Nikon Nikkor AF-S 85/1 lens review and testing.8 G FX on a Nikon D700.

Do you love the 85mm focal length the way I do, or have you just not “learned how to cook it” yet? 85mm lenses are considered “classic portrait lenses”, but I would not limit their applicability to portraits only: I used to carry a set of two lenses – 35mm and 85mm – in my bag for many years and they were good enough for most of my work as an amateur photographer. I shoot portraits rarely and the “eighty-footer” was successful in the role of a moderate TV.

Photo lenses

The hero of today’s review is the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 85/1.8 G: the lens was announced in January and went on sale in March-April 2012. The Nikon Nikkor 85mm full-frame lens lineup currently consists of an impressive 5 models in ascending order of price :

  • Nikon Nikkor AF 85/1.8 D – $450

  • Nikon Nikon AF-S 85/1.8 G – $500

  • Nikon Nikkor AF 85/1.4 D IF – $960

  • Nikon Nikon AF-S 85/1.4 G is $1,650

  • Nikon PC-E micro Nikkor 85/2.8 D – $1,830

Full-frame Nikon owners also have the non-autofocus Zeiss Planar T 85/1.4 ZF.2 $1,285 and Samyang/Rokinon/Bower 85/1.4 $300/285/255 and a nice autofocus Sigma AF 85/1.4 EX DG HSM for $970.

My fondness for the 85mm focal length was rewarded with a chance to work with three representatives of this family at the same time and make an initially incorrect comparison of today’s hero of the review with the analogue from the main competitor – Canon EF 85/1.8 USM, diluting it with impressions of the legendary Canon EF 85/1.2L USM II. The portrait genre was not left without attention either – fortunately at the time of the test there was a chance to choose from 6 models at once.


Photo equipment

Optical diagram from Nikon website

Focal length: 85 mm

Angle of view diagonal : 28.5 degrees

Optical design: 9 elements in 9 groups

Aperture range: f/1.8 – f/16

Number of aperture blades: 7, rounded

AF motor: Ultrasonic motor

Minimum focus distance: 80 cm

Maximum magnification: 0.12x

Light Filter Diameter:67 mm

Dimensions: 80*73 mm

Weight:350 grams

Package Contents

The hero of the review is sold in the maximum set for this class of lenses:

  • Lens

  • Nikon LC-6 front cover

  • Nikon LF-4 back cover

  • Nikon HB-62 hood

  • Nikon CL-1015 storage case

  • Instruction manual

  • Warranty card

The quality lens hood and storage pouch are a joy to have in the set.

Design, construction, ergonomics

Photo equipment

Next to the Canon EF 85/1.2 L USM II

Craftsmanship and materials without complaints, but leave some feeling of excess plastic. The reason may lie in the low weight of the lens: 350 grams at 80*73 mm versus 425 grams at 75*72 mm for the Canon EF 85/1.8 USM, which suggests the materials used, because the optical scheme of both lenses has the same number of elements – 9. I should add that the hero of the review doesn’t cause a feeling of “budget” at all, any tolerances and looseness are absent, there is nothing to criticize, but comparing “head-to-head” it is slightly worse than Canon’s analogue.

Photo equipment

Front elements

Adequate features of a “real” lens: metal mount, distance window, knurled focusing ring and AF mode switch. What’s more, the lens mount is equipped with a rubber seal one is tempted to call it a “gasket” which adds dust and moisture protection to the lens/camera combination – a definite plus for the main character in this review: both models from Canon have none.

The impressive front element apparent diameter of 47 mm is recessed almost a centimeter deep into the lens, but I would suggest using a protector. The front element does not rotate when focusing – the use of filters will not interfere, does not create problems and shallow wide hood.


Back elements

Manual focus ring on the front of the lens, moderately wide 14mm , snug fit, well-damped, turns smoothly with evenly distributed comfort. The stroke of the ring is about 120 degrees, goes a little “beyond infinity. I’ve heard complaints about the sluggishness of the manual focus ring on this lens model changing direction of rotation doesn’t bring focus immediately, some backlash is encountered first : nothing like that was seen on the test piece.

The lens does not change size when focusing. Autofocus mode switch is conveniently located. The lens/camera combination is comfortable, no complaints about weighting and ergonomics.

Geometric distortion

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 85/1.8 G handles geometric distortion perfectly: 0.3% cushion distortion is not noticeable in real photos. 85mm lenses are generally noted for their confident control over photographic geometry. The hero of the review was not only exceptional, but also one of the best results.

Photo equipment


Resolution and sharpness

Nikon Nikon AF-S 85/1 sharpness performance.8 G deserves all the praise: the lens can be used without hesitation at all apertures – even at f/16 it produces a completely acceptable image. The center of the frame is unpretentious already at the fully open aperture, the resolution is in the f/2 range.8 – f/11 deserves an “excellent” rating.

Photo lenses

Sharpness and aperture value Reikan FoCal

Edges and corners of the frame at f/1.8 – f/11 do not fall below “very good”, and in the f/4 – f/8 range, “excellent”. Lens is sharp from edge-to-edge at all working apertures. “Lenses are not just about sharpness”, but the flawless behavior of not the most expensive lens is always a pleasant surprise.

Reikan FoCal data is consistent with results obtained with Imatest.

75%88%very well


Vignetting is present, which is typical for fast lenses, but the hero of this review copes with it surprisingly well. Even at fully open apertures, the fade out in the corners of the frame towards the center is no greater than 1.5 stops.


Vignetting at f/1.8

Already at f/2.8 Nikon Nikkor AF-S 85/1.8 G does not cause any problems – 0.4 stops can be considered excellent. At f/4 – f/16 apertures, the effect does not exceed 0.3 stop.Convincing result – Canon’s counterpart performs weaker at open apertures.


The subject of this review uses an ultrasonic motor in its autofocus drive. The process is virtually silent, but the Nikon Nikon AF-S 85/1 holds the record for fast autofocus.8 G is not worth waiting for: the full distance travel takes about a second – focusing would not be instantaneous if you wanted to call it instantaneous.


Repeatability of results

No complaints about sharpness – the lens is sure to find the target even in difficult lighting conditions. Repeatability of the results is also high – the percentage of autofocus errors is low, and errors are more often caused by the “camera operator”, especially at open apertures. Reikan FoCal estimates the phase AF repeatability of the test copy at 96.3% – an excellent result!


Slight front focus at f/1.8

The small spoonful of tar can be only a small tendency of the lens to front focus, which disappears when the aperture is shut down to f/2.8. Suggests spherochromatism and a shift in focus point depending on aperture value, but confuses that the behavior is not quite typical of focus-shift. Rich Meston, the developer of FoCal, promises to add focus-shift detection and evaluation to the list of available tests soon, but for now the feature is still under development. Contrast AF on the Nikon D700 is accurate, but tediously slow.

Chromatic aberrations

Nikon Nikon AF-S 85/1.The 8 G does a great job with chromatic aberrations, their level does not exceed the conditionally acceptable 0.06% even at a fully open aperture:

  • At f/1.8 the width of CA in the corners of the frame is 0.87 pixels 0.042%

  • At f/2.8 the width of CA in the corners of the frame is 0.71 pixels 0.033%

  • At f/4.0 The width of CA in the corners of the frame is 0.394 pixels

  • At f/5.6 the width of the CA in the corners of the frame is 0.36 pixels

  • At f/8.0 The CA width in the corners of the frame is 0.373 pixels

Photo Lenses

Chromatic aberration at f/1.8

Out-of-focus bloom is present at open apertures, but does not exceed the usual level for lenses of such aperture value. The severity of the effect decreases as the aperture closes: at f/2.8 is present residual phenomena, at f/4.0 – everything is fine.

Picture, bokeh, backlight

Nikon Nikon AF-S 85/1.The 8 G has a rich, full-bodied, high contrast image already at the fully open aperture. Add convincing sharpness, low CA and good control over vignetting, and you get an “honest” lens.

Photo equipment


Bokeh is nice, attractive – no complaints. I was disappointed by the subject’s performance in backlight: the lens is unable to withstand the position of the light source at the edges of the frame. Annoying artifacts can appear regardless of the aperture value, and the hood does not always help.


I enjoyed getting to know the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 85/1.8 G in tests and was even more excited to shoot with it. I liked the lens, and it reinforced my good opinion of 85mm lenses.

Photo lenses

Three at 85

It’s nice to have another really good lens on the market that – importantly – is relatively inexpensive. Spending money on it, it justifies completely and easily: the model has a convincing optical characteristics, knows how to form an attractive image and allows you to shoot without thinking about the set aperture value – an obvious disadvantage in it only one: weak resistance to overreflections and artifacts in difficult lighting conditions. You can also complain about the autofocus speed – the lens does not always cope with dynamic subjects, and complain about a small front focus at f/1.8 on the test piece.

Photo lenses

Nikon Nikon AF-S 85/1.8 G

Comparing the performance of two lenses of different systems on different cameras is a thankless task, so I will limit myself to an emotional impression: The “honest” and relatively affordable Canon EF 85/1.8 USM contributes greatly to the overall appeal of the Canon EOS system. I can confidently say that the hero of today’s review plays the same role for Nikon cameras. Backlight performance is not important enough to me to ruin my impression of the lens.

I strongly recommend.

My thanks to Nikon for providing me with this lens for the test.

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John Techno

Greetings, everyone! I am John Techno, and my expedition in the realm of household appliances has been a thrilling adventure spanning over 30 years. What began as a curiosity about the mechanics of these everyday marvels transformed into a fulfilling career journey.

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