Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G

The Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8G prime lens may not seem like a lens you would find much use with - especially since it is considered a portraiture lens. However how many times do portrait opportunities present themselves on board a ship, or at that perfect vacation spot, at the beach, and so on. This would be an excellent opportunity to create that portrait for mailing to your less-lucky relatives next holiday season - a "wish you were here" sort of thing.

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G

Lens Type: Prime
Format: FX (Full Frame)
Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
Minimum Aperture: f/22
Focal Length: 85mm
Autofocus Type: AF-S
Minimum Focus Distance: 2.7ft
Maximum Field-of-View: 127 deg
Filter size: 67mm
Manufactured: China
Lens construction: Advanced-Amateur
Street Price: $499


Overview: The lens is single focus-length, i.e. not a zoom lens. And although this is a full frame (FX) lens, it will work equally well on a DX format DSLR (i.e. D3xxx, D5xxx, D7xxx). However, using a DX DSLR gives you the same angle of view that a 127mm lens would give you in a full frame camera. It is outstanding for portraiture, even on a DX format camera. Using a 50mm lens on a cropped camera is no substitute for backing up a bit with an 85mm lens.

Lenses in the 85mm~100mm range are among some of the sharpest and most distortion free lenses that are made. Specifically, they are long enough that they do not exhibit perspective distortion, and short enough they lack compression distortion.

I classify this lens as an advanced-amateur level lens due to it's fast f/1.8 maximum aperture. The 85mm f/1.4 would be the professional version. While the f/1.4 does have a bit better bokeh, it is hard to tell wihtout looking at photos side-by-side (one taken with a f/1.4 and the other taken with a f/1.8). This lens is AF-S type focusing, meaning that it will also autofocus on lower-end Nikon cameras such as the D40, D3000, D3100, D5000 and any other cameras that require AF-S. .

Use: If you find you wish to take this lens on vacation - you may wish to carry the f/1.8 "trifecta"; The Nikon AF-S 28mm f/1.8, the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8, and the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8.

If you use this trifecta, you may be amazed that the lack of a zoom function is not really that much of a problem. Experiment with different depths-of-field as well as late in the day when lighting has that magical color. Use of this lens may force you to get closer to your subject, but that is the norm for professional photographers anyway, so being an accomplished amateur, you should get comfortable doing so.

Testing: How does this lens do in sharpness? One simple way to determine that is to test the lens for optical clarity. While to be more accurate, I should have measured the center and all 4 corners of the lens, this simple test provides a basic idea of the lens performance.

The test was conducted photographing this scene at different focal lengths; all using an aperture of f/5.6. The yellow box in the lower right is the cropped area for each photo shown below.

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8.

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/2.

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/2.8.

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/4.

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/5.6.

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/8.

Photos taken with a Nikon D7100 DX (cropped) DSLR

At f/1.8, the lens just a tad bit soft, but fairly good for maximum aperture. And as you run through the various apertures, the lens continues to be sharp through f/8. This is a testament to the high-quality of the 85mm prime lens focal length.

Aviary - Detroit Zoo - Detroit, Mi

Air Show - Southwest Lower Michigan

Nice background blur (bokeh) at f/1.8 - even with background fairly close.

Good low light performance: f/1.8 1/40sec ISO 800

Summary: I use this lens primarily for low light and portraiture. This lens is vastly superior to any zoom lens for these purposes. While it means an extra lens to carry, it is rather light and compact, so in reality, it may not be a huge issue to bring it along.