Today Nikon announced a highly anticipated full-frame portrait lens for its Z mount, the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S. After the release of the high performance primes like the Nikon Z 35mm f/1.8 S and Z 50mm f/1.8 S (which we praised for their stunning optical performance in our reviews) we know that Nikon is not going to disappoint with this release. Thanks to its advanced optical formula comprising of 12 elements in 8 groups (2 of which are Extra-Low Dispersion), as well as Nikon’s latest coatings, the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S should be a stellar choice for portrait photography, delivering superb sharpness and bokeh characteristics.
In addition, the lens shares most of the features of its f/1.8 Z mount counterparts, with a fast and quiet stepping motor, a nine-blade rounded aperture, dust and moisture sealing and similar controls. The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S also shares a similar look and feel as the other two primes. Due to the larger front element, the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S has a slightly larger filter size of 67mm vs 62mm on Z 35mm f/1.8 S and Z 50mm f/1.8 S, and it comes with a larger hood as well.
The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S is priced a bit closer to the 35mm f/1.8 S at $799 MSRP, which is significantly more expensive than its Nikon 85mm f/1.8G counterpart that retails for $479 today. While this might sound upsetting for Nikon shooters, keep in mind that the new Z mount lenses deliver a completely different level of optical performance compared to Nikon F lenses.
I have gone over these differences in my reviews of the Z mount lenses, but just to reiterate, take a look at the MTF chart of the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S and compare it to the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G:
Look at the two blue lines on the Nikon Z and compare them to the ones on the 85mm f/1.8G. See how much higher they are in comparison? That’s a sign of extreme sharpness wide open at f/1.8! In addition to this, we can expect the Z 85mm f/1.8 S to deliver superb contrast, as well as bokeh (see how to read MTF charts).
Now let’s compare the MTF charts to the classic Nikon 85mm f/1.4G “cream machine”:
I know what you are thinking – sharpness is not critical for a portrait lens. And I certainly agree! However, keep in mind that with the increase of camera resolution in the future, Nikon’s 85mm lenses are going to have a hard time resolving enough detail. Unfortunately, megapixel wars are going to continue whether we like them or not, and if Nikon does not address these gaps, someone else will. That’s why Nikon’s strategy with the Z mount is to bring a new generation of future-proof glass that will be good enough for many years to come.
In fact, the MTF charts of the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S look even better than those of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4, which is the most expensive 85mm lens on the market for DSLR cameras, thanks to its $4500 price tag.
In short, we are not just getting “yet another f/1.8 lens”. The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S is a whole different animal…
I am personally very excited about this portrait lens. We might need to wait for the Z 85mm f/1.4 S version to get a real “cream machine”, but at the moment, it looks like Nikon has managed to make yet another killer lens for the Z mount.
Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S Press-Release
Below is the official press release for the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S:
MELVILLE, NY (July 31, 2019 at 12:01 A.M. EDT) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens, bringing a fast prime with a classic medium telephoto focal length to Z series full-frame mirrorless cameras. Ideal for headshots, fashion, wedding/event photography and tight video shots, the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S is designed to take full advantage of the wider, brighter and faster Z mount. This new addition to the S-Line delivers exceptional sharpness all the way to the corners of the frame, even at f/1.8, while integrating the latest NIKKOR optical technologies for intense rendering capability. Nikon Z series photographers and videographers who want to bring striking clarity to a subject’s eyes or who demand shallow depth of field and beautiful, natural bokeh will find the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S a welcome addition to their kit.
“The NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S lens is so sharp, yet the background blur is so natural; the incredible detail captured with this lens is nothing short of striking,” said Jay Vannatter, Executive Vice President, Nikon Inc. “For fashion and portrait photographers, to wedding shooters and all types of videographers, now is the time to discover why the new NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 will be an indispensable asset for those creatives who are familiar with the outstanding performance of the Nikon Z series.”
NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S
With the addition of the new 85mm f/1.8 S, Nikon Z series photo and video shooters now have a native Z mount option for capturing incredible portraits, fashion photography, event images, tight interview shots or B-roll footage that add emphasis to any scene. This is also the latest lens to join the NIKKOR S-Line, representing pinnacle in optical superiority and construction.
The NIKKOR Z 85mm’s fast f/1.8 maximum aperture allows users to confidently shoot in low light and capture gorgeous, shallow depth of field that adds dimensionality and character to high-resolution images and 4K video footage alike. Helping to provide a natural look is a lens diaphragm consisting of nine rounded blades, which produce smooth, natural bokeh that gently leads the viewer’s eye to the subject of the frame. With the addition of Eye-Detection autofocus included in the recent release of Firmware 2.0, the Nikon Z series cameras and NIKKOR Z lenses offer even more control and capabilities when capturing stunning portraits and candids.
This lens uses an all-new optical design of 12 elements in 8 groups and features the industry-leading lens technology consumers have come to expect from NIKKOR glass. Two Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) elements help ensure minimal aberration, while Nikon’s patented Nano Crystal Coating offers superior control of ghosting and flare. Additionally, the high-speed Multi-Focus System realizes superior resolving power at minimum focus distance. These cutting-edge features are protected from the elements by Nikon’s professional-grade dust and drip resistance.
As with all NIKKOR Z S-Line lenses, the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S is crafted to cater to the needs of videographers as well as image-makers. The lens features ultra-quiet focus motors, minimized focus breathing, a customizable control ring for smooth adjustment of aperture or exposure compensation, and full compatibility with the in-body 5-axis VR found in the Nikon Z 6 and Z 7 full-frame mirrorless cameras.
NIKKOR Z S-Line
The NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S joins the superb “S-Line” of NIKKOR Z lenses. Designed alongside the revolutionary Nikon Z mount system, S-Line lenses boast superior resolution, beautiful bokeh rendition, exceptional point-image reproduction, enhanced video recording performance and unmatched edge-to-edge sharpness, even when shooting at the maximum aperture.
Born out of Nikon’s heritage of optical excellence, the S-Line sits at the cutting edge of imaging technology and innovation and represents a new potential for image expression.
Price and Availability
The NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S will be available in September 2019 at a suggested retail price (SRP) of $799.95*. For more information on the latest Nikon products, including the new NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S and the full Nikon Z mount system, please visit www.nikonusa.com.
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