Nikon 85mm Review

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The Nikon 85mm 1.4 is one of my two favorite people-shot lenses! It’s tied with the 50mm — see my Nikon 50mm Review.

I do NOT own the Nikon 50mm 1.8 lens, but it is a cheaper version of the 1.4 above. The only difference is that it has a slightly more forgiving depth-of-field.

Nikon 85mm Review

The lens is amazing, and I like it even better than my 50mm 1.4. See more at the Nikon 50mm Review.

The reasons I like it better than the 50mm lens are:

  • A more intimate shot. The BIG difference is that you can be further away when taking the shot, which really matters. As soon as you “get up close” with that 50mm, sometimes the moment is ruined, because people are VERY conscious of the camera. The 85mm has now become pretty much my main “people / family shot lens”.
  • Better compression.  The focus has a more complex and interesting relationship with the background.  This is quite hard to explain, but it certainly has a nice “feel” to the final shot.

When it comes to taking photos of people or kids, this is the main lens that I depend on when first entering the scene.  For example, when we go to Disneyworld and we carry around the Nikon D3S (see my Nikon D3S Review), the 85mm is the lens we have on there.  It allows us to get in nice and close to the subject without needing to be about three feet away, which is a requirement with the 50mm.

The downside of this lens is that it has no flexibility in terms of zoom.  As a “prime” lens, you can’t zoom out or zoom in.  You get what you get.  Also, it is a heck of a lot more expensive than the 50mm.  If you are on a budget, just stick with the 50mm prime.

I think the best way to see what a lens can do is to look at some sample photos!

85mm Sample Photos

Below are a few sample shots taken with the 85mm.


d3s review (4 of 4)

Here is my daughter in downtown Tampa.  How’s that for low-light performance?  Shot with an 85mm 1.4 lens.  This is ISO 1250 on an 85mm lens shot at f/1.4.  1/90th of a second.

Running right at me full speed!  ISO 200, 85mm,  f/1.7, 1/3000 sec

ISO 360, 85mm,  f/3.3, 1/90 sec

She’s not a happy princess.  But she was shot at 1600 ISO, 85mm, f/1.4, 1/320 sec.



d3s review (2 of 4)

Here is Isabella again.  It was dark on the streets of Savannah, and I mean DARK.  And she was moving around, as always.  This was ISO 3200, 85mm, f/1.4 at 1/90 sec.

d3s review (1 of 4)

Here is my friend’s family in Savannah.  After dinner, about 10 PM in very very dark, we went out.  All of this is, like the ones above, without a flash.  It’s really amazing, isn’t it?  This is ISO 3200, 85mm, f/1.4 and 1/90 sec.


In Petaluma to see Leo Laporte in Action!

A barn near Petaluma on a foggy morning. This was shot at f/1.4


Any questions about the nature of these reviews? Visit my Ethics Statement. It’s all quite simple!

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