FOCUS ON: EF 135mm f/2L USM

March 11, 2011

Are great images a product of the photographer, or their camera equipment? This series (formerly known as "Lens of the Month") explores the idea that it's BOTH: Featuring a professional photographer and a single Canon lens, the Canon Digital Learning Center focuses on the relationship that artists can have with their gear.

Canon Digital Learning Center (CDLC): What type of photography do you do, professionally? What field(s) do you prefer, for personal projects/as a hobby?

Pawel Litwinski (PL): Over the past few years my professional focus has been photographing some of the rarest cars in the world. My main client is Gooding & Company. I'm responsible for most of their images, both in magazines and catalogues. I also shoot privately for some collectors. Personally, I'm always experimenting with new technology and very much enjoy shooting documentary as well as   Moreportrait work.

CDLC: What are the most important features you need in the lenses you use professionally? What about for personal work (if there is a difference)?

PL: I need pinpoint focus capability. I also like shallow depth of field in my automotive photography. For many years the standard lenses used in the car world, especially studio work, was to use lenses at the absolute slowest f-stops with the largest depth of fields. Nobody cared whether the lens was fast, It was all about keeping every bit of the car as sharp as possible, and having enough light to shoot at f/22 or even slower. It makes more sense in a studio environment, but for some reason the same idea came across in location shooting. That part I never really liked. It made the cars look too absorbed by their backgrounds, and not like objects that stand out within their environment. That's why I really enjoy using the EF 135mm f/2L. It's long and shallow enough for me to get the look.

CDLC: What is your favorite Canon lens, and why?

PL: Professionally, for my car work it would most definitely be the 135mm. It's sort of my paintbrush. When I first started shooting cars I researched lenses for a while, and searched for which ones were considered to be the sharpest. I knew I wanted something on the longer side. Everywhere I looked, I read praises over Canon's 135mm. But mostly people associated it with indoor basketball/sport shooting with it's speed and long lens/ portrait look. All I had to do was take it outdoors. The lens did the rest.

CDLC: If the lens you used this month is one of your favorites, what is it about the lens that you love?

PL: I love the sharpness, and the focal length. Coupled with the shallow depth of field, this lens gives backgrounds a painterly quality which helps separate the object/ car. Or, throw on a couple of extension tubes and you've got a fantastic macro lens. I actually use it to shoot most of the close-up details on my jobs. Also, because it's a prime lens the size/weight are very reasonable. It's way more discreet than the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L for example. If you want to shoot longer, an EF 2x Extender will put you at 270mm at f/4... not bad. Since it's a prime lens with fewer focal elements than a zoom, it handles the extra glass of a 2x with way less decrease of sharpness then most zooms.

CDLC: What types of assignments do you think this lens will really excel at, and why?

PL: It's a great portrait lens, full body and close-ups. Sure, if you're doing full body on a model it does put you a bit away, and you perhaps have to shout a bit to get your direction across. But I've found that to be a very good thing.

CDLC: What, if any, challenges did you experience working with this lens?

PL: Most recently I've realized that after four long years of unbelievable abuse, I might have worn it out a bit. And think I need to get a new one...

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