Page 1 of 2
Review by Markus Stamm, published March 2013
On paper a 85mm prime is just a short tele lens, but for many photographers it's first of all a classic head and shoulder portrait lens. In almost any system these lenses are available in two forms: moderately fast (usually f/1.8) and, for that extra kick and of course also extra temptation, ultra fast (f/1.4 or even faster).
In the latter segment the market has seen some interesting additions and newcomers in the recent years from third party manufacturers like Zeiss, Sigma and even Samyang. Among those, Nikon's own long-standing offering, the AF-D 85/1.4, began to look a little outdated.
This finally changed with the Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4 G. It's one of the new ultra fast Nikkor primes, a product line that saw a significant refresh by Nikon in 2010. The newer lens finally features an AF-S drive as well as Nikon's Nano Crystal Coat, a special glass coating that helps to reduce ghosting and flare in backlight conditions.
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 lens. As such it doesn't leave its original scope (portraiture).
The AF-S 85/1.4 is cleary designed with the professional photographer in mind, featuring a very solid construction mostly made of metal and a magnesium alloy outer lens tube. The metal mount comes with a rubber seal, but unfortunately that's all the sealing you get. However, such a lens is probably most used in good weather outdoors or in a studio, where full weather sealing is not required.
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.
The AF-S 85 has a rear focus group so its 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, which makes it compatible with all Nikon DSLRs, including the entry-level DX cameras. The AF-S allows for a near-silent autofocus and manual override at any time. The AF speed is quite fast for a portrait prime, but not quite as snappy as the Sigma EX 85/1.4 HSM. However, for typical usage, the AF is certainly fast enough.
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. aperture||f/2.1 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)|
|Optical construction||10 elements in 9 groups including 1 element with Nano Crystal Coat|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.85 m (max. magnification ratio 1:8.3)|
|Dimensions||86.5 x 84 mm|
|Filter size||77 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||Nikon HB-55, barrel-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information to the camera, Silent Wave AF motor|