth of this lens will attract the eyes of anyone around you, including those of security guards at public venues. It’s not all that heavy, but it needs a steady hand to balance it while you’re using it without a tripod.
I used the Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena lens with the Nikon Zf, both on loan from Nikon.
Taken from the Nikon USA website:
- Maximum aperture: f1.8
- Minimum aperture: f16
- Maximum Angle of View (FX-format): 18°10′
- Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.2x
- Lens Elements: 16
- Lens Groups: 14
- Vibration Reduction: Achieved with in-camera sensor-shift VR when used on a Z series camera with in-body VR
- Diaphragm Blades: 11 rounded diaphragm opening
- ED Glass Elements: 4
- SR (Short-Wavelength Refractive) Glass Elements: 1
- Aspherical Elements: 1
- AF Actuator: 2 STM (stepping motor)
- Minimum focus distance: 2.69 ft (0.82 m) from focal plane
- Filter size: 82mm
- Dimensions: 3.9 in(98 mm) x 5.5 in(139.5 mm) – Distance to end of lens from camera lens mount flange
- Weight: 35.1 oz(995 g) – Based on CIPA guidelines
This isn’t your everyday carry lens. It’s chunky for the most part, except at the lens mount part, where it really tapers down quickly from the lens control ring. But the weight is distributed well, so you don’t find the lens tipping downward when you handhold it. It was noticeably heavier than the Nikon Zf I was testing it with. However, there was no uncomfortable weight imbalance felt during my test shoots.
If you’re a Nikon’s 85mm f1.8S portrait lens user, the 135mm will take a bit of time to adjust. This lens is a lot bigger, wider, and heavier. It reminds me of their AF-S 35mm f1.4 lens from the F-mount range.
The filter size is a large, but not massive 82mm. You have two customizable Fn buttons on the left and one on top of the lens. The large manual focus ring is very similar to what’s seen on other S-line Z-mount lenses. And the de-clicked control ring can be set to change multiple parameters based on your preference.
The build and feel of this Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 lens falls in the league of the Nikon Noct 58mm f0.95 S. It feels solid, expensive (which, at around $2500, many will say it is), tough in a classy way, and has that comforting cold metal feel.
Using this lens with the Nikon Zf gave me the most out of it, thanks to the fast autofocus due to the Expeed 7 processor. AF was almost instant when the lens didn’t have to traverse the entire focal range. Occasionally there was some focus hunting when I was shooting backlit subjects against the sun. During these times, I had to manually bring the focal distance close to the subject and then engage the autofocus.
Turn on Eye-Detection AF and find yourself nailing the eyes of your portraits with immense ease.
Zero complaints here. The Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S lens has sharpness that has to be seen to be believed, even when shooting wide open at f1.8. If you’re a stickler for sharpness in your images, then you’ll want to buy this lens right away. The image below is a 100% crop of the above photo, with no sharpening done. It was taken at f1.8.
The falloff from sharp to out-of-focus areas is creamy. It’s very similar to what you’d observe on medium-format cameras.
Almost all the images below were shot at f1.8 on the Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena lens.
It’s one impressive lens, right from the time you first hold it until your jaw drops at seeing how sharp it is wide open even. My gut feeling is that this will be the prime choice for portrait and headshot photographers, especially for those not wanting to splurge on their Noct series. The Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S lens sets the benchmark very high for the ones to follow in their newly announced Plena series.