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Review by Markus Stamm, published March 2012
Nikon continues to update its range of affordable fast primes with the new Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8 G. While the existing screw driven AF-D lens was not a bad performer, Nikon's decision to remove the screw drive from its entry-level DX cameras made the lens a rather unattractive choice for the majority of their customers.
Consequently, the new model now offers a silent wave AF drive, which makes it compatible with the complete range of current Nikon DSLRs.
Even though 85mm traditionally is a classic portrait focal length on full frame cameras and the new AF-S 85 f/1.8 is of course a FX lens, the largest pressure to update the lens may have come from DX customers. So, in this review, we'll have a look at how the lens performs on our current DX test camera, the Nikon D7000, where it is the equivalent of roughly a 130/2.8 lens. As such it doesn't leave its original scope (portraiture).
The build quality of the lens is very decent thanks to an outer barrel made out of high quality plastics. It's the same material used on most recently released consumer primes, in fact the lens looks and feels like a scaled up variant of an AF-S 50mm.
The rubberized focus ring is nicely damped and operates smoothly. We're glad to report that the focus unit follows the focus ring immediately and without any delay, even when changing the focus direction.
Thanks to an IF (inner focus) design the length remains constant regardless of the focus setting and the front element does not rotate. Using a polarizer is therefore no problem.
The lens features a Silent Wave ultrasonic drive allowing for a near-silent autofocus and manual override at all times. The AF speed is quite fast for a portrait prime, but still slower than the high-end f/2.8 professional zooms.
The AF-S 85 is a G-type lens and thus does not offer an aperture ring.
|Equiv. focal length||127.5 mm (full format equivalent)|
|Equiv. max. f-stops||f/2.7 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field - not speed)|
|Optical construction||9 elements in 9 groups|
|Number of aperture blades||7 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.8 m (max. magnification ratio 1:8)|
|Dimensions||80 mm x 73 mm|
|Filter size||67 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||Nikon HB-62, barrel-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information to the camera, Silent Wave AF motor|