Pretty much all of the reviewers invited to attend Sony’s launch event in Brooklyn, New York were unanimous in declaring the 135mm f/1.8 GM the ideal portrait lens. I would argue that, far from being ideal, one should carefully examine their needs before even considering this lens.
First, there’s the weight factor – while Sony ingeniously managing to pare down the weight without sacrificing image quality is admirable, we’re nonetheless talking about a lens which still tips the scales at over two pounds. Perhaps if you’re confined in a studio, that isn’t a burden – but if you’re packing up for a wedding or going on holiday, that isn’t exactly nothing. I primarily shoot models on location, which inevitably means I’d be lugging that around with me for a half day’s work.
As seen from shots taken with the Batis 135mm f/2.8, which weighs in at a little over a pound, f/2.8 offers a nice balance between aperture fastness and portability, while at the same time giving pleasing bokeh and subject separation. While I confess to loving bokeh and shooting close to wide open with most of my lenses, the 135mm f/1.8 GM has razor thin depth of field that may not always be advantageous. I usually want more than just a couple of eyelashes in focus.
Concerning the sweet spot for portraiture, two of my favorite lenses in the micro four thirds system were the Veydra 85mm T2.2 and the Olympus 75mm f/1.8 (170mm and 150mm FF equivalent), only to be replaced by the Olympus 45mm f/1.2 PRO because of the Zuiko’s superior rendition. Yet not everyone will feel comfortable with the extra shooting distance required by a 135mm optic, particularly when working indoors – regardless of how stratospheric the MTF scores are.
Lastly, there’s the price.
The overwhelming demand for an FE 35mm f/1.8 just goes to illustrate that many photographers value portability and economy above all else. And for those in the market for an outstanding portrait lens, the stupidly inexpensive 85mm f/1.8 is the lens of choice.