Adapting GFX: Canon EF 135mm ƒ/2L USM

So, this one just arrived today and the first thing I did was slap it on the GFX and see how it performs. I’d spent a few minutes with this lens at Glazer’s Camera a couple of weeks ago and the image quality was indisputable, especially when trying it side by side with the Zeiss 2/135 APO Sonnar. At full sensor width, the equivalent field of view is approximately 108mm on a 35mm sensor.

For me, this is great as I can get in closer, shoot a pano for a wider view, and with the GFX’s resolution, I can punch in even further and get an approximately 200mm FOV and still retain at least 25MP for printing large (22 x 17 inch) at gallery quality. The best part is being able to do so with a small and light lens.

There are some drawbacks though. Uncannily enough, they’re the same as with the Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM: slight vignette with a hard vignette at infinity focus. At ƒ/8, it isn’t very prevalent as you’ll see in the samples, easily corrected with a 5:4 crop that retains 48MP. However, as the aperture gets smaller, the vignette hardens, as you can see at ƒ/32, but still works at a 5:4 crop ratio. The lens works fine with a 3:2 crop at full sensor width and in 35mm crop mode, so you can choose what works best for you.

Weirdly, the lens changes focus as you move in and out of playback mode on the GFX, usually returning to the previous focus position the first time but not thereafter. It even does this in fully manual mode, no matter the position of the manual focus mode switch on the lens or the body. Obviously, this can be exceptionally frustrating if playing back images between shots and requires manual refocusing if you tend to chimp. Another anomaly that surfaced is use of the focus limiter switch: on the fly switching can cause the adapter to function a bit oddly for a few sweeps of the focus ring in AF, or flat out crash and soft reboot. This can be avoided by switching the focus limiter only while the camera is turned off. If using the TechArt Pro adapter, turning the camera off then turning it back on while holding down the button on the adapter will clear this up immediately if the temporary oddness leaves you feeling unsettled and unsure.

For the least quirky AF performance with this lens, I recommend these settings: on the GFX, set AF+MF to Off, Rapid AF to Off, Pre-AF to Off and use the smallest AF point. On the lens, set focus to 0.9m – ∞, aka Full Range and AF to On. For manual focus, set both the GFX and lens to MF. If using “back button focus,” set the Instant AF Setting to AF-S. If you prefer to chimp between shots, and rarely use the EVF, turn on Image Disp. under Screen Settings to Continuous. If you tend to use the EVF, you can set the viewfinder mode to LCD Image Display instead.

Otherwise, it displays the same quirks as the other lenses reviewed when adapted using the TechArt Pro adapter.

Now for the samples:

ƒ/2 at minimum focus

ƒ/2 at infinity focus

ƒ/8 at minimum focus

ƒ/8 at infinity focus

ƒ/32 at minimum focus

ƒ/32 at infinity focus

This lens is sharp, with beautiful out of focus areas and smooth rendition between those areas. Corners and edges are obviously a bit smudged at wide open but quickly sharpen up from ƒ/2.8 and smaller. In all parts of a full sensor shot, it’s better than other 35mm lenses I’ve tried so far. Even when compared to the Zeiss 2/135 APO Sonnar, it’s ever so slightly less contrasty but trades that for much smoother, less nervous bokeh. It’s a fair trade, especially for landscapes, where a tendency for nervous bokeh can distract in the rare occasion a shallower depth of field is desired. For portraiture, the slightly more contrasty Zeiss would probably be preferred.

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