Are 50f/1.4g and 85f/1.8g significantly improved over d variety?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by chuck, Aug 14, 2015.

  1. I have the d variety of these two lenses from 15 years ago. They still function well after 10 years of storage. No oil appears to have run onto the aperture blades (As they have with 35mm f/2d, so the aperture is sluggish in stopping down and opening back up). Do the newer g versions of these lenses offer any significant improvements over the d version? It appears the g variety commands only a modest premium of about $100-150 over the d versions on ebay.
  2. While I haven't bought it (yet), for the 85mm f/1.8G, I am convinced it is way better than the 85mm f/1.8D. The latter is a competent lens, but no more than that. Not very good at wide apertures, harsh out of focus rendering. The f/1.8G looks to beat it at every aspect. I am not sure for the 50mm f/1.4 (people report contrasting findings - some like the D better, others the G). I've got both 50mm f/1.8D and f/1.8G, and also there the G lens is just loads better than the old D lens - also here most of all wide aperture performance and out of focus rendering which are visibly better. Personally, I find the f/1.4G hard to justify given how good the f/1.8G is - while the f/1.4D was pretty easy to justify compared to a f/1.8D.
    That all said, just try your lenses first. The improvements only make sense if they serve you one way or another. Personally, I use the 85mm f/1.8 little, and when I do frequently for landscapes, so the improvements in the new lens wouldn't bring me much, if anything.
  3. Never had the 50 f1.4D so I bought the 50 1.4G which is very good, I think, on my D800, particularly at events where it is a light weight camera lens combination (compared to more expensive glass). I typically use it at f5.6 and have no complaints with results. Attached is a low res picture of new Globe theater cast performing at the 2015 Spoleto festival in Charleston, SC.
  4. Based on experience with all of them the answer is an unqualified YES.
  5. Chuck - I think you make a good point about the used value of the old versions of the 85 (1.8) and 50 (1.4). I haven't used them, but the internet seems pretty clear about the D>G improvement. So I wonder why the old 85 seems to hold its value well. I never see a really cheap 85 on my local craigslist. I guess some still need an aperture ring. When I get an FX camera, I envision buying both of these lenses. I would not even consider the pre-G versions since the G versions are really not much more expensive.
  6. My 2ยข worth.
    I always loved the rendering of the 85mm f1.8D lens and it is one of the few lenses I've ever regretted selling. I never liked the rendering of the 50mm f1.4D lens, and found it to be rather boring and plain, and was happy to get rid of it. I found the 50mm f1.4G lens renders much more to my liking, and have never used the 85mm f1.8G.
  7. I would consider spending the money
    on a "G" lens to replace my 50 AFD or
    85 AFD only because I purchased an
    F5 last year. Though I also use a
    D700, every modern lens I purchase I
    would like to be able to use it with film.
  8. This is what I wrote when I traded the D for the G f/1.8 85mm some 2 1/2 years ago:
    The new lens is bigger (filter diameter is 67mm vs 62mm) but lighter. AF-S is the major advantage (not the least because on the D lens the focus ring turns during AF operation) but AF speed appears to be about the same. Bokeh is smoother for the G version but spherochromatism (bokeh fringing) is a bit more pronounced at f/1.8; it disappears at f/2.8 for either lens. The dreaded purple fringing that the D version displayed at high-contrast edges when used wide open is not there in the G version.

    There are certainly subtle differences between the G and the D - and I am sure that most people won't notice.​
    Image shows the size difference for the f/1.8 85mm lenses.
    I made the same experience trading the 50/1.8D for the 50/1.8G - better in every aspect. Can't comment on the f/1.4 50mm versions - never owned them.
  9. I used to shoot a lot in my son's high school gym with very poor lighting. Even with a D3s, I needed f/2.2 to get enough shutter speed at ISO6400 and above. I got slightly better results when I "upgraded" 50/1.4D and 85/1.8D lenses to the 50/1.8G and 85/1.8G versions. I like the image quality of the 50/1.4G I have access to, but the faster AF speed of the 50/1.8G vs 1.4G with still good image quality made the 1.8G the choice for me. The 85/1.8G just seems to deliver a more satisfying image of people vs the 1.8D, though the 85/1.8D I had was a good lens.
    The 50/1.8G lens seems like a bargain that all serious Nikon shooters should try. I found it to be MUCH better than the 1.8D I had and I think a little better than the 50/1.4D at stops wider than f/5.6.
  10. Most of the reviews of the 50 1.4G comment note that it's a bit sharper, with lower CA and better bokeh from the rounded 9 blade aperture (with the older lens, background highlights are heptagonal at f/2.8 and narrower). But the new lens doesn't have everything its own way - there's a bit more distortion than the 1.4D and, surprisingly, slower AF, at least when racking from close focus to infinity or back. My 1.4D, bought for film use, has become a favourite lens on the D800 after getting little use on DX, and I haven't felt the need to upgrade (though I could do without the heptagons). It would be interesting to hear from those who have used both extensively.
  11. I have, and use, both the AF-S 50mm f/1.4G and the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G. They are excellent lenses capable of producing high quality results. Are they so much better than the prior generation of Nikon lenses in their focal lengths that everyone should rush out to sell the old ones and buy the new ones? That's debatable.
    Nikon has been making both 50mm and 85mm lenses for more than six decades now. Nikon has steadily built its knowledge of optics, lens design, and manufacturing techniques over the years. Each new generation of Nikon lenses has shown improvements compared with the prior generations. All of them have been good lenses. Some of them have been truly exceptional. Every single one of them is capable of producing excellent photographs.
    Take the 85mm focal length, for example. I own, and have experience shooting with, the Nikkor 85mm f/2 rangefinder lens in Leica mount from the 1950s; the Nikkor-H 85mm f/1.8 non-AI lens from the 1960s; the Nikkor 85mm f/2 AI lens from the 1980s; the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 AI-S lens from the 1980s; and the current AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G. I do not own, and have never shot with, the AF-Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D, so I can't make a direct comparison with that lens; but I can still offer some comments based on the others.
    The photos of US Marines that David Douglas Duncan took during the Korean War, using the 85mm f/2 rangefinder lens lens (along with Nikkor 50mm and 105mm RF lenses) made Nikon's reputation as a manufacturer of professional-grade photo equipment. Those photos remain among the best combat photojournalism images ever taken. The Nikkkor-H 85mm f/1.8 was such an iconic lens during the 1960s that all it took for the director of the 1966 movie Blow-Up to give one of his characters instant credibility as a professional fashion photographer was to show that character shooting with that 85mm lens on a Nikon F. The Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 AI-S from the 1980s had such high optical and mechanical quality that some still consider it to be among the best ten lenses that Nikon has ever built. Bjorn Rorslett, for example, describes it this way: "A truly professional lens ... it delivers outstandingly sharp images..."
    According to multiple evaluations, the AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G offers higher optical performance than just about any of its predecessors. I've never done any formal comparison tests, but in my own usage, the new one delivers outstanding sharpness and excellent contrast, handles well, and has few if any vices that I've been able to detect -- it's an excellent lens, period. Its only weakness is that, because it lacks a manual aperture control, it can't be used on older manual camera bodies.
    Does that mean that the earlier 85mm lenses are now junk? Nope. Even the oldest one of them can still be used to take excellent photographs. There are differences from one generation to the next, with each one a bit better than the one before, but there are no duds in the bunch. The newest one is the sharpest yet, offers the advantages of autoexposure and autofocus, and delivers great results. In the right hands, though, every one of its predecessors, going all the way back to the 85mm f/2 rangefinder lens from the 1950s, can deliver excellent images.
    What the decision really comes down to is this: What camera body are you going to use this lens with? Do you make your living as a photographer, does your income depend on delivering the very best image quality possible, and can you deduct the cost of a new lens from your taxes as a business expense? If not, do you have sufficient disposable income that you can afford to sell the old one and buy the new one (or keep the old one and buy the new one anyway) without worrying about the cost too much? Are you someone who feels that always having the latest and best equipment is important, or do you take pride in wringing the best results you possibly can from the equipment you've already got? Those are personal questions for each individual photographer to consider, and there is no one "right" answer. No matter which generation of Nikon 85mm lens you end up with, though, you will probably have a high-quality lens capable of delivering excellent results.
  12. I've never owned a 50/1.4G, but I can tell you that the 50/1.8G is an improvement over both the 1.8D and the 1.4D. The 85/1.8G is a noticeable improvement over the 1.8D. The G lenses are sharper, with a bit more pop and much better booked rendering.
  13. The 85 f/1.8 AF-D is impressively sharp (especially for the money), as I recall tests, but has pretty ugly bokeh. The f/1.8 AF-S G (which I own, unlike the AF-D) has much smoother bokeh, making it more useful as a portrait lens. It's probably not quite as smooth as the Samyang f/1.4 I own, but it's probably sharper, and the lack of autofocus on the Samyang is annoying. However, the f/1.8 does have pretty visible LoCA, as Dieter reports. Whenever I've taken a photo of someone with books in the background, all the text on the books goes green, for example. Not that there's much which is better behaved at this focal length and speed - the 85 f/1.4 AF-S seems to have at least the same problem and be painfully expensive; the f/1.4 AF-D is just soft off-centre at wide apertures. The pre-AF version seems to have had a different formula, and remains popular.

    I have the f/1.8 AF-D and AF-S 50mm lenses, the latter bought when I wanted to test my D800 for AF issues and discovered my 50mm was so soft at wide apertures that I couldn't check focus. The AF-S is much better at wider apertures; less so at smaller ones. It also comes with a hood, but it's quite a bit bigger than the AF-D, to the extent that I'm less comfortable carrying it around "just in case". I more recently got an E-series f/1.8 which is even smaller and has the same optics (other than coatings) as the AF-D, but without autofocus. It's a body cap.

    The 50mm f/1.4 Nikkors never tempted me. The AF-D, like the 85mm, is just soft off-centre until you stop it down appreciably, and I don't put every subject at the centre of the frame. The AF-S is much better, but has slightly ugly bokeh and a lot of LoCA. The older Sigma 50mm is my recommendation for DX shooters, since it's impressively sharp wide open out to the DX frame borders, and has nicer LoCA - but on an FX camera the corners go to hell until you stop down a lot. I splashed out for the Art Sigma lens, which isn't quite an Otus but is the first 50mm f/1.4 I'd actually bother to pay for on an FX body. It's much more expensive and heavy than the other (non-Otus) 50mms, though.

    If you're happy with the lenses you've got, especially if you don't want to use them at wider apertures, or don't care about off-centre sharpness, or don't care about bokeh, then there's nothing wrong with them. Do you get better performance by paying more? Yes. How much and whether it's worth it will depend how much you feel you've been harmed by the characteristics of these lenses in the past. We all shoot differently.

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