Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S Review

November 14, 2019 | Amy Davies |

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S Introduction

At the time of writing, the Nikkor 85mm lens is the longest native focal length available for full-frame Nikon Z cameras.

Intended as a portrait lens, it’s compatible with the Z 7 and Z 6 full-frame cameras, but it is also compatible with the newly-announced APS-C Z 50 camera (where the effective focal length would be 127.5mm).

It joins the other f/1.8 prime lenses which have also been announced for the Z mount, including the 35mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/1.8 which were available from launch.

Currently the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens retails for around £799 / $799, which makes it a little on the expensive side when compared to other similar specced optics from the likes of Sony, and even Nikon’s own F mount line.

Designated with the “S” moniker, lenses in this line are designed for ultimate sharpness (hence the S). Lens construction for the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens includes 12 elements in 8 groups, including 2 ED elements and elements with Nano Crystal Coating.

The lens is completely dust and moisture sealed. There are 9 diaphragm blades which are designed to help produce attractive out of focus areas.

Portrait photography is the obvious kind of subject for an 85mm lens, but it’s also something you could consider for other subjects including pet photography, still life photography, street photography and wedding photography.

Ease of Use

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Weighing in at 470g and measuring 75mm x 99mm, the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens is fairly similar in size to the other f/1.8 optics, as well as the 24-70mm f/4 lens.

Interestingly, it is roughly 100g heavier than the equivalent 85mm f/1.8 G lens available for the Nikon F mount.

Similarly to the other lenses in this line-up, build construction is very high quality, with a metal lens mount. Although larger than some of the “S” prime lenses, it still balances fairly nicely with the Z6 or Z7.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

We haven’t used it with a Z50, but it would probably not balance quite so well with that - the 50mm f/1.8 would probably be a better overall pairing for the Z50.

Just like the other f/1.8 prime lenses in the Nikkor S line, the 85mm lens has a very simple external construction with very little in the way of controls. Most of the lens consists of a very large focusing ring around its centre, which has a ridged coating to help you get a good grip on it.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

With just enough give to help manual focusing feel precise, but without making the lens ring too stiff, it’s a shame there are no hard stops at either end of the focusing ring, which would help with identifying when you’ve reached the maximum focusing distance.

If you don’t want to use the focusing ring for manual focus, you have the option to set it to control a different function such as adjust aperture or exposure compensation from within the camera’s main menu.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Engraved in the lens is 85/1.8 S, with a white dot just underneath this to help you line up the lens with the camera’s mount. Once the lens is lined up, simply twist it into place to lock into position.

On the side of the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S is a switch which you can move between the A and M position to choose between autofocusing and manual focusing.

At the front of the lens you’ll see a white dot, which indicates where you can attach the optional hood which comes supplied in the box - the filter thread size is 62mm.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

The hood is very large for this lens, but you can reverse it when not in use to help keep the overall size a little more compact.

Nikon promises that focusing for its S series lenses will not only be accurate and quick, but it will also be quiet too.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

All that proves to be true in use - using this lens and turning on silent shooting would be ideal when using the lens in situations where you need to be as discreet as possible - such as church weddings.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Focal Range

The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens has a single focal length. If using the lens on a full-frame camera with DX format activated, or with a DX-camera, the equivalent focal length is 127.5mm. The angle of view when shooting in FX format is 28°30’, and in the DX format, 18°50’.

Sigma 85mm F1.4 DG HSM

Chromatic Aberrations

This Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens has been designed to the highest optical standard, and as such we wouldn’t expect to find too much evidence of chromatic aberration. Usually typified as blue or purple fringing along high-contrast edges, it is often a problem with cheaper lenses.

We struggled to find any incidence of chromatic aberration appearing with this lens, even when examining images closely at 100%.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Vignetting

At the widest aperture of f/1.8, there is some slight noticeable shading in the corners when photographing a white wall. This is not something which is overly noticeable with more usual subjects, but the effect lessens at f/2.0, before pretty much disappearing altogether at f/2.8.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Macro

The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens is not a designated close-up or macro lens, but thanks to its focal length, it’s a good option to consider when shooting classic macro-type subjects, such as flowers. The minimum focusing distance is 0.8 metres.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Bokeh

Bokeh is the word used to describe the out of focus area in an image. It is generally described in qualitative terms, such as creamy, smooth or pleasing.

With a wide maximum aperture, 9 rounded diaphragm blades, and a mid-range focal length, we’d expect the bokeh from the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens to be very good and it does not disappoint.

Bokeh here is rounded and attractive, while also producing a natural drop-off effect from the main subject. Since feelings on bokeh can be quite subjective, we have included some examples below to help you make your own mind up.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

Sharpness

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