Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S DX ED VR Micro Nikkor Lens Review

Nikon’s 85mm f/3.5G AF-S DX ED VR II Micro Nikkor Lens for crop sensor Digital SLRs is a sweet little lens.

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Nikon 85mm Macro - Click image to see full size

VR – II  adds a few extra stops (3-4 claimed stops) of motion blur stopping movement, on the part of the photographer or camera/lens set up … it will not stop subject motion.

The lens, being a DX crop sensor format, is more compact and a touch less pricy than lenses for FX full frame format Micro NIKKORs.

Used on a full frame digital camera, you would get quite a bit of black vignette on the frame edges, which your FX digital will account for by cropping that part out automatically, back into a smaller rectangle.

While rated at F3.5, in actual use, the maximum aperture is a bit variable and seems to run more the F3.8-F5.0 range.  This effect is especially noticeable at closer focusing distances.  As you focus on nearby objects, the aperture changes, by itself, regardless of setting.

For macro or micro work, this lens will seldom be used wide open, as depth of field in large aperture settings will typically be too shallow to be of much use in a close up environment.

On the narrow aperture range, the lens will run around F32-F45. Again, the narrower apertures seem to operate at closer focusing distances, right where we need them.

In fact, this F45.0 apperture is one of the nice things about having a macro lens… the depth of field one needs to get our subjects in focus. Most non Macro/Micro lenses do not stop down below F16 or F22, or sometimes F32 …and thus, in addition to not focusing as close, non macro designs have rather limited DOFs to be practical for close up work.

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Diamond and Gold Pin 1/10 sec @ F29 85mm Micro Nikkor

To purchase or to view a larger sized image of this Diamond and Gold Pin image, click here.

The 85mm Micro Nikkor is capable of 1:1 reproduction rations, focusing down to 0.9 feet and so is a fine choice for those of us needing true macro close-up lens.

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Showing lens controls, click image to see full size

VR also may not help if you are moving back and forth and thus changing the focus point.Nikon VR II (Vibration Reduction) Image Stabilization
Vibration Reduction, enables handheld shooting at up to 4 shutter speeds slower than would otherwise be possible, allowing dramatically sharper images;  however, this will not help if your object is moving, like a flower blowing in the wind.

For most macro work, you will still need a tripod and will need to limit subject movement some how.

At macro distances and associated shallow DOF’s, a lot of the image can be out of focus, the 85mm Micro Nikkor’s rounded 9-blade diaphragm renders more pleasant and natural looking out-of-focus image elements.

The 85mm Micro has a M/A (Manual/Auto) focus mode switch and a VR on off switch. It also has a rubber coated focus ring. That’s it for on lens controls.

The front optic takes accepts a 52mm screw in filters.

New USA models ship with the excellent 52mm Snap-on pinch in middle Front Lens Cap (LC-52), Standard Nikon Rear lens cap (LF-1), Nikon’s Bayonet Hood (HB-37) to keep stray light from falling onto your front element and Flexible Lens Pouch (CL-1018) for extra lens protection in your bag.

While this might be a nice focal length for portraiture, the lens itself is slower than I prefer for nice smooth portrait bokeh.

So, what about the focal length of 85mm for macro work?

Personally, I kind of think it’s about perfect for a DX (crop sensor) DSLR.

Longer focal lengths have shallower depth of fields.   So, a 105mm Macro lens may have substantially less DOF than this 85mm lens.

Why not then have a shorter focal length?

Shorter focal length macro lenses end up with the subject too close to the front of the lens for comfort or to allow lighting onto the subject.

Short focal lengths for instance may scare off a living insect.  Or, if your object is less than a foot away, it becomes very difficult to have light get onto the subject.

This 0.9 foot min focus for 1:1 reproductions is pretty alright.

On a DX sensor, the 85mm is kind of like a 130mm lens on a FX (full size) sensor.  Being 85mm in actual focal length, we obtain more actual DOF than on the 105mm lens on an FX sensor.

Perfecto !!

To buy or peruse one at Adorama, click here.

To buy, peruse one, or read customer reviews on Amazon, click here.


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