Nikon’s longest prime lens for their Z system with a bright f1.8 focal ratio delivers a compelling combination of sharp rendering and smooth Bokeh – something that is seldom seen in optical designs. Combined with extremely little light fall-off and very little cat’s eyes effect, color aberrations, or field curvature its optical qualities are outstanding. And the Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena also sports a fast AF drive, full weather sealing, two L-Fn function buttons, and Nikon’s latest Meso Amorphous Coat in addition to the “ARNEO” anti-reflective coating.
What’s not to like? Well, the Plena is very large and at 1kg pretty heavy, the price is on the high side, and the front lens has no fluorine coating against moist and dust. And did I mention the lens pouch? It’s not adequate to a lens costing north of 2500 EUR/USD/GBP.
Let’s have a closer look at how the Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena compares to the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art and Nikon’s Z 85mm f1.2 S.
Compared to Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art
Sigma’s 135mm f1.8 Art from 2017 is optically probably the best lens in their “Art” series for DSLRs: It’s extra sharp, with only minor color aberrations and a beautiful Bokeh. But progress in optical design and a dedication of Nikon to produce the best 135mm f1.8 lens available makes the Plena just better than Sigma’s Art in practically every aspect: Better resolution and contrast, smoother Bokeh, less vignetting. And the Plena is even a bit shorter and lighter than the Sigma (with FTZ adapter). But then, the Plena is more than twice as expensive as the Sigma. My comparisons in this review show that the Sigma Art still is a very good lens. So if you balk at the price of the Nikon and don’t need the last bit of optical performance from the Plena the Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art (plus FTZ adapter) is a more affordable alternative to the Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena.
For more details see my Sigma 135mm f1.8 Art review where it came Highly Recommended.
Compared to Nikon Z 85mm f1.2 S
The Nikon Z 85mm f1.2 S and the Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena are both excellent lenses – with slightly different characteristics. A focal length of 135mm brings 60% more reach and tighter framing than the 85mm Z-Nikkor. This might be a boon if you just need a bit of distance to your subject or a bane if you’re shooting in tight spaces. The Z 85mm f1.2 has over a stop more light gathering power enabling shorter shutter speeds or lower ISO. But its razor-thin depth of field at f1.2 might also be a challenge when composing a shot. Both lenses also have a slightly different character in their Bokeh: The Z 85mm f1.2 S renders the softer transition zone and background at f1.2 but also shows more pronounced cat’s eyes and a stronger vignetting than the Plena. And if you value excellent sharpness over the full frame the Plena has an advantage. So both lenses have their strenghts in different areas and it’s up to you to decide which is better suited to your needs.
For more details see my Nikon Z 85mm f1.2 S review where it came Highly Recommended.
Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena final verdict
The Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S Plena is an outstanding lens: It combines excellent sharpness and high contrast across the full frame with a gorgeous Bokeh which has the unique property of producing almost no cat’s eyes and renders out-of-focus subjects in the foreground as smooth as in the background. The Z 85mm f1.2 S may still produce the softer transition zone and background when used at f1.2 but from f1.8 onwards differences become more subtle. As both lenses have a slightly different Bokeh character it probably comes down to personal preferences when choosing one lens over the other. But its combination of gorgeous Bokeh and excellent sharpness makes the Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 S a unique lens – worthy of the name “Plena”. Highly Recommended!
- Excellent Bokeh with minimal cat’s eyes.
- Excellent sharpness and high contrast across the full frame.
- Very usable close-up performance.
- Marginal color aberrations and no discernible coma.
- Minimal field curvature.
- Extremely little light fall-off for an f1.8 lens.
- Minimal distortions (through lens profile).
- Extensive weather sealing, two L-Fn function buttons, Meso Amorphous plus “ARNEO” anti-reflective coating.
- Large and heavy lens.
- Very expensive.
- No fluorine coating against moist and dust.
- Flimsy lens pouch.