Carl Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* 2/135

Lens Reviews / Carl Zeiss Lenses i Not yet tested
135mm $2,122
average price
image of Carl Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* 2/135

(From Carl Zeiss lens literature) The Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 is Carl Zeiss' longest medium telephoto lens in the range of high-quality SLR lenses. With the Apo Sonnar T* 2/135, the company is substantially extending the creative possibilities available in the medium tele range. Photographers and HD video cinematographers now have a total of thirteen SLR lenses to choose, with focal lengths of 15 to 135 millimeters.

The Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 is the ideal lens for capturing detailed images from long distances, such as the skyline at sunset, a leopard in the zoo, or a pop star on a faraway stage. The new lens offers outstanding clarity of detail, high contrast and high resolution at any aperture. This mix of attributes makes it the perfect choice for portraits in advertising, fashion and lifestyle, as well as for landscape and reportage photography.

After putting the lens through its paces in New York, Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson was clearly impressed: “I am delighted with the performance of this new lens. It is relatively compact for a telephoto lens. Its image resolution and quality are outstanding, and there is a touch of magic in the way the light is refracted by the lens elements. I took some amazing photos, including some in poor light conditions.”

The Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 can capture subjects up to a scale of 1:4. It has been built based on Carl Zeiss's proven “floating elements” design. A special variable arrangement of the lens elements delivers excellent images over the entire focusing range, from 0.8 meters to infinity. The compact telephoto lens features eleven elements in eight groups. Because this lens is an apochromat, chromatic abberations (axial chromatic abberations) are corrected with elements of special glass materials with anomalous partial dispersion. The chromatic aberrations are therefore significantly below the defined limits. Bright-dark transitions in the image, and especially highlights, are reproduced almost completely free of color artifacts.

As with all other SLR lenses in the ZE and ZF.2 series, the Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating as well as the sophisticated treatment of the elements’ edges with a deep-black special lacquer make the Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 resistant to reflections and stray light. Another advantage for the user is the large rotation angle of 268°, which enables ultra-precise focusing.

The Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 is equipped with an all-metal barrel, which enables long-lasting use with high-quality results. It will be available with F bayonet (ZF.2) and with EF bayonet (ZE).

The lens will begin shipping in December 2012 at a recommended retail price of approximately €1,600 or US$2,000 (excluding VAT)*.

Carl zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* 2/135

Carl Zeiss 135mm f/2 Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 User Reviews

9.5/10 average of 4 review(s) Build Quality 10.0/10 Image Quality 9.8/10
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by KevinS (1 reviews)
    Compact, not too expensive, extremely sharp across image area from wide open to f8
    manual focus

    Sharpest lens I've ever used, bar none - and that means any view camera lens, medium format lens, ANY lens. As sharp or sharper than my other Zeiss Otus lenses. I've always had trouble getting lenses to perform well when focusing & rendering detail of distant objects. This lens excels at this so much more so than any other lens, it's startling. Where it will really knock your eyes out of their sockets is when you do a two row (4 horizontal shots each with 25% overlap) stitched panoramic of a city skyline. The results are what I would bet many of us have been wanting for 25 years (if you've been shooting that long!).

    I listed manual focus as a con, but you don't need this lens if you need autofocus. Where this lens excels is in making large enlargements of your photographs, particularly landscapes. With a lens this sharp, you probably want to be shooting & focusing in Live View mode anyway.

    reviewed March 16th, 2016 (purchased for $1)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by Airy (16 reviews)
    Sharpness, contrast, flare control, APO, close focus (1:4)
    price ; bulky when hood is mounted

    The perfect lens, maybe. I could not find a circumstance where it would deliver disappointing pictures : day, night, against-the-light, etc.

    Also very useful for stage shots, if you can live with manual focus. The cylindrical metal hood gives perfect protection against shocks and stray light. And since f/2 already delivers outstanding center sharpness and contrast, you may consider that aperture is only there for setting the depth-of-field, and auto ISO would take care of the light.

    Bokeh, while not at the level of, say, the Nikon 85/1.4G, is 95% close to it, and not an issue.

    reviewed April 8th, 2015 (purchased for $1,800)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by RS (1 reviews)
    Very nice rendition of the human face
    No autofocus

    I rented this lens and the Nikon 135DC f/2 at the same time and used them for a portrait gig on a D800E on a tripod with remote shutter release.

    The two lenses performed almost identically, I can't really tell them apart from normal viewing distance. But the lens is fun to use—it's a joy to turn the focus ring and watch the subject snap into focus.

    The main difference is that the Nikon lens had that Nikon purple and green fringing at the edges of everything and the rendering was not quite as crisp as the Zeiss. But crispness is not usually a good thing with portraits—it draws attention to every hair, zit, and mascara crumb. So beware if you're going to use this lens for portraits.
    I would try a Softar or a one of the lighter grades of a Tiffen Black Pro-Mist on this lens next time I shot a woman with it. Or just get the 135DC, the photos it produces are very flattering.

    The question that this lens answers is "Will zeiss lenses give me medium-format quality images from a D800?" And the answer, at least for me, is yes.

    reviewed April 11th, 2014 (purchased for $96)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by azoele (5 reviews)
    Sharpness. Colour. Contrast. "Presence". Minimum focus distance
    Out of focus rendition can be a tad harsh. Manual focus only. It forces you to downgrade your appraisal of all your other lenses...

    I grew interested in this lens after reading raving reviews online.
    But it was only when I held one in my hand, took a few shots and stared at the results that I was convinced: its qualities won me over, and made me forget all my fears (135mm is certainly my most used focal length, and manual focus only is a pain).
    I simply tried it, and in a sort of trance bought it and left the shop!

    How is it?
    In a word: fantastic. Nothing I ever used, ever, can touch the results from this lens.
    Wide open it is incredibly sharp and detailed, with mesmerizing colour and clarity. By f2.8 everything tops, and the image jumps at you, bold, crystal clear, saturated. The first shots you take with it are truly shocking, so much they are bold and crisp, with deep colours and razor sharp edges.

    I tried a few times a 400 2.8, and it won't touch this Zeiss for rendition, sharpness and contrast.
    I own since 3 years a 200/2 VR II, and while an incredible lens, it doesn't have the *bite* the Zeiss shows with ease already at f2, and even stopped down doesn't provide the same contrast, despite its nano-coating.
    The 135 APO Sonnar simply has higher contrast and saturation than those 2 excellent primes, said to be the best in Nikon's lineup, and of everything else I've seen before.

    Is it then the "be all" lens?
    Not really, if one needs be sincere.
    Bokeh is harsher than I expected: while still good in absolute terms, it is inferior to that of other famous lenses (105/2 Nikon, 85 1.4D/G, not to mention the 200/2), and one may want to be a little careful with that, especially with complex backgrounds very near your subject.
    Also, focusing manually means is a bane for everything that moves. The plane of focus is just to thin, unless you start shooting f5.6 or f8.

    But it is still the best lens I have ever used, bar none.
    Also: it is so well corrected already wide open, that it is the very only manual focus lens I can focus trusting the "green" dot in my D3s and D4. If the dot lights up, the lens is in focus.
    No other lens I own (17-35, 70-200/II, 105/2, 35 1.4, 24 1.4, 200/2) or have ever tried is so well corrected wide open and so reliable in manual focusing.

    In summary: it is an astonishing – albeit quite specialized – piece of equipment. It is expensive, rather on the big side, difficult to operate due to manual focus... but make no mistake, its output is simply gorgeous, and one always feels like carrying it around to take another picture.

    reviewed July 20th, 2013 (purchased for $1,900)