Road Train !!!!!!!!!!

by Russell McMahon

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In the Canon camp we are all very familiar with the range of 70-200mm lenses. I am very impressed by the 135mm f/2.0 L though. I am considering getting rid of my 70-200mm lens in favor of the 135mm with the addition of a 1.4x extender. This would give me the ability to shoot at either 135 f/2.0 or 189mm f/2.8. I see huge gains in form factor and weight. I understand I would lose the 70-135, and the range between the two lenses. But I would also be gaining the f/2.0 at 135mm. And depending on which 70-200mm lens is used for the comparison, either gaining f/2.8 over f/4, and or losing image stabilization.

I really enjoy prime lenses, and the magic of the 135L is drawing me towards this as an option. Rather then spending the $1500 to outfit myself with this kit blind, I'm hoping someone else has tried this and can tell me it is a bad or good idea, and I can learn from your experience.

Am I really gaining quality or sacrificing?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

I have both a 70-200 (2.8, non-IS), as well as the 135 and a 1.4x (II). This is a very difficult question to answer because it depends on your use.

For me: I enjoy the flexibility of the 70-200 for certain types of shooting, e.g. action sports and other activities where I'm not easily able to zoom with my feet and/or it's a pain to fiddle with extenders. There's a reason the 70-200 zooms are so popular!

On the other hand, I sometimes like to go out on "prime-only" missions, and the 135 is always in my bag for those. It really is a wonderful lens. Of course, pairing it with the 1.4 (or any) extender) degrades the quality slightly, but is still better than the 70-200 non-IS at the same focal length. So if you don't need the 70-135 range and are able to zoom with your feet, and don't mind swapping the extender in/out to go between 135 to 189 then you might be better off with that combo.

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I'm really appreciative to have your experience and input on this. This helps a great deal. I'm less interested in flexibility, and more in IQ and max apertures. So I find this really interesting "but is still better than the 70-200 non-IS at the same focal length". That is a huge decision point for me. Thanks! –  dpollitt May 8 '12 at 16:46
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Keep in mind that I'm referring to the 70-200 2.8 non-IS specifically...which, generally speaking, I think has the lowest IQ out of all of the 70-200s (including the f/4s). So YMMV if you have a different model. But still, prime IQ is nearly always going to be better than a zoom at the same focal length, especially if the 135 is in the mix. It's my favorite lens by far. –  djangodude May 8 '12 at 16:53
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Sold my 70-200mm finally. Just using the 135mm + 1.4x TC! It is great. Sad to see the 70-200mm go, but I haven't used it since I got the 135mm! It is in a different league with the f/2.0. –  dpollitt Nov 22 '12 at 16:15

If you're concerned at max aperture, the 70-200/2.8 is sharper at f/2.8.

http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Reviews/ISO-12233-Sample-Crops.aspx?Lens=108&Camera=453&Sample=0&FLI=1&API=1&LensComp=242&CameraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=4&APIComp=0

I don't own a 70-200/2.8. I have used the 135 with a 1.4x extender. Stop it down one or two stops, and it's fine. The autofocus speed is reduced by 50%, but the 135 is fast enough that this reduction isn't a huge issue.

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Interesting...the chart certainly gives the 70-200 2.8 the edge at 2.8 (particularly mid-frame and corner), even allowing for a little slop comparing 189mm to 200mm as the tool does. My experience with this differs (135 w/ 1.4x is better overall than the 70-200), though admittedly I have not done the rather rigorous testing such as with the ISO-12233 charts. I'm inspired to try some now, though :-) –  djangodude May 8 '12 at 22:59
    
Your experience with a lens matters more than test chart performance. If you find yourself consistently getting better shots with one lens than another, that's the better lens for you. –  Evan Krall Nov 27 '12 at 4:25

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