Nikon 85mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 85mm f/1.4D
Without a doubt, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G out-resolves the 85mm f/1.4D in terms of resolution. Not only because the 85mm f/1.4G is a newer lens, but also because the f/1.4D was designed for film cameras, so its mid-frame and corner performance definitely suffer more as a result. I have not had a chance to measure the 85mm f/1.4D using Imatest (since the lens has not been available for a while now), but I have personally owned the 85mm f/1.4D and compared the two lenses side by side in terms of sharpness photographing a printed test chart a while ago. The results showed that the two lenses were pretty close in the center in terms of resolution, but when it came to mid-frame and corner performance, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G was vastly better. Below is a summary of other findings when comparing the two lenses:
- The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G focuses more accurately than 85mm f/1.4D, especially in low-light environments (despite having slower autofocus).
- The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is sharper in the corners when shooting at maximum aperture of f/1.4.
- The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G gets as sharp in the corners as in the center when stopped down to f/2.8, whereas the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D never gets sharp in the corners, even at f/8.
- The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G has much less CA/fringing and works better against ghosting and flares than the 85mm f/1.4D. It also handles corner coma better.
- The manual focus override in M/A mode on the AF-S is a world better than the clumsy switch on the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D that needs to be changed every time you switch from manual focus to autofocus and vice-versa.
- Because the metal hood is attached to the filter thread of the AF-D lens, the lens cap would never sit right on the front of the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D, whereas the new 85mm f/1.4G does not have this problem – the hood has been replaced with a plastic bayonet hood that does not use the filter thread, so the lens cap could be put on and taken out very easily.
- The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is about 35 grams heavier and slightly taller than the 85mm f/1.4D.
- The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is quieter than the 85mm f/1.4D due to Silent Wave Motor.
- The Nikon 85mm f/1.4G focuses slower than 85mm f/1.4D and shows more vignetting at f/1.4.
With the exception of the last line, everything above says that the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is much better than the 85mm f/1.4D.
So, how slow is autofocus when compared to the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D? Take a look at the following video that I took earlier today:
Keep in mind that while the motor speed might be faster on the 85mm f/1.4D, its accuracy is much worse when compared to the 85mm f/1.4G.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G does when compared to its smaller, lighter, cheaper and newer f/1.8G sibling:
As you can see, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G looks very good, outperforming its big brother in the center frame. It starts out stronger in the corners, but suffers there when stopped down due to field curvature. Stopped down, both lenses do really well, but the larger and heavier 85mm f/1.4G shows better edge performance.
At the end of the day, the main difference between these lenses is how they are able to render images. Both lenses render beautifully without a doubt, but the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is 2/3 of a stop faster, which puts it at an advantage in terms of subject isolation – at the same camera to subject distance, it is able to yield more aesthetically pleasing images, showing larger bokeh highlights and more out of focus background.
Also, don’t forget that the 85mm f/1.4G is a pro-level lens, which means that it comes with better build quality, higher quality glass inside, Nano-coating, 9-blade diaphragm vs 7 (for better bokeh when stopped down) and Nikon NPS support. For most enthusiasts wanting to get great portraits, the 85mm f/1.8G would do a phenomenal job, but those who want a pro-grade lens that stands a level above in terms of rendering capability are still better off with the 85mm f/1.4G. Personally, I own both and use them quite a bit professionally. I prefer the 85mm f/1.8G for its faster and more reliable focusing, but if I want to shoot wide open and get amazing bokeh, the 85mm f/1.4G still has its place in my bag.
Nikon 85mm f/1.4G vs Nikon 105mm f/1.4E
The next lens to compare the sharpness to is the newer Nikon 105mm f/1.4E, which is a remarkable lens, as you can see below:
We can clearly see that the 105mm f/1.4E is an optical marvel – at wide-open apertures, it out-resolves the 85mm f/1.4G by a pretty noticeable margin. The difference in performance becomes even more noticeable with both lenses stopped down. At f/2.8, the 105mm f/1.4E is insanely sharp, reaching resolution numbers that most other lenses cannot even reach when stopped down to f/5.6. Still, having been using the 85mm f/1.4G for such a long time, I rarely complained about its sharpness, since images are so dreamy to look at. Unless you shoot with a high-resolution camera like the Nikon D850, the softer look of images at f/1.4 probably won’t bother you that much and if it does, you can always stop it down a little to get a bit more crispness out of the lens.
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