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Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G
AF-S NIKKOR
(2012-)
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

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Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G (67mm filters, 12.4 oz./351g, 2.6'/0.8m close focus, about $500). enlarge. I got mine at Adorama. You also can get it at Amazon.

My biggest source of support for this free website is when you use those or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep adding to this free website when you get your things through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. Thanks for your support! Ken.

 

May 2013   Nikon Reviews   Nikon Lenses    All Reviews

See also:

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF and AF-D (1987-).

Nikon 85mm f/2 (1977-1995).

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 (1964-1977).

Optics:
Mechanics: dinkier than the professional 85mm f/1.8 AF-D
Ergonomics:
Usefulness:
Availability: New product
Overall:

 

Introduction       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

This Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G is the sharpest 85mm lens ever made by Nikon, sharper on the D800 than even the extraordinary 85mm f/1.4 G, and Nikon's been making 85mm lenses since 1949. On the D800 in the laboratory, it's also slightly sharper than the original and still current 85mm f/1.8 AF-D.

This new 85mm's optics are the best ever from Nikon, but the mechanics are the cheapest: it's the first 85mm Nikon lens ever made with a plastic focus ring or made in China.

Compared to the original 85mm f/1.8 AF-D, this new G lens loses a half-ounce (15g) and adds instant manual-focus override and the ability to autofocus even on the cheapest DSLRs, but loses a lot of metal, replaces the 9-blade diaphragm with only 7 blades, and loses any compatibility with manual-focus 35mm cameras.

This new 85mm f/1.8G is a superb lens; I've been whining about Nikon cheapening the mechanics of each successive line of lenses since the 1980s, even though the optics have always gotten better and better.

 

Compatibility       intro     top

Everything works perfectly on every digital Nikon ever made, both FX and DX, from the best D4, D800 and D800E to Nikon's cheapest digitals like the D40, D40x, D60, D3000, D3100, D5000 and D5100.

It's also perfect on decent or recent AF film cameras like the F6, F100, F5, N80 and N75.

The incompatibilities for older or cheaper 35mm cameras are that:

1.) It won't autofocus with the cheapest new AF 35mm cameras like the N55, but if you focus manually, everything else works great. Even if you lose autofocus, these cameras have in-finder focus confirmation dots to help you.

2.) Late 1980s ~ early 1990s AF cameras like the N90s, N70 and F4 will focus just fine. You'll have Program and Shutter-priority modes, but lose Manual and Aperture-priority since you have no way to set the aperture on the camera or on the lens.

3.) You're really pushing it with the oldest AF cameras like the N2020, N6006 and N8008. You'll have no AF and confused exposure modes. Manual focus is fine, along with electronic focus indications.

4.) Since it has no aperture ring, it's just about useless with manual focus film cameras. It will shoot every shot at its minimum aperture.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details with your camera. Read down the "AF-S, AF-I" and "G" columns for this lens. You'll get the least of all the features displayed in all columns, since "G" (gelding) is a deliberate handicap which removes features.

 

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G. enlarge.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

 

Name        top

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G

Nikon calls this the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G.

    NIKKOR: Nikon's brand name for all their lenses.

    AF-S and SWM: Silent Wave Autofocus Motor.

    G: Gelded for cost-reduction and removing compatibility with older cameras.

    IF: Internal focusing; nothing moves externally as focused.

    ∅67: 67mm filter thread.

    10↑: 10-year expected life before being thrown away.

    MADE IN CHINA: Offshored to save manufacturing cost.

    US601900: Serial number. "US" means imported by Nikon USA.

 

Optics        top

Nikon 85/1.8 G diagram

Internal diagram.

9 elements in 9 groups.

No ED glass, no aspherics, no fancy stuff needed.

Internal focus: nothing moves externally as focused.

It seems an internal group carries the diaphragm with it as focused.

It's multicoated, which Nikon calls Nikon Integrated Coating.

 

Diaphragm        top

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G at f/5.6. enlarge.

7 somewhat rounded blades, a big downgrade from the 9 straight blades of the 85mm f/1.8 AF-D.

Stops down to f/16.

 

Focal Length        top

85mm.

When used on a DX camera, it gives angles of view similar to what a 129mm lens gives when used on an FX or 35mm camera.

 

Angle of View        top

28.5° diagonally on FX and RealRaw.

(18.8º on small-format DX, 22.8º on Pronea APS.)

 

Close Focus        top

2.6 feet (0.8m).

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top

1:8.1.

 

Hard Infinity Focus Stop?        top

No.

You have to let the AF system focus at infinity.

The older 85mm f/1.8 AF-D does have an infinity focus stop.

 

Focus Scale        top

Yes, but abbreviated.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale        top

No, but there are two meaningless little vestigial tits for f/16.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index        top

Yes, a microscopic gold dot between the left "16" mark and the focus scale index.

 

Aperture Ring        top

No; it was removed to save cost.

 

Filter Thread        top

67mm, plastic.

Does not move, ever.

 

Size        top

Nikon specifies 80mm (3.1") diameter by 73mm (2.9") extension from flange.

 

Weight        top

12.390 oz. (351.3g), measured.

Nikon specifies 12.4 oz. (350g).

 

Hood        top

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G with

Nikon 85 1.8 G and HB-62 hood.

Plastic bayonet HB-62 hood, included. Dull black inside, no fuzz and no ridges.

The older 85mm f/1.8 AF-D includes a metal hood.

 

Bag        top

CL-1015 sack included, but a used sock works better.

 

Included        top

Excellent snap-on LC-67 67mm front lens cap.

LF-4 rear cap, the newest version that covers a bit more of the flange to keep off dust.

HB-62 plastic hood.

Printed instruction book in twenty languages.

 

Quality         top

Made in the People's Republic of China.

HB-62 hood: Made in the People's Republic of China.

LR-4 rear cap: Made in Thailand.

LC-67 front cap: Made in Thailand.

Instruction book: printed in the People's Republic of China.

 

Teleconverters        top

None recommended.

 

Packaging        top

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G

Box, Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G.

Gold-colored microcorrugated cardboard box.

Lens and hood supported in foggy polypropylene cradle.

Paperwork slipped-in along the side.

 

Announced        top

06 January 2012.

 

Available since         top

Late February 2012.

 

Nikon Product Number        top

2201.

 

Price, USA         top

$500 at introduction, January 2012.

 

Performance       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh    Color   Coma    Distortion

Ergonomics   Eyeblow   Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing

Ghosts   Lateral Color Fringes    Macro    Mechanics

Sharpness   Spherochromatism  Sunstars   Survivability

 

Overall       performance     top

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G has stellar optical quality in a good, consumer-grade package.

 

Autofocus       performance     top

Overall

AF works great.

 

AF Speed

AF speed is as we expect. It's a little slower than the 85mm f/1.8 AF-D, and the same to maybe a little faster than the 85mm f/1.4 G.

 

AF Accuracy

AF is fine, even at f/1.8. No problems here, but of course you need to be vigilant about having your AF sensor accurately pointed where you want focus.

On the Nikon D800 at 36 MP at f/1.8, it's usually right on.

 

Manual Focus

Manual focus is fine.

Grab the ring at any time for instant manual-focus override, unlike the previous 85mm f/1.8 AF-D which requires moving a switch on the camera.

 

M/A - M Switch

Nikon goofed. This switch is supposed to be labeled "A - M."

The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because you also can focus manually simply by grabbing the focus ring in this position.

The "M/A" position means autofocus. It's called "M/A" because back in the old days, when Nikon had almost caught up to Canon who had been doing this for ten years before, Nikon was trying to show off that you could focus manually while in the AF position.

Paint over the extra M if you're easily confused.

 

Bokeh       performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is pretty good, maybe slightly better than the 85mm f/1.8 AF-D, but nothing's quite as good as the 85mm f/1.4 G.

 

ISO 3,200 Bokeh

Allen's New York Pizza

Sushi. 85mm f/1.8 G, Nikon D800, f/1.8 at 1/100, AUTO ISO chose ISO 3,200, VIVID +3 Saturation, Sharpening set to 6. Camera-original © LARGE BASIC Optimum Quality JPG file.

Warning: Almost nothing is in focus.

 

Vertical Bokeh

Dildoplant

Dildoplant. 85mm f/1.8 G, Nikon D800, f/6.3 at 1/160, ISO 100, VIVID +3 Saturation, Sharpening set to 6. LARGE BASIC Optimum Quality JPG file (losslessly rotated in iView 3.1.3).

Warning: Almost nothing is in focus.

 

Dildoplant

Dildoplant. 85mm f/1.8 G, Nikon D800, f/1.8 at 1/1,600, ISO 100, VIVID +3 Saturation, Sharpening set to 6. LARGE BASIC Optimum Quality JPG file (losslessly rotated in iView 3.1.3).

Warning: Almost nothing is in focus.

 

Here now are crops from the center of 100% FX 12MP (D3 or D700) images, focused on a reference phase lattice at 3 meters (10 feet) with synthetic reference vegetation at 15 meters (50 feet). Printed full-image at this size, these would be about 42 x 28" (105 x 70cm) prints, at least as seen on most 100 DPI computer monitors:

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G Bokeh Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G Bokeh
Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G Bokeh Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G Bokeh

 

Color Rendition       performance     top

The color rendition is the same as my other Nikkor AF lenses.

 

Coma       performance     top

Just like the 85mm f/1.8 AF-D, I can't see any significant coma.

Coma (saggital coma flare) often causes weird smeared blobs to appear around bright points of light in the corners of fast or wide lenses at large apertures. In lenses that have it, coma goes away as stopped down.

 

Distortion       performance     top

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G has no visible distortion.

It has a tiny bit of barrel distortion which can be corrected for critical use by plugging these figures into Photoshop's lens distortion filter. (The 85mm f/1.8 AF-D has no distortion). These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

 
FX and Film
-0.5
30' (10m)
-0.5
10' (3m)
-0.5
3' (1m)
-0.5

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

Ergonomics (handling and ease-of-use)       performance     top

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G. enlarge.

Ergonomics are perfect, except for the all-plastic feel. I'd rather have metal in my hands, but otherwise, this and its bigger brother the 85mm f/1.4 G have perfect ergonomics.

 

Eyeblow       performance     top

Nothing moves except for an internal optical group as focused, so there is no air blow out of the eyepiece into your eye. This is common with zooms while zooming.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Falloff on FX is visible at f/1.8 and f/2, and gone by f/2.8.

It won't be an issue at all on DX (see crop factor).

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.

 

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G falloff on FX and film at infinity, no correction.

f/1.8
f/2
Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G falloff Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G falloff
Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G falloff Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G falloff
f/2.8
f/4

© 2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Filters, use with       performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting, even with combinations of thick filters.

The filter ring never moves.

 

Focus Breathing       performance     top

Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image from the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G gets slightly larger as focused more closely.

The 85mm f/1.8 AF-D has much less.

 

Ghosts       performance     top

I could excite no ghosts and no flare.

 

Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

There are no lateral color fringes on the D800, D3 or D7000 on which I tested it. These cameras correct these fringes automatically.

There is some spherochromatism, which is a different aberration.

 

Macro       performance     top

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G Macro

Nikon 85/1.8G at closest focus distance at f/9, full-frame.

 

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G Macro

Crop from above at 100%, 12MP Nikon D3 JPG.

Macro is the same as just about every other SLR lens.

It doesn't get as close as many zooms and certainty nowhere near as close as a real macro lens, but is it very sharp, even wide-open at f/1.8.

 

Mechanics and Construction       performance     top

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G

Rear, Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G. enlarge.

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G is made to good consumer standards in China. The 85mm f/1.8 AF-D is much better mechanically.

 

Filter Threads

Plastic.

 

Hood

Plastic bayonet.

 

Hood Mount

Plastic.

 

Barrel Exterior

Plastic.

 

Focus Ring

Plastic; rubber covered.

 

Focus Helicoids

Feel like plastic.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

Not really.

 

Internals

Mostly plastic.

 

Aperture Ring

None.

 

Mount

Dull-chromed brass.

 

Markings

Paint.

 

Mounting Index Dot

White plastic ball.

 

Identity

Debossed gold-look plastic plate on barrel.

Numbers printed on front ring.

 

Serial Number

Sticker glued into a recess on the bottom of the lens.

 

US Model Signified by

"US" prefix to serial number.

 

Rain seal at mount

Yes.

 

Noises When Shaken

Mild clunking.

 

Made in

China.

 

Weaknesses

Nikon's AFS autofocus motors break. I've had a couple die on me, and if this lens dies and Nikon decides no longer to supply repair parts, you've got a manual-only focus lens.

 

Sharpness       performance     top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

With those caveats, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G is ultra-sharp edge-to-edge at every aperture, especially on the 36 MP Nikon D800.

On the D800 at 36 MP, the 85mm f/1.8 AF-D and 85mm f/1.4 G are slightly softer at the largest apertures.

Of course diffraction limits performance at smaller apertures.

 

Pole Lady's Flowers

Flowers. 85mm f/1.8 G, Nikon D800, f/7.1 at 1/200, ISO 100, VIVID +3 Saturation, Sharpening set to 6. Camera-original © LARGE BASIC Optimum Quality JPG file.

Warning: Very little is in perfect focus.

 

Spongebob

Allen's New York Pizza

West Los Angeles. 85mm f/1.8 G, Nikon D800, f/6.3 at 1/160, ISO 100, VIVID +3 Saturation, Sharpening set to 6. Camera-original © LARGE BASIC Optimum Quality JPG file.

Warning: Very little is in perfect focus.

 

Nikon 85/1.8 G MTFNikon's 85 1.8 G MTF curve, wide-open at f/1.8.

Nikon's claimed MTF supports what I've seen: stunning sharpness from edge-to-edge on full-frame, even wide-open. Getting perfect focus is critical; if you see green or magenta color fringes, that tells you that you're not in perfect focus.

 

Spherochromatism       performance     top

Spherochromatism, sometimes mistakenly called "color bokeh" by laymen, is a minor aberration which can add slight color fringes to out-of focus highlights.

Fast, long lenses often show spherochromatism, which is when out-of-focus highlights take on slight color fringes. Laymen sometimes mistakenly call spherochromatism "color bokeh."

Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G Macro

Tight crop from 100% D3 image at close-focus distance at f/1.8.

Spherochromatism is what's causing the highlights on the rear buttons to flare green, and the highlights on the closer bezel to flare magenta.

Stopped down, this goes away.

 

Sunstars       performance     top

With its rounded 7-bladed diaphragm, the Nikon 85 1.8G sometimes makes broadly muted 14-pointed sunstars on bright points of light.

The conventional 9-bladed diaphragm of the 85mm f/1.8 AF-D makes far superior sunstars.

 

Survivability       performance     top

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G uses an AFS autofocus motor, and they break.

I've had a couple die of other Nikon AFS lenses die on me, so if this lens' internal AF motor dies, it's got to go in for repair.

If Nikon decides no longer to supply repair parts, you'll have a manual-only focus lens.

 

Compared             top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Nikon 85mm lenses compared

Nikon 85/1.8D, 85/1.8G, 85/1.4G and 85/1.4D. enlarge.

I've been making comparisons to the original 85/1.8D, and the larger 85/1.4G throughout this review.

See also 85mm Lens Specifications Compared.

This is the sharpest 85mm ever made by Nikon and it has no visible distortion, however it's plasticy.

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8 AF-S G is a wonderful lens, and so is the original 85/1.8D.

If you intend to use this new lens on one of Nikon's cheaper DSLRs that lacks its own AF motor, get this 85/1.8 G lens.

If you want instant manual-focus override, get this lens or the 85/1.4 AFS-G.

If you want a tougher, more precise-feeling 85mm f/1.8 for the same price or less, get the 85/1.8D.

If you want an 85mm with incredible ability to blur backgrounds and keep the subject ultrasharp, the extraordinary 85/1.4G is even better than this 85mm G.

If you need the sharpest possible lens for use on the Nikon D800 and D800E, get this f/1.8G lens.

This is a lens to get if you don't have an 80-200/2.8 zoom. The zooms tends to be almost as sharp and almost as fast, so don't ever carry both at the same time.

I love any 85/1.8 as a fast prime portrait lens or general-purpose fast, short tele at a reasonable price. It's the one fixed tele I'd grab along with a wide lens for day-to-day shooting.

If you own the 28-300mm VR, forget any fixed lenses in this range; you'll probably never pull out a fixed 85 if you have the zoom.

If you have a zoom and want a lens to blow-out backgrounds into smooth, soft colors at a reasonable price, shoot your zoom at 200~300mm, and you'll get the same effect or better than an 85mm lens at f/1.8. If you want a fixed tele for blurring backgrounds at a reasonable price, get a manual-focus 135mm f/2 or 180mm f/2.8 instead. Longer focal length has much more to do with blurring backgrounds than maximum aperture.

If you want a lightweight, super-sharp general-purpose carry everywhere medium tele, this new 85/1.8 G is a great lens for just about everything.

If you've found all the time and expense I've incurred creating and sharing this review for free, this website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to this lens at Adorama and at Amazon when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.

 

Deployment

I'd leave either a 67mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 67mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times. I would leave the hood at home.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 67mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.

For color slides like Velvia 50, I use a 67mm Hoya HMC 81A outdoors.

For B&W film outdoors, I'd use a 67mm Hoya HMC K2 Yellow or 67mm Hoya HMC Orange.

Honestly, I'd get a 67mm -> 77mm step-up ring, and treat this lens as a 77mm-threaded lens from now to eternity. This will save you a lot of aggravation, unless you really plan to build a system around 67mm filters.

 

More Information        top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Nikon's 85mm f/1.8 G page.

Nikon's sample images.

Nikon's press release.

 

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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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April 2012