Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Review

4.5
February 16, 2012 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is a fast mid-range telephoto prime lens for Nikon full-frame DSLRs. With a maximum aperture of f/1.8 and an iris diaphragm with seven rounded blades, the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G should be able to create excellent bokeh effects. Read our in-depth Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G review.

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is a fast aperture medium-telephoto portrait lens that’s optimised for use with full-frame Nikon digital SLR cameras. It provides an effective focal length of 127.5mm when used with a Nikon DX-format SLR. The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G VR lens features a Silent Wave Motor (SWM) for quiet and accurate autofocusing, two focus modes, M/A (manual-priority autofocus) and M (manual focus), an iris diaphragm with seven rounded blades for a soft rendering of the out-of-focus areas, and a weather-sealed rubber lens mount. The optical formula comprises 9 elements in 9 groups and the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is fully compatible with entry level D-SLRs that do not have a built in autofocus motor. The AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is currently available for £469.99 / €554.00 / $499.95 in the UK, Europe and the US, respectively.

Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens mounted on a Nikon D700 body

Weighing in at approximately 350 grams, the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G is fairly lightweight for a medium telezoom lens, and as seen in the photo above, complements the full-frame Nikon D700 well. It may look a little out of proportion on smaller DX-format DSLRs like the D7000, D5100 or D3100, though.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Alongside the D700

Build quality is pretty decent for what is a consumer lens. Most of the outer parts are plastic – contributing to the light weight of the lens – but the optical elements are made of high-grade glass. The focus ring is quite wide and ridged.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

In terms of features, the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G offers almost all that you need from a prime lens. The one exception is the lack of built-in Vibration Reduction, although the fast maximum aperture of f1/8 makes up for this to some extent (even the premium 85mm f/1.4 lens doesn't offer this feature). The lens has a built-in auto-focus motor that allows AF operation on every Nikon DX camera body, including entry-level offerings like the D3100 or D5100. Focusing is usefully internal and manual focusing is possible when the focus mode selector is set to the 'MA' position, meaning that you can over-ride the auto-focus system and micro-adjust it if required at any time. The lens also has a handy distance scale. The AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens may have a lot of plastic parts, but the lens mount is, thankfully, made of metal.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Rear of lens, isometric view

The lens is claimed to be weatherproof, with a weather-sealed rubber lens mount that should at least provide basic dust protection.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Lens Hood

The AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G ships with a dedicated plastic lens hood (HB-62) and a soft pouch (CL-1015).

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Alongside the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 lens

Focal Range

At the 85mm focal length the angle of view is 28?30’'.

 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Field of view at 85mm

Focusing

The AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens has quite a wide focus ring. There are hard stops at both ends of the range, making it easy to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 77mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G zoom is only a moderately quick performer, taking about 0.25 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on the D700. This isn't particularly worrying if you're photographing stationary subjects, but can pose some difficulties when trying to shoot quicker moving action. On the plus side, we didn't experience much "hunting", either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, can be detected in some shots but they are not too prominent.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Light Fall-off

With the lens set to its maximum aperture, there is a bit of light fall-off in the extreme corners, but it won't really affect your real-world shots.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Macro

The Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G isn't claimed to be a macro lens. It has a 0.12x maximum magnification and a closest focusing distance of 0.85m. The following example demonstrates how close you can get to your subject, in this case a Compact Flash memory card.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Close-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. In the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens, Nikon employed an iris diaphragm with seven rounded blades, which has resulted in nice bokeh in our view. We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective; so we've included several 100% crops for your perusal.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G
   
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following pages.

Entry Tags

review, lens, test, nikon, f1.8, nikkor, 85mm, nikkor 85mm, nikon 85mm, Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f1.8G

Tracker Pixel for Entry