Nikon 85mm f/1.8G Announcement

Along with the Nikon D4, Nikon also announced the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G lens today. While all photography sites are buried with the Nikon D4 announcement, this little gem is receiving very little attention. I am super excited about this portrait lens, because it not only replaces the old 85mm f/1.8D, but considering how good the latest f/1.8 lenses have been, should deliver superb performance at a relatively low price of $500.

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

You might be wondering why one would want an 85mm lens, if there are cheaper 50mm portrait lenses out there. Well, 50mm lenses were never considered to be portrait lenses in the past, because 50mm falls into the “standard” range. However, because of digital cameras with smaller cropped sensors, 50mm lenses are now more like 75mm lenses, which is too long for a standard range and hence the new name. Even I often refer to the 50mm lens as a “portrait” lens. In fact, 50mm lenses are not portrait lenses – they are just designed to be small, lightweight and portable for everyday photography and occasional portraiture. 85mm lenses, on the other hand, are specialized tools created specifically for portraiture in mind. This means that they are optically designed to deliver outstanding results when photographing people with very sharp optics, superb colors and exceptionally good-looking bokeh. The current Nikon 85mm f/1.4G, like its predecessors, is often called the “bokeh king” for a reason – there are very few lenses out there that can deliver similar results (the superb Nikon 135mm f/2.0 DC is one of them).

The new Nikon 85mm f/1.8G brings a lot to the table for those of us that cannot quite afford the expensive Nikon 85mm f/1.4G. With a smaller maximum aperture of f/1.8, it is obviously slower than its bigger brother. It also has a simpler and lighter optical design. However, its color reproduction, bokeh and subject isolation capabilities should be similar to the f/1.4 version. It is more than 3 times cheaper than the 85mm f/1.4, but it is definitely not 3 times worse! When I evaluate lenses, I always pay extra attention to their price to performance ratio. Without even having this lens in my hands (which I will shortly), I can tell you that it will be phenomenal. Similar to the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G, I expect it to have better wide-open performance than the f/1.4 version. And since there is less focus rotation taking place, its AF performance should also be slightly faster. And on top of all this, it weighs half as much as the 85mm f/1.4G! Now that’s a great value. Why is the f/1.4 version so much more expensive? Because you pay a premium for the best glass out there. Nissan GTR costs 10 times less than Bugatti Veyron and yet it is an incredibly fast machine. It may not have the same best quality interior, exterior and the engine, but it has a phenomenal price to performance ratio. The same with slower f/1.8 lenses – they do not have the best glass, optical design and other bells and whistles, but they deliver a lot of value.

Lastly, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G will autofocus on all Nikon DSLRs, including the entry-level DSLRs like Nikon D3100 and D5100. The older Nikon 85mm f/1.8D did not have an internal focus, so autofocus would not work on cheaper DSLRs with no AF motor.

Here are some lens specifications from NikonUSA:

  1. Mount Type: Nikon F-Bayonet
  2. Focal Length: 85mm
  3. Maximum Aperture: f/1.8
  4. Minimum Aperture: f/16
  5. Format: FX/35mm, DX
  6. Maximum Angle of View (DX-format): 18°50′
  7. Maximum Angle of View (FX-format): 28°30′
  8. Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 0.12x
  9. Lens Elements: 9
  10. Lens Groups: 9
  11. Compatible Format(s): FX, DX, FX in DX Crop Mode, 35mm Film
  12. Diaphragm Blades: 7
  13. Distance Information: Yes
  14. Super Integrated Coating: Yes
  15. Autofocus: Yes
  16. AF-S (Silent Wave Motor): Yes
  17. Internal Focusing: Yes
  18. Minimum Focus Distance: 2.62 ft.
  19. Focus Mode: Auto, Manual
  20. G-type: Yes
  21. Filter Size: 67mm
  22. Accepts Filter Type: Screw-on
  23. Dimensions (Approx.): 3.1×2.9 in. (Diameter x Length), 80x73mm (Diameter x Length)
  24. Weight (Approx.): 12.4 oz. (350g)
  25. Supplied Accessories: LC-6 Snap-on Front Lens Cap, HB-62 Bayonet Lens Hood, LF-4 Rear Lens Cap, CL-1015 Semi-soft Lens Case

And here is the 85mm f/1.8G MTF chart (left), compared to the 85mm f/1.4G MTF (right):

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G MTF Nikon 85mm f/1.4G MTF

Now keep in mind that this MTF chart only shows wide open performance at f/1.8 and f/1.4, respectively. The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G should have more resolution, especially when stopped down on high-resolution cameras.

I will provide much more detailed comparisons between the two lenses in February, so stay tuned!

B&H is accepting pre-orders for the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G.
Adorama is accepting pre-orders for the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G.


Avatar of Nasim Mansurov About Nasim Mansurov

is a professional photographer based out of Denver, Colorado. He is the author and founder of Photography Life, along with a number of other online resources. Read more about Nasim here.

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Brian

    I hope it will be as good as the 50mm f1.8G, but this 85mm doesn’t have an aspherical element! Can’t wait to see how it holds up against its MUCH more expensive older brother..

    • Brian, it is OK, the 85mm f/1.4G does not have an aspherical element either :) All in all, the lens design is very familiar to the f/1.4G – there is only one less element.

  2. 3
    ) Jay

    Should one trade a 85mm 1.4 D for this 85 1.8 G?

    • Jay, wait till I do my review – I should have all 85mm lenses for testing soon, including Sigma and Samyang. I would not trade the f/1.4D for the f/1.8G version, unless you do not use it as much and want to make some money :)

      • 5
        ) Jay

        Thanks Nasim! I love the 1.4 D but I am getting frustrated with problem focusing and I do not want to shell another $ 850.00 when selling my 1.4 D for the 1.4 G.

        I will wait for your review. Thanks again!

        • Jay, 85mm can be tough to focus – the 85mm f/1.4G is better than the older AF-D version, but it all depends on the amount of ambient light. It is superb in daylight and can be a pain in the ass indoors. I will definitely do a lot of tests with the f/1.8G version both indoors and outdoors…

        • 7
          ) David

          I would not have dreamt about getting rid of my cream machine, 85 1.4 AF-D. It is an amazing lens, my sample produces phenomenal separation and almost 3-D quality that very few lenses can produce. I owned 85 1.8 AF-D and it was a major disappointment in comparison with 85 1.4 AF-D, and I am not talking about a built. Talking about a resulting pic quality. It just lacked … a character that 85 1.4D has. AF Speed on my 85 1.4 AF-D with D700 is excellent. I know that 85 1.4 AF-G is even better, but to me not twice the price better. I think 85 1.8 AF-G would probably be a reliable but boring lens. I know Nikon had to upgrade 85 1.8 AF-D so those with motorless bodies like D5100 could use AF. I am sure Nasim will do an excellent comparison between the four lenses + the Sigma.

          • David, I have not used the 85mm f/1.8D, but I have heard similar things that it does not quite stand up against the mighty f/1.4D! I have high hopes for the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G though, we’ll see how it fares in comparison.

            My biggest reason for trading the 85mm f/1.4D for the “G” version was its AF. While it was fast and reasonably good in daylight, it was just too inaccurate in low-light. The new “G” version is better, but not a world better – it still suffers in low-light a little and requires good technique to nail the focus. But that’s the nature of fast telephoto lenses with such focal length.

  3. 8
    ) Bassam

    we can use that lens (85mm) for indoors and family shooting. or you prefer (35mm) for that job. can you explain the diffrent between each one. please. even the diffrent between 1.8 and 1.4 / f.
    thank you.

    • Bassam, if you need a general lens, the 35mm would be a much better option. 85mm is too long for indoors photography on a DX body.

      • 40
        ) Bassam

        thanks Mr. Nasim for that. but can you explain to me the min. and the max. distance bewteen the object and camera if we use (35mm and 50mm and 85mm).
        because i still confuse about which is good for family indoor and family party.

  4. 9
    ) James

    I’ll stick to my Nikon 70-300 for portraits, love it!

    • James, that’s a good lens too, but you have to shoot wide open at long focal lengths and stand as close as possible to get the best results :)

  5. 10
    ) Carl TightShooster

    Waited long for this lens and like to exchange it with my 1.8D version.
    /K

    • Carl, I will provide some test results comparing it to the 1.8D version, so stay tuned!

      • That’s great Nasim, the 50mm AF-S 1.8 was an improvement
        So hopefully this lens too.
        /K

  6. 11
    ) Kim

    Thank you Nasim! I look forward to your review. As a hobbyist, I wonder if I should sell my 85 1.4g and go for this as a lower-cost option. Sounds like it will be very similar for my needs.

    • Kim, I would not trade the f/1.4G for the f/1.8G, unless you do not use it as much and need the money…

      • 26
        ) Kim

        Thanks Nasim, I appreciate the reply! Nope thankfully not a need, just a musing. I would probably “invest” (i.e. spend) the $$ in photography wants again, :) so I think I will stay with my original investment of the 85 1.4g. I do enjoy it greatly.

  7. 12
    ) Wilson

    Hi Nasim,

    I’d like to say that this is one of the best photography sites I’ve seen. I’ve learnt so much from your site since I discovered it 2 months ago, so thank you for all the great work!

    I’m looking forward to your upcoming review of the new 85mm f/1.8 lens; meanwhile I’ve a question regarding the VR on primes. My understanding is that the longer the focal length is, the more it will be impacted by the camera shake; however it seems to me all the primes with the focal length less than 105mm don’t have a VR equipped. I guess it might be because primes usually have large aperture (f/1.4 – f/2.8). Does it make sense to add VR on 85mm or even 50mm lenses and make them perform even better in the low light situation?

    • Wilson, I appreciate your feedback :)

      VR always make sense to add. It is unfortunate that lens manufacturers play this stupid marketing game with us by not adding VR to primes. We will have to wait until one of them starts the trend, so that everyone else follows. Anything above 50mm really needs VR. In fact, even wide-angle lenses benefit from VR – take a look at the 16-35mm f/4 VR!

      • 27
        ) Wilson

        Nasim, thanks for sharing your view on this. It makes more sense to me from the marketing rather than technical/practical perspective.

        The 16-35mm f/4 VR is definitely a lens in my wish list, especially after reading your wonderful review :).

        • You are most welcome Wilson! One day I’m sure we will see primes with VR, hopefully within the next 5 years :)

  8. 13
    ) Peter

    Nasim,
    Thanks for the many great reviews you have on this site. I took your advise on the 50 1.8G and could not be any happier. That thing is light, fast and sharp and much creamier than my old 1.8D. Was thinking of asking you to do the same thing with the 85 1.8G. I know you would.
    Well you know what crowd I’m in: the ones who want some decent glasses but cannot afford them :)
    Looking forward to your review!

    • Peter, I am glad you are liking that 50mm, it is a great lens! Will certainly do very similar comparisons with the 85mm as well, so stay tuned! :)

  9. 14
    ) Fahd

    Nasim;

    Now you are confusing me :(
    what I should buy for my D7000 the 35mm or the 50mm or this new lens
    I want a lens for portraits give me a sharp and colorful shot.
    the main use of it will be indoor portraits, occasions, family group portraits, outdoor portraits for my peoncy
    I know it’s a lot of subjects for one lens but what is the best one I can buy it to deliver me this purposes

    • 15
      ) Adele

      Fahd,

      I’m also owner of a D7000 and use the Micro Nikkor DX 40mm/2.8 for general purpose and the Micro-Nikkor 60mm/2.8 for Portraits. Both lenses are excellent and very sharp. The 60mm is the ideal portrait lens for DX IMHO.

      The 85mm would be too long for Indoor Shootings. The reason is the DX crop factor of 1.5 which turns a 85mm into 127,5mm on a D7000.

      BTW I used to have the Nikkor DX 35/1.8 but replaced it with the 40mm as I wasn’t satisfied at all with it’s performance on the D7000.

      • I fully agree with you Adele, although I’m surprised you didn’t like the 35mm. It does have a few optical issues (some heavy chromatic aberration), but it is a sharp little gem!

        • 30
          ) Adele

          CA and the other stuff that I can almost always correct easily in Lightroom didn’t bother me much. I just couldn’t make really sharp photos with the 35/1.8.
          After eliminating AF as the possible reason, I suspected that it couldn’t deliver enough resolution to satisfy the 16MP chip of the D7000. The very good ratings this lens always gets seem to be mostly based on tests made on 12MP DSLRs after all. But on the other hand the MTF of this lens looks really good resolution and contrast wise!?! . So either this was the case or my 35/1.8 badly needed some calibration.

          Anyway, after replacing the 35/1.8 with the 40mm, and the 18-200mm kit lens, which was an even bigger disappointment to me, with a Tokina 12-24/4 and a Nikkor 24-120/4, now I really enjoy using the fantastic D7000 everyday :-).

          Thanks for your excellent reviews of the 24-120/4 and the 24-70/2.8 by the way. They helped me a lot make the decision between the two lenses. Keep the good work!

          • Adele, I am more than positive you had a bad 35mm f/1.8G :) I have a bunch of friends and readers that use the D7000 + 35mm combo and they are very happy. Some even use the lens on full-frame cameras!

            I understand your frustration with the 18-200mm – I personally dislike that lens as well, for its performance reasons.

            • 38
              ) Sani

              Dear Adele,

              I can assure you that the 35mm that I have is very sharp on my D7000. So, I have to agree with Nasim here that probably you’ve got a bad copy. Maybe you should try another copy of the lens just to be sure.

    • Fahd, looks like you need an everyday lens for your D7000, so the 35mm or the 50mm would be a better fit than this new 85mm. Think of the 85mm as a dedicated portrait lens that you would only use for portraits. Forget about using it indoors, unless you have a very spacious house – with a 1.5x multiplier, the lens would be equivalent to a 128mm lens, which is just too darn long. Outside though, it is perfect!

  10. 28
    ) Sandra

    Will the 9 elements in 9 groups make up for the 7 blades?

    • 29
      ) David

      Nine blades generally make a nicer, more pleasing bokeh. I don’t think it is an issue of cost as much as Nikon wants to differentiate between cheaper consumer primes (7 blades) vs better higher level primes (9 blades). Nikon was making 9 blades as early as in their 50mm F/1.2 Ai-S lens. So it is not hard or expensive to put 2 more blades in.

      • 31
        ) Sandra

        Isn’t the 85 1.8D 9 blades? Why would they make the newer version 7 blade?

        • 32
          ) David

          You are right, that does not make sense, but i am sure it was purely a marketing decision for Nikon

        • Sandra, old Nikkor glass used to have 7/9 straight blades. Now all the new lenses have “rounded” blades, which compensate for the number of blades. A 7 blade rounded diaphragm will produce much better bokeh than a 7 blade straight diaphragm…

          The new Nikon 50mm f/1.8G has less blades than the f/1.4G version, but its bokeh is round and very comparable!

          • 37
            ) Sandra

            Good to know, Nasim! Thanks so much…off to explore the bokeh of the 50 1.8 vs the 1.4…just to appease my curiosity.

  11. 39
    ) David Bailey

    First of all Nasim your website is amazing, your tips and advice are proving invaluable.

    I am looking to turen my keen hobby into a part time profession andlive up to my name.
    I want start of on portraits and create a home studio, which lens/lenses would be top of your list?
    I am currently using a d3100 however looking to upgrade to fx sometime later this year.

    Kind Regards

    Dave.

  12. 41
    ) Edna Lyn Tan

    Hola Nasim,

    Your website is so helpful to photograph enthusiasts like me.

    I’d like to try portraiture and wedding photography but I’m so overwhelmed with the array of lenses. I only have a Nikon D3100 and I’d liek to improve with the lens. I was on the verge of buying the “multi-purpose lens of Nikon” but had doubts because of its price.

    I’m so glad I’ve come across your page and read your lens reviews. I’m convinced about your review on the 50m f/1.8G. I intend to buy one, however I’ll hold up everything until you make your review about the 85mf/1.8G. I’m looking forward to your comments about it. Is it better than the 50m? Do you think it’s better to have the 85m than the 50m?

    Your upcoming review will definitely help me save some money.

    Thank you.

    Best regards.

    Edna

  13. 42
    ) Edna Lyn Tan

    Sorry about the typo error. It should be 85mm, 50mm.

  14. 43
    ) wira

    so, what do you the better choices between 85mm 1.8G and 50mm 1.4G? what do you recommend the most?

    Wira

  15. 44
    ) francis

    i am excited to get this lens… i am using a DX body, a D90…but i find it a good investment since i am getting a lens which is also suited for an FX body… if i upgrade to a FX body, i have the lens already.

    can’t wait for your review.

  16. 45
    ) Ozmanguday

    Hi Nasim,

    Really enjoy your website since I discovered it a while ago.

    I will be using a D7000 (+back-up camera) for wedding and event shoots. Besides taking some shots outside, it will be more of a “indoor” thing. I really would like a 70-200 because of it versatility, however, I can not justify the price (yet) due to my budget.
    I am seriously thinking of getting a 85mm for use it “tele” ability as I would like to shoot emotions without being too present. I know 127,5 could seem long to some for indoor, though I had shot a wedding with D60 + 35mm 1.8, a nikon 55-200 VR, plus SB-600. The reach of this 55-200 was very satisfying for me, though, I had to use flash, and even though I was too critical on my own results, I managed to trigger a lot of emotions with the shoot, and my wedding couple and relatives were more than happy!

    So, for now, I am still thinking on getting the 85mm as I feel I can handle the focal length (even have considered of a 105DC / 135DC f2.0 ).

    I long for the Sigma 85mm 1.4 as I have read good reviews about it. If I were to purchase a 1.4, it would most likely be the Sigma simply due to it’s price in combination with my budget. But before it I go into whether I’d go for a Sigma or Nikon, I would like to know if the stop difference between 1.4 and 1.8 is would make a huge difference in terms of low-light, as the difference is rather small. So, would I have a major advantage in getting the 1.4 over the 1.8 in terms of light, not bokeh (for me the bokeh is not the most important thing here, I could well live with a 1.8 bokeh)? So, would it be worth it to select the 1.4 over the 1.8 in my case?

    (…and I eager to read your review on the 85mm’s Sigma / Nikon 1.8G etc etc when available).

    Regards.

  17. 46
    ) Janelle

    Hello,

    I was wondering if when you do your review for this lens, you would also compare it with the 50mm 1.8G lens. I would sure appreciate it. I’m thinkiing about getting it for portraits (just family, friends, and children at church, etc…), but if the picture quality is similar to the 50mm, then I’ll probably just stick to the one lens. I don’t really need a full-blown comparison, but I would appreciate knowing what your assessment of the two lenses is, distance to the subject not being a factor. Thanks so much.
    ps–Thank you for all of your wonderful information on this website. It has been a big help to me.

  18. 47
    ) Chris

    Hello!

    I was also wondering what other lens to buy with my trusty Nikon D7000.

    I already have a 50mm f/1.8 & 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 and I love both of them. I mostly do portrait photos so I feel the new 85mm f/1.8G would be best for me, since most of my portraits are outdoors and if I need to do indoors i’ll either use my 50mm or 70-300mm and get real close XD

    Any positive feedback would be appreciated, love your review on the 50mm which made me consider buying it!

  19. 48
    ) LaJean

    I’m excited to say that I’ve placed my order for the new Nikon 85mm f/1.8G AF-S FX Nikkor Lens & can’t wait to receive it. Sure hope that I’m not disappointed with this lens!

    I also have the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D Auto Focus AF Nikkor Lens. Will this lens be good for photographing a Bride getting prepared for her wedding, indoors?

    • 49
      ) Ozmanguday

      I think a 50mm will do fine, providing you have enough space to move around, and if you want to make close-ups. Are you using DX or FX?

  20. 50
    ) Obed

    Hi Nasim, I’m eagerly awaiting your review of this lens before i place my order. Are you ever going to review it? I can’t afford the professional 85mm 1.4g or 70-200 f2.8 VRII, so i’m hoping this lens would be a good compromise

  21. 51
    ) John D.

    Hi Nazim, has Nikon started to ship the new 85mm 1.8G lens? Is your review of this lens to be published soon, I am waiting for tis review before deciding on the 50mm 1.8G vs the 85mm 1.8G. Really looking forward to it.

    Thank You for all the great reviews you provide us on this fantastic website.
    Regards.

  22. 52
    ) Finn

    Hi Nasim,
    I have just sold the 85 1.8D yesterday and now I am looking for a better 85mm lens. Thus, I really hope that I will soon be able to read your review about them. My choices now are 85 1.8G, Sigma 85 1.4 and 85 1.4D.

    Looking forward to see your good review
    Regards,
    Finn

  23. 53
    ) Twig

    Nasim, so far every article you have written has more than kept my interest. Your comments on lenses caused me to ask about the older Nikon 35-70mm f/1:2.8D lens. I was wondering about your experience with this lens.

    I was having a hard time justifying the 24-70mm after investing in the D800 (still waiting). All of the sample images with the 35-70mm I was able to see were just fantastic and other reviews were very favorable. I bought one on ebay (following reading your article on dealing with products on their site) and I believe I struck a great bargain, will be able to shoot some with my D300 tomorrow.
    Thanks in advance ~

  24. 54
    ) Mike

    Nasim,

    Would you recommend this lens for IR use with a filter or on a converted DSLR?

    Thanks,
    Mike

  25. Have you posted your comparisons yet?

  26. Excellent is the only word i can give u for this wonderful blog, keep it up. I will come back again to read some more interesting things on this topic

  27. 58
    ) Ana

    Thanks to all of your comments. I´m from Argentina and my question is how does the 85mm 1.8 work by indoor sports? Would you recommend it? I can not buy any other. I will apreciate any suggestion. Thanks

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