I know it seems shallow, but I like my lenses to look big, heavy, powerful, and intimidating. I hate lenses that look like dog noses or pastry funnels. I like lenses that look like NASA took ten years to design them. I like lenses that seem to be capturing light in a gaping maw of glass.
One such lens that came to me recently from an odd angle is the 1970s-era Sigma – XQ 135mm f/1.8.
I got ahold of this lens recently during a visit from a fellow photographer. He said someone gave it to him free while buying another piece of photo equipment.
The “Scalematic” feature of this lens reads out the field of view at the focus spot, so you can use the lens to measure the size of objects.
It says it is multicoated, but the front element doesn’t have the characteristic blue-green reflection of any of my other multicoated lenses.
Because of the way the t-mount attaches to this lens, there is no mechanical connection to the aperture operating pin, so the lens will only work at its largest aperture, f/1.8. This isn’t really a problem, since we own lenses like this so we can use them wide open.
I shot with it a bit. The contrast is very low, but sharpness is there, though the depth of field at f/1.8 is razor-thin, and it is completely unforgiving of any focus errors.
Many photographers tend to think of large-aperture lenses as “bokeh masters” or “bokeh beasts,” but they often get the fundamentals wrong. “Bokeh” isn’t how far out of focus something is, it’s the characteristics of the out of focus area. Thus, every lens has bokeh, from the humblest kit lens to the newest super-telephoto.
The focus throw, the amount you need to turn the focusing ring, is long. This particular lens has a little bit of grab toward the infinity end of the throw like a lot of lenses this old, since the grease in the mechanism tends to stiffen up over time.
The best thing about this lens is the big, gaping front element combined with its steel and brass construction. It feels like it was made to last.