Here are my preliminary impressions of the Nikkor 85 1.8G used on a full frame camera (the Nikon D600).
WHY I GOT THIS LENS
I've never sought out this kind of lens. I knew this focal length was great for portraits, but I felt it was too specialized to be useful. At the same time, I had other lenses that I thought could fulfill a similar function. For example, Nikon 24-70, the Nikon 70-200 VR, the Sigma 50-150 or maybe the Sigma 50 1.4. Nonetheless, I kept hearing great things about this lens, which kept it on my radar.
Nikkor 85 1.4G - never really considered it, regardless of all the accolades heaped upon it. It is way too expensive for me for a specialized lens.
Nikkor 85 1.4D - legendary bokeh but still quite expensive.
Sigma 85 1.4 - Ryan Brenizer is a fan, and notes the extremely fast autofocus, with image quality close to that of the 85 1.4G. However, it's also too expensive for me. Plus, because it is not a Nikon or Canon lens, I was concerned about the resale value.
Nikkor 85 1.8D - cheap but the bokeh is not that great, which I think defeats the purpose of getting one.
Tamron 90 2.8 - a macro, with about the same focal length. However, I think at 2.8 the depth of field would not be shallow enough.
Nikkor 85 1.8G - great image quality and the price is not out of this world.
I saw a Nikon-refurbished copy of this lens with a good warranty and exchange policy, so I thought I'd give it a try.
- My first impression of the lens was that it was very light. Ridiculously light for its size. It feels like I'm holding a hollow plastic tube.
- The lens is plastic but feels very solidly built.
- This is a G lens therefore it doesn't have an aperture ring.
- Instead of a dot to mark the lens mounting position, it has a round white bump to facilitate changing lenses without looking. The D600 has a similar round white bump, therefore it is possible to mount this on the D600 without looking.
- The lens hood doesn't have ridges (the ridges help reduce the amount of reflection that would cause glare).
- AF speed does not seem impressive. Just before it locks focus the lens seems to take a moment to adjust the focus back and forth, even in bright conditions. Also my refurbished copy has a squeaky sound when it is adjusting, like you're tightening a jar. UPDATE: Some folks at dpreview responded to my inquiry - the squeaking sound is a warning of impending AF failure so I need to return the lens.
- The minimum focus distance is closer than I expected, at around 2 feet.
REAL WORLD SAMPLES
I took my daughter to the park, while my wife got some rest and my son asked to stay home to play Skylanders. I thought it would be a good chance to take portraits of our daughter with the Nikkor 85 1.8G.
One of my concerns was that the depth of field would be too shallow to be usable. I was surprised to find the depth of field is very usable even at f/1.8.
I also noticed that the contrast seems high. The image looks vivid even with just the standard picture mode, although I still adjusted it in post.
The bokeh usually looked good but I think the Sigma 50 1.4 seems smoother. That's just my impression. I plan to compare them side-by-side next time, although of course they can't be compared completely because of the difference in focal length.
|Often the bokeh is nice and smooth|
|Sometimes the bokeh is not that great|
|Uncorrected - no cropping.|
|Corrected - no cropping.|
|Uncorrected - cropped.|
|Corrected - cropped.|
|Quick adjustments in post|
- Can 24-70 compete (70mm 2.8)? What about the Sigma 50 1.4 (on full frame or APS-C), or the Tamron 70-300 VC or Sigma 50-150?
- How does it perform on APS-C?
- I'd like to do a side-by-side bokeh comparison with the Sigma 50 1.4.
- Is it practical? How often would I get to use it? Usually we go out as a family. How easily can I use it with a group as subject?
- What would I pair it with? Perhaps Tokina 11-16 on APS-C?
I will pin down these questions in a follow-up post. In the meantime, here are a few more samples.