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The Worlds Greatest Portrait Lens

I think the title could be a little misleading, if you were say a fan of Canon or had a penchant for Medium Format, but you will find the Nikkor 135/2 DC mentioned time and time again as one of the best of it’s class and arguably the best.

Using it on a 1971 F2A could be seen as a little anachronistic by the digital brigade but not when you think that the F2A uses film and has more image in the full frame negative than most users of this lens.

The lens was put into production in the 90’s and so has been around for twenty years in limited runs and has a slightly shorter brother at 105/2. Weighing in at 0.82 kg this is not a light lens but that is because it is a very thin metal tube with 7 elements in 6 groups – so it is almost completely glass.

Defocus control does not make this a soft focus lens – apparently the Japanese translator didn’t do a great job as it should say Bokeh Control.

With the DC set at zero it is one of the sharpest lenses you will find in this category and with the DC turned to match the f value of your camera, you will find the background becomes a swirl of colour.

I am not sure why the Japanese put the DC forward and back because making the foreground blurry just looks very wrong – especially as your eyes will try and focus on the first thing they see.

The below images are of friends children at Lola’s Birthday Party and show for me two of the aspects of the lens that I love to use.

The first is Axel in sharp focus, having just eaten a meringue, with the background out of focus using the DC at 5.6.

This image shows why it is such a great portrait lens with Axel about 10 feet in front of the background, allowing the DOF to keep him sharp and drop the background away.

This next one is almost all out of focus and at f2 it is very easy to do this as the DOF is very small. By dropping Floss slightly behind the sharp area of focus it allows the image to look more as if you have used a Soft Focus lens.

I haven’t used an auto focus camera to try this lens on and as the focus ring on this lens is so large and easy to turn I am glad that I haven’t. Reading other peoples reviews of this lens suggest that it is best used in manual any way as it is so sharp and manual control of focus is something I think is too important to allow a camera to control in portraiture.

Overall, during the last year I have found that the body of the camera is mattering to me less than the glass I put on the front. This is something that I think most pros will tell you from the start, but as a rank amateur at best, the fact that my lens selection matters more to me than I ever thought is a revelation.

It is also the reason why I am going no where near zoom lenses for the time being as the standard zooms come with such terrible aperture levels that the only way you can get a decent zoom is by selling your children into slavery to buy one.

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Posted by simon on September 16, 2011

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