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Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G Lens Review

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G  


February 2012 (update March 2013)
(tested with Nikon D7000, D600)

The Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G was announced in January this year and made available for sale as of February 17th in the US. This lens replaces the AF 85mm f/1.8D lens. This new version has a built in silent wave motor (SWM), which means it will auto focus with all of Nikon's DSLRs, including the entry levels such as the D3100 and D5100. This is a full frame (FX) lens which will work fine on both FX and DX cameras. With a DX camera the effective field of view is 127mm.

The lens is made mostly of plastic. The focus ring is rubber coated and turns smoothly. The lens mount is metal and includes a rubber gasket. The lens has a super integrated coating to help prevent flare. The lens has a distance meter and a standard Nikon manual focus switch. Autofocus can also be overidden just by turning the focus ring. I found the autofocus to be fast. Maybe not as fast as Nikon's pro lenses, but fast enough for most uses. The front element doesn't rotate, so the use of a polarizer is no problem. The filter size is 67mm, larger than the 62mm size of the AF 85mm f/1.8D. This newer lens is also larger in overall size, but weighs less than the AF D version.

Before shooting with the lens I used Lens Align to adjust the focus with the D7000's AF Fine Tune. My camera/lens combo needed an adjustment of +3. Sharpness in the center of the lens at f/1.8 is excellent and gets even better by f/5.6. The borders are just a bit soft wide open, with the corners being softer still. A few stops down from the maximum aperture and sharpness for both is very good. I imagine that they will be somewhat softer when using an FX camera. I found peak sharpness was at f/5.6. Diffraction starts to occur at f/8, but is barely noticable at that point.

I didn't notice any distortion to speak of. Vignetting on a DX sensor is only slightly visible at f/1.8. One stop down and it's all but eliminated. There was some chromatic aberration visible wide open. Stopping down the lens improves it. Overall it's not really an issue. It's easily corrected with post processing or in camera (if available). Flare isn't a problem whatsoever. I found the bokeh to be very good wide open, better at f/2.8 (see below for sample images).

I did a comparison of the AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens with an AF 85mm f/1.8D lens. Shots were taken at f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4, and f/8. These are JPGs with in camera sharpening of +4 and no post processing. Here's the original AFS f/1.8 photo resized:

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G full

You can see the full size original here (large file).

These examples are 100% crops from the center of the image:

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/1.8 Center

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/1.8 Center

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/2.8 Center

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/2.8 Center

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/4 Center

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/4 Center

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/8 Center

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/8 Center

Based on these samples I would say the AF-S 85mm f/1.8G is sharper at all apertures and has better contrast.

These examples are 100% crops from the upper left corner of the image:

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/1.8 Corner

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/1.8 Corner

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/4 Corner

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/4 Corner

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/8 Corner

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/8 Corner

Based on these examples the AF-S 85mm f/1.8G appears slightly sharper in the corner wide open but just about the same at the other apertures.

The next examples compare the bokeh of the two lenses. Shots were taken at f/1.8 and f/2.8. I'll admit these aren't the best examples of bokeh. When I get a chance I'll take different comparison shots. (Note - for the AF D f/1.8 shot I missed the focus a bit on the tree  - I knocked the focus point off center and didn't realize it).

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/1.8 Bokeh

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/1.8 Bokeh

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G @ f/2.8 Bokeh

Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D @ f/2.8 Bokeh

Based on these examples I'd say the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G appears to have the better bokeh. But since bokeh quality is subjective your opinion may vary.

Overall I'd say the new AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens is better than the older AF D version in just about every way. Autofocus is much faster and the image quality appears to be better. That's saying something since the image quality of the older version has always been highly regarded. I've never had an 85mm lens in my bag (I borrowed the AF D version for the comparison shots). I wasn't planning on keeping the new AF-S version but I like it so much it's staying in my bag.

Update March 2013 - Since I made the switch to full frame (FX), I've been trying out all my lenses with my new Nikon D600 DSLR camera. The large sensor of the D600 really shows off the resolution of the 85mm f/1.8G. This lens is ultra sharp on the D600. If you own a D600 and take portraits I would say this lens is a must have. I guess the 85mm f/1.4G could be a must have too, but at the much cheaper price the f/1.8 version is a bargain.



Focal length 85mm
Maximum aperture f/1.8
Minimum aperture f/16
Lens Construction 9 elements in 9 groups
Angle of view 28o30' (18o50' with DX format)
Closest focusing distance 2.62 ft
Maximum reproduction ratio 0.12x
Number of diaphragm blades 7
Auto focus type AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)
Filter diameter 67 mm
Macro No
Dimensions 80 mm (3.1 in) x 73 mm (2.9 in)(Diameter x Length)
Weight 350g (12.4 oz)

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