Summary: I bought this lens used(but mint) back in 1998. I loved using in on film bodys for portraits and general use. The portaits shot look like potraits should look. On APC digital bodies I was dissapointed. Wrong perspective since it became a 216mm lens. I bought a 5D and this lens shines again.
Conclusion: I bought this lens because I wanted a portrait lens that wasn't to close to my 50mm f1.4. The 135L was just a bit too expensive at the moment, so I checked out this soft focus lens. There is little reading on this lens on the net, but what I found was encouraging enough to give it a go. Found a used one and bought it after a few on the spot tests. I've used it on my 5D, 40D and 350D. pro: This lens is very sharp.
Summary: I bought this lens because I needed its focal length on my 5D. It seems like a toy when compared to L-glass, so I was a little worried. The manual focus ring is a joke, put it on the 5D and took a few shots, I was surprised at how sharp this lens was wide open. I even tried the soft focus feature......nice and soft, yet still in focus. There is a little learning curve with the soft setting, but nothing a few test shots won't solve.
Conclusion: Recently picked up my 3rd copy of this lens. This is the best one. First one was also nice and I regretted selling it. So.. second one wasn't as sharp. Held on to it a short time and then went without one for a while. Then while looking at some old photos taken with this lens I decided to pick up another. Never use the soft focus feature. I use it as an outdoor, natural light portrait lens and more recently indoors with my strobes.
Pros: sharp; small, lightweight, cheap
Cons: focus is slower than USM, slightly less accurate
Summary: For a f2.8, this is a great deal. The soft focus is 'kinda' cool, but nothing you can't do -and control better- in Photoshop. But it can be turned off, and that's how I use it. I like it a lot.
Summary: Useful & versatile portrait lense. A special lense, can be used as a fast prime but also incorporates a dial for continuous soft focus effect, with engraved setting stops at zero for no soft effect; setting 1 is for half effect; and setting 2 is for full effect. Placement of a setting between the stops is also appropriate. Chosen setting soft focus intensity will also be mitagated by aperture and appears to be less conspicuous above f5.6.
Pros: Optional natural optical soft focus, subtle to strong; lightweight; economical; very good colour and contrast; very good prime lense sharpness at fast f2.8 max aperture, sharper at f4; superior bokeh.
Cons: Reliable autofocus but legacy style; prone to lens flare w/o shade; long minimum focus distance
Summary: This lens is far sharper than i thought it would be. in fact bench testing it against the canon 70-200 f4L it comes up trumps in the sharpness department. The soft focus takes a lot of getting used to and despite having 2 levels of softness the effective softness of a shot changes with the aperture (canon got it right when they said the best results will be achieved between f2.8 and f4).
Pros: sharp!, not to soft when the soft focus is turned on.
Cons: af system is slow and i did eventually develop a problem where the manual focus ring slipped
Conclusion: just picked up a 2nd-hand copy of this lens. images are tack sharp, even at f2.8. if u can find this on the used mkt, BUY IT! i haven't figure out how to use the soft-focus settings properly. think, for the time being, will use it as an outdoor portrait lens. focal length is too long for studio.
Pros: images tack sharp, even at f2.8. light-weight. reasonably fast AF, even tho no USM. relatively low-cost for a prime.
Cons: SF features a hit-or-miss affair, depending on lighting conditions. the MF ring is a joke, forget abt using MF or even the distance scale. lens hood shld be included for this product. a flimsy looking lens' construction - DO NOT drop it! =)