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Nikkor 135mm f/2 AF DC

Weight: 29oz
Filter Size: 72mm
The concise version: A beautifully crafted lens with fantastic optics and outdated auto-focusing ability.

  The Nikkor 135mm f/2 DC is Nikon's longest in production AF lens. It first came into production October of 1990 and has only seen the minor (and relatively insignificant) upgrade to a D lens in 1995. The optical formula and auto-focus abilities have remained unchanged for almost twenty-two years. This is the only AF lens I've used that is built like an old AI-S lens. All metal construction, superb fit and finish, this lens is made to last. This and the 105mm DC are the last of the Nikkors with built in lens hoods, which is a shame because they were wonderful.

Shorter but similar in diameter to the Nikkor 70-300VR.

 The lens is built to do one thing; shoot portraits. In the short time I had the lens, that's exactly what I did with it. The DC stands for Defocus Control. Many websites explain it well. The short answer is that the DC control subtly controls how the foreground or background bokeh render. Very subtly, to be honest I can barely tell the difference on all the test sites or in use. Back in the days of film it was also used to achieve a soft focus effect, but with Photoshop that aspect of the lens is useless.

  Even at f/2 it's a sharp lens, nothing to complain about here. 

Nikon D700, Nikkor 135mm f/2 DC @ 1/160 F2 ISO 800 DC R2

100% crop of the raw straight from camera.

Nikon D700, Nikkor 135mm f/2 DC @ 1/160 F2 ISO 800 DC R2

What drives me crazy about many reviews is that they show a background so far out of focus that it's not really bokeh. Here the sunflowers are only a foot or two behind Shannamar. This is not a simple background, it's very busy in person but the lens handles it with ease.

Nikon D700, Nikkor 135mm f/2 @ 1/100 F2 ISO 800

Wide open there is no doubt it's a fast lens!

   This lens is almost perfect. Almost. It has two critical flaws. I've never seen this mentioned in other reviews, but even on my D700 the AF ability is reliable, but not fast. An adult walking at normal stride will out pace the lens. Kids? Good luck. You'll only get an in focus shot if they pause for a second. The second issue is that at 135mm it's getting into the telephoto range and could benefit from VR. Personally I'd trade the DC controls for AFS and VR. As it is, the lens is a bit outdated and overpriced for what it can do (shoot portraits in a controlled setting). On the other hand, what it can do, it does well.

  Build: 9/10                     - Absolutely beautiful, almost like traditional Nikkor AI-S quality. I love the built in lens hood and wish Nikon still made them.
  Handling:  8/10              - Not much to handle with no zoom, but the focus ring is very smooth for an AF lens. No instant AF overide due to old AF mechanism.
  Performance: 7/10         - Amazing performance. Does what it's made to do, although slightly softer at f/2.
  Value: 5/10                    - Expensive for what it has. For $1,400 you should get AFS and VR too.
  Overall: 6/10                 - A wonderful lens crippled by outdated AF.

Practicality for kayaking: 2/10

   This lens just isn't suited for kayaking. Rather big and heavy, no focal range, slow AF. Need I say more? If all you do is shoot portraits, you may consider this lens although it seems to be near discontinued. If you shoot anything else the 70-200 f/2.8 VR1 runs close to the same price and has a lot more to offer, although it's much more intimidating to people.

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