Nikon Learn & Explore

How the 135mm Plena Lens Brings a Touch of Magic to Wedding and Portrait Photography and Filmmaking

© Ben and Natasha Davis

A Short Film - Ben and Natasha Davis aim for real moments between couples for their wedding videos. They don’t intrude or direct, but they do rely on the Plena’s extraordinary bokeh to add a dream-like touch to the wedding story.

The Plena is the full-frame NIKKOR Z 135mm f/1.8 S Plena lens, and if you’ve seen Ben and Natasha Davis’s video and its behind-the-scenes companion, you already know a lot about what the lens can do. Greater detail about its perfect rendition of background bokeh, its incredible edge-to-edge sharpness and smoothness and its light weight and easy handling is available online. So is a lot of enthusiastic praise for its capabilities, beginning with phrases like “world’s best portrait lens,” “the ultimate portrait lens” and “the new king of bokeh.” 

Still, there are some things we would like to emphasize. One is that the bokeh maintains the same round shape throughout the frame. Another is that the Plena’s continuity of smoothness means there’s no disturbance in the composition—“No loss of harmony” was how one professional photographer expressed it.

While bokeh is often part of the magic photographers want to capture in their stills and videos, we’d like to add that the Plena can do a lot more than render pleasant backgrounds. In the hands of creative, imaginative photographers, it’s part of a compositional concept.

In fact, it was designed to be just that. 

Focus on Performance

The Nikon engineers responsible for the Plena surprised us—not only by their achievement, but by their methods. They set out with a challenging goal in mind, and then, along the way, they added to the challenge. 

The achievements of the lens include a large diameter mount that allows incoming light to smoothly reach the sensor; peripheral illumination—simply, more light reaching the edges of the frame to provide consistency not only of brightness, but sharpness as well; and an ideal bokeh, observable and compelling, with near-perfect roundness, wide-open at f/1.8.

Developing the Plena was a journey of new ideas and a reimagining of what was possible. The engineers never lost sight of their goals: a lens that could “create dream-like moments,” a lens to inspire photographers’ imaginations. Ultimately it was the engineers’ own imaginations that played a big part in what they accomplished.  

The Plena’s incredible bokeh stands out, on its own. The images are simply magical.

Magic Moments

It’s been long held that 135mm is one of the quintessential focal lengths for portraits—there’s a very flattering and complimentary look to the way it renders facial proportions, and because of that it’s a focal length that has special resonance with portrait photographers and wedding videographers. Which brings us to Ben and Natasha. In their hands the 135mm is both practically and artistically a perfect fit. So much so that at the moment it was available, it became essential, and for a number of reasons. First, the Plena’s 135mm focal length combined with the DX crop (1.5X) mode setting on their Z 8 and Z 9 cameras gives them an effective 200mm focal length. “That focal length and the Plena’s light weight allow us to move quickly to capture moments as they happen,” Ben says, “and do it without the couples feeling we’re being intrusive.” They can also do it at 4K and f/1.8 with no sacrifice of resolution to produce the wedding videos they’re known for and genuinely love to create. 

Ben and Natasha aren’t directors. They observe, they anticipate, they react. “We just let natural things unfold,” Ben says. “We want our couples to be themselves—naturally who they are in the moment, so most of the time we hang out on the edges of the room. We don’t give a lot of prompts—we let them be who they are. Our job is to pay attention to the subtle nuances that show their natural emotions.” 

For the Plena video, Ben and Natasha worked with a couple whose wedding they’d previously filmed. It was a deliberate decision not to use models. “We loved their energy,” Ben says, “and the way they interact, so that made for great synergy because there would be moments that were natural and authentic to them.” 

The real-couple choice was an indication of why they are so successful at what they do: they deal in real emotions, real feelings, real moments. But along with reality, they need the magical, and that’s where the Plena’s “incredible bokeh” comes in. “It stands out, on its own, over other 135s, and even other glass in that range,” Ben says. “The images are simply magical.”

© Ben and Natasha Davis

BTS - Emotions and authenticity come through quite clearly in the before, during and after moments a video captures. In this video, Team Davis talks about “the power of the Plena” and how it helps provide vital access to those moments.

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