The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G is a prime lens that is especially suited for portrait and wedding photographers, but also works well for food and landscape photography.
Many photographers relied heavily on the old Nikon AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D lens, which was legendary for the amazing bokeh it produced as well as extreme sharpness and great color rendition. The AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G is the replacement for this much-loved lens and boasts newer technological innovations.
We’ll look at the specs of the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G as well as how it performs in real life. We’ll also take a look at how it compares with the legendary 85mm f/1.4D that it replaces.
The AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G is a professional-spec lens designed to give superb-quality images with a fast aperture of f/1.4, which is ideal for low-light shooting and for producing a shallow depth of field for isolating subjects.
This lens works well on both FX and DX sensors, and Nikon says they totally overhauled the engineering for better sharpness and focusing accuracy compared to the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D. The 85mm f/1.4 G is completely weather-sealed to prevent dust and moisture from getting in, like most of the Nikon range of professional lenses.
The 85mm f/1.4G is built to last, with metal internals and a tough exterior. It feels very solid in the hand and has a nice, wide focusing ring that is at the front of the lens barrel for ease of use. A feature improvement over the 85mm f/1.4 D is that you can rotate the focus ring to manually override the autofocus.
The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) on the f/1.4G allows for accurate, silent focusing. It doesn’t hunt for focus in low light, and the AF is very reliable in poor light conditions, which is a big improvement over its predecessor. One area where the f/1.4G does fall short compared to the f/1.4D is in AF speed. Although it’s not slow, it’s just not as fast.
The lens barrel on the NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G doesn’t rotate or extend, which makes it perfect for using various lens filters on the 77mm filter thread. It has a maximum aperture of f/1.4, a minimum aperture of f16, and the minimum focusing distance is 85cm, which makes for some great close-ups.
As far as the optics are concerned, there are 10 elements in nine groups. Nikon has used their Nano Crystal Coating and Super Integrated Coating on some elements to give better picture quality. Nine rounded diaphragm blades for good bokeh are also a feature of the optical engineering.
The Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G in Use
Let’s start off with sharpness and contrast. The NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G performs brilliantly at large apertures, with outstandingly sharp images at the center. The edges at f/1.4 are a little softer, but when you stop down a bit the overall sharpness is very, very good. In fact, it’s better than the NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D when it comes to sharpness and stands up well to the legendary Canon 85mm f/1.2L, which doesn’t perform brilliantly for sharpness at wide apertures.
The sweet spot of the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G is f/5.6 for sharpness, but if you’re using it as a portrait lens then sharpness isn’t always the yardstick to measure a lens by. Bokeh and rendering capabilities are sometimes more important to a photographer than razor-sharpness.
The previous version of this lens was regarded as “the bokeh king”, so how does the newer 85mm f/1.4G measure up? It’s always going to be a matter of opinion, but I think the f/1.4G is the winner by a small margin here. The background is softer and the edges are less defined than bokeh shot with the f/1.4D.
As far as vignetting is concerned on the NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G, you’re going to get some light falloff, as you will with any fixed f/1.4 lens when you shoot wide-open. It starts to go at f/2.8, and becomes a non-issue when you stop down to f/4.
When it comes to chromatic aberration, the 85mm f/1.4G does very well. In fact, it’s better at dealing with CA than the 85mm f/1.4D. Distortion is a non-issue with the 85mm f/1.4G, with just a slight amount of distortion visible when shooting at longer distances.
How Does the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G Compare?
The 85mm f/1.4G outperforms the 85mm f/1.4D in quite a few areas. The AF on the f/1.4G is more accurate, especially in poor light, although it is slower to focus than the f/1.4D.
The f/1.4G is sharper in the corners when shooting at maximum aperture, and it has much less chromatic aberration and ghosting than its predecessor. Nikon took what was already good about the f/1.4D and made it better with newer technology in the f/1.4G.
In terms of weight, the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G is only around 35g heavier, and slightly longer than the f/1.4D. While the f/1.4G is a great lens for professional portrait and wedding photographers, it’s not cheap, and most enthusiasts would be more than happy to have the f/1.4D in their gear bag.
However, if the steep price gives you pause, there are other 85mm lens options for Nikon that you can look through before deciding.
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G||Nikon AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4D|
|Optics||10 elements in 9 groups||9 elements in 8 groups|
|Diaphragm Blades||9 rounded||9|
Final Thoughts on the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G
While it’s not a cheap lens, the NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G is built to last. It comes fully weather-sealed, which makes it an ideal lens to use outdoors, and it lends itself particularly well to portrait, event, and wedding photography.
It’s hard to beat this lens for image quality and sharpness. It handles well and has a fast f/1.4 aperture which really helps when shooting in low-light conditions. This is a prime telephoto lens that produces the goods every time, and the only niggle with it is the slower AF speed. Having said that, the AF is accurate and quiet, thanks to the Silent Wave Motor.
This lens is a smart one to invest in if you make a living from photography, and it joins the ranks of other great Nikon prime lenses.