One of the main advantages of the Micro Four Thirds system is the vast selection of tiny lenses from different manufacturers. This review is for one of those lenses that don’t fall into the compact lens category. It is known under different names depending on where you are looking to buy it, but probably most well known under the name Samyang 135mm f2.0.
I bought a version of this lens aimed more at videographers since the non-clicky aperture ring and the rather uncomfortable rings are designed for follow focus systems. The exact name of my copy is Walimex Pro 135mm t2.2 but as mentioned above the only differences are the non-rubberized rings and the aperture ring being non-clicky.
While being not exactly small :-), the lens is also pretty heavy (weighing in at around 840g) compared to for example the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8 Pro lens. On a body like the E-M5 Mark II the setup becomes front-heavy and I would recommend considering an addon grip. I believe on the Panasonic Lumix GH5 / G9 or the Olympus E-M1 Mark II it would feel more comfortable to use.
The main reason why I bought this lens is that I wanted to have a telephoto lens and I was quite pleased with sample photographs I found on the internet. It provides sharp results wide open and a really shallow depth of field.
The out-of-focus areas are very pleasing being a 270mm equivalent at t2.2. One thing you should definitely try before buying this lens is focusing with it. Keep in mind that this lens is entirely manual and thus it can become really difficult to focus at the widest apertures, especially if your camera does not offer image stabilization. Two other crucial features your body should support are focus peaking and magnification as they vastly improve the focusing experience with this lens. Another thing to keep in mind is that there is absolutely no electronic connection to your camera body and as such the exif data is going to lack the focal length (which is not really an issue) but more importantly the aperture.
Now, why did I opt for the video version of this lens, rather than the more comfortable photo version? Price. There was about a 200€ difference between different versions of this lens. It was quite confusing as different mounts, names and video / photo versions would come in at completely different price points, while they should optically all perform almost identically.
The lens feels very solid and sturdy. It comes with a decent lens cap and a reversible lens hood which also feels nice and solid. Overall I am really happy with both the build and image quality that it offers. A nice but considerably more expensive alternative would be the Olympus 40-150mm f2.8 Pro lens, which also comes with auto focus and weather sealing. If you are open to old lenses you might be able to get a pretty good deal on for example the old Olympus OM 135mm f2.8 lens or many other lenses that you can adapt to the MFT system.
To sum it up I will say that this lens proved to be lots of fun to use and it definitely delivers when it comes to sharpness and rendering. Yes, it is heavy but considering that the alternatives are either heavier or come with drastically slower apertures, the weight and size seem to be justified. Also think about what you want to do with this lens. While on full frame bodies it might be nice for portraits it will be a pretty decent telezoom on cropped sensors. If you are looking for a more budget friendly option, definitely check out some film era manual lenses. They might not be as sharp but they come at a fraction of the price and usually boast an impressive build quality.
Finally, just look at this bokeh 🙂