Tag Archives: Minolta 135mm f/2.8 STF

Cinematic Photography by “Variety of Light”

The is something about the look and feel of movies that’s captured the public attention for over a hundred years. Maybe it’s the size of the silver screen that makes its stories and emotions larger than life. Maybe it’s the unforgettable characters that become a part of our lives. Or maybe it’s the way we see the world through lenses and film.

Photography has always been a rival sibling to cinema. While blockbuster movies gets all the glory and attention, a single still frame can be hauntingly more powerful than we can ever imagine. So when somebody combines the best of cinema and still photography, the effect is that much more powerful.

iLHP is proud to feature Herbert from Variety of Light and his cinematic still photography. There is a melancholic beauty to his images. We spoke with the man and tried to understand the inspirations behind his beautiful photographs.

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iLHP: Hi Herbert, thank you for speaking with us today. Could you please tell us about yourself? 

Herbert: Hi Ed. I grew up in Germany in a family full of photographers and so it was inevitable that I’ve learned that stuff right as a child. My very first camera was a Voigtländer Vito B and I started with black and white film which our father developed in his darkroom.

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I’ve used that camera quite some years until my interest shifted a bit when I was a young man. Later and when digital photography emerged and since the introduction of mirror-less cameras, photography gained my attention again and today it’s my hobby and passion.

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iLHP: I first came across your work via your website called Variety of Light. Your works are gorgeously cinematic in terms of composition but especially tone and color. How did you develop your style? 

Continue reading Cinematic Photography by “Variety of Light”

The True King of Bokeh – the Minolta/Sony 135mm f/2.8 Smooth Transition Focus (T/4.5)

When I first heard about this lens, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It’s a long 135mm portrait prime with not a particularly large aperture (f/2.8), even lower light transmission (T4.5), and manual focus selling for $1400. Yikes. No wonder I haven’t heard about this lens. It must be an overpriced dud. Or is it?

A picture of my Zeiss taken with a Sony/Minolta 135mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 12,800. Just look at that creamy bokeh! No additional blurring in post.
A picture of my Zeiss taken with a Sony/Minolta 135mm f/2.8 @ f/2.8, ISO 12,800. Just look at that creamy bokeh! No additional blurring in post.

What really caught my attention was its image quality. Expectedly, the lens is razor sharp since it’s a portrait prime. Unexpectedly, the lens is absolutely bokeh-licious. I mean, just look at the shot above taken at ISO 12,800. This lens produces the coveted creamy bokeh we talked about last week and that high-end modern lenses strive for. However, it was introduced way back in 1999 by Minolta, before Sony bought the company, and it is still in Sony’s lens lineup today alongside another heavy-hitter, the Zeiss 135mm f/1.8.

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This unassuming lens, though it looks like it’s made out of the same crinkly plastic we are used to from Canon or Nikon, is actually entirely metal. It feels as solid as a cannon ball.

This exotic twin-apertured lens is the Sony/Minolta 135mm f/2.8 STF (T/4.5). It has some sort of cult status, inspiring fans to spawn dedicated websites. My favorite lens testing site, the meticulously German Photozone.de, also gave this lens 4.5 stars out of 5 in Optical Quality, Mechanical Quality, and Price/Performance categories, earning it the rare “Highly Recommended Green Thumb’s Up“. This is the best portrait lens you’ve never heard of. Just what makes this lens the True King of Bokeh?

Continue reading The True King of Bokeh – the Minolta/Sony 135mm f/2.8 Smooth Transition Focus (T/4.5)

Evaluating Bokeh and the 3D “Pop” – (Part 1: Bokeh)

The Japanese term boke (ボケ), or the Americanized spelling bokeh, discusses the aesthetics of an image’s out-of-focus blur. The 3D “pop” describes the abrupt separation between sharpness and unsharpness that propels a focused subject on top of an unfocused background. The two concepts are closely related but aesthetically separate. A lot of people get these concepts mixed up, assuming one goes with the other, confusing correlation with causation.

In this series, we will attempt to separate the two concepts. First, we will describe each of them individually. Then, we will look at how they tie into each other in making a great image. 

Evaluating Bokeh

Daniel Zedda - Canon 85mm f12
Creamy bokeh, a hallmark of a Canon holy trinity, the EF 85mm f/1.2 L. Pop? Not so much. Image by Daniel Zedda https://www.flickr.com/photos/astragony/

Bokeh is the easier concept to wrap your head around.  It’s instantaneously describable and noticeable. So let’s start with this one first. Look at the image above. The out-of-focus yellows and greens next to the in-focus model is bokeh. The image really draws you into the model’s eyes because we are naturally drawn to areas of focus and brightness. Think of bokeh as shadow or negative space, bringing out and highlighting the positive space.

Continue reading Evaluating Bokeh and the 3D “Pop” – (Part 1: Bokeh)

Choosing the Right Portrait Lens: Part 2 (135mm)

Last time in Part 1, we looked at five excellent examples of AF and MF portrait lenses in the 77mm, 85mm, and 90mm focal lengths. That should have been it. But the choice isn’t so simple, because 135mm lenses are also superb candidates for portraiture.

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While the 85mm~ range lenses are more versatile for indoor, studio, and outdoor portraiture, the 135mm range is pretty much limited to outdoors use only (it is too long for most studios, and too slow for unlit indoor situations). While its use is more limited, the benefit is that 135mm lenses with large apertures are often less popular, thus more affordable. But the real reason you’d choose a 135mm over shorter portrait lenses, is its bokeh.

My priorities in deciding on a 135mm portrait lens will be slightly different. Although AF is even a bigger issue with such as long lens, I’ve chosen more MF lenses this time just because of all the great bargains and interesting possibilities that are out there. Again, I have considered the cost of the adapters as well.

The 5 Contenders

Here, again, are my top 5 prime candidates. Help me decide by taking the poll at the end of the post.

Continue reading Choosing the Right Portrait Lens: Part 2 (135mm)