Lens review: The Nikon AF-S 85/1.8 G

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The Nikon AFS 85/1.8 G (released at the start of this year) is a slightly odd product. Unusually for Nikon, the new version doesn’t cost a lot more ($50, give or take a bit) than the old one; doubly unusually, it isn’t a warmed-over cosmetically-modified version, either. (It’s also now made in China, which might have something to do with it. The old lens was made first in Japan, and then Thailand since 2010.) The 85/1.8 D was a simple double Gauss design with 6 elements in 6 groups; the new one uses a 9/9 optical formula. The elements in front of the iris ostensibly retain the double Gauss formula, but everything afterwards is new. As far as I can tell, the same basic optical principles apply, except every single element in the rear group has been replaced with an achromatic doublet of sorts; not a true achromatic doublet because there’s an air gap between neighbouring elements.

Images from Nikon USA. The D is on the left, the G is on the right. Note far more complex rear group; the pairs of lenses do effectively the same thing as the single lenses in the earlier design. The images are to scale, too – note increase in size. It doesn’t seem to be any heavier, though – and noticeably lighter than the 85/1.4 G.

This complex formula has two benefits: firstly, lower chromatic aberration because there’s that extra element there for correction; secondly, internal focusing is now possible (the previous design focused by moving the entire optical assembly back and forth, like all double-Gauss designs). As far as I can tell, the front and rear elements (possibly more than one) are fixed, and the rest move back and forth. At this point, it’s worth noting that unlike Nikon’s newer optical designs, it’s remarkably free of any exotic technology – whilst the bottom of most lenses now play host to entire essays in abbreviations about Nikon’s lensmaking prowess, the 85/1.8G is remarkably clean. All it has is internal focusing and the silent wave motor – that’s it. There’s no Nano-crystal coating, no ED glass (let alone Super ED glass) and no aspherical elements. Even the new 50/1.8 G employs asphericals!

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Untitled. Nikon D800E

Regular readers of my site will know that I was originally a huge fan of the 85/1.4 G, especially on the D700 for it’s sharpness, quality of bokeh and incredible ability to shoot into direct light sources with minimal to no flare. You’ll also know that despite trying multiple samples, I was never quite happy with the performance of this lens on the D800E; mainly due to lateral chromatic aberration wide open, and so-so edge performance. It’s therefore logical to assume that there are optical quality reasons as to why I’m now using the 85/1.8 G instead. You’d be right.

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Caution. Nikon D800E

In all of my A-B testing with similar subjects, several samples of both lenses – the 85/1.8 G was consistently sharper in the center at f1.8, let alone f1.4. it’s possible that real resolution was identical, however, the 85/1.4 G showed so much lateral chromatic aberration that it robbed the images of perceptual acuity. It was also sharper at the edges – markedly so, especially on the D800E. It’s worth remembering that at f1.8, the 85/1.8 G is wide open, and the 85/1.4 G is 2/3rds of a stop down. Granted, it’s easier to design a good slower lens than a faster one, but then again, the 85/1.4 G has a huge amount of technology in it – ED elements and Nano-crystal coating, for starters. Interestingly, the optical formulae for both lenses are nearly identical.

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Apprehension. Nikon D800E

Bottom line: the 85/1.8 G is sharp at every aperture, across the frame, even on the D800E – providing you nail the focus, of course. There is remarkably little falloff in sharpness from center to edge; consistency and microcontrast improve marginally to f4, but it’s already outstanding by f2.8. I only shoot this lens wide open, which should give you some indication of how I feel about the optics. Chromatic aberration under normal situations is almost non-existent; a remarkable performance. Even though this lens has 7 blades instead of the 9 of its predecessor (and 85/1.4 G), bokeh remains pleasing, neutral and smooth. I’ve yet to see any odd artefacts like double imaging or nervousness, but there is a tiny bit of spherochromatism (color fringing) in the out of focus areas. In fact, it’s one of the better-rendering lenses I’ve used in this regard. Color transmission is neutral, per the current crop of Nikon lenses; though the saturation is unsurprisingly not as high as the Nano-crystal equipped optics.

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Phonecall. Nikon D800E

You’re probably wondering what the tradeoff is, given the huge gulf in price between the 85/1.4 G and 85/1.8 G; the last line should have given you a clue. It has to do with contrast, saturation, transmission and flare. It seems that the Nano-crystal coating makes an enormous difference to all four; the 85/1.8 G takes a noticeable hit in every area compared to the 85/1.4 G (it still improves on the old lens in every way, however). The problem stems from flare; when you have extraneous light bouncing around inside the lens between elements – a good coating minimizes reverse reflections off air-glass surfaces – everything else suffers. The most obvious manifestation of this is under backlit conditions, of course – especially when there is a bright point light source in the frame. The 85/1.4 G shows almost zero flare; the 85/1.8 G gives an enormously spectacular trail of reflections off what appears to be every single element. This can be pleasingly cinematic for atmosphere or video work, except the lens has no hard infinity stop, which makes focus pulling challenging. For stage/ performance work, it’s a pain in the ass. Unfortunately, the supplied hood makes no difference simply because it can’t block light from entering the front of the lens – and it’s these rays that are causing the problem.

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Ugly flare – and this is after correction by burning and desaturation. Nikon D800E

Internal flare also lowers contrast; macrocontrast especially. Microcontrast is a bit worse, but not by much. By f2.8 both lenses are neck and neck here. The knock on effect is a reduction in overall saturation; no surprises here. Perhaps the least obvious, and most surprising side effect is a huge reduction in transmission (read my article on the difference between T stops and f stops for more detail). At any of the wide apertures, the 85/1.8 G transmits between 1/2 and 2/3 stop less light than the 85/1.4 G; this is to say that if both are set to a physical aperture f2, then you’ll find the 85/1.8 G’s required shutter speed for a given exposure to be noticeably lower than the 85/1.4 G. In other words, if you set 1/100s f2 ISO 200 on both lenses, the 85/1.8 G photo will be underexposed by 1/2-2/3 stop. The reason is because a lot of the light entering the lens isn’t making it to the sensor plane, thanks to suboptimal coatings.

That said, it’s still better than the old lens.

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Less ugly, more cinematic flare – but still flare. Nikon D800E

The new lens gains a silent wave motor and loses an aperture ring; it’s still plastic, but now the crinkle-finish variety to match the modern bodies and lenses. The plastic type appears a lot less brittle than the 85/1.8 G, though admittedly I’ve never had issues with any of the older lenses other than a propensity to pick up scratches easily. The silent wave motor isn’t any faster than the screwdriver method; it’s about the same, actually – especially on a body with a high voltage built in motor like the D3 or D4. The difference is in precision: it’s a lot easier to move a coreless linear motor in the small increments required to adjust for small changes in focusing distance than a geartrain with associated backlash. In practical terms, you’ll find the new lens a lot more precise than the old one. (It still remains useless if you use an older camera that requires an aperture ring.) The lens also gains environmental gaskets, making it a good choice for pairing with a similarly sealed body.

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Solo. Nikon D800E

I thought that it would be easy to write a conclusion to this review; it isn’t quite so straightforward. I’m going to turn it around a bit instead:

Buy the AFS 85/1.8 D if:

  • You shoot with a manual focus camera, or want to use the lens both on your Nikons and other systems via an adaptor – otherwise you’ll have no aperture control.
  • This lens is optically inferior to both of the G versions, and not much cheaper than the AFS 85/1.8 G.

Buy the AFS 85/1.8 G if:

  • Resolution at maximum aperture and CA are important, i.e. you shoot with a D800/ D800E.
  • You want lower contrast because you shoot with an older, lower dynamic range body
  • Size and weight are important; the lens is noticeably lighter and a bit smaller than the 85/1.4 G.
  • Price is important
  • You like cinematic flare.

Buy the AFS 85/1.4 G if:

  • You need as much light gathering ability as possible, or shoot frequently under very low light conditions
  • You shoot into bright point sources a lot
  • You shoot with a lower resolution body
  • Notice I haven’t mentioned bokeh yet: the 85/1.4 G is slightly better than the 85/1.8 G, but it doesn’t justify the increase in cost.

The Nikon AFS 85/1.8 G is available here from B&H and Amazon; the AFS 85/1.4 G is available here from B&H and Amazon.


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  1. Ming, I love your reviews! I feel they point in the right direction when it comes to gear and what to look for, how to shoot, etc. question: I recently purchased the 85 1.8G lens and a D810. I see the max shutter speed for he body is 1/8000th of a sec but can seem to only go up to 1/2000th with the lens. Am I missing something?

  2. Thank you Ming Thein. As usual a very thorough and interesting article. I comment on this one but find everything you write to be spot on. After years of photography I am just tired of the chart test most websites use to give a note to a lens and declare one to be better than the other because it has a score of 25 instead of 24.5 (I’m looking at you dxo). When making buying decisions I find your approach much more useful and realistic.

    • Thanks Romain. I only care about a) whether a lens lets me make the most of the capture hardware or not, b) whether it gets in the way in the field and c) whether it is an enabler of an image/idea or not…measurements are useful but no substitute to actually making images and prints.

  3. Larry Miller says:

    Someone once said and I quote, “a good photographer doesn’t worry about sharpness as much as the content of the photograph”. There might be something to that statement. Regardless, I am more than satisfied with the 85mm AF-D. So are the photo editors of the two magazines I shoot for.

  4. Andrew Peverini says:

    Hi Ming,

    I was wondering if you have had any experience with the Nikon 85mm f/2 AI-s. The reason I ask is because I recently purchased a Nikon F2, and while I love the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G, it won’t work on the old F2. I know that there are a few different 85mm lenses that will work on the F2, but from what I have heard, the f/2 version has the best bang for buck.


  5. Sir, I salute you – seing your pictures makes me want to go out and shoot hard.
    Also thank you very much for your good work, all the articles and reviews. It really is much appreciated!
    Quick note: the links to flick of this pages’ images result in a 404 error!
    Cheers from Berlin, and keep it up!

  6. You state that the 85mm f1.4g has both asph and ED elements. In fact it has neither.

  7. Very nice review.
    I must tell you that i still try to decide if nikon 85 1.8 G is the better solution over the 1,4 G.
    i had 1,4 G lens in my hands and i must tell you that i still dream about it.
    Unfortunately like you already said , you must sell you baby to buy one.
    The cost of this lens is stellar.
    In fact if i better think, the most important point is not the lens it self, is to be albe to achieve that look of the pictures taken with 1,4 g, with 1,8 g.

    do you think is it possible ? .

  8. Ming Thein Thank for the great review that looks beyond test charts and such to get to the stuff that really matters first off!

    Couple questions for you. I’d thought of purchasing a lens of this focal length for 2 areas that I concentrate on with my photography. Music/concert photography and potentially indoor sports.

    Currently I use a mix of lenses for my music photography including the 35mm f1.8 DX, an old pre AI 50mm f1.4 a Samyang 8mm fisheye and a 80-200 f2.8. All on a D5100. I’d thought of picking up this lens to replace my 80-200 in smaller venues (pretty much all I ever shoot in) hoping I’d be able to lower my ISO or improve my shutter speed and attain better subject isolation from the back ground with the superior shallow DOF. The flare aspect kinda scares me, I don’t mind some as I find it could add to the atmospheric look but it’s hard to tell how hard it is to work with it and keep it off faces and such?

    Secondly I currently use my 80-200 for outdoor sports and it works great for that. I plan on starting to shoot some indoors stuff like basketball and volleyball and I keep hearing about just how dim gymnasiums can be and I though again this lens might provide the same stuff as in the music situations, more light and more isolation then the 80-200. Not as many worries about backlight and flare but what I am worried about is AF speed. I’ve been reading that this lens isn’t all that fast with it’s AF speed. What are your thoughts with that type of use in mind?

    Thanks for any feedback you can give me. You can see the stuff I currently shoot on my flickr page.

    • It won’t give you enough reach for sport, and AF is fast but not blindingly so. Probably fast enough, but the 2.8 tele zooms are faster.

      Flare: hard to predict. Worst when the light source is directly facing the lens, varying degrees when it’s tangential or to the side. Always use the hood. There’s not much you can do if it flares badly, either.

      • I’m talking about indoor sports on a crop sensor though. I’ve run into lots of stuff shot with shorter lenses for indoor stuff.

        Thanks for the feedback. Looks like I should at least try to borrow one and see if it’s going to work for me before investing the money. :/

  9. I’m contemplating a new 85/1.8G or a second hand 85/1.4D. Which would you advise?

    • Depends what you’re using it for/ on. Generally, the 1.8G unless you plan to do a lot of shooting into the sun; in which case the 1.4G first, followed by the 1.4D and last 1.8G. Flare is the only thing it does not handle well.

      • We all like backlight, don’t we 🙂 Is the 1.8G really horrible in backlight? I don’t mind flare (I find flare “atmospheric”), as long as it doesn’t rub the image of all contrast. The 1.4G is out of my budget.

        Side question: what if the 1.4D has dust inside the lens? How much should I worry about lens dust?

        Thanks for your comments and have anice weekend!

        • It’s pretty bad, actually. If the angle is wrong, it’s worse than atmospheric…but it’s easy to move a bit to bring things back under control (somewhat).

          Dust inside the lens doesn’t matter unless there’s a lot of it, and you shoot into the light all the time.

  10. Thanks for your review, Ming. I have the 85mm 1.4D. Any thoughts about replacing it with the 85mm 1.8G? I like the vignetting issues of the 1.4D for portraiture, but am wondering if the 1.8G might auto-focus a little more reliably and have better use for things other than just portraits. I have the D700. Thanks.

    • I’ve had 1.4D, 1.4G and 1.8G. Both G lenses are definitely much faster and more precise with AF; the 1.4G has better flare resistance but isn’t that sharp wide open and shows lateral CA on the D800E. The 1.8G is very sharp, CA free, but does have some flare. I went with the 1.8G because I can fix contrast in PS, I can’t easily fix CA on all subjects.

  11. Lovegrove Sandra says:

    I have two Nikon D7000 cameras, bought a day apart, and I’m using Nikon 35mm 1.8 and Nikon 18-200mm VR lenses on them.
    I’ve had Soft Focus problems, with both cameras. Nikon suggested I switch to tested Memory Cards.
    I plan to use a Prime Lens now, instead of the Telephoto, with AutoFocus set on Single Sensor and Continuous, to hopefully improve my Focus problem.
    I’ve read the Nikon 85mm 1.8D lens compared to the Nikon 85mm 1.8G lens is sharper and has less CA. I’m, also, concerned about dust entering the camera using the Nikon 85mm 1.8 D.
    I’m hopeful that you’ll have some suggestions for me, as to which 85mm 1.8 lens to buy.
    I’ve been enjoying your website-Love the photos and descriptions!!

    • Memory cards don’t affect focusing. C-AF will definitely help with shallow DOF lenses, or moving subjects. You should also try AF fine tune. No issues with dust on prime lenses, moreso with zooms because they pump a lot of air. Go with the newer lens – focusing is also more accurate.

  12. Thanks M. You are performing a valuable public service. And for me, and 85mm services. I own at least 1 ( mostly 2 ) copies of every Nikkor made since F inception from 18mm-200mm, + a couple of 400mms. Never felt Nikkon ever made a great 85mm and since seldom used it, no big deal. Currently using it more and after field testing the 85mm F/2.0 AI, AIS, 85mm F/1.4 AIS, AF-D, AF-S G, 85mm F/1.8 AF-D, AF-S G and my ancient, but almost beloved early 1960s? Pre AI over the past 2 years have reluctantly settled on the 85mm F/1.8 AF-D.

    The 85mm F/1.4 AF-S G due to it’s high constrast offered me a hope for the better. But it is artificial and this lenses highlights are harsh to to point of garshiness to my eye. I use my 85mms primarily for fashion, executive portraiture and now, alas weddings and the occassional TV or filmed product. Have done so because it is by far sharper, at least in terms of resolution and detail, by a wide margin, then all the other ones. But more importantly, it is the absence of distortion. Lens distortion is the number one deal breaker for me with clients ( provided everything else is at least reasonably good ). Color would follow.

    Though others say the newer 85mm F/1.8 AF-S G lens is the sharpest Nikkor 85mm yet, my results differ and show the old timer AF-D F/1.8 to be signifcantly sharper. Consistant, continous field and controlled testing pitting the AF-D F/1.8 against the AF-S G F/1.8 shows that this to be the case by a noticable margin. And I have the slides and D800 shots to show this. There is a reason why this lens, the 85mm F/1.8 AF-D in fact should be this sharp, but you will have to think like a business man and operations man to come up with that answer, which then will seem obvious. But is was the flat field that always sells me.

    I also agree with someone in this thread whom noticed that the F/1.8 G ( getting lazy ) can appear harsh. I feel it is not though, but snappy. In fact, somewhat warmer than many. But compared to old lens, the new G lens has much more contrast than the old D lens. I would indeed call it snappy. However, without the color saturation to go with it. Bleak and black in effect can be called. But only marginally. It does jump compared to the old D lens. But, it’s absence of color and even in comparison to the old D lens which is somewhat flat and washy itself is a bit problematic. More problematic is it’s strong bule violet cast, which appears in many internal focusing Nikkors. That alone makes the lens a wash out for me.

    Also, the quality and quality control of Nikons newest products has become so problematic that after over 50 years using there stuff I already have switched to other products as replacements when something comes up. Nikons were reliable. Till now. On my 4th D800. The new G lenses all have severe manufacturing problems from what I experience, read and hear. The new AF-S G lenses are poor and overall noticably inferior to the D lenses and older AIS & even AI lenses in many ways, if not all ways. They all have deal breaking flare. I threw out my 35mm F/1.8 DX lens, despite it being sharp ( or so they told me ). The 50mm F/1.4 AF-S G initially appeared to have slightly more vibrant or purer color than the old AF-D – but it actually just had less of it! Without the deep contrast and richer color of the older AF-D 50mm F/1.4 in the mid range ( yes, the older D lenses have the traditional Nikkor performance soft till 2.8, tack at 5.6-11 ). Worse, the garsish kalidascope color casts from green thru magenta make everybody look like Casper the Ghost in a microwave on high. Yet worse, the flare. All mine I tested flare in the store under house incandesants!

    The best of the bunch in my opinion, the 24mm F/1.4 AF-S G is sastifactory product I seldom use as is no match for the old 24mm F/2.0s which were consider poor in their day and no match for the F/2.8s. The older lenses have much more contrast and saturation and less distortion. The F/1.4 G has the weird wavy distortion inherent in all moder Nikkors I have used which give it an unnatural and papery cartoonish look. And the color, I must admit which is much cleaner than the older lenses, is less accurate and saturated. What are we to do?

    • Agree on QC issues – there are also AF tolerance issues, which mean that we have to look at several copies if there are issues with the first one. I can’t get the D versions to focus consistently on the newer bodies – I think it’s a combination of backlash in the AF gear train and calibration issues with the AF system itself. In terms of rendering style, I prefer the Zeiss 1.4/85 Planar – however it doesn’t hold up on the D800E until f2-2.8 or smaller. Wide open there’s very obvious coma and CA, both LoCA and LCA.

  13. Ming, DxO publishes T-stops for lens, and for the 1.8/85 G, it’s listed at 1.9 (which is the same as 1.8/28, which as you note out-transmits the Zeiss). Care to comment what might be at work here? One possibility is that DxO measures transmission at the center, and the 85 has heavy vignetting. So the overall impression of brightness may still be darker than the 1.4 at the same aperture. Link here: http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Lenses/Camera-Lens-Database/Nikon/Nikon-AF-S-NIKKOR-85mm-F18G

  14. And the sigma 85mm f1.4? I´ve heard good things about that lens, but im not sure…

  15. Hi Ming, I own a D700 (just bought one) and would welcome your advice on whether to buy the 85mm 1.4G or 85mm 1.8G. Pros of each (in relation to he D700) would be great. Most of my work is out and about, with (some) low light. Much appreciated, Rob

    • I reviewed the 1.4 G on the D700 here. This is the one to get for the 12MP bodies, not for the D800E – wide open performance is poor compared to the 85/1.8 G. Hope you use my referral links if you buy one!

      • Thanks Ming. Would the 1.8G be just as good on the D700? Undoubtedly the 1.4G is good but would be useful to know if the 1.8G outperforms the 1.4G or they’re close…

        • Much less of a difference on the D700 because of lower resolution, both are critically sharp wide open, neither shows CA. Note that the real difference in transmission is more than the physical f stop suggests though – this is because of the coatings on the 1.4G.

  16. Larry Miller says:

    The 85/1.8D has the Super Integrated Coating on it. That’s good enough for me….

  17. Excellent review Ming. I went ahead and switched out my 85mm 1.8D (japan version) for the 85mm 1.8G, I can’t wait to shoot it. Also based on your review I went ahead and picked up the 50mm 1.8G. I’m surprised you have not written more about it besides the aspherical element notation on this post. I actually had the 50mm 1.8D, then I purchased the 50mm 1.4D, and bypassed the 50mm 1.4G, and settled on the 50mm 1.8G.

    To be honest, I found the 50mm 1.8G very sharp at all apertures and I hated the fact I had to stop down to at least f2.8 to get anything worthy on the 1.4D.

    Can’t wait to see if you’ll get your hands on a D7100 and put it through its paces. I’m waiting on your review before I buy hahah.

    Cheers from Miami, FL.

    • I’ve shot with one but don’t own it as I’ve got the Zeiss 2/50 MP, 45/2.8P, 58/1.2 Noct and 60/2.8 G in that range already…

      I’d go ahead and buy one if you want it, I don’t plan to review the D7100. You know I don’t review gear that isn’t relevant to me…I don’t have the time, interest or funds to buy the review samples (no loaners, unfortunately).

  18. Starred says:

    Dear Ming,
    I have a D600 and an Oly EM5. I want to buy one portrait lens. What would in your opinion be the preferred combination allowing for most pleasing results for portraiture:
    1) D600 + 85/1.8g
    2) EM5 + 45/1.8

    • You can do portraits with anything, it’s down to your own style. But If you’re after isolation, then the 85 on FX will give you more separation than a 45 on M4/3.

      • Starred says:

        Thanks for the quick reply!
        If my style would be geared towards headshots, would you then still recommend the 85/1.8g, or are there more preferrable FX lenses for that specific purpose?

        • If you need to get closer, the 105 VR Macro is probably a better choice because of minimum focusing distance. Regardless of what you get, hope you use one of my referral links 🙂

  19. Hi Ming, I have just discovered your blog and must say I am floored. Such well-written, thorough analyses, together with top-notch pictures. A joy to read. I have a question regarding how close you can get to the subject with the 85mm/1.8g and, given the limit to its working distance, how much of a close-up would you be able to achieve with such a lens without resort to cropping, on a full-frame body? Would you be able, say, to get as close as the picture in this link? http://picpaste.com/DSC09999_sm-Yy43dV0S.jpg Closer, perhaps?

  20. Hi Ming

    I am contemplating between this 85mm 1.8G or the Zeiss 85mm 1.4 ZF.2 for a Nikon D600 that I am planning to buy. Which one do you think I should go for? I don’t mind the weight of the Zeiss, looking at the colour rendition of the Zeiss really blew me away, but it seems that the 85mm 1.8G performs just as well too.

    I have not owned a manual focus lens before and that is my only worry, will there be a steep learning curve using it?

    • The D600’s focusing screen isn’t very good for manual focus because is just isn’t snappy enough. The Zeiss is great on the lower resolution cameras, will have to be stopped down a bit on 24MP for critical sharpness, and doesn’t do very well on anything higher. I’d personally go with the 1.8G unless you’re shooting into the sun a lot – it flares badly, whereas the Zeiss doesn’t flare at all thanks to the T* coating. Whichever you decide to buy, hopefully you can use my amazon referral links…thanks!

  21. Hi, I was wondering whether you would be able to help me: do you see any difference in colors between 85 1.8 D and G on Nikon D700? I might mean contrast, but I am not quite sure how to describe it…My question comes from using 24-70 2.8G and 50 1.8D. I know that they are totally different lenses, but at the same time they give totally different coloring, and I don’t see a difference between 24-70 and e.g. 70-300G at all. For me 50mm gives really bleak and washy results, whereas 24-70 is more vibrant, gives more contrast. Is it due to the difference between old/new systems, or this coating you were talking about?

    • Yes, the older D lenses tend to be both lower in contrast/ microcontrast, and less saturated/ vivid in colour. They can also be a touch warmer. It’s to do with the coatings on the newer lenses. Less difference between the 1.8 D and 1.8 G though because the latter isn’t using the new Nano Crystal Coating.

  22. Ming,

    Just got the 85mm 1.8D new, realised it cannot focus at infinity both on the D700 and D90. Do I need to send back to Nikon Centre? Or is it due to AF fine tuning? Your comments appreciated. Thanks.

  23. Ming: Do you find that images from the 85mm f/1.8g have a slightly harsh rendering to them? I’ve used it a number of times to take natural-light pictures, and find that it doesn’t render colors in the same warm fashion that, say, my 60mm f/2.8d does, and that the images are almost too contrast-y, giving them a harsh, somewhat clinical feel (which, of course, is not desirable for portraiture).

    I need to experiment some more, but I’m finding this a troubling aspect of this lens, and have seen a couple of others mention this “harshness” in discussing it.

    • It has a surprising amount of macrocontrast, but no, I haven’t noticed it – then again, I’m either shooting under very harsh light anyway (living in the tropics) or working with entirely controlled light so it isn’t an issue. It could well be for some situations though.

  24. Great review Ming. Do you find the AF to be slow to lock on the 1.8g?

  25. Do you use filters on your lenses, especially on the 85mm f/1.8G? Just ordered this lens to replace my “I believe and hope” bad copy of a Sigma 50mm lens which I had for 3 years now on my D7000 (D40 first).

  26. Interesting experiences, I went with an 85/1.8G because paying over a 1000 euros more for getting a bit better image at large apertures wasn’t worth it to me. I did own the D version of the 85/1.8 previously. What annoys me in the 1.8G is its size, making it hard to pack in some compact bags, the hood that feels cheap (why can’t Nikon do rectangular hoods like Leica and Hasselblad now that they already have bayonets?) and the flare issues. The green ghost that shows up in some of your pictures is not actually the biggest problem for me, but the effect of getting the whole image washed out if the sun happens to strike the front element at a bad angle. This was annoying enough that I bought a Voigtländer 90/3.5 to complement the 85/1.8G and it has worked well, but I need to choose which one I pack. Still, would be nice to have the perfect ~85 mm lens…

    • I actually don’t mind the flare. It’s atmospheric. I could however see why there are those who find it troubling. Yes, there’s never such a thing as a perfect lens sadly…

  27. Just got my Google Nexus 10 with 300 PPI screen and loving seeing the gorgeous IQ of D800E!
    Got it to display my high rez gallery images.
    Wondering if you will post higher retina rez images to your site in future?
    These higher rez screens are so much better for high detail photos. 🙂

  28. I really like the resolution and compact size of the 85/1.8G on my D800e. However after reading your review I’m wondering if I should also buy a 85/1.4G for the times I want a more cinematic, contrasty look and also for the times I need more light since you seem to suggest the difference between the lenses is more that 2/3 stops and more like 1.5 stops.

  29. Thanks for the tips, look like it we work well with my D800

  30. First of all I’d like to say that I LOVE your site and visit it every single day since discovering it. Being new to photography I have lots of questions and you always provide me with lots of answers. Thanks for the time and effort you put into this. I was wondering if you have tested both the 1.8 and 1.4 version on a D600 and what your opinion is? I am lucky enough to have a 700 and 800 and i just got the D600 and I have the 1.4 version of this lens. I was thinking of trading it for the 1.8 due to it’s better performance on the D800. I want to make sure I have a lens that will perform equally well on all of my cameras. Thanks in advance for any reply…

    • Thanks for your compliments. I haven’t used the 1.4G on the D600, by that point I’d already switched to the 1.8. The 1.4 worked fine on a D3x, so I think it should be fine on the 24MP cameras.

  31. Jorge Balarin says:

    Nice review. I already have an 85/1.4, that I combine with a D700, and I’m not thinking on buying the D800. So now I’m ok with my lens. Greetings, Jorge.

  32. Hi and thanks for this interesting comparison with the older lens. This makes me wonder if it is a good idea to invest into a Nikon Objektiv AF DC 105 mm 1:2D as a portrait lens. It has an older design without ED/N features.
    My question is: Which drawbacks (flair, macro/micro contrast, saturation…) would there be in comparison to the newer Nikon 105mm Micro?

    thanks chris

    • No idea until one tries it on a newer camera. The DC elements were known to cause problems in the past because achieving perfect alignment was troublesome – one of the reason why apparently both lenses will be soon discontinued…


  1. […] or Amazon: Nikon AFS 24-120/4 VR** – review B&H Amazon Nikon AFS 85/1.8 G** – review B&H Amazon Nikon PCE 85/2.8 Micro** – B&H Amazon Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar** […]

  2. […] Nikon AFS 85/1.8 G** (review B&H Amazon) An odd choice considering the others on this list; but I actually like the way it […]

  3. […] get, and I was surprised just how much of a difference there was between say the Otus 85 and Nikon 85/1.8G – even shooting at f5.6-8, by which point both lenses are excellent. It’s also […]

  4. […] series was shot with a Leica Q, Canon 5DSR and 40 STM, Nikon D810 and 85/1.8 G and processed with Photoshop Workflow II. You can also look over my shoulder at the way I […]

  5. […] series was shot in several countries with a Nikon D810, 24-120/4 VR, 45 PCE, 85/1.8G and Voigtlander 180/4 APO lenses. Postprocessing and color management was done using Photoshop […]

  6. […] to peak arounf f2-2.8, but even at f1.4 it’s delivering far more than my Nikon 70-200/4 VR or 85/1.8G does at any aperture. There is some vignetting wide open that disappears by f2.8 or thereabouts, […]

  7. […] is not a small lens. That’s an AFS 85/1.8 G in the background, and the image was shot with a 120mm equivalent – no perspective […]

  8. […] system – D800E, 24-120/4 VR, 85/1.8, Zeiss 2.8/21 Distagon and a couple of SB900s (you never know when you might need […]

  9. […] series was shot with a Nikon F6 on Ilford Pan F 50 film, using the 45/2.8 AI-P and AFS 85/1.8 G lenses, then scanned with a D800E and 60/2.8 G Micro. Enjoy! […]

  10. […] Lens review: The Nikon AF-S 85/1.8 G – Ming Thein | Photographer Nov 23, 2012 … Bottom line: the 85/1.8 G is sharp at every aperture, across the frame, even on the D800E – providing you nail the focus, of course. … saturation is unsurprisingly not as high as the Nano-crystal equipped optics. ….. Trackbacks … […]

  11. […] Amazon Nikon AFS 85/1.4 G* 9/10 – review B&H Amazon Nikon AFS 85/1.8 G** 8/10 – review B&H Amazon Nikon PCE 85/2.8 Micro** 8/10- B&H Amazon Nikon AFS 200/2 VR II N – […]

  12. […] had originally intended to use a fixed prime – the 85/1.8 G – but the huge variation in heights and body sizes made this impossible if we were to keep […]

  13. […] Lens review: The Nikon AF-S 85/1.8 G ? Ming Thein | Photographer Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8 G (FX) – Review / Test Report Nikon Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8G review | Cameralabs "It's about time people started taking photography seriously, and treating it as a hobby." Elliott Erwitt Reply With Quote […]

  14. […] shooting a D800; if you are, get the 1.8G version below) – $200 off AFS 85/1.8 G (reviewed here) – $100 […]

  15. […] Staying with Nikon full framers, but going to the prime side, Ming Thein has published his take on the Nikon 85mm f1.8G. […]

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