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Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena Announced

Nikon just announced the newest lens for the Z system – and their first lens ever with a “Plena” designation. The Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena is full of high-end features and will be available next month for $2500. It also has one of the most intense optical construction diagrams I’ve ever seen.

Specifications

  • 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
  • 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: $2499.99

Product Photos

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Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Product-Photo00002

Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Product-Photo00003

Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Real-World-Product-Photo-00001

Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Real-World-Product-Photo-00007

Analysis

It’s already clear that those are high-end specifications, but Nikon has taken things a step further by giving this lens a new designation, Plena. Even with Nikon teasing this lens for about a week, no one seemed to know what “Plena” meant, so I’ll let Nikon explain:

The name “Plena” is derived from the Latin term plenum, which denotes the state of a space being completely full. This name was chosen to reflect the lens’ ability to fulfill the user’s creative vision with superior light gathering capability, beautiful, well-rounded bokeh and outstanding sharpness and clarity throughout the frame. Following in the footsteps of the NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct, this distinctively brilliant portrait prime is only the second Nikon lens to be granted a dedicated name, with the hope that it will be highly regarded by users for many years to come.

Combine that description with the high launch price of $2500, and my expectation is that the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena will be one of the highest-performing Nikon lenses yet. I also want to draw your attention to the lens construction diagram, which is a terrifying but beautiful sight with so many large lens elements close together:

R17570_Construction

Besides that wild lens diagram, a few features about the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena stand out to me. First, the 11-bladed aperture diaphragm is clearly designed to give out-of-focus highlights a smooth, circular shape. Second, the lens has a metal construction rather than the usual high-quality plastic of other Nikon Z lenses. And third – something not shown in the specifications above – is that Nikon’s press release extensively emphasizes that the 135mm f/1.8 Plena is designed for minimal vignetting.

Vignetting can be a problem for more than just the obvious reason of darker corners. It also leads to bokeh-related issues, particularly a “cat’s eye” shape in out-of-focus corners of the image. Lens designers can minimize vignetting at wide apertures by giving the lens a larger image circle. (This often improves corner sharpness at wide apertures as well.) However, the tradeoff of a larger image circle is that the lens must be larger, and usually more expensive, than normal. And while Nikon has kept the Plena to a pretty reasonable 995 grams / 2.19 pounds, it’s still a big piece of glass.

Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Real-World-Product-Photo-00004

One downside with the Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena is the lack of teleconverter support. Nikon’s current Z teleconverters simply can’t fit on this lens – the rear element is too close to the lens mount. I’m not complaining too much, since this optical design is presumably what allows for the reduced vignetting and high optical quality that Nikon is advertising with the Plena. Still, I would have liked to see a 135mm f/1.8 that could become a 190mm f/2.5 in a pinch (or a 270mm f/3.6). At that point, it would have been a compelling alternative to a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom in even more ways.

Sample Photos

In their teaser video and press release, Nikon placed a lot of emphasis on the bokeh of the 135mm f/1.8 S Plena – in a way not seen since at least the 58mm f/0.95 Noct, and perhaps since the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G. Given that, I was very interested in the sample images that accompanied the lens’s announcement.

From the samples so far, I’m impressed, but bokeh is subjective by definition. I’ll leave the following photos and crops for you to analyze for yourself, with my analysis afterwards. Click on them to see larger. The crops below are the same size each time: 2033 pixel wide excerpts from the full-resolution Nikon Z8 images.

Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Photo-00001
NIKON Z 8 + 135mm f/1.8 @ 135mm, ISO 64, 1/8000, f/1.8
Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Crop-00001
Crop of the above image – click to see full size
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NIKON Z 8 + 135mm f/1.8 @ 135mm, ISO 64, 1/4000, f/1.8
Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Crop-00002
Crop of the above image – click to see full size
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NIKON Z 8 + 135mm f/1.8 @ 135mm, ISO 100, 1/250, f/1.8
Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Crop-00003
Crop of the above image – click to see full size
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NIKON Z 8 + 135mm f/1.8 @ 135mm, ISO 200, 1/4000, f/1.8
Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Crop-00004
Crop of the above image – click to see full size
Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Photo-00005
NIKON Z 8 + 135mm f/1.8 @ 135mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/1.8
Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Crop-00005
Crop of the above image – click to see full size
Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Photo-00006
NIKON Z 8 + 135mm f/1.8 @ 135mm, ISO 64, 1/200, f/1.8
Nikon-Z-135mm-f1.8-S-Plena-Official-Sample-Crop-00006
Crop of the above image – click to see full size

Based upon the images above, the quality of the background blur looks very good to me. There is basically no cat’s-eye effect, meaning that out-of-focus specular highlights are rendered as almost perfect circles. (Though I wish Nikon had shared some images at f/2 or f/2.8 so we could see the smoothness of the 11-bladed aperture diaphragm.) There is very minimal color fringing – AKA longitudinal chromatic aberration – but not quite zero. Finally, the bokeh is nice and smooth, although it occasionally takes on some mild texture and defined edges in photos with dramatic specular highlights.

Also, sharpness appears extremely high. The following is a 100% crop from one of Nikon’s official sample photos from the 45-megapixel Z8. While it’s hard to know what kind of sharpening was applied, this looks great for an f/1.8 image no matter how you slice it. Click to see the full-size version:

Sharpness Crop Nikon Z 135mm f1.8 Plena lens
100% crop to show sharpness

To me, this is a really impressive showing that stands above most other lenses both in bokeh and sharpness. I think lots of event and portrait photographers will have their eye on this lens, especially if price isn’t an object.

Pre-Order and Shipping Information

The Nikon Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena will ship in mid-October 2023. Because of the high price and complex design, it will likely be a low-production lens. It may face some backorder issues as a result, although likely not as badly as an exotic supertelephoto prime. You can pre-order the lens for $2496.95 from B&H here:

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Press Release

THE SPLENDOR OF FULL RADIANCE: NIKON RELEASES THE NIKKOR Z 135mm F/1.8 S PLENA

With an Emphasis on Extreme Peripheral Illumination, the Plena is a New Visual Experience with Dreamy Bokeh, Fast Aperture and Beautiful Compression

MELVILLE, NY (September 27, 2023) Today Nikon Inc. announced the release of the NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena, an impressively unique lens for Nikon Z series mirrorless cameras. This new mid-telephoto prime lens bestows astonishingly high resolution, edge-to-edge brightness, incredible sharpness and spectacularly dramatic bokeh, all while elevating the threshold of what’s possible with optical technology.

The name “Plena” is derived from the Latin term plenum, which denotes the state of a space being completely full. This name was chosen to reflect the lens’ ability to fulfill the user’s creative vision with superior light gathering capability, beautiful, well-rounded bokeh and outstanding sharpness and clarity throughout the frame. Following in the footsteps of the NIKKOR Z 58mm f/0.95 S Noct, this distinctively brilliant portrait prime is only the second Nikon lens to be granted a dedicated name, with the hope that it will be highly regarded by users for many years to come.

“The Plena is a beautiful lens in every way. From the premium metal exterior to the brightness and image rendering that’s nothing short of breathtaking, this is a lens that needs to be experienced,” said Jay Vannatter, Executive Vice President, Nikon Inc. “This is exactly the kind of incredible optical innovation that our engineers promised was in our future, which could only be developed with the wider diameter and shorter flange distance of the next generation Z mount.”

This truly special optic is engineered with a focus on superior peripheral illumination, which is the ability to deliver the maximum amount of light to the far edges of the frame. The result is abundant brightness from edge-to-edge, with clear, bright subject distinction throughout. The combination of brightness, bokeh quality and extreme sharpness makes for vibrant images with a mystical pop of three-dimensionality. The NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena is part of the S-Line1 and takes advantage of the Z mount system’s large-diameter mount, which unlocks further possibilities of lens design, as well as the potential for light gathering.

In addition to enhanced brightness, the optical formula and larger rear element helps to realize beautiful, well-rounded bokeh throughout the entire frame, even from maximum aperture. The NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena also affords users outstanding sharpness and clarity, regardless of the shooting distance with a close minimum focusing distance of only 0.82 m/2.69 ft. This enables a fantastic dreamlike expression that combines delicate textures and beautiful bokeh in portraits, landscapes and more.

The lens’ luxurious exterior design is intended to match its superior optical performance. Along with the adoption of metal components, the lens features an engraved “Plena” logo similar to the cursive font and yellow color of the Noct logo. Additional features include a fully weather sealed body for durability and the addition of two L-Fn buttons for customization.

Primary Features of the NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena

  • Beautiful, well-rounded bokeh is achieved throughout the entire frame, while supporting a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture.
  • Eleven-blade diaphragm and larger rear element contribute to exceptionally circular bokeh for dreamlike expression that accentuates the three-dimensionality of the subject with smooth gradation.
  • The large amount of peripheral light at the f/1.8 maximum aperture ensures a consistently bright image all the way to the extreme corners of the frame for a sense of transparency and brilliance in images.
  • The outstanding sharpness and clarity, characteristic of S-Line lenses, enables rendering of the finest textures in hair and skin tones, while excellent point-light reproduction capabilities achieve brilliant night and urban landscape imagery.
  • A multi-focusing system uses stepping motors (STMs) for fast, accurate and quiet autofocus drive for still images and video.
  • In addition to Meso Amorphous Coat, the most effective anti-reflection coating in Nikon history that prevents reflections regardless of the direction from which light enters the lens, Nikon’s original ARNEO Coat is also used to effectively reduce instances of ghosting and flaring.
  • Optical construction consists of 16 elements in 14 groups, with four ED elements, one aspherical element and one SR lens element.
  • A design that takes video recording into consideration with quiet operation and stable exposure.
  • The lens body features two lens Fn buttons, to which a wide variety of functions can be assigned. One is positioned on the top of the lens enabling smooth adjustment of settings even when shooting in vertical orientation.
  • The versatile 82mm filter attachment size enables the use of various lens filters designed to satisfy users’ creative intent.
  • Designed to achieve superior dust and drip-resistant performance2.
  • Well balanced with a dimension of 3.9″x 5.5″, and a weight of 2.2 lbs /995 g.

Price and Availability

The new NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena will be available in mid-October for a suggested retail price of $2499.95.*  For more information about the latest Nikon products, including the vast collection of NIKKOR Z lenses and the entire line of Z series cameras, please visit Nikonusa.com.

About Nikon 

Nikon Inc. is a world leader in digital imaging, precision optics and technologies for photo and video capture; globally recognized for setting new standards in product design and performance for an award-winning array of equipment that enables visual storytelling and content creation. Nikon Inc. distributes consumer and professional Z series mirrorless cameras, digital SLR cameras, a vast array of NIKKOR and NIKKOR Z lenses, Speedlights and system accessories, Nikon COOLPIX® compact digital cameras and Nikon software products. For more information, dial (800) NIKON-US or visit www.nikonusa.com, which links all levels of photographers and visual storytellers to the Web’s most comprehensive learning and sharing communities. Connect with Nikon on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram,TikTok, Vimeo and Flickr.

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Specifications, equipment, and release dates are subject to change without any notice or obligation on the part of the manufacturer.

  1. The S-line is a grade of NIKKOR Z lenses that demonstrate outstanding optical performance, adhering to a high standard of design principles and quality control.  
  2. Thorough dust- and drip-resistance is not guaranteed in all situations or under all conditions.

*SRP (Suggested Retail Price) listed only as a suggestion. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time.