Information on Nikkor 135mm f2.0, f2.8 and f3.5 Lenses

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As mentioned at a few sections in this site, during prime days of manual focus SLR photography, lenses with focal lengths between 85mm to 135mm were very popular among photographers. Unlike rangefinder system, visual effect of a telephoto lens for reflex SLR camera can be easily checked even at moment before tripping the shutter release button. The various distinctive optical characteristic and "reach" of any telephoto lenses make them a favourite among photographers - difference is just a matter a personal preference of preferred focal length to suit individual photographic needs.

< A field of view comparison chart of telephoto lenses and the standard lens

The 85mm is about 10° greater in angle of view than the 135mm lens, while the 135mm lens has 10° more angle of view than the 300mm. As we noted earlier, the subject area of the 135mm is about 25 percent of the area covered by the 85mm lens and about four times that of the 300mm. The 50mm covers about four times the subject area of the 100mm lens. The 100mm covers about four times that of the 200mm.

Basically, as you step up the focal length, you'll notice an increase in corresponding compression of perspective, narrowing angle of view (where less background will be revealed), or increase in image magnification (image size may be larger) but also there will be decrease in the depth of field (zone of sharpness in front and behind the focused subject is shallow). Although these changes are less apparent as compared with telephoto lenses at shorter focal length (85mm and 100mm) but still, the effect can be significant enough to a visual difference. At 135mm and beyond, these optical differences become more apparent. Thus, 135mm telephoto lenses are the perfect solution for wide range of photographic application, in particularly portraiture, landscape, travel and journalism.

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Lenses at 135mm are equally a popular choice for second lens for any beginner. It is a very versatile lens even for any professional photographer In fact, 135mm can also be a very good lens for landscape photography as its narrower angle of view is quite useful to isolate a particular scenic view. Combining its advantages of a moderately fast maximum and constant aperture found in any of the prime Nikkor 135mm lenses, it provides an extra flexibility in depth of field control and handling of low available light photography especially when used in combination with the great varieties of fine grained, high speed film provide today.

Credit: Images courtesy of Miss Kristina Hauzar-Proctor of

Although prime telephoto lenses may not provide a photographer with similar degree of convenience as compared to zoom lenses, but factors such as constant aperture, built quality and usually a far superior optical performance it provides has made this lens immensely popular those days. With a long history in their lens development, most people would agree 135mm Nikkor telephoto lenses have almost perfected its lens design which has indirectly contributed to their superb overall handling and most importantly, the optical performance. Doubting my what I have said ?

NIKKOR-Q.C 13.5cm.jpg
The original batch of Nikkor lenses debuted with the Nikon 1 back in 1948 already has a 135mm lens. The earliest known lens with a true Nikon label was a 13.5cm f/4.0 Nikkor-Q. It was superseded by a faster 13.5cm f/3.5 Nikkor-Q in 1950(with a reversed stored lens hood design). Many rangefinder versions were being introduced although optically, the followed up models remained unchanged during the period of 1950 - 1960. Nikon even introduced a Bellow 13.5cm f/4.0 Nikkor-Q lens in 1958 specifically for close up work with Nikon reflex housing and Bellow Model 1 during those days !

Credit: Image of this Nippon Kogaku Tokyo, f=13.5cm, NIKKOR-Q.C (Serial #: 253631) is provided by a gentleman, Mr RAY <> who generously granted permission for me to use his images. Picture has been re-edited and scaled for broadcasting.

When the reflex Nikon F camera was finally released in 1959, a 13.5cm f/3.5-32 Nikkor-Q Auto with the F-mount was again among the first 5 original Nikkor lenses debuted with the camera. The lens has gone through not less than known 5 upgrades before the Ai-Spec lens was introduced in 1977. The popular Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 lens was first introduced in 1965 as 135mm f/2.8-22 Nikkor-Q Auto along with another 135mm f/4-22 Nikkor-Q Short Mount/Bellows Preset Nikkor lens. The high speed Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 was first marketed in 1975 although Michael Liu reported Popular Photography has shown a prototype 13.5cm f/2.0 Nikkor-? Auto as early as in their 1961 issue. In 1977, Nikkor 135mm f/3.5, Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 and a Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 with an updated Ai-lens coupling system were debuted. In March, 1981 an economical version Nikon Series-E 135mm f/2.8s was also being introduced; and between the period from 1981 - 1982, all the three Nikkor 135mm telephoto lenses again went through a last phase of Ai-S upgrade as Nikkor 135mm f/3.5s, Nikkor 135mm f/2.8s and a Nikkor 135mm f/2.0s. Impressive huh ? So the next time you are holding up a 135mm Nikkor telephoto lens in your hand, treat it with utmost respect because probably these lenses may have a lens development history much age than you !. Although the lens series may be of less glamour as compared to its shorter 105mm Nikkor counterpart, but along with the long course of optical lens development, these lenses have almost resulted in a perfect state in their optical design. The popularity of zoom lenses could have lead many people believing the good days of these short-medium range prime telephoto lenses are numbered due to diminishing interest, but Nikon did spring a few surprises in 1990 by introducing a new breed of 135mm telephoto lenses. There was apparently a breakthrough with their optical research while aiming to revive interest in prime lenses. The new series of telephoto lenses, called "DC-Nikkor" are specifically designed for portraiture photography.

DC, "Defocus Control". as they called it, is a special application 135mm telephoto lens incorporating a mechanism to control amount of depth of field and hence, where the designation "DC" is stands for (some interpreting it as "Defocus Control". The original lens was introduced in 1990 and updated with "D" chip in November 1995. It eventually replaced the manual focus Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 in 1996 as both lenses have an overlapping focal length with similar maximum lens aperture.

* As at 01/10/2001, the AF lens is supplemented by another Manual focus Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 as the two prime lenses that are available in the Nikon product catalogue.

The course of optical advancement and development of 35mm SLR photography over the last half century has probably given many manufacturers some clues what actually photographers are looking for when they consider buying a medium telephoto lens. As Nikon could have concluded main reason of photographers buying a prime telephoto lens is for taking good portraiture; and since depth of field is almost directly relates to portraiture; thus, they designed a new series of medium telephoto called De-Focus "DC" lenses just for that purpose. The DC lenses incorporate a new radical optical design to enable photographers to have some form of control over Depth of Field*.

<<<--- Credit: Image courtesy of "khO kiNG, kOh" <> who also developed a local forum/ site on his own called Photo Malaysia where you can take a visit to join the forum if you like. Image copyright © 2002 All rights reserved.
These lenses have a rotating ring on the lens barrel for you to rotate in order to magnify or reduce (used in combination of apertures selected) and alter the degree of depth of field at the front and behind of a subject in focus. The lens diaphragm of these lenses also being designed and has a more rounded blades for natural out of focus highlights. Basically, the new telephoto lens would enhance the control a step further over conventional telephoto lenses on the specific subject of depth of field. You can say the DC lenses are truly an original Nikon pioneering technology although commercially, it is not entirely regarded as a huge success. After the debut of the AF-D Nikkor 135mm DC, another AF-Nikkor 105mm f/2.0 DC was also introduced in 1993 but I was told it was short lived and has been de-listed from the latest Nikon product sales listing. Bookmark the autofocus main index page for future uploads

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With its superb image-forming ability and excellent lens handling design, for sports and news photos as well as for shooting wildlife, or in stage fashion and/or shooting inaccessible subjects or events, this lense will heighten picture-taking possibilities even in unfavorable conditions.
<<< -- Credit: Image was downloaded from British Defence Ministry archived photo library. The original image can be accessed by clicking here. The use of image complies within guildlines issued by Crown copyright. Image does not suggest any equipment relationship with Nikon but solely for content-supporting purposes in this website.

* User's Input: Mr. Malcolm Kantzler ( wrote: " .... The control has no meaningful effect on depth of field. It is intended to allow control of the appearance of the out-of-focus artifacts that are especially prominent when the out-of-focus foreground or background contains highly reflective or contrasty elements. That is all. Depth of field remains reliable as indexed on the charts and lens readouts, regardless of the DC setting selected...".

Nikkor lens family has 3 MANUAL FOCUS Nikkor telephoto lenses ( Nikkor 135mm f/3.5s, Nikkor 135mm f/2.8s and a Nikkor 135mm f/2.0s) available for the 135mm focal length.

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The lens with the fastest lens speed is the f/2.0 version while the slowest lens speed is the f/3.5. Each model has different dimension, design and price variation to suit individual preference. As Nikon may eventually phasing out these MF lenses with an AF equivalent version, if you are looking for a prime telephoto lens right now, try considering buying an used lens. If that is your preferred choice, always put your preference on the AI or Ai-S spec versions even if it may demand a slightly higher premium, the recommendations may present a better overall value and compatibility with new or older series of Nikon SLRs.

Which lens speed should I go for ? First on the priority list is what type of photography are you often involving yourself with ? If you shoot a lot of stage, fashion or portraiture and may use a lot of flash in your photography, the f/2.8 version can an ideal lens compromise between price and practicality. But if most of your photography are mainly involved with indoor available light, the faster f/2.0 is a more logical call. Naturally, if price is a main consideration, go for the f/3.5 lens. It us hard to visualize what will you be engaging mostly in your possible assignments. Obviously, it breaks down to price versus practicality again (optical performance may not be a main issue, overall, these lenses simply are great in their optical result).

Telephoto Lenses Angle of View Comparison Chart


28° 30'















8° 15'

4° 35'

8° 50'


2° 45'

Overall, the middle-of-the-road Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 version is the most logical choice among the three MF lenses, presenting an overall high score on price, performance, versatility and mobility. However, if price is not entirely an issue to you at all, why not try the AF DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 ?

User Tips: Generally, we often prefer a horizontal composition than shooting vertical format, in many situation such as landscape, travel which seems to be an ideal format to use. In portraiture photography, instead, also try experiencing to shoot vertical format. With any 135mm telephoto lens, you can virtually fill the frame with a person's head and upper portion of the shoulder at about 1.3 meters and it is easier to maintain a harmonic composition than a corresponding horizontal composition.

135mm f/2.0s
135mm f/2.8s
135mm f/3.5s
Other than the Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 lens which has a large diameter of 72mm at its front, both Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 and Nikkor f/3.5 lens share a standard 52mm filter attachment size.

Back to | Main Index Page | of Nikkor 135mm Lenses

Manual Focus Nikkor Lenses at 135mm focal length : Main Index Page - 13.5cm f/4.0 Bellow-Nikkor | NON-Ai 13.5cm f/3.5 Nikkor-Q Auto | Non-Ai 135mm f/2.8 Nikkor-Q Auto | Pre-AI 135mm lenses | Ai Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 | AI Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 | Ai Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 | Ai-S Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 | Ai-S Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 | Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 Ai-S | AF-Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 DC | AF-Nikkor 135mm f/2.0D DC Relative: Bellows-Nikkor 135mm f/4.0

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Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

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