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135mm prime v 70-200 Zoom

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Andy81 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Andy81 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: 135mm prime v 70-200 Zoom
    Posted: 26 June 2020 at 08:52
Hi all

After transitioning to E Mount last year with an A7Rii, I've slimmed down my lens collection, and now rely primarily on primes for weight/compactness, with the Tokina 20m Firin, Sony 35mm f2.8 and FE 85mm f1.8. I have kept my A Mount 70-300mm G for anything longer, using it with the LA-EA3.

Recently, I've been shooting a fair few portraits of my 15 month old son, who has shown a liking to the camera (rather than deciding to pose), and so I'm using the 70-300mm a bit more than originally envisaged. However, the lack of eye-AF is annoying having got used to it with the 85mm, focussing speed isn't amazing, and the bokeh is rather busy and uneven. I'm therefore considering switching to either the Batis 135mm, or the FE 70-200 F4.

The Batis ticks the box for compactness/weight, is a stop faster, and from what I've seen is tack sharp, but the zoom would give me much more flexibility with respect to focal length, even considering the ability to crop heavily with the 42mp resolution of the A7Rii, and for taking pictures of toddlers etc, might be a better option.

Any thoughts or pointers from practical experience would be welcome!
 



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nandbytes View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 08:58
I not a much of a batis 135mm fan (or any of them tbh), they are larger and more expensive than I feel they should be for what they are.

I just received my tamron 70-180mm f2.8 yesterday and the AF on it is just flawless for eye-AF, I dare say it works better than both the Sony 70-200mm lenses and also sharper than 70-200m f4. You lose a little reach at the long end but you have 42mp and you have more quality pixel than you would with the 70-200mm f4 so there is no loss there. Its also lighter and more compact than both sony 70-200mm lenses.

The downside of tamron of course is lack of OS. But if you are shooting people with it you'll need a minimum of 1/50s shutter speed and IBIS will easily give you 2 stops stabilisation.

If you want the "bestest latest and greatest" there is always the 135GM. Its better than any other lens I have owned/used in pretty much every way from IQ to AF to handling.
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Miranda F View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Miranda F Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 09:36
In the old days before zooms came along I bought a 135 tele as everybody did as their first 'second' lens, and like everyone else I found it superb for a few things and useless for most of the others. If you like tight head crops or semi-distant candid portraits they're great, but for photographing your own small child? No way!

And with the resolution of modern digital cameras, you hardly need a tight frame anyway when you can crop later. I'm not even sure 70mm is wide enough, but since you have an 85mm the 135mm seems pointless - you only have to crop the 85mm a little and you can do that on-camera or afterward.

If you want the capability to push the background OOF, then a 50mm f2 or better with an ND on the front will do that better than a 70-200 f4. Cropping 50% gives you 100mm equiv. while keeping the short MFD so you can get in close.

Just my 2p anyway. I know a lot of the pros use 70-200mm but they're usually posing somebody else's kids with their parents around to keep order. In my experience it doesn't work that way with your own kids and you probably don't want posed portraits anyway.

What does everyone else think?
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Post Options Post Options   Quote owenn01 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 10:37
Hi Andy,

I think Miranda F opens up an interesting line of thought for your 'problem' - that is, what is it that you are looking from this? Is it the flexibility of the lens (with a small child I can understand wanting to be able to be 'adaptable' in the framing/positioning of the shot etc.), or is it the isolating capability whilst retaining a nice/pleasing/isolating background in the image through the DoF you can apply with a specific lens, then use the cropping factor to frame as you would want?

I'm not an E-mount user at all so I find it difficult to comment on the quality of the bokeh of lenses made for that mount, but my experience of an a99 with a 135/1.8ZA is that it opens up some opportunities for isolating/re-cropping whilst maintaining a lovely background and keeping a distance from the subject (note; it doesn't have a great mfd though!).

It's a nice situation to be in but one that will cause sleepless nights (above those with a small child!) so don't get too hung up on the debate.

Let us know what you decide - then we need to see examples!

Best regards, Neil.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Jozioau Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 11:03
Andy,
Like Neil Iím a rusted on a- mount user. I canít comment on the e- mounts youíre considering but would have thought photographing a child calls for the greater flexibility of the 70-200mm zoom which does also give you the ability to isolate your subject from the background when wide open. That having been said, the 135mm is exceptional for its IQ.
Look forward to hearing which way you end up going.
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Andy81 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Andy81 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 11:08
Thanks all

The kind of shots I'm after are more of the candid type whilst kids play, and the ability to be a bit further from the action and therefore less involved is the main goal (that is to say I'm after more distance between myself and the subject outdoors). The ability to blur out the background is ideal, but assuming that I can get a decent distance between subject and background, either lens would do this much better than the 70-300, which I think from 135mm onwards can only open up to max f5.
 



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nandbytes View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 11:10
In someways I agree with @Miranda F and in someways I think differently (i.e. I don't disagree but its not in line with my thinking).

As people may or may not know I too have a son (now 2.5 years) and I have spent the last 2.5 years shooting him a LOOOT from candids to posed shots to fancy dress photo shoots.

One of the lenses I really enjoyed using was 24mm f1.4. Kinda missing it now after I sold it! It gave some really nice environmental portraits/shots of him playing with a bit of context. This is really great especially indoors and sometimes outdoors too. If anyone/OP cares I might share some pics.

My second bread & butter lens is a 85mm (FE85->85GM->FE85->now samyang 85mm/1.4). It just works for outdoors very well and some indoor shots too. Gives pleasing bokeh and composition. As Miranda F mention can easily crop to give 135mm equivalent FoV and rendering. More the reason I feel batis 135mm is pointless since you can just crop your FE85 to give 130mm/2.8 equivalent rendering. Move a little further and you get full body shots of the little guy and move a bit closer+crop a little to get nice half-body shots. I'd prefer a 100mm f2 but alas not an option on e-mount but again you have plenty pixels.

Apart from these two I shoot or have shot with other lenses:

Tamron 28-75mm/2,8 - made a nice middle ground between 24GM and FE85. It was really good when I didn't have the time or means to change lenses between the two primes. Worked well indoors as well as outdoors. So kinda of an all-in-one lens for shooting my son when I needed the versatility or convenience.

Sony 70-200GM - I got this briefly because my son had started walking, running and playing outside. But realised he was still not quite as independent as I falsely predicted and 85mm was long enough for most things. Still got a few nice shots at 200mm but just not enough to justifying keeping a 2 grand lens. So I sold this. He is now starting to play more independently outside so I got the tamron 70-180mm in hopes of getting nice candids from a distance

Sony 135GM - replaced this with the tamron 70-180mm as its more versatile and makes for a better landscape+travel lens too which I also like shooting.

various 50mm primes - experimenting with these now for full body shots (he's grown up and 85mm isn't quite as wide to get his whole body in frame). So as @Miranda F suggested I figured I can do well with a 50mm prime.

edit:
p.s. my list of lenses I have and previously owned are on the e-mount lineup page.

Edited by nandbytes - 26 June 2020 at 11:24
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addy landzaat View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote addy landzaat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 11:17
85mm is to short?
Setting your A7r2 in APS-C mode is about 135mm: 128mm. Try that and experience it. If you find you need more flexibility, the 70-180/2.8 makes a lot of sense.

As your looking at the 135/2.8 - the Sony 135GM is not that more expensive, about the same size, faster at f/1.8 but heavier.

@MirandaF: I never really used a 135mm prime, but I have the feeling it is a compromise lens. Too long for casual portraits and to short as a true tele lens, but usable in both situations. That is why 85mm lenses were pro lenses.

About that 50/2. Using DoF master, it will give a DoF of 1.21 meters at 5m.
The 70-200/4 at 200mm f/4 at 20m will give a DoF of 1.19 meters, so, that is about the same. But if you use that 50/2 cropped as a 100mm, DoF becomes 2.42m. Tried to keep the magnification similar between the different lenses/crops (and hoping I did not make a mistake ).
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Post Options Post Options   Quote QuietOC Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 13:17
The III series and newer bodies have Continuous Eye AF with adapted lenses.

I like zooms with some wide end with kids. The new Tamron 28-200 might be alright. I haven't been using my 70-x and longer zooms.

50/2 has half the background blur of a 200/4 (clarification: at the same subject magnification/framing.)

Edited by QuietOC - 28 June 2020 at 12:46
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Post Options Post Options   Quote skm.sa100 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 13:55
I agree with Miranda that a 135mm is wonderful for a few shots but useless for most others.

I have the MAF 135/2.8 and totally dig its performance, size and weight, and the price. But I'm almost always reaching for my Sigma 70-200/2.8 for portraits rather than my 135/2.8 or even the 85/1.4. Why? Flexibility, of course.

"Zoom with your feet" is usually a good bit of overhead, especially if you have a child who's active. Even otherwise, if you're ready to shoot someone and realize you need to zoom with your feet to get the shot you want, it's a bit of a let down.

Next to a 24-70, I think the 70-200 is the most versatile lens. Actually, a 70-200 is quite as important as a 24-70, or even more, if you shoot people regularly.

Rather than a respectful "What are you looking for, what is your vision, where do you see yourself later" etc. kind of suggestions or opinions, I'd say just get the zoom if your primary purpose is to shoot to your child. You won't regret it.
But when you do get it right, a 70-200 can't match an 85 or 135. That's a given.

That's my thoughts and pointers based on many years of experience shooting my both growing kids.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote onsplekkie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 14:46
I like 1.8/135gm
It eats playing children outdoors for breakfast. The foreground and background just melts away giving all attention towards your pin sharp subject eye AF up to +/- 6m distance works for me.

I do not have experience with any zooms. The tammy 70-180 seems pretty good

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Post Options Post Options   Quote nandbytes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 14:55
was trying out my new tamron 70-180mm this morning with my son playing in the pool. Its phenomenal for AF and IQ! I dare say I found the AF stickier than the 70-200GM I had in the past. Overall best 70-XXX/2.8 lens I have owned.

the 135GM is equally good if not better. Definitely not much it in terms of AF. 135GM pixel peeping does show slightly more details on my A7RIV.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dCap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 17:05
As a non-portait shooter I've always considered owning an 85/1.4 AND a 135/2 as something someone really into portraits does. Maybe 50/85 indoors and 135/tele outdoors. More casual portrait shooters (back in ye olde film days) might have justified just an 85/1.8 or 100/2 and not splashed the cash on an 85/1.4 (unless they are bokeh nuts).

The history of the 135mm length is probably based on the film days when zooms were absolute garbage. Not so now. 85 tends to be the go-to. I see the 135 as much more specialised tool today (given how good zooms are).

But candids are a different branch really and while similar to classic portraits, if it was me I'd be aiming for a zoom here (2.8 from what the OP seems to want). As much as anything, YOU the invisible photographer get to stay in one place a bit more and frame with the zoom ring instead of obviously moving in/out with a prime and being noticed during candid moments.

Just like a keen landscaper might have one/two/three wide primes and/or maybe one/two wide zooms. And then few options on the longer end.

Doubling or trippling here - 85/135/70-xxx - would make bags of sense if this is your main shooting thing. But perhaps the other things you photograph help the decision too? You might be pulling budget from the macro you need for your stamp collection or ultra-wide for those interior shoots you get to.

Edited by dCap - 26 June 2020 at 17:09
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Post Options Post Options   Quote 2manycamera Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 June 2020 at 18:39
Keeping the comparison to the two lenses in the original post, Batis 2.8/135 vs Sony 4/70-200, along with the other lenses already owned. I'd go with the Batis. They are in similar new price range, Batis is lighter, smaller and a full stop faster. Everything I've read says it's sharper. Likely little difference is focus speed, but that's only conjecture on my part. Cropping between 135mm and 200mm is hardly extreme on a 42mp sensor. And you still have the 70-300 when you need even more reach than 200mm.

However, if you add the new Tamron 70-180 into the mix, then a lot changes. Same speed, similar weight, retracted size is not much different. The Tamron is $200-400 less depending on Zeiss instant rebate. Tamron focuses MUCH closer, and likely will focus faster than the Batis. All the tests say it's sharper than the Sony 4/70-200 though Batis could still hold an edge there. For me when they're the same speed, then 135mm looses most of it's appeal.
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