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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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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.

  • 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
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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.

  • 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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I realize this is an old post - but I'm making the same choice today. I've had multiple copies of every 70-200 lens Canon has made since 1990. Loved 'em all. But I'm getting older, and no longer want to pack one of those white 2.8 beasts on an airplane to see my grandchildren. I'm getting a 135 specifically to use at the 2.0 max aperture to blur out typical household or yard clutter, and the 135mm focal length so I can sit in a chair across the room and be ignored while I follow the action through the 5D3 eye cup. I don't care about comparative sharpness - an over-rated lens feature IMO. I'm after action shots of children and pets in natural or found light. Flash is off-putting - the kids start to ham it up when aware they're being photographed. When we move outdoors to the pool I'll use a 70-300L IS - fast enough and long enough, and packs shorter than any 70-200. The only other lens I'll take in my shoulder bag - which has to fit under the plane seat in front of me with room for my feet so I can extend my aching legs - will be a 35 1.4L for close up, intimates or wider group shots.

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    I can't tell if you're asking a question or making a statement, but either way this doesn't seem like an answer to the question. – Caleb Jul 26 '17 at 23:45
  • Broadly I think it is answering if it is a good idea. They are sharing why it was a good idea for them. It does drift a bit from what I personally think the core of the question was, but not quite sure it fits a mod removal for not being an answer since it does seem like a reasonable enough take on the question. – AJ Henderson Jul 27 '17 at 13:57

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