I recently was given the opportunity to, prior to public availability, test Sony’s latest portrait optic, the 135mm f/1.8 G Master lens. With this, the ninth addition to their high end lens lineup, Sony is starting to really flex their muscles and show what they can do. The 135mm is a specialty portrait focal length. Normally this means it is niche, and inflexible. But even as a telephoto prime, somehow it feels like it can play multiple roles. 

This is what it feels like to shoot on a fully realized camera system. System. That’s the important word here. The lens itself is gorgeous, as the images themselves will testify, but that’s not what makes shooting with the 135mm special.

No, what makes the 135mm feel like the best of the competition on a Sony body is what has been build before it. The seed was planted years ago, and only with this lens and the former two primes released (the 24mm and 400mm) are we starting to really see the finished fruits.

In the A9, and to a slightly lesser degree the A7R III, Sony built an autofocus system onto the sensor that gives the camera the ability to focus and refocus sixty times per second. The A9 is micro adjusting constantly which is why it is capable of hitting tack sharp images at 20 frames per second.

Capable. I say that because it cannot do this all the time in every situation, and it especially cannot do it with every lens. It can’t even do it with every Sony lens. Now up until this point, I’ve shot with the A9 on countless occasions with just about every lens Sony makes, and generally speaking it’s a great experience.

But with the 135mm it was an other-worldly experience. It makes all the difference when a lens really takes advantage of what a sensor can do.

The 135mm uses a different motor design to power its autofocus. Instead of what you will find on most competitor lenses, which is a circular turning motor that moves an interior focusing optic, the 135mm uses two floating independent optics that move back to front. With each of those lenses moving independently and with a different motion than what is normal, the lens can actually keep up actively with what the sensor asks of it, and can do so completely silently and without changing any of the weight of the lens.

What results is a shooting experience where I completely forgot that I was holding a camera. I was able to focus on framing, my model, and my creativity and wholly give up all thought to focus and performance to the Sony A9 (and also A7R III in some cases) and the 135mm.

Folks will say that the best tools are those that feel like a natural extension of the body. I’m not mainly a Sony shooter, which is perhaps why this statement should carry more weight, but I don’t think that I’ve ever felt that more to be true than with this particular combination of tools. There is something truly gratifying about shooting with this setup, and I think the 135mm f/1.8 G Master for Sony E mount is the best portrait lens for the system, and truly takes advantage of what the whole vision of what Sony is making with their equipment.

That’s a beautiful thing.