Sony 135mm F2.8 T4.5 STF A-mount lens review by dumbasadoorknob

reviewer#10693 date: Nov-12-2012
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Zeiss 135/1.8
Min 135/2.8
Tam 24135
Min 80200G
price paid:usd 900 used
positive:smoothness of focussing
deep colors
background blur
lack of vignetting
negative:manual focus
comment:On an A900 with its bright viewfinder, this is the smoothest, easiest, most accurately focussing manual lens I've ever used, even in dimmish light. I have recently confirmed that it is even better and easier to use on a focus peaking body. This lens is a no-brainer with focus peaking.

The background blur is dreamy. The round aperture gives a single edge to the blur (where angular blades give that two-edge effect on pixel peeping.) The blur is smooth (and traffic lights in the distance at night are surreal.) I think this smooth roundness is amplified by the air gaps between lenses that one can see in the lens diagram (which exists also with bokeh champions 85G and 200G)

The internal apodization lens (a variably graduated radial neutral density filter) allows for central brilliance and background darkening. It also appears to squelch bright highlight aberrations in the background. This is the most striking thing about the pictures that are produced...the central image is caught in a bowl of light, while the background is dark but not vignetted, and this contributes to the overall effect greatly.

This is a slow, f4.5, lens (although in Southern California where I live, that's not a problem.) The f2.8 part of the lens identifies the reduced depth of field, so the DOF is f2/8 when the aperture is f4.5. This isn't very important in itself, I feel, since this is a telephoto, and at most portrait distances, we are discussing a difference in depth of field of less than 5mm. But...I think the combination of DOF and apodization filter and air gap is another reason why the bokeh is so very smooth.

In comparison with other 135mms, it is the best. I don't like my Zeiss, because it is too crisp and bright: this lens is as "sharp" (although it probably isn't because it uses a larger circle of confusion) but it seems just as spot on in detail rendering, and it has an amazing tonal depth that the Zeiss simply lacks. The 135/2.8 is shown, in comparison to this best-of-all-lenses, to be a fabulous piece of glass too. That old Min is brighter, it has edgy bokeh, but it is still wonderful.

The comparison with the 85G and 200G demonstrate Minolta's skills in optical design. They produce central images of great clarity, like the STF, but then capture light from the background, bringing it up too: the STF does the opposite. They have excellent bokeh but a totally different rendering.

The Tam 24135, as a zoom, appears to have greater depth of field at all apertures, and so produces very different images from the STF. it is an excellent lens and, as a zoom, can go where the STF can't, but the STF is the lens of choice if the image allows.

The STF is like eating marzipan covered in dark chocolate....

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 43
  • sharpness: 4.90
  • color: 4.95
  • build: 4.84
  • distortion: 4.86
  • flare control: 4.77
  • overall: 4.86 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania