The Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena is a fast, high-performance lens for the mirrorless Nikon Z System. The 135mm focal length is a medium telephoto on full-frame, and the large maximum aperture of f/1.8 makes this lens a good choice for portrait photography, especially for traditional headshots. The Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena also functions as a general-purpose telephoto prime lens for photographers who want the utmost image quality.
Nikon has designated the 135mm f/1.8 as a “Plena” lens based upon the Latin word Plenum, which relates to “a space being completely full.” The name is intended to signify the lens’s excellent image quality and beautiful bokeh even in the corners of the image. This is only the second Nikon Z lens to get a dedicated name, with the other being the 58mm f/0.95 Noct. That alone should be enough to convince you that Nikon is proud of this lens.
The high-end nature of the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 Plena is reflected in its cost, however. At $2500, this is not a cheap lens by any means. Considering that Nikon already has several other portrait lenses available for the Z System, does it make sense to spend so much on the Plena? This hands-on review will help you answer that question and more.
Our team has tested the Nikon Z Plena extensively both in the field and in the lab, including a head-to-head photoshoot with other Nikon Z portrait lenses (the 50mm f/1.2 S, the 85mm f/1.8 S, and the 85mm f/1.2 S) to compare sharpness, bokeh, and perspective. What follows is the most complete review of the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena that you will find online.
The 135mm focal length is already famous among Nikon’s portrait photographers thanks to the Nikon AF DC-NIKKOR 135mm f/2 D – a lens from 1990 that featured a unique “Defocus Control” ring that allowed photographers to manually adjust the quality of the background blur.
Today’s Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 Plena does not have a Defocus Control option. However, it still has a trick up its sleeve: The 135mm Plena is designed to take full advantage of the Nikon Z Mount’s large diameter and short flange distance. The lens’s rear element is only slightly recessed into the barrel, and the lens’s image circle is significantly larger than the size of a full-frame sensor. As a result, the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 Plena has exceptionally low vignetting and minimal “cat’s eye” bokeh in the corners of the image. Nikon was correct to evoke the Latin plenum.
If you’ve grown used to the fact that Nikon’s newest lenses – even their professional ones – have plastic barrels, you’re in for a surprise. Most of the 135mm f/1.8 Plena’s barrel is made of cool, classic metal.
Maybe it’s just my nostalgic soul, but the feel of metal in the palm of my hand inspires confidence. It is an extremely well-built lens that feels very sturdy when you’re using it.
However, there’s a reason why we don’t see more metal lenses these days, and it isn’t just about cost. The 135mm Plena weighs 995 grams / 2.19 pounds, which is certainly on the heavy side for a portrait lens. Also, don’t be shocked when you shoot a wedding in Alaska with this lens and it sticks to your skin!
Considering the size and weight of the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 Plena, the best partner for this lens will be a heaver Nikon Z body, such as the Z8 or Z9. I’ve also had the opportunity to use it on the Nikon Zf. The lens looked a bit massive on that camera, but it wasn’t uncomfortable to use. Such a well-made lens is a nice complement to the classic precision of the Zf. It’s not that you cannot use the Plena on a smaller Nikon Z camera, either. It will just be a bit front-heavy.
Finally, this lens is internally-focusing and features extensive weather sealing, plus a fluorine-coated front element. As such, there is no issue using the Plena in bad weather. It is a well-sealed, professional-grade lens that should last a lifetime.
In terms of handling and controls, the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 Plena has everything one could wish for – a programmable ring (plus the focus ring), a pair of duplicating Function buttons, and an A-M switch. The possibilities for these custom controls are really wide.
Although the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena lacks built-in vibration reduction, it works extremely well in tandem with any Nikon Z cameras that have IBIS. This includes all of Nikon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras so far. I found that I could shoot handheld and get reliably sharp photos at about 1/10 second with the Nikon Zf, so long as my subject remained still.
The only negative point worth mentioning here is that it is impossible to use the Nikon Z 135mm Plena with teleconverters. If you were expecting a trio of 135mm f/1.8, 190mm f/2.5 and 270mm f/3.6, you won’t get your wish. Apart from that, there is nothing about this lens’s feature set that disappoints.
- Full Name: Nikon NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena
- Focal Length: 135mm prime
- Angle of View: 18°10′ (12° on DX)
- Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
- Minimum Aperture: f/16
- Lens Elements: 16
- Lens Element Groups: 14
- Filter Thread Size: 82mm
- Maximum Magnification: 0.2x (1:5)
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 0.82 meters (2.69 feet)
- Image Stabilization: No
- Aperture Blades: 11
- Anti-Flare Coating: Yes
- Fluorine-Coated Front Element: Yes
- ED Glass Elements: 4
- Aspherical Elements: 1
- Short-Wavelength Refractive Elements: 1
- Focus Motor: 2 stepping motors
- Internal Focusing: Yes
- Rings: Focus and custom
- Function Buttons: Two (duplicating)
- Switches: A-M switch
- Construction Material: Metal
- Dimensions (Length x Diameter): 140 x 98 mm (5.5 x 3.9 inches)
- Weight: 995 g (2.19 lbs)
- MSRP: $2500
These specifications suggest a very high-end lens indeed. And all of our impressions of the build quality and handling were extremely positive. But how does the lens perform optically? See for yourself on the next page of this review, Optical Performance: