Review of Nikon 85mm F1.8D AF Nikkor Lens and D7000 DSLR Camera for Glamour Portraiture

Nikon 85mm f1.8D AF Nikkor

Nikon 85mm f1.8D AF Nikkor

The  Nikon 85mm f1.8D AF Nikkor is so sharp, so small and so affordable, it is almost too good an option not to keep in the bag for just those right occasions.

The image below of the girl with the pretty blue eyes was made in studio using this remarkable piece of glass.

Other Nikon AF lenses in the same range which I have also tried include:

In our review, these other five Nikon lenses are compared and contrasted the 85mm f1.8D AF;  and, we see how and when each might play in our bag.

85mm f1.8D, Nikon, AF, Nikkor, @ f6.3, 1/250 sec, studio flash, color, Russian hat, bright beautiful blue eyes

Nikon 85mm f1.8D AF - Nikon D7000 @ f6.3 1/250 sec ISO 100 - Studio flash, uncropped color image

To view a larger size or to purchase the above image, click here.  It may take a while to load, is several megabytes …

There is also a sample version of this same image, retouched by cropping to a tight head shot and converting to black and white.  These were shot with a Nikon D7000.

Keep in mind, I am primarily a glamour, boudoir and portrait photographer, so this too plays into my considerations.

Nikon 85mm f1.8D AF Nikkor, Head Shot, Portrait, Glamour Portraiture, ISO 100, 1/250 sec, f6.3, studio flash, cropped Black and White image

Nikon 85mm f1.8D AF Nikkor, Cropped Black and White of Image Above

To view larger size or to purchase the above image, click here.

TECHNICAL DETAILS

  • Compatible Formats
    • FX (Digital Full Frame or DX Crop Mode)
    • 35mm Film
    • DX Digital
  • Maximum Angle of View
    • 28°30′ (FX-format)
    • 18°50′ (DX-format, or 127mm effective on a D7000)
  • Maximum Reproduction Ratio
    • 0.11x (not a macro lens)
  • HN-23 ,Screw in, Lens Hood, 62mm, Threaded, for, 85mm f1.8D,and, 80-200mm f4, Nikon, Nikkor

    HN-23 Screw in Lens Hood 62mm Threaded. Fits 85mm f1.8D & 80-200mm f4

    Filter Size

  • 6 Lens Elements in 6 Groups (very compact lens design)
    •  2.25″ Long x 2.75″ Diameter, 0.75 lbs
  • Focus – Manual (MF) and Auto (AF) Modes available
    • 2.8 feet (0.85meters) Minimum Focus Distance
    • Not true “IF” (Internal Focusing).   Lens is rear focusing, with no change in lens length (no in and out pumping of lens front element) while focusing. Rear of lens pumps, invisibly, into and out of camera body.
    • NO AF-S (Auto Focus Servo)… Does not have this feature.
      • Will AF on camera bodies with servo focusing motors only
      • Will not AF on Nikon bodies which lack servo focusing motors
        • Will not AF on Nikon bodies like the D3000, D3100D5100, etc.
          • Manual Focus only on these bodies

So what does the 85mm f1.8D have that these other four lenses do not?

  • Light and Small.  It is the lightest and smallest of five of other lenses by quite a bit.  This can be useful when one does not wish to carry a heavy and or large hunk of gear around;  or, when sometimes a smaller lens is just less intimidating to a subject than a big honking zoom lens …  The only other lens about the size of this one is the 55-200mm f/4-5.6G DX VR.
  • Sharpness.  It is pretty well as sharp or sharper than all of the other lenses, except for the 85mm f1.8D, to which it is pretty close in performance at most f-stops.
  • Pricing. It is the least expensive of all of these other lenses, again except for the 55-200mm f/4-5.6G DX VR, which is really really inexpensive.
  • Speed. It is the second fastest aperture of the lot.  Only the 85mm f1.4D AF IF is faster, and then only by half a stop.  While one maybe able to take shots in slightly darker surroundings with the 70-200 f2.8 VR2 AF-S, due to the VR, than with the 85mm f1.8D, this only applies to darkness where the amount of available light is the issue.  VR does not address the issue of moving subjects.  If you will be doing a shot of a moving subject, or with moving objects (like cars moving on streets, or people waving arms), then shutter speed must be made faster or ISO must be increased to freeze the motion.  VR only helps for freezing camera shake.
  • Bokeh.  The bokeh on the 85mm f1.8D is as good or better than all lenses, except again for the 85mm f1.4D at twice the price and more weight and size.
  • Build Quality.  Is probably the most rugged of all five lenses.  Why?  Is sturdy pro metal construction, which makes it more sturdy than the two plastic models.  Is lighter smaller, which means less mass/inertia/size to create damage during impact than the other two pro metal models.
  • AF.  Being a fast lens (f1.8) it focuses much faster than the two DX lenses, especially in the dark, about the same focusing speed as the 85mm f1.4D IF and a bit slower usually than the 70-200mm f2.8G VR2 AF-S (the 70-200mm f2.8 VR2 seems is about the speediest focusing lens I have).   It is the closest focusing lens of the group.  Equal in focusing distance to the 85mm f1.4D.  Being able to focus close allows working in tight spaces and tight head shots.  Sometimes, I miss shots because I cannot get a lens to focus close enough.

 

Nikon 85mm f1.8D, Available Light, ISO 100 1/60 sec @ f1.8, D7000

Nikon 85mm f1.8D, Available Light, ISO 100 @ f1.8, Nikon D7000, Notice bokeh of background and out of focus areas. Slight motion blur of iris due to hand holding @ 1/60 sec. Image only retouched for color.

What I wish it had.

  • A bayonet type lens hood would be nice.  The Nikon HN-23 is a 62mm screw-on type.  It screws into the filter threads.  I hate screwing and unscrewing onto filter threads.  Inevitably, in time, things get miss-threaded and/or are more prone to bang up damage than bayonet mounts.  The lens hood cannot be taken on or off quickly, nor reversed for easy storage.
  • AF-S, to focus faster, but then, this is a great sharp small reliable inexpensive lens.  AF-S would make it more pricey, less reliable and heavier.

How’s it stack up lens to lens?

  • 85mm f1.4D AF IF
    • Sharper, a bit more image quality, by a tiny teenie bit at wide open aperture end.  It was perhaps the sharpest lens Nikon made until it came out with the Nikon 85mm f1.4G AF-S.
    • Takes 77mm standard sized pro filters.  So you can share filters between lenses, like pricey Polarizer, Neutral Density Filter (ND), etc.
    • The f1.4D is twice the price of the f1.8D, and quite a bit bigger/heavier.
    • The f1.4D is “The Bokeh King.”  Still, it’s a pretty narrow Depth of Field (DOF) at f1.4, or even f1.8.
      • When one focuses at these apertures on portraits, it’s hard to get even one eye in focus.  With any head turning, it is impossible to get two eyes in focus with such shallow DOF.
    • True IF (Internal Focusing).  No pumping in and out of rear or front elements.  More sturdy (hit to front element won’t cause focusing misalignments, and won’t pump in as much air/dirt.  The f1.8D seems like an IF, but is really rear focusing.  The rear element of the f1.8D does pump in and out.
    • Has it’s work cut out to find a permanent place in my bag.  If it does, it will replace the 85mm f1.8D.  I’m leaning towards keeping the 85mm f1.8D.
  • 70-200mm f2.8G ED VR II AF-S
    • Almost as sharp.
    • This Zoom is over $2,000.  Quite pricey.
    • This is the fastest best focusing lens I have ever tried.  Faster and more sure than the 85mm f1.8D… of course, the fact that it goes only to f2.8 gives it a bit more slop in being right on in focus, since at f1.8 you have to be on a razor’s head to be in focus.
    • Has AF-S.  Will Auto Focus on all DX and FX camera bodies.
    • Is a lot bigger, heavier.
    • It zooms, so is a lot more versatile.
    • Close focus is not nearly as good.
    • Can shoot maybe two stops faster than the 85mm f1.8D in low light, for non moving objects.
    • A Go To lens.  Definite keeper.
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR II DX
    • About same price, maybe a touch more than the 85mm f1.8D.
    • Bigger, slower, less sharp, and focuses slower …
    • It really only does one thing better, it is way more versatile, going from 18mm out to 200mm.
    • Is DX
    • Has AF-S.  Will Auto Focus on all DX and FX camera bodies.
    • Lens length changes with focus and/or zoom.
    • Used now primarily as a compact handy, one lens does it all travel lens
    • Replaced in general use by the Go To Lenses listed below
  • 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR DX
  • 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR
    • This is a very inexpensive lens.  It will work for most folks under many conditions.  It is like 1/2 the price of the 85mm f1.8D.
    • Large zoom range, so is fairly versatile.
    • It is bigger, lighter, less sturdily built and focuses slower.
    • Is DX
    • Has AF-S.  Will Auto Focus on all DX and FX camera bodies.
    • Lens length changes with focus and/or zoom.
    • Replaced by 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR DX

This all said, I may keep the 85mm f1.8D or may release it.  I have not yet decided.

I have a Sigma 50mm HSM F1.4, which I use for portraiture or low light in the 85mm f1.8D‘s stead.  HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) is a bit like Nikon’s AF-S.  The 85mm f1.8D is lighter and smaller, but a bit too telephoto on a APS-C camera body for general portraiture use.  The Sigma 50mm HSM F1.4 also focuses a touch faster than the  85mm f1.8D.  Without either lens having VR, (Vibration Reduction) the shorter lens is a bit easier to hand hold in low light.

How many lenses can one use at a time?

For now, I am keeping and have frequent requirement for the Sigma 50mm F1.4.  On a APS-C sensor camera like the Nikon D7000 DX body, which I shoot, the 50mm lens acts in many ways like a 75mm lens does on an FX camera body.  So, the 50mm is almost perfect for portraiture on my DX bodies.

My Go To Lenses:

This is leaving little room for an 85mm prime lens need … except for speed in darkness.

Shooting mostly in studio, I usually shoot with studio flash, which is shot around f5 to f9.

At f5 to f9, these three Go To lenses perform very much like the sharp 85mm’s, only with more versatility and fewer lens changes, thus with more productivity.

This is for my shooting style.

Different shooting styles require different tools.

Weddings, for example, might need the extra two stops of aperture to help stop motion in low light.

For now, either the 85mm f1.4D or the 85mm f1.8D will soon leave my collection.  I need to shoot the f1.4D a bit more to see how it works best for me.  Right now, I am thinking the 85mm f1.4D will be the one to go first.

If I did not have the 70-200mm f2.8G ED VR2 AF-S, I would definitely keep the 85mm f1.4D or buy a 85mm f1.8D, if I did not have one.   One needs a sharp lens, somewhere in this range, of good speed and sharpness.   Not everyone wishes to afford a $2,000 plus pro zoom.

The Nikon 85mm f1.8D does the role of a sharp mid range portrait telephoto very economically.  The 85mm f1.4D does this role a bit better, but with more weight and at higher cost than the f1.8D.

The 70-200mm f2.8G ED VR 2 AF-S is just fantastic, but is out of the price range of most shooters and is huge to carry.

A lens I do not have is the 85mm f1.4G AF-S.  If price were no object, I would choose the f1.4G for my 85mm prime as it would focus faster, a big consideration for me.   With narrow DOF, even if the camera focuses properly, and if the subject or camera moves one or two millimeters in or out, the focus is lost.  Live subjects are almost always moving a bit …

When shooting at narrow DOF, continuous focusing mode for non static subjects like people help keep the focus moving with the subject.  It is important that this refocusing happens accurately and quickly.

Any delay, or focus hunt, creates missed or defocused blurry shots in narrow DOF situations.

f1.8 is a nice compromise here.

So, I am thinking I may yet keep my f1.8D.  It takes such lovely portraits in such a nice small and inexpensive package.  At only a few hundred dollars used, if only as a sharp backup portrait lens it may be worth keeping just for insurance, and the occasional, wow it works here shot.

Manuals for the Nikon Lenses Mentioned are avialable for free download at the following Nikon USA links:

The lenses and accessories mentioned here are available new and used on Amazon by clicking the links below:

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G ED IF AF-S DX Zoom Nikkor
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom Nikkor
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR II DX Nikkor
Sigma 50mm F1.4
Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Zoom Nikkor
Nikon 70-200mm f2.8G ED VR II AF-S Nikkor
Nikon 85mm f1.8D AF Nikkor
Nikon 85mm f1.4G AF-S Nikkor
Nikon 85mm f1.4D AF IF Nikkor
Nikon HN-23 Lens Shade, 62mm Screw in Type


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