Lessons From The 135

Contax 159MM, Jupiter-37A 135mm f/3.5, FujiFilm Superia 100 Expired Film

As a change from my beloved standard 50/55/58mm lenses, I decided a few weeks back to try shooting a different focal length, and went for the once upon a time very popular and ubiquitous 135mm. 

Added to this, as I’m focusing almost entirely on the M42 mount – using my three all manual and mechanical M42 cameras, the Spotmatic SP, Spotmatic F and Fujca ST701, as well as my Contax C/Y bodies using an M42 > C/Y adapter – the choices were vast.

I wanted to try a couple of lenses, which inevitably has turned into double that.

Two of those are widely held in high regard – the Jupiter-37A 135/3.5 and Carl Zeiss Jena DDR MC Electric Sonnar 135/3.5.

The other two – a Revuenon Special 135/2.8 (supposedly a rebranded Mamiya/ Sekor) and a Cosina Cosinon 135/3.5 – are more like wildcard experiments on my part , and were much cheaper lenses.

A few rolls of film in, here’s what I’m learning most from shooting with a 135mm lens…

– They’re fantastic for isolating a small detail and making the background dissolve into a dreamy blur.

Contax 159MM, Jupiter-37A 135mm f/3.5, FujiFilm Superia 100 Expired Film

– It’s odd standing so far back all the time, but with the Jupiter-37A’s minimum focus of a shade under 1.2m and the Sonnar’s even closer 1m, it’s not as far away as some others with much greater minimum focus.

Either way, I did quickly get used to it.

Contax 159MM, Jupiter-37A 135mm f/3.5, FujiFilm Superia 100 Expired Film

– Whereas with a compact SLR and a 50mm lens I have shot at 1/15s and even 1/8s on occasion and got away with it, in terms of avoiding motion blur. With a 135mm though, it’s SO much harder to keep still.

I went to 1/60s on some shots, and the resultant images aren’t soft because of the lack of sharpness of the lens (see the chain photograph above), but because of micro movement on my part.

I think I’ll stick to the rule of the reciprocal of the focal length as minimum shutter speed at the very least, and most times aim for 1/250s or above.

Contax 159MM, Jupiter-37A 135mm f/3.5, FujiFilm Superia 100 Expired Film

Shooting with the Jupiter 135mm (and the Carl Zeiss Sonnar 135/3.5) has opened new possibilities and has been a refreshing change from my usual default 50/55mm lenses, and I’ll certainly use them more.

I have the two others to play with also, the Revuenon and Cosinon, and photographs will follow once they’ve seen a roll or two of film.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too.

2 thoughts on “Lessons From The 135”

    1. I’m drifting towards that kind of trilogy myself, after using 50/55/58mm lenses on SLRs almost exclusively for about four years.

      With a compact camera, 35mm has seemed very natural, but it’s not quite made sense with an SLR.

      But using the 135s has opened my mind to alternative focal lengths, and that classic wide, normal, tele set of lenses seems a lot more appealing now.

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