Do You Have a Lens You Will Never Sell? This Is Mine

Do You Have a Lens You Will Never Sell? This Is Mine

With so much negativity in the photography world, sometimes you just have to give credit where credit is due. This is the lens I love like a family member and could never bring myself to part with.

It feels as if brand loyalty has all but died. I'm a part of this problem. I was a staunch Canon fan, and my cameras and almost all lenses were Canon; I couldn't see myself moving away. But then the Sony a7 III came along and I tried it once only to be immediately converted. They say there's no room for sentiment in business, and that's true to an extent. I saw a way to improve my work, workflow, and to dramatically improve my photographic quality of life, and I took it. I could have written an article bemoaning Canon's lackluster innovation, or their underwhelming entry in to the mirrorless market. But what I really wanted to point out is that during my transition from Canon to Sony, there was only one constituent part of my arsenal that I outright refused to part with: the Canon EF 135mm f/2L.

This modern bokeh monster and Lord of the Red Rings (incidentally the name of my Indian restaurant should I start one,) this lens is one of my all time best purchases. While I may have bought it way back when I hadn't even begun on my road to recovery from Gear Acquisition Syndrome, it was in fact an astute purchase. Prime lenses have limited applications by their very nature, and once they have a long focal length, this is exacerbated enormously. And yet, I will find any way I can to shuffle it in to all manner of shoots.

There is a wealth of information out there on why the 135mm L is technically superior, with incredible optics even wide open at a generous f/2, relative light weight, and creamiest bokeh. However, I've never been one to get deep down and dirty with specs of lenses, and rather go on results and the feel of the images. And for me, it stands alone at #1.

Hanna Hughes

The sharpness is undoubtedly a chief selling point, but for me, it comes as part of a three-pronged attack (sharpness, separation of subject and background, and bokeh). The separation of subject from background is equally as alluring. Now, this can be achieved by longer focal lengths, this is true, but due to its wide maximum aperture you can really take that to the next level. I have shot a number of images with my 70-200mm f/2.8 at 200mm and f/2.8, and in theory that should offer the same or better separation if you can put enough distance between you and your subject. But realistically, the 135mm has something extra. It's difficult to delineate exactly what that is. After all I have bought, rented, borrowed, and sold a plethora of lenses without feeling. I've acquired a new lens, declared my love for it, and then replaced it 6 months later without a second thought. Yet this Canon prime has been a prized possession for nearly a decade and is no where near the chopping block, no matter how much Sigma Art lenses try to lure it there.

James Adler

My best guess would be that this rare quality is the combination of the parts of the three-pronged attack combining to give a look that is somewhat singular. The bokeh and the separation with a tack sharp subject gives a cinematic feel even straight out of the camera. It's one of those rare lenses that I find it difficult to take a "bad" shot with, and my keep rate is much higher. If you then take in to consideration that the 135mm is half the weight of my 70-200mm (750g versus 1490g) and it's perhaps less mysterious why I find myself reaching for the prime so often.

In fact, while doing some tuition recently I was waxing lyrical about the 135mm and decided to show the student what I meant. I manually selected the settings with the 135mm attached, and got them to take some shots; they were as thrilled as I'd hoped. They couldn't believe that they were taking such good shots as they were still very new to photography. It's true that we had good morning light and that I dialed the perfect settings, but I wholeheartedly believe I couldn't have elicited the same reaction with any other lens I own — and I own quite a few!

Caroline Royce-Redmond

Is the 135mm my most used lens? Absolutely not. It's anything but a workhorse and it's more a case of me shoehorning it in where possible. But this is where clinical logic with kit falls in to a hole. I suspect if I had to narrow down my kit and could only keep my three most used lenses, it'd be a 24-70mm, 70-200mm, and 90mm macro, but I'd rather sell any one of those if it meant keeping the Lord of the Red Rings. It's not a decision to be made with stats, it's a decision to be made with passion and no lens ignites my love for portraiture more than the 135mm. There are certainly ways I'd improve it (minimum focal distance would be top of the wish list) but for a lens that has been kicking around for two decades almost untouched, it's an easy and worthy investment. There are glut of 135mm Ls on the used market thanks to their lengthy time in production, and their price tag new is reasonable enough as it is.

Luke Pritchard (The Kooks)

Not to mention, Sony a7 III's Eye AF works seamlessly with the adapted Canon 135mm and takes this lens even further in to its own league for me. I have been using it for editorial work thanks to the Sigma MC-11 Mount Convertor with such confidence that even high pressure, low time shoots don't have my shying away.

Do you have a lens that defies logical decisions and that you just will never sell? Share in the comments below, or join me in my ode to the 135mm!

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Previous comments
Robert K Baggs's picture

We're going to need some example shots, Adriano!

Reginald Walton's picture

That's the same lens for me that I will never sell. I call it my "magic" lens.

Rifki Syahputra's picture

my Nikon serie-E lenses.. my preciouuussss...

greg heil's picture

my Sony A99 ($800) has a Minolta gold ring 200f2.8 ($350) that can beat Canon lens, on even performance alone ... and is WAY ahead on price! Swapping bodies to my A77 give me yet more reach ... and isolation. Though i would not mind trying out a Minolta 135 STM. Perfect bokeh (mathematically) though slower. One of the few lenses Sony has actually duplicated (though drastically more expensive). Hard to beat the price/performance of A-mount lenses.

greg heil's picture

Actually, on Ebay, the
SONY MF 135mm F/2.8 [T4.5] STF (SAL135F28) Lens
can be had for ~$800. A wonder no talks about it and the Mathematically perfect bokeh it affords...

Francisco Hernandez's picture

Shot with it for years! Absolutely love the results and the price is really great too.

David Moore's picture

Always wanted the 135, just haven't got enough extra money to grab one!

I have 2 that I MIGHT never sell (I keep threatening to jump the Canon ship so who knows lol)

When I first started with my Canon Digital Rebel, I kinda hated the kit lens immediately and I bought a 17-40 f4L. I still have it! I don't use it much, so buying anything to replace it would be a waste, but I sure don't want to sell it. It's just always been there!

And my 70-200 f2.8L nonIS. I know the newer ones are sharper, but there is something I like about the old one I have that I love.

both make no sense, but neither do I most of the time.

Royan Descartes's picture

never gonna sell my 80-200 push pull and my 50mm 1.4 G

Simon Patterson's picture

Do I have a lens I couldn't part with? Nope. I have some nice lenses, including ones mentioned here, but ultimately they're just tools. They're not family.

amanda daniels's picture

I used to be a prime shooter only but then I got the canon 24-70 f/2.8 and I could never ever part with it! It is on my body about 95% of the time. If I only had to ever pick one lens this would be it. Since I was a prime shooter I was worried about the sharpness, but this lens is amazing and I can pretty much use it for anything.

Scott Johnson's picture

The 135L is an incredibly special lens. The lens I will never give up is the Sigma 105 f1.4.. phenomenal rendering. Sure it's big, but it's a specialty lens that provides special results.

Celso Mollo's picture

Well, mine defies sanity actually, I am a landscape photographer and I love my Nikon 14-24 f2.8, lagendary and despite the fact that I will naver sell it, it dors make sense for me to have it, what doesn’t make sense but it is the best lens I have ever put my hands one, a lens with unprecedented sharpness, speed and contrast, a lens that if I sell I will never buy another like, since the cost is to high to justify is my Nikon 300 f2.8 VR II.

K Patrick's picture

Canon 50mm f1.0
Canon 200mm f2.0

Robert Huerbsch's picture

Super sharp, pin point stats for astro and it also kicks but for portraiture, really phenomenal bokeh

4 panel mosaic with 135L, there is some distortion where the panels are merged but the rest is 👌🏽

Clark Cabus's picture

my very1st Nikon lens to go with my D3 the 50mm 1.4g lens. I don't use it anymore since I have made the switch to all sigma art primes but this lens was the 1st of many Nikon glass over the last 10 years it is beat up but still works not as snappy or sharp as it once was but it holds the sentimental value.

Flemming Jensen's picture

My 56mm f/1.2 ♥️

Daniel Muszyński's picture

A "never-sell" lens will mean different things for different people and for different reasons... and the answer will change with time. I got to the point where I owned 6 lenses (which is not really "too many", let's be frank). When I realized I use only 3 of those I stopped looking for new ones. I first got rid of my old kit lens (went away with my D7100 when I was selling it) and now I'm selling Nikkor 85 1.8D which there was a time I thought I'd never sell... but then I got 105 2.8 Micro and 85 started gathering dust. I'd have a hard time deciding which of the three lenses I use would be my one-and-only (Sigma 10-20 vs Nikkor 35 1.8 vs Nikkor 105 2.8 Micro).

Dave Terry's picture

My Nikon 14-24mm 2.8.

It is not the most versatile lens in small lineup. It is not necessarily the best wide zoom ever (though for a few years it may well have been). And I use it less and less now than I did in the past, but I have taken many of my favorite shots with it and parting with it would make me sad. Her name is Jezebel because when she is bad, she is so bad... but of course in the good sense.

For my first year of shooting about 8years ago, I ran around with a Nikon D90 with a borrowed Nikon 15mm f/3.5 AI-s - and if I can ever afford it, that will be a lens I will buy and keep even if only to put on a shelf for preservation. That lens re-ignited my long dormant love of photography.

In some ways the old 15mm is superior to the 14-24 because of it's rectilinear design producing perfectly straight lines even around the edges that looks extremely unique by today's standards compared to the more typical fisheye distortion of ultra-wides, but the 14-24mm gives you an extra stop and super fast, near perfect auto-focus with detail for days and days, and although not nearly as straight edged as the 15mm, still gives you low barrel distortion that makes it stand out from the majority of other wide angle lenses out there. To me it is the benchmark for what I think of as the modern lenses in terms of sharpness and genuine clarity. And it's a friggin zoom with no real drawbacks you get from most zooms.

My 14-24mm f/2.8 was the only lens I purchased when I bought my first pro DSLR (Nikon D800). That was all I had for about 9 months and helped teach me to compose shots when I couldn't depend on things like reach (from a telephoto) or the lush bokeh from longer, smaller aperture lenses. Jezebel is the lens I use when I want to feel like Vittorio Storaro (cinematographer) sitting in front of Ed Harris and Martin Sheen with Kubrick shouting directions over the sound of a dozen helicopters on the set of Apocalypse Now in the 70s. She will always be my Number 1.

Kevin Harding's picture

I've had the DC-Nikkor 135mm f/2D (not exactly well loved amongst Nikon users was some reason) and it was a very reluctant sale indeed when I switched to Sony. There are better 135s but I bought the Canon 135/2L and I too really love it's output. What a bargain it was too.
However the one lens that has followed me from Pentax to Nikon (unused but I couldn't sell it during my 4 years with Nikon) to Sony, where I just love it, is the Cosina 55/1.2. Far from perfect but just the right amount of softness WO for portraits and very sharp stopped down. What a fun lens !

Motti Bembaron's picture


Chuck Wagner's picture

Hands down, my choice would be my EF 100mm F2.8 USM IS MACRO.

Euron G's picture

For me it'd be the GF110mm F2. Magical. Second one: XF90mm F2 which should be pretty close to your pick except it'd be more like an F3.x in 35mm equivalent. Also amazing though.

Ritwick Bhattacharyya's picture

Well... i have an opteka 15mm f/4 1:1 macro lens. Originally it is a copy version of the famous Laowa 15mm f/4 macro. My sister brought it from US. While it fails to focus at infinity(idk why, any suggestion to fix it?), it is something that i will never lose. It is completely manual, tough to use but still i love it. The colours have something unique to them. One may call it dull but i call it close to life! Presently i use it with my D7200 but i know it will truly shine once i get my hands on a fullframe dslr.
Also, does anyone know how to fix that focus issue?

Michael Ma's picture

I like all the EF L primes. They all render differently. Some of them are sharp wide open (35, 100). Some give you a glow (85, 135). Some have a slight vintage look (24, 50). I like the variety and the rendering is a consideration when i choose between the 24 or 35. Or 35 or 50. Or 85 or 100. 100 or 135. And so on. Just stop them down a little and they all get as sharp as the best out there at a small cost of aperture that's not always necessary. You want tools that give you different aesthetics depending on what look you ate going for, not just different focal lengths and amount of background blur.