135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh

Started Jan 23, 2012 | Discussions
Timskis6
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135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
Jan 23, 2012

Hi guys, I'm relatively new to Nikon but have been using the 24-70/2.8 and 70-200mkI for indoor studio and outdoor portrait work, and love them.

Like many others, I'm looking at both the 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 for more controlled scenarios outdoors.

I haven't been able to find comparisons of the bokeh between the 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 at similar portrait length magnifications (i.e. both at half body). Can anyone point me to some links or comparisons, or chime in with their experiences?

In my experience the compression effect of the longer focal length affects bokeh more positively than simply 1 stop faster with a shorter lense (at similar magnifications). Combined with the defocus control, I'm really leaning toward the 135/2 DC if specifically looking at bokeh only.

Thoughts?

Cheers,
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'I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.'
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jcfhsu
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Re: 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

Hi. It would help if you state whether you shoot DX or FX. This would affect the working distance, the form and quality of the out of focus areas, and the degree and depth of acceptable focus of your subject.

Also, the amount of pixel count of your camera does affect the sharpness and the overall appearance of your output. (I shoot D3x exclusively now, but have had owned other FF's, and DX's).

Both 85 1.4 and 135 2 are critically sharp in the focused areas, though they differ in how their sharpness spreads through out the frame. I'd say the 85 will have more field curvature than the 135 due to their working distance.

I normally don't use DC, front or back, as it seems to lower the sharpness on my copy.

You can also consider the 105 2 DC.

Look at your focal lengths you shoot most comfortably in your zooms for guidance to the optimal lens length.

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apaflo
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Re: 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

Timskis6 wrote:

In my experience the compression effect of the longer focal length affects bokeh more positively than simply 1 stop faster with a shorter lense (at similar magnifications). Combined with the defocus control, I'm really leaning toward the 135/2 DC if specifically looking at bokeh only.

I use both, on FX bodies, and would be hard pressed if restricted to only one or the other. For my purposes the significant difference in focal length is vastly more important than the much slighter differences in bokeh. For most purposes I probably like the 135mm a little better because of the DC control, but I'm not doing studio work, and choosing the right focal length can make or break what I get.

The bokeh is in fact different between them. But different doesn't necessarily mean one is "better", just different. Because of the longer focal length the 135mm can get better isolation, but because of the shorter focal length the 85mm provides more opportunity in the environment that I use it (events).

Maybe if I could only have one, it would be neither! The 105mm f/2 DC... ??

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260684
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Re: 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

Timskis6 wrote:

Hi guys, I'm relatively new to Nikon but have been using the 24-70/2.8 and 70-200mkI for indoor studio and outdoor portrait work, and love them.

Like many others, I'm looking at both the 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 for more controlled scenarios outdoors.

I haven't been able to find comparisons of the bokeh between the 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 at similar portrait length magnifications (i.e. both at half body). Can anyone point me to some links or comparisons, or chime in with their experiences?

In my experience the compression effect of the longer focal length affects bokeh more positively than simply 1 stop faster with a shorter lense (at similar magnifications). Combined with the defocus control, I'm really leaning toward the 135/2 DC if specifically looking at bokeh only.

Thoughts?

Cheers,
--
Tim
http://www.developemotion.com
'I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.'
E3/7-14/12-60/35-100/150/EC20
http://www.flickr.com/photos/timskis6/

I own both lenses you are considering. The 135 obviously is a longer length (considerably) and this offers more compression. The bokeh quality on both is excellent, but you'll get more Out of focus elements with this (given). Also consider that the DC control lens was built for portraits without compromise. The way it renders skin is stunning. What I would say is I am assuming you shoot FX? These lenses deserve an FX camera to maximise their DOF control (sensor size).

Some examples of the 135:

and the 85

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Leos
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Re: 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

The 85 act more like a longish normal than a true tele.

The 135 f2 will let you dip your toe into the territory ruled by the 200 f2. Namely subject isolation at a distance thanks to the big aperture and tele compression effect. Unfortunately the 135 is not tack sharp at f2 so in most real life situations, the 70-200 VR II will be just about as good with the added benefit of the zoom capability.

Sorry if I am not answering your question very well ... both lenses have beautiful bokeh, but my point is that with the 85 , for good isolation , a big aperture and a close working distance is needed .. result is the famous one eye in focus.

Skip both and start saving for the 200/2. Meanwhile, start lifting weights

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Timskis6
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135/2 DC from 70-200
In reply to jcfhsu, Jan 23, 2012

jcfhsu wrote:

Hi. It would help if you state whether you shoot DX or FX. This would affect the working distance, the form and quality of the out of focus areas, and the degree and depth of acceptable focus of your subject.

I'll be using it on FX - likely D700, unless the D700 replacement is under $3K.

I normally don't use DC, front or back, as it seems to lower the sharpness on my copy.

It was my understanding that DC doesn't affect sharpness, as it doesn't affect the in-focus plane. Rather, it affects only the OOF planes, though it does shift the focus plane. Is that correct?

http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/135mm-f2-dc.htm

You can also consider the 105 2 DC.

Look at your focal lengths you shoot most comfortably in your zooms for guidance to the optimal lens length.

Having used the 70-200mm FOV (35mm) for a number of years, I absolutely love the working distance of 135-150mm for head-and-shoulder portraits, which was why I've been eying the 135/2 DC for a while.

The 85/1.4 simply came to mind since it's generally highly praised, and I wanted to make sure I'm not going to miss out on something. Most of my outdoor portrait work includes off-camera lighting, but I can sacrifice a stop of light without any problem, since I'm already doing things just fine at f/2.8.

Cheers,
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Tim
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Timskis6
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Re: 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
In reply to apaflo, Jan 23, 2012

Thanks for the reply, apaflo.

apaflo wrote:

Timskis6 wrote:

In my experience the compression effect of the longer focal length affects bokeh more positively than simply 1 stop faster with a shorter lense (at similar magnifications). Combined with the defocus control, I'm really leaning toward the 135/2 DC if specifically looking at bokeh only.

I use both, on FX bodies, and would be hard pressed if restricted to only one or the other. For my purposes the significant difference in focal length is vastly more important than the much slighter differences in bokeh. For most purposes I probably like the 135mm a little better because of the DC control, but I'm not doing studio work, and choosing the right focal length can make or break what I get.

I'd be using the 135mm mostly in the field, since it's too long for the type of portrait work I typically do. Additionally, I generally don't need speed in the studio, f/2.8 is plenty fast.

The bokeh is in fact different between them. But different doesn't necessarily mean one is "better", just different. Because of the longer focal length the 135mm can get better isolation, but because of the shorter focal length the 85mm provides more opportunity in the environment that I use it (events).

Maybe if I could only have one, it would be neither! The 105mm f/2 DC... ??

I'll keep looking a bit and hopefully can find some direct comparisons with backgrounds at different distances and the subject at the same magnification. I'm really curious what the DC can do - I know it's subtle, but that's what I'm after.

I'm also leaning toward the 135/2 due to the longer focal length.

Cheers,
--
Tim
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Timskis6
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DC control and design
In reply to 260684, Jan 23, 2012

I own both lenses you are considering. The 135 obviously is a longer length (considerably) and this offers more compression. The bokeh quality on both is excellent, but you'll get more Out of focus elements with this (given). Also consider that the DC control lens was built for portraits without compromise. The way it renders skin is stunning. What I would say is I am assuming you shoot FX? These lenses deserve an FX camera to maximise their DOF control (sensor size).

This is a good point, the 135/2 DC was built for portraits, and without compromise. I'm guessing the 85/1.4 build was intended for portraits as well, though with "everything else" in mind, too. I wonder what the sacrifices were or what corners could be cut for the 85/1.4 versus 135/2? Obviously very different designs but still I'd be interested in knowing what compromises were in consideration when designing/building it.

I have experience with some lenses performing better at different focus distances (i.e. close focus versus infinite focus), I wonder if there are differences at infinite focus for both lenses?

Some examples of the 135:

I'm very interested in the above photo. Do you have any info on the type of light sources in the background, and about how far those light sources were from the subject? Also what was the subject distance? Do you recall the setting for the DC control on this image? I'm guessing since you shot at f/2, you had the DC control at "0?"

Cheers,
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Tim
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Shawn67
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Re: 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

"I haven't been able to find comparisons of the bokeh between the 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 at similar portrait length magnifications (i.e. both at half body). "

Just get 'em both.

I don't think I've tried shooting for the same framing with both lenses (the 85mm 1.4d). On the one hand you would have the compression effect of the 135 isolating the subject more. But on the flip side for the same framing with the 85mm you would have the combination of a stop faster as well as being closer to the subject which reduces DOF more too.

Bottom line is they are both fantastic lenses with great bokeh. The 135 is sharper in the corners (less coma too) but a little of that may also be what helps give the 85 its look.

I'd go with whichever focal length suits you more. I tend to use the 85mm a bit more than the 135 but I owned it longer too. If you think you want the 135 go for it. For several years it has been rumored to be discontinued and they are harder to find than the 85mm but it appears Nikon is still making them.

Shawn

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Timskis6
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200/2 and the 135/2
In reply to Leos, Jan 23, 2012

Leos wrote:

The 85 act more like a longish normal than a true tele.

The 135 f2 will let you dip your toe into the territory ruled by the 200 f2. Namely subject isolation at a distance thanks to the big aperture and tele compression effect. Unfortunately the 135 is not tack sharp at f2 so in most real life situations, the 70-200 VR II will be just about as good with the added benefit of the zoom capability.

Sorry if I am not answering your question very well ... both lenses have beautiful bokeh, but my point is that with the 85 , for good isolation , a big aperture and a close working distance is needed .. result is the famous one eye in focus.

Skip both and start saving for the 200/2. Meanwhile, start lifting weights

I think most of us have eyed the 200/2 for a while, and probably most of those people hoped the value of the "old" 200/2 would drop when the "new" 200/2 came out. And for the most part, most people were bummed when it didn't, but also understood why.

Of course the 200/2 is king, but a bit out of practical reach for me. I guess I'll have to keep my toes dangling for a while with the 135/2.

Cheers,
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Shawn67
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Re: 135/2 DC from 70-200
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

"It was my understanding that DC doesn't affect sharpness"

It can if you overuse DC. For example if you shoot at f2 but set DC to 5.6 it will make a soft focus effect. For example these are roughly the same shot (in infrared) at f2 with DC at R2 and than at R5.6.

Shawn

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Nick7
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Re: 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012
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260684
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Re: DC control and design
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

Timskis6 wrote:

I own both lenses you are considering. The 135 obviously is a longer length (considerably) and this offers more compression. The bokeh quality on both is excellent, but you'll get more Out of focus elements with this (given). Also consider that the DC control lens was built for portraits without compromise. The way it renders skin is stunning. What I would say is I am assuming you shoot FX? These lenses deserve an FX camera to maximise their DOF control (sensor size).

This is a good point, the 135/2 DC was built for portraits, and without compromise. I'm guessing the 85/1.4 build was intended for portraits as well, though with "everything else" in mind, too. I wonder what the sacrifices were or what corners could be cut for the 85/1.4 versus 135/2? Obviously very different designs but still I'd be interested in knowing what compromises were in consideration when designing/building it.

I have experience with some lenses performing better at different focus distances (i.e. close focus versus infinite focus), I wonder if there are differences at infinite focus for both lenses?

Some examples of the 135:

I'm very interested in the above photo. Do you have any info on the type of light sources in the background, and about how far those light sources were from the subject? Also what was the subject distance? Do you recall the setting for the DC control on this image? I'm guessing since you shot at f/2, you had the DC control at "0?"

Cheers,
--
Tim
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'I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.'
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Hi Tim, when I said without compromise I was meaning more comparing the 135 for portraits to the 70-200. I'd say the 85 is no compromises too but hte 135 renders skin even better (red channel is the key).

The picture of the girl was behind a large xmas tree in a shopping centre. The lights where fairly close but it still manages to obliterate them due to it's large aperture and focal length. It was shot with no flash (obviously). I hate carrying a heavy flash that's top heavy. I prefer to look for the light and shoot based on where the it has character and quality. The subject distance...ie the distance of her to my lens was quite far, i'd be guessing as to how far but lets say with the 85 i'd have been more in her face. For full length portraits that fill the frame I can be 7-10 metres away. It flatters.

I shot it at f/2 - my settings are at the top of the photo for your info. the DC ring was spun to rear 2. It blurs the bokeh even slightly more than 0. If i went to 2.8 Rear and had aperture to 2 or 0, i'd get soft focus.

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260684
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Re: 200/2 and the 135/2
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

Timskis6 wrote:

Leos wrote:

The 85 act more like a longish normal than a true tele.

The 135 f2 will let you dip your toe into the territory ruled by the 200 f2. Namely subject isolation at a distance thanks to the big aperture and tele compression effect. Unfortunately the 135 is not tack sharp at f2 so in most real life situations, the 70-200 VR II will be just about as good with the added benefit of the zoom capability.

Sorry if I am not answering your question very well ... both lenses have beautiful bokeh, but my point is that with the 85 , for good isolation , a big aperture and a close working distance is needed .. result is the famous one eye in focus.

Skip both and start saving for the 200/2. Meanwhile, start lifting weights

I think most of us have eyed the 200/2 for a while, and probably most of those people hoped the value of the "old" 200/2 would drop when the "new" 200/2 came out. And for the most part, most people were bummed when it didn't, but also understood why.

Of course the 200/2 is king, but a bit out of practical reach for me. I guess I'll have to keep my toes dangling for a while with the 135/2.

Cheers,
--
Tim
http://www.developemotion.com
'I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list.'
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Tim, I don't even want the 200 f/2. Meh, if someone bought me it i'd take it. But I bet i'd actually rarely walk about with it. The 135 though and a D700 actually isn't too heavy. On the shoulder I'm good all day. The 135 is magical, I love it.

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Timskis6
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Re: 135/2 DC from 70-200
In reply to Shawn67, Jan 23, 2012

Shawn67 wrote:

"It was my understanding that DC doesn't affect sharpness"

It can if you overuse DC. For example if you shoot at f2 but set DC to 5.6 it will make a soft focus effect. For example these are roughly the same shot (in infrared) at f2 with DC at R2 and than at R5.6.

I guess I'm wondering if this effect is applicable, because isn't that actually using the DC control in an unintended way? Just following Ken Rockwell's site, the suggestion is to apply the DC in a very straight forward way. So in your test image, the DC shouldn't have have been used, unless you specifically wanted the soft-focus effect, no? That's to say, by choosing R5.6 at f/2, you're specifically telling the lense to have a soft focus effect...

"How do you set this 135mm lens for optimum bokeh? Easy: set this ring to the same aperture at which you're shooting. Press the unlock button on the left in order to move it, otherwise it stays locked. Set it to the R side to make backgrounds go soft and disappear, or the F side if you want to optimize it for junk in the foreground."

Cheers,
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260684
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Re: 135/2 DC from 70-200
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

Timskis6 wrote:

Shawn67 wrote:

"It was my understanding that DC doesn't affect sharpness"

It can if you overuse DC. For example if you shoot at f2 but set DC to 5.6 it will make a soft focus effect. For example these are roughly the same shot (in infrared) at f2 with DC at R2 and than at R5.6.

I guess I'm wondering if this effect is applicable, because isn't that actually using the DC control in an unintended way? Just following Ken Rockwell's site, the suggestion is to apply the DC in a very straight forward way. So in your test image, the DC shouldn't have have been used, unless you specifically wanted the soft-focus effect, no? That's to say, by choosing R5.6 at f/2, you're specifically telling the lense to have a soft focus effect...

"How do you set this 135mm lens for optimum bokeh? Easy: set this ring to the same aperture at which you're shooting. Press the unlock button on the left in order to move it, otherwise it stays locked. Set it to the R side to make backgrounds go soft and disappear, or the F side if you want to optimize it for junk in the foreground."

Cheers,
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Tim
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Tim you are correct. If you shoot at aperture f/2 and select Rear 5.6 you'll get soft focus. If you shoot at f/2 and select Rear 4 you'll also get soft focus. repeat for 2.8.

If you shoot at aperture f/4 and select Rear 4, 2.8 or 2 you'll get a sharp photo but with different bokeh (subtle).

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Timskis6
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Thanks Nick,
In reply to Nick7, Jan 23, 2012

Thanks Nick, he's got a very information write up there, whith some great comparison examples that show the subtle differences. Many thanks for those links.

Nick7 wrote:

David Pinkerton's done some very interesting write-ups:

DC examples - http://www.davidpinkertonphotography.com/blog/2012/01/13/defocus-control-examples

105 and 135 comparisons - http://www.davidpinkertonphotography.com/blog/2012/01/17/the-nikon-defocus-control-lenses/

135 and 70-200 comparisons - http://www.davidpinkertonphotography.com/blog/2012/01/12/nikkor-105mm-f2-dc-vs-70-200mm-f2-8-vr-ii/

Cheers
Nick

Cheers,
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apaflo
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Re: 135/2 DC from 70-200
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

Timskis6 wrote:

It was my understanding that DC doesn't affect sharpness, as it doesn't affect the in-focus plane. Rather, it affects only the OOF planes, though it does shift the focus plane. Is that correct?

The Defocus Control certainly affects sharpness! It's just a matter of knowing where and when, and perhaps moving your plane of focus accordingly.

First, Nikon has a good description of the mechanics of Defocus Control here:

http://imaging.nikon.com/history/nikkor/32/

But that doesn't explain much about the effect that it has on your image, or how to use it.

First, the plane of focus will essentially (but maybe not exactly) remain the same. However, the location of DOF will be moved. The Defocus Control is calibrated to move either the front or back edge of the DOF towards the opposite, and if set to the same number as the aperture will place the edge of DOF almost at the plane of focus (thus reducing the total DOF by almost half). Understanding that can be used for some interesting effects, so lets look at an example in more detail.

If focused on a point 10 feet distant, a 135mm lens at f/2 has a calculated DOF that extends from 9' 10.9" to 10' 1.2". So the background limit is 1.2" from the plane of focus. If the Defocus Control is left at 0, that's what you get. If the Defocus Control is set to f/2 the rear DOF limit moves right up to the plane of focus. So the f/2 setting of DC is calibrated to move it 1.2" at those settings.

The first thing that is obvious is that you lose 1/2 of the DOF range, so anyone expecting the area that was in focus immediately behind the original plane of focus is not going to be happy without something else changing. The second thing that is going to happen is that areas beyond the original limit for DOF are going to be much more out of focus, which is the effect usually desired.

I'm not positive about the exact numbers, but this approximation is close enough for practical use: At aperture f/4 with DC set to R4, there is little change from the plane of focus toward the camera. The DOF behind the plane of focus will essentially be the same as it would be at f/2, with the edge just behind the plane of focus.

If the aperture is set to f/8, the background DOF limit is calculated as 4.8" behind the plane of focus. And Defocus Control set to f/8 will move the rear edge of the DOF 4.8" closer to the camera. Well, that's just fine if the lens is set to f/8. Of course if it is actually set to f/4 (never mind f/2), where the total DOF calculates to be only 4.6" total, nothing will be clearly in focus!

Hence, be aware that some DOF is lost, and generally one would never want to set the Defocus Control to a larger fstop number than the actual setting for the aperture, except... one might purposely back focus slightly and set the Defocus Control greater than the aperture would call for, and thus put the plane of best focus in front of the point where the camera is focusing. Focus on an ear at aperture f/4, but set DC to R5.6. If the plane of focus is 10' from the camera, DOF at f/4 would be from 2.3" in front to 2.3" behind the ear, but setting DC to R5.6 would move the rear DOF edge forward by 3.3", leaving only a 1" DOF located 1.3" in front of the plane where the camera is focusing. Obviously it also would not be as sharp within that 1" range as it would have been at the plane of focus if DC were set to f/4 or wider, but the effect on the out of focus area a foot or more distant would be greater.

Off hand, I can't think of any time I might want to use that configuration, but knowing that is the way the lens works is useful, and if such a situation ever pops up being aware of it might actually be useful. Heh, or maybe not...

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Ilkka Nissilä
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Re: 200/2 and the 135/2
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 23, 2012

The 200/2 isn't a very practical lens to use especially outdoors. It's huge and very heavy. I do use it occasionally for outdoor people photography, but more often than not it is for indoor events. With the TC-20EIII it actually becomes a quite good 400/4 VR. (Surprisingly good.) Then it actually can start to being to feel reasonably manageable (weight wise) considering that you get both 200/2 and 400/4. But to use it, in many cases improvements to the tripod collar are needed to make it stop vibrating. Having done these it is excellent. But I would say it's one of the least practical Nikkors I've had the pleasure of using.

A 135/2 by contrast is an everyday Nikkor for me.

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Leonard Shepherd
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Re: 135/2 DC and 85/1.4 bokeh
In reply to Timskis6, Jan 24, 2012

Either lens has first class bokeh.

The DC enables you to dial in extra background (or foreground) diffusion using the DC function after focus - but only between f2 and f5.6 apertures. The DC can also be used to obtain an overall soft focus effect.

The "bokeh like" effect of longer focal lengths depends perhaps more on a significant subject to background distance than on focal length.
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