Nikon 85mm f/1.8G Review

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This is an in-depth Nikon 85mm f/1.8G review of the new, much anticipated prime portrait lens that was announced in January of 2012. The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is a consumer-grade portrait lens for enthusiasts and seasonal pros that need quality optics of a fixed portrait lens at an affordable price point. Its large aperture of f/1.8 is great for low-light photography and the shallow depth of field helps isolate subjects from the background, beautifully rendering the background highlights, also known as bokeh.

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G replaces the older Nikon 85mm f/1.8D lens that had been in production since 1994. Compared to the AF-D version that has 6 optical elements in 6 groups, the new 85mm f/1.8G has a very different optical design with 9 optical elements in 9 groups. You would think with so much glass inside the new 85mm f/1.8G would weigh more than its predecessor, but in reality it actually weighs 30 grams less. The lens is designed to work on both DX (cropped-sensor) and FX (full-frame) cameras from Nikon. On DX sensors, the lens is equivalent to a 128mm lens, which is a good range for portraiture, but may be a little too long for most other types of photography.

Just like the old Nikon 85mm f/1.8D, the front lens element of the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G does not extend or rotate during autofocus operations, which makes the lens more durable and also makes it easy to use circular filters and filter holders. In addition to the above-mentioned optical improvements, the lens incorporates silent wave motor (AF-S), which not only provides near silent focus operation, but also allows the lens to be fully used on entry-level DSLRs such as Nikon D3100 and Nikon D5100 (the older Nikon 85mm f/1.8D cannot autofocus on entry-level DSLRs without a focus motor). In addition, the AF-S motor gives the ability to use autofocus with a manual focus override, which you cannot do on any of the AF-D prime lenses. Just like the older AF-D cousin, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G also has Super Integrated Coating, which helps reduce lens flare and ghosting. And unlike the 85mm f/1.8D, which had a 9-blade diaphragm, the 85mm f/1.8G has a 7-blade diaphragm. This might sounds like a downgrade, but it is actually not – the 7-blade diaphragm used on modern Nikkor lenses is rounded, while the old ones are straight. This means that bokeh on a 7-blade rounded diaphragm lens could actually look as good or better than on a 9-blade straight diaphragm. The heptagon-shaped bokeh that is produced by the older lenses is generally not visible at large apertures and is only noticeable when stopped down to f/2.8 or more, as seen in the bokeh comparisons below.

Nikon D800 Sample (20)

NIKON D800 + 85mm f/1.8 @ 85mm, ISO 800, 1/40, f/4.0

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G Sample #3

NIKON D700 + 85mm f/1.8 @ 85mm, ISO 200, 1/200, f/8.0

In this review, I will provide a thorough analysis of the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G lens, along with image samples and comparisons against the professional Nikon 85mm f/1.4G and the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G.

1) Lens Specifications

Main Features:

  1. Internal Nikon Silent Wave Motor (SWM) powered Focus (IF) system provides fast, accurate and quiet AF and helps produce sharp and clear images at all apertures.
  2. M/A focus mode switch enables quick changes between manual and autofocus operation if needed.
  3. Nikon Super Integrated Coating (SIC) enhances light transmission efficiency and offers superior color consistency and reduced flare.
Nikon D800 Sample (40)

NIKON D800 + 85mm f/1.8 @ 85mm, ISO 100, 1/320, f/5.6

Technical Specifications:

  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 (rounded)
  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./0.8 m
  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

Detailed specifications for the lens, along with MTF charts and other useful data can be found in our lens database.

Nikon D800 - Night AF Sample 2

NIKON D800 + 85mm f/1.8 @ 85mm, ISO 3200, 1/200, f/2.0

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