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Nikkor Telephoto 135mm f/2 AI-S

Optically, this vintage lens is in a class of its own and is often used as a comparison block for other high-end telephoto lenses. With superb, silky smooth bokeh and surprisingly sharp image rendering wide open, it’s no wonder this lens is the secret weapon of choice for many portrait and sport photographers.

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Nikkor Telephoto 135mm f/2.0 AIS: A Classic Portrait Lens

In the pantheon of classic Nikon lenses, the Nikkor Telephoto 135mm f/2.0 AIS occupies a special place. Renowned for its remarkable optical quality and solid build, this manual focus lens has been a favorite among portrait and telephoto photographers for decades. Its combination of focal length, wide aperture, and superb craftsmanship makes it a sought-after piece of equipment even in the era of digital photography.

Many consider this classic among the greatest pro-photography lenses of all time. Built like a tank, with some of the highest quality mechanics featured by any lens, the owner of this item can expect a lifetime of exceptional performance with only basic care and maintenance.

Nikkor Telephoto 135mm f/2.0 AIS at a glance

  • Superb sharpness, punchy colors, and crisp micro contrast
  • Exceptionally well made from all metal and glass components
  • Virtually no barrel distortion
  • Features built-in metal lens hood
  • Very little chromatic aberration for a vintage lens
  • Ultra fast and bright f/2 maximum aperture allows for shallow depth of field and for good results in low-light photography
  • Quite sharp at center wide open at f/2
  • First-in-class image background compression for a superb bokeh effect and shallow depth of field
  • Ideal for weddings, portraits, sports photography, and an array of close up work

Optical Design and Performance

The Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 AIS lens features a sophisticated optical design that includes 5 elements in 4 groups. This configuration ensures high resolution and contrast while minimizing aberrations and flare, a common issue in telephoto lenses. The f/2.0 maximum aperture is particularly impressive, allowing photographers to shoot in low light conditions and achieve a shallow depth of field. This makes it an ideal lens for portraits, where isolating the subject from the background is often desired.

Bokeh, the quality of the out-of-focus areas in a photograph, is another area where the 135mm f/2.0 excels. Thanks to its wide aperture and telephoto perspective, the lens produces smooth and pleasing bokeh, further enhancing its appeal for portrait photography.

Build Quality and Handling

True to the tradition of Nikon's AIS lenses, the 135mm f/2.0 is built like a tank. Its all-metal construction and precise mechanical focus ring offer a tactile experience that modern lenses often lack. The focus ring is smooth and well-damped, allowing for precise manual focusing. Despite its robust build, the lens remains relatively compact and manageable, fitting comfortably in a photographer's hand.

The lens also features Nikon's Integrated Coating (IC) to reduce ghosting and lens flare, ensuring that images maintain high contrast and fidelity even in challenging lighting conditions.

Compatibility and Usability

As an AIS lens, the 135mm f/2.0 is compatible with a wide range of Nikon film and digital SLR cameras. On modern Nikon DSLRs, the lens can be used in manual mode, with some cameras offering focus confirmation aids to assist in achieving sharp focus. For users of mirrorless cameras, the lens can be adapted to fit various mounts, expanding its usability across different systems.

Photographers who are accustomed to autofocus may find the manual focusing of the 135mm f/2.0 to be a challenge initially. However, many come to appreciate the control and intentionality that manual focusing brings to the photographic process.

Applications Beyond Portraiture

While the Nikkor 135mm f/2.0 AIS is celebrated for its portrait capabilities, its applications extend beyond this genre. The lens is also well-suited for low-light photography, indoor sports, and stage performances, where its fast aperture can capture sharp images in dim conditions. Additionally, the telephoto reach makes it useful for certain types of wildlife and candid photography, where the photographer needs to maintain a distance from the subject.


The Nikkor Telephoto 135mm f/2.0 AIS is a testament to Nikon's legacy of crafting lenses with outstanding optical performance and durability. Its combination of a fast aperture, excellent image quality, and solid construction make it a valuable tool for photographers who appreciate the artistry of manual focusing and the distinctive look of images captured with classic glass. Whether for portraiture or other telephoto applications, the 135mm f/2.0 continues to be a cherished lens in the bags of photographers around the world, bridging the gap between the analog and digital ages.

Images captured with Nikkor Telephoto 135mm f/2.0 AIS

Images of Nikkor Telephoto 135mm f/2.0 AIS

Technical Specifications

Focal Length (35mm format): 135mm
Maximum Aperture: f/2
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Mount format: Nikon F-Mount (AI)
Format: 35mm Film
Angle of View (35mm format): 18°
Focusing Distance: 1.3m to Inifinity
Elements/Groups: 6 elements in 4 groups
Number of Blades: 9
Focus type: Manual Focus (MF)
Filter size: 72mm
Manufacturer: Nikon
Country of Manufacture: Japan
Weight: 855g


  1. The sample images in this post were captured using a Sony A7r, Mark III
  2. The product images were captured using a Samsung Galaxy Note 9
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