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Nikon 135mm f/1.8 Review – Perfect Portrait Lens

After starting their Z mount lens lineup with the excellent but standard f/1.8 series, Nikon has now shifted its focus to exotic lenses aimed at pro photographers.

The Nikon 135mm f/1.8 is designated with the Plena nomenclature without explanation, leaving reviewers like myself to explain.


Nikon 135mm 1.8

Incredible image quality and stunning bokeh make this lens the top choice for portraits and events.

After using this fast telephoto lens for weddings, events, and general portraiture, I believe this new naming scheme could simply mean “the best of the best”, “showstopper”, “supreme” or whatever superlative you’d like to throw at it.

Yes indeed, this is a very high-quality lens.

If you photograph weddings and events, a fast telephoto prime lens like this is a fantastic addition to your gear arsenal.

The Nikon 135mm f/1.8 lens is the pièce de résistance for portraiture.

Nikon 135mm f/1.8 Specs



  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Beautiful bokeh rendering
  • Sharp across all apertures
  • Weather sealed
  • No chromatic aberration or vignetting

  • Large and heavy
  • Priced at a premium
  • Maximum Aperture – f/1.8
  • Minimum Aperture – f/16
  • Minimum Focus Distance – 2.7′ / 82 cm
  • Optical Design – 16 Elements in 14 Groups
  • Diaphragm Blades – 11, Rounded
  • Focus Type – Autofocus
  • Image Stabilization – No
  • Filter Size – 82 mm x 0.75 (Front)
  • Dimensions (ø x L) – 3.9 x 5.5″ / 98 x 139.5 mm
  • Weight – 2.2 lb / 995 g

Build & Ergonomics

A camera lens lies horizontally on a surface with its lens cap off, set against a soft, neutral background.

The Nikon 135mm f/1.8 plena lens is made for full-frame cameras, but of course, it can also be mounted by those who shoot Nikon APS-C cameras for an effective focal length of 202mm.

The weather sealing and metal mount make it perfectly suited for outdoor use in inclement weather.

Even the lens barrel is made of metal. The downside is that this is a heavy lens – albeit sturdy and tough when used.

Camera lens on a table with its cap lying beside it, focused on the details of the lens mount and electronic contacts.

The two L-Fn buttons and control ring can be programmed via Nikon Z cameras to control exposure compensation, ISO, etc.

The locking lens hood helps protect the front glass, which houses an 82mm filter thread.

A Nikon Nikkor S camera lens with its lens cap removed, placed on a table, in a sepia tone.

A Nikon NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S Telephoto Prime lens on a neutral background.

While the Nikon 135mm f/1.8 plena lens is large, it’s still not as bulky as the Nikon 70mm-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens.

A dedicated focus ring is within easy reach, smooth, and does not slip.

Hands holding a Nikon camera with a large lens, adjusting the settings.

Two camera lenses on a table: a Nikon 135mm on the left and a Nikon 70-200mm on the right, against a peach-colored backdrop.

Focus Performance

The Nikon 135mm f/1.8 plena lens is an internal focusing lens with minimal focus breathing and a minimum focusing distance of about 2.7 feet.

While this lens is fantastic for portrait photography, one will need the space for full-body shots.

Bride and groom kissing outdoors as the bride's long veil flows in the wind, with a serene lakeside backdrop during sunset.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/640 / f/2 ISO 200

The fast f/1.8 aperture is great for low-light conditions, and the autofocus was no issue for me in these situations. I found this plena lens terrific for church wedding ceremonies.

Bride and groom holding hands during wedding ceremony, with focus on the bride's tattooed arm and their intertwined hands, against a backdrop of soft lights.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/250 / f/1.8 ISO 4000

Image Quality

The big draw of this portrait lens from Nikon is the gorgeous bokeh it provides. The optical performance is spectacular, providing great images and earning the designation of one of the best portrait lenses available today.

Two women, one in a bridal gown and one in a maroon dress, laugh joyously while holding a bouquet, with a sunlit park background.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/250 / f/1.8 ISO 200

The Nikon 135mm f/1.8 demonstrates how excellent the new lenses for the Z system are. Even when shot wide open, it shows no signs of mechanical vignetting or chromatic aberration.

Nikon 135mm f/1.8 Sample Images

Here are some sample images taken with the Nikon 135mm f/1.8 plena lens, using a Nikon Z9.

Bride in a lace wedding dress holding a bouquet, looking at her reflection in a large mirror, captured in black and white.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/250 / f/2 ISO 800

A bride and groom gaze into each other's eyes, backlit by a soft sunset, emphasizing their intimate moment.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/250 / f/1.8 ISO 200

A newlywed couple walks hand-in-hand along a curved pathway, smiling, with the bride holding a bouquet and the groom in a blue suit.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/800 / f/2.2 ISO 200

Triptych of a bride in a lace wedding dress, smiling and holding a bouquet; center image features her looking directly at the camera.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/250 / f/1.8 ISO 800

A bride in a white lace gown and a groom in a blue suit with a boutonniere pose with bouquets in a rural setting, near a barn door with an X-frame design.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/400 / f/2 ISO 100

A wedding cake topped with a romantic, custom cake topper with names "Kasey & Albert" and the date "11.23.23" amidst roses, set against a blurred background of golden lights.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/250 / f/1.8 ISO 800

A bride and groom happily exchange rings during their wedding ceremony, officiated by a priest in a wood-paneled venue.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/250 / f/1.8 ISO 4000

Two men in tuxedos toasting with champagne at a wedding reception, surrounded by guests and decorated tables with red and white flowers.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/250 / f/1.8 ISO 2500

A stylist arranges the hair of a woman with an elaborate updo, in a room with soft lighting and a blurred Christmas tree background.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/200 / f/1.8 ISO 1000

Bride and groom holding hands and smiling at each other in an outdoor setting with greenery in the background.

Nikon Z9 + Nikon 135mm f/1.8 | 1/1250 / f/2.2 ISO 200

How I Tested the Nikon 135mm f/1.8

I used the Nikon 135mm f/1.8 plena lens at three weddings and for event coverage at a local artisan market.

I found it the best lens I’ve ever used for portrait photography. While the negative of being a heavy lens with a very tight shooting distance is true, the incredible image quality is undeniable.

A photographer squatting with a camera and long lens, focused on a subject, outside a house with leafless trees in the background.

I found this plena lens a perfect fit for the Z9, Z8, and possibly the Z6 and Z7 series cameras, but it’s probably too cumbersome for a retro camera body like the Zf.

The tech specs of a great lens such as this one are secondary to the image quality, and this modern lens delivers on that front.


Canon has their own Canon RF 135mm f/1.8 L lens for their mirrorless bodies, which I also understand is excellent.

In the world of Nikon, the only alternative is to mount the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art Lens to the Z cameras via the Nikon FTZ2 adapter.

Other brands with a 135mm focal length lens include Sony and Mitakon for Leica L mount.

Value for Money

At around US$2,500, the Nikon 135mm f/1.8 plena lens is priced higher than some Nikon Z camera bodies. However, the adage that lenses far outlive cameras is true.

I can see this becoming a lifelong, career-spanning lens for portrait photographers, and for that reason, it is of great value.


Does this lens have special coatings to minimize flaring?

Yes, the Nikon 135mm f/1.8 lens has a Meso Amorphous Coat to suppress ghosting and flaring.

What unique features appear in this lens that are not in Nikon’s other lenses?

The short wavelength refractive lens element is why this Nikon lens has no chromatic aberration.

Does this lens have image stabilization?

No, you must rely on the Nikon Z cameras’ in-body stabilization.

Nikon 135mm f/1.8 Review | Conclusion

Suppose you are a professional photographer or high-end enthusiast who values image quality in portrait photography. In that case, you will want to consider one of the best lenses ever made.

I know I plan on adding this lens to my toolbox. With a professional Nikon camera body like the Nikon Z9 or Z8, one has a native ISO of 64, enabling shooting a lens like this wide open in daylight.

The Nikon 135mm f/1.8 plena lens is also perfect for low-light event work and was built with video in mind.

At the end of the day, though, it was the stunning image quality of the portraits that simply blew me away. This isn’t just a nice lens, it’s the best lens for portrait photography and more.


Nikon 135mm 1.8

Nikon 135mm 1.8

Incredible image quality and stunning bokeh make this lens the top choice for portraits and events.

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