Canon 135mm F3.5 LTM / M39
Updated July 8, 2017
|Production||October 1952 thru January 1975|
|Lens Composition||4 Elements in 3 Groups|
|Minimum Focus||1 Meter / 3.5 Feet|
|F-Stop Scale||F3.5 to F22; full stop detents|
|Filter Connection||48mm, Threaded|
|Lens Cap||50mm Black Plastic Press On (T50)|
|Lens Hood||Canon Clamp-On T4, T5 or T6|
|Weight||425 grams without lens caps and without M39 adapter|
|Lens Size||54mm Wide x 100mm Long|
The Canon 135mm F3.5 LTM was introduced in 1952 and 8 versions were made during a 23 year production run. Optically, all 8 versions are identical. Changes were mostly cosmetic - switching from a silver barrel to black, weight reductions, wording on the front ring and the distance scale markings. Canon lens designer Jirou Mukai is credited for the 135mm F3.5’s optical formula. Peter Kitchingman’s book, “Canon M39 Rangefinder Lenses 1939-1971”, is an excellent resource which details all the rangefinder lenses and their production history. I purchased the book and highly recommend it.
The Canon S-Mount is the same as the Leica M39 screw mount. S-Mount lenses are often referred to as LTM’s - Leica Thread Mount. The Canon LTM lenses are focus coupled and mount on a Leica M via a standard M39 to Leica M lens adapter. I always the original Leitz adapters because they mount smoothly and I have not a problem with the adapter being too thick or too thin. Once attached to the Leica M, the Canon LTM lenses focus via the optical rangefinder just like any other Leica M lens. When focusing the Canon 135mm, the front element and aperture ring rotate due to the single helicoid design (typical of early rangefinder lenses).
Most rangefinder shooters shy away from 135mm lenses because of the focus challenges. Cropping a 100mm picture to a 135mm field of view is an alternative, but at the sacrifice of 8 MP... If planning to crop a 100mm image to 200mm, the resulting crop is a mere 4.5 megapixels (based on a 18 MP sensor). While accurately focusing a 135mm lens can be challenging, the gain in megapixels can well be worth the effort. And with the Leica M Type 240’s Live View and EVF option, focusing a 135mm lens is easy. Even with the Leica M9-P I was able to reliably focus the 135mm LTM on a consistent basis with the aide of the Leica 1.25x Magnifier.
It seems good 135mm lenses are fairly easy to design and simple in their element counts. The Leica 135mm F4 Tele Elmar M was introduced in 1965 and continued until 1998. The 5 element optical formula was unchanged because it was so good. The Canon 135mm LTM can go head to head with the both the Leica 135mm F4 Tele Elmar-M and the Leica 135mm F3.4 Telyt-M APO (I own both). No fancy low dispersion glass, no ASPH elements and no APO designation - just solid performance from a simple 4 element design. At long distances the Canon 135mm does exhibit mild halation at F3.5, but when stopped down to F5.6, sharpness and contrast are superb. Near focus performance is excellent even at F3.5. If shooting handheld it best to keep shutter speeds at 1/200th or faster. While the Leica's have an edge in sharpness at the wider apertures, the Canon has smoother, more diffused bokeh.
If looking to add a 135mm lens for the odd 135mm shot here and there, The Canon 135mm LTM is a great way to fill the need without breaking the bank. The 135mm LTM is an excellent performer at a bargain price. Instead of the original clamp-on lens hood, I recommend a screw-in metal hood such as the Heliopan. The Heliopan hoods are front threaded as well, so a metal screw lens cap works very nicely. Lastly, these are 50 year old lenses, so a CLA may be in order - though, neither of mine did. Serials numbers 105,000+ are among the last ones.