Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G - First Impressions...

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Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G - First Impressions...

Postby Remorhaz on Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:06 am

I've been thinking about getting a fast 85mm portrait and low light lens for some time now. I already have the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 lens which I really love but there are times when I feel that it isn't quite long enough (even on a crop sensor body) and I notice a hint of the types of things you see with wide angle distortion and I yearn for a little more longer focal length compression. I notice this most when taking really close head and shoulders and even just partial face compositions. This is probably because whilst shooting on crop you may get the angle of view of a 75mm lens the 50mm lens is still a 50mm lens and still acts like a 50 (just with the image cropped).

There are an abundance of fast (f/1.8 or faster) 85mm lenses available for Nikon bodies including the ultimate Nikon 85/1.4G, the older 85/1.4D, the Sigma 85/1.4, the very affordable manual Samyang 85/1.4, the new Nikon 85/1.8G (the subject of this first look) and the older 85/1.8D.

Whilst I (like anyone) would have loved the new Nikon 85/1.4G - it's a two thousand dollar lens ($1500 grey) and even the old 85/1.4D is over $1000 grey and I just couldn't justify dropping that sort of cash on what is a specialty lens for me. The reviews of the 85/1.8G looked very promising with all the hallmarks of a great lens without the extra 2/3rds of a stop of speed.

I've been watching the prices on the new Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G for a while and I almost bought it at just over $500 but when I saw it for $470 from a shop I could visit close by in North Sydney (grey market) I decided it was time.

One of my daughters plays netball on friday evenings and I literally dropped by the store and bought the lens on the way to the game :). Her game is after sunset and they play outdoors under lights so it was a good opportunity to try out the low light performance and I have to say it focuses very surely and quickly in very low light (certainly better than my 50/1.4 which is no slouch). Here's a shot of my daughter on the sidelines just before her game (5:40PM) - shot at 1/200 @ f/2 at ISO 2500 - it doesn't look it but it was essentially dark with just the court lights providing some illumination. It was candid and the kids are always moving so it was just a quick frame and shoot and whilst I didn't quite get the focus exactly on the eye I'm pleased with the result

Image

After her game we went to see her older sister dance in a flash mob and I took some wide open at ISO 6400 shots in near darkness and got some usable results

A few days later I had the opportunity to take some shots for our schools band festival concert performance so I had another opportunity to test out the lens in much better conditions - outdoors in good shaded light [1/250 @ f/2 at ISO 100]

Image

Lastly whilst it's not a typical street photographers focal length I took my camera with just this lens into the office one day and did a little wandering at lunchtime to try it out

Firstly a little flower bokeh - shot wide open at f/1.8 near the minimum focusing distance (which is 80cm) - I found this quite long for shooting these small flowers but the depth of field even at this range is pretty tiny.

Image

One of my favourite rows of trees in Hyde Park [1/320 sec @ f/5.6 and ISO 100]

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and finally perhaps a more typical "street" image [1/250 sec @ f/2 and ISO 100]

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Impressions so far:
- it's very light and feels relatively cheaply made - i.e. all polycarb shell - I suspect that's reasonably typical of a lot of newer Nikkor lenses
- it does however look just like a smaller version of the 85/1.4G
- it has a reversible bayonet hood (note not petal shaped) - sure it's cheap plastic but still yay!
- size wise it's actually quite a nice fit with my D7000 - focal length aside I could easily see this as the sort of lens you could comfortably walk around with
- it appears to be extremely sharp - I'll need to do some more testing with other real world subjects at some stage and update
- it focuses very responsively and quickly even in extremely low light
- even with just 7 rounded aperture blades the bokeh so far looks like it's going to be very nice - smooth and buttery - again I'll try some other testing with things like oof specular highlights to see how they are rendered
- it looks like it has a weather shielded bayonet mount which is a nice touch
- the relatively long 80cm minimum focus distance may be an issue for some - for it's intended purpose as a portrait lens this shouldn't be a problem however
- it vignettes at or near wide open even on crop - easily fixed in Lightroom (which has the profile for the lens already built in to the latest version (LR4.1) but for the intended use I actually like the little vignette it gives
- theres some definite chroma happening in some shots - again easily fixed in Lightroom
- it's early days but very happy with the addition to the lens cupboard so far
D600, D7000, Nikon/Sigma/Tamron Lenses, Nikon Flashes, Sirui/Manfrotto/Benro Sticks
Rodney - My Photo Blog
Want: Fast Wide (14|20|24)
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Re: Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G - First Impressions...

Postby aim54x on Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:06 pm

Congrats on the purchase! I have had a play and it was nothing short of impressive for the money.
Cameron
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Re: Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G - First Impressions...

Postby Steffen on Thu Aug 23, 2012 12:20 pm

Thanks for the review! I've been eyeing this lens since it came out, shame I can't justify the purchase while my 85/f1.8 D is still working fine…

Cheers
Steffen.
lust for comfort suffocates the soul
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Re: Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G - First Impressions...

Postby biggerry on Thu Aug 23, 2012 9:44 pm

It certainly is a sweet lens, given the performance for the price its pretty hard to beat I reckon.

The focus is probably the biggest draw card for me, it does focus very well and quick.

The sharpness is perfectly fine as well, its as sharp, if not sharper than my old 105mm. Just by chance I had two fairly comparable images from Sunday from both the 105 and Rodneys 85. This is highly scientific testing too btw.

105

Image

Image

85

Image

Image

interesting difference in WB there too.
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No amount of processing will fix bad composition - trust me i have tried.
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