Nikon 85mm f/1.4G Review

Welcome to my hands-on review of the “cream machine,” Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G. This is unquestionably one of Nikon’s jewels, and therefore, has been justifiably difficult to obtain, exacerbated by Nikon’s supply problems. It is the improved long-awaited version of the famous 85mm f/1.4D, which has always been THE prime lens that many wedding, portrait, studio and street photography professionals rely on. My review will not be as technical as some others, which I will later list for your reference, but it will show what one can accomplish with a few hours of shooting in midtown New York City. The provided images were acquired wide open at f/1.4.

 

"The Lovers," Bryant Park, New York City

 

Improvements over 85mm 1.4D: AF-S Silent Wave Motor technology, Nano crystal coating. Optimally designed for FX bodies but may be used with DX bodies without compromising image quality, with a resultant focal length of 85mm x 1.5 = 127.5mm. Also, sharper focus, sharper in the corners when shooting wide open, easier manual focus override in M/A mode, and less chromatic aberration (CA) and fringing.

"The Art of Seeing," 49th Street Subway Station, New York City


Construction: Solid built, as per Nikon’s standard, made to withstand many years of use in various conditions. Rugged external and internal elements (10 optical elements in 9 groups). However, it is minimally heavier and taller than its predecessor. It is also $500 more expensive.

Performance: The lens provides ultra-fast focus, which is however slightly slower than it’s predecessor wide open at f/1.4. There is also slightly more vignetting wide open than the 85mm 1.4D. However, it is much sharper in the corners, where it counts on an FX body such as a Nikon D3/D3x or D700. It provides outstanding performance in low-light situations at f/1.4 (please see the note below). It provides excellent subject isolation and yields incredible bokeh, which is it very famous for.

Please be aware that the focus is most accurate at f/1.4 when one is closest to the subject, which is also relatively still (i.e., studio). In conditions such as on the street, where subjects may move quickly and unpredictably, focus will be missed wide open quite often especially if the photographer is not doing close-ups, even on continuous focus mode. This is an optical property of the lens and is If that is the case, I suggest that one use an aperture closer to f/2 for optimal results.

"Looking Up," Pershing Square, New York City


Summary: Ultra-fast, super-sharp, top-shelf prime lens with a maximum aperture of 1.4 for gorgeous bokeh and optimal subject isolation, optimal to use for portrait, studio, wedding and street photography.

If you have decided to purchase this lens, kindly use this link from my affiliate, B&H, in order to support my work.

"The Hot Dog Man," near Times Square, New York City

Tech specs:

  • Mount Type
    Nikon F-Bayonet
  • Focal Length
    85mm
  • Maximum Aperture
    f/1.4
  • Minimum Aperture
    f/16
  • Format
    FX/35mm
  • Maximum Angle of View (DX-format)
    18°50′
  • Maximum Angle of View (FX-format)
    28°30′
  • Maximum Reproduction Ratio
    0.12x
  • Lens Elements
    10
  • Lens Groups
    9
  • Compatible Format(s)
    FX
    DX
    FX in DX Crop Mode
    35mm Film
  • Diaphragm Blades
    9
  • Distance Information
    Yes
  • Nano Crystal Coat
    Yes
  • Super Integrated Coating
    Yes
  • Autofocus
    Yes
  • AF-S (Silent Wave Motor)
    Yes
  • Internal Focusing
    Yes
  • Minimum Focus Distance
    3.0 ft. (0.85m)
  • Focus Mode
    Auto
    Manual
  • Filter Size
    77mm
  • Accepts Filter Type
    Screw-on
  • Dimensions
    (Approx.)3.4×3.3 in. (Diameter x Length)
    86.2x84mm (Diameter x Length)
  • Weight
    (Approx.)23.3 oz. (660g)
  • Supplied Accessories
    • HB-55 Bayonet lens Hood
    • LF-1 Rear Lens Cap
    • LC-77 Snap-on Front Lens Cap
    • CL-1118 Semi-Soft case

"The Wait," Grand Central Terminal, New York City

 

Other helpful resources and reviews:– Nasim Mansurov (link)
– Ryan Brenizer (link)
– Ken Rockwell (link)
– Kai Man Wong, Digital Rev TV (link), video comparing vs. Canon 85mm f/1.2

"Just Drive," near Times Square, New York City


"Oncoming," 49th Street Subway Station, New York City


"Cabbie," Times Square, New York City

All images are ©2011-2012 Alexander Filatov Photography. All rights reserved.

  • Nice review! Thank you very much! Superb photos! Greeting from Indonesia.

    • Alex

      Thank you very much Aria!

  • daniel

    I am also impressed with this lens. However I have noticed that there are dust particles in the chamber of a brand new 85 mm lens. I have observed this in three different occasions. The dust particles does not affect the picture. I am frustrated about the fact that Nikon being a “professional” camera manufacturer can not make a lens that is dust free given the price of the lens. I am hoping that I can find a 85 mm 1.4g without a dust particles in the chamber. The dust particles can be easily seen once the lens is attached to the camera and you focus in and out.

    • Alex

      Thanks Daniel. You are certainly not alone here. I actually have something conspicuous to the naked eye between one of the rear lens elements – a piece of lint! I bought the lens when it was in very high demand and decided to keep the lens because it does not affect the image quality. But of course I agree with you, it should not be the case. Nikon need to tighten up the quality control.

  • Johan

    Hello Alexander – trust I may ask a question, please : taking as an example your image “The Wait”, how much of the background can be made to be more in focus when using The Cream Machine ? I’ve been itching to buy myself one, but am not too sure that it will suit my requirements viz-a-viz street photography where I’d like to eg. take a picture of say a vagrant searching in a dustbin for scraps, or someone looking ata piece of art and at least some of the artwork then also needs to be recognisable. Will appreciate your opinion on this one as you seem to use yours for more than just portraits.

    • Alex

      Hi Johan, thanks for your comment. That particular capture was created wide open at f/1.4, so the background may be rendered significantly more in focus by stopping down up to the minimum aperture of f/16. It is an extremely versatile lens, you will not be disappointed.

  • david distefano

    since i have been looking at all the reviews for the 85g vs the 85d to purchase for my wife i came to your site. being a landscape view camera photographer your type of images were not my style. your work is well done, but i do have a question and please don’t take it the wrong way since i tend to stay in my area of comfort. is there a large market for street photography? do you need model releases if you do sell the work? i know the indians on some reservation in the west where i live have to be paid to have their pictures taken does this come up in street scenes? My wife and i just came back from boston and if i get her the 85g when we go back she could have some fun and i will show her your work.

    • Alex

      David, thanks for your comment. I am primarily a landscape and cityscape photographer. I do street photography simply for my enjoyment. Street photographers that get published require signed release forms from their subjects.

  • RSS
  • Newsletter
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • MySpace
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Pinterest