Telephoto lens with a softfocus feature. It can give razor-sharp snapshots as well as softfocus shots that do not look blurry. You have a choice of two softfocus settings. Even for softfocus shots, focusing with AF is quick and accurate.
The 135/2.8 SF’s main strengths are a highly useful focal length, compact size, reasonable cost, and very respectable optics — and, of course, the unique soft-focus effect that gives the lens its name. On the other hand, it doesn’t have the cleaner looks and ring USM of its younger siblings, nor does it pack the optical shark-bite of its three times more expensive and twice as heavy L sibling. In other words, if you’re looking for an inexpensive, compact medium telephoto lens with high-quality optics that’s especially suitable for portraits, and don’t consider USM a deal-maker, I say go for it. Otherwise, you, probably like most people, are better served with one of its other three siblings. Compared to:
* the 85/1.8 USM, the 135/2.8 SF has (arguably) better bokeh, is longer, a bit lighter, a good deal cheaper (in the USA), and over a stop darker.
* the 100/2.0 USM, the 135/2.8 SF has (arguably) better bokeh, is a bit longer, a bit lighter, a good deal cheaper (in the USA), and a stop darker.
* the 135/2.0 L USM, the 135/2.8 SF is a lot lighter, a great deal cheaper, a bit softer, and a stop darker.
The unusual feature of this lens is its softfocus capability. The Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 With Softfocus Lens has a ring that allows continuous soft focus settings ranging from locked at 0 (none) to 2 with detents at settings 1 and 2.
Set at 0 (no effect), the Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 With Softfocus Lens is somewhat soft open (f/2.8) and, like many other lenses, becomes sharper as it is stopped down. Corner sharpness trails the center of the frame by a stop or more. So this is a somewhat-sharp soft-focus lens? As Canon carefully denotes this lens as being “With Softfocus”, a soft focus setting of 0 allows this lens to function like a standard 135mm lens.
Canon EF 135mm f/2.8 Softfocus did not produce particularly impressive results in the field – while center image quality was pretty good across the aperture range, borders were noticeably soft on both APS-C as well as FF cameras. Unfortunately, stopping down the lens did not improve image resolution around borders. Furthermore, the lens produced images that were washed out and lacking contrast. Color reproduction was more on the warmer side, which is typical for most Canon lenses.