Going back to the Nikkor 85/1.4 AIS?

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by jochenresch, Feb 25, 2021.

  1. Hi,
    From my very start of doing photography, I used the Nikon 85/1.4 AIS as my portrait lens. Since I switched to digital (D800), I replaced most of my AIS to the newer 1.8 G lenses. I like the rendering of those new lenses, some are are really stunning (e.g. 35/1.8G versus 35/2 AIS).
    Only with the 85/1.8G I was not so happy. Yes, its sharp, it renders beautifully, its compact...but it looks "digital" and doesn't have much character compared to may 85/1.4 AIS, at least to my taste.
    With the 85/1.4 AIS I had a lot of commitee, but if the focus was spot one...wow! The skin rendering and sharpness, the character was out of this world!
    Here are two examples of what I was talking about (all 85/1.4 AIS + D800):

    Home | Jochen Resch Photography

    Home | Jochen Resch Photography

    (Just click on the first photo in the gallery and the photo pops up that I am talking about)

    Did anyone made similar experiences with the 85mm Nikon's? Would you recommend that I go back to the manual 85/1.4?

    Thanks a lot in advance!
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2021
  2. Hi Jochen,

    I looked at your gallery. #1 would have been great in film days as far as sharpness, but today it is nothing special. I thought 20, 33, 35 , and 56 were much sharper, At least to my eyes, with 56 being the best of the group. Her eyes are piercing and the eye lashes and eye brows are very sharp; I could count each hair.. The shallow DOF isolates the subject well. What lens did you use? The shallow DOF suggests a longer focal length, but her nose suggests close up with a standard or even wide lens. Of course you could have created the shallow DOF in post; if so a great job.

    I think you have a very good gallery; Thank you for sharing it.
  3. Hi bgelfand,
    the first pic in the gallery is made with newer 35/1.8 G lens. Sorry for the irritation, I thought the link leads you dirctly to the photo I was talking about. It is No 56 i was referring too. That was the 85/1.4 AIS with the D800. I have other examples with the 1.4 AIS and even though the 85/1.8 G might look more modern, I do not get that sharpness and character with the newer lens. I will post another photo where you can see what I mean.
    Most of the portraits in the south pacific are Pentax 67 Medium Format slides scanned with a Nikon 9000 scanner. So they are not a reference.
  4. Hi Jochen,

    Thank you for the reply. Your gallery #56 is an outstanding shot; I can see why you like the lens so well. You nailed the focus.

    The use of a Pentax 67 certainly explains why the other shots were so sharp - especially if scanned on a Nikon 9000. Were you using slide or color negative film?

    Your #3 has a very nice color and is sharp, but the DOF may be a little thin. The man's glasses, eyebrows, and whiskers on his upper lip are sharp, but his eyes and eye lashes are slightly soft and the tip of his nose is soft (a nice effect). Were you shooting wide opened?
  5. Hi bgelfand,
    thanks for your feedback, I really appriciate.The shot was made with f4 and 400/sec. If you are close to the person you photograph, f4 is too open to get the entire face sharp. Mostly I am on 5.6 or 8 and I make sure to have enough backround space.
    The reason why I sold this lens back then was that I had a lot of committee (not sure if that is that right expression, I mean shot that were not 100% in focus or that had a motion bur). Especially with the D800 you really see every inaccuracy. But IF it you hit the nail, the pics are outstanding.
    I hoped to get more accurate shots with the 85/1.8G after I read all the good reviews. But after I purchased that lense, I have learned that contrast, color rendering and sharpnes is not the only important thing. There is something abot the 1.4 AIS that I was not able to achieve with the newer G lense. I just wanted to know if others had same experiences.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2021
  6. All of the 6x7 portraits in the Micronesia folder are color slides (400 ASA) and scanned with the Nikon 9000.
  7. Hi Jochen,

    The first Nikon camera I had was an FTn with a 50mm f/1.4 manual lens that I purchased from the Canadian PX while I was stationed in Karlsruhe, Germany. The first time I shot it at f/1.4 was taking a picture of my girlfriend on the Strassenbahn; she was seated across the aisle from me less than two meters away. I focused on the tip of her nose with the split image rangefinder - and that was the only part of her faced that was in sharp focus. :) I learned my lesson.

    As for color with your D800. I shoot a D750 and process the RAW files in Lightroom - Lightroom 6.14 to be exact. Lightroom allows you to specify Camera Profiles for processing the image. I have profiled my camera with each lens I have using the X-Rite ColorChecker system. Actually I have profiled the camera at least three times for each lens - once under bright sun, once in shade, and once under an overcast sky. If I am going to use flash, I profile it again with the flash and ambient light source. I find this helps getting the color "right".

    Oh, yes, I liked your picture taken at Tempelhof. I understand they have closed it as an airport. Too bad, it was a landmark.
  8. and just when i thought i got it all figured out--cleaned it up, decided on the price, wrote the ad for kijiji... i guess i'll be keeping it a bit longer now o_O

    it's a good one
  9. Oh yes Tempelhof:) I live almost next to that beautiful spot. By the time I lived in Heidelberg and my girlfirend was a Lufthansa flight attendant. So we flew to Berlin almost every month.
    I had 3 different versions of that 85/1.4, this was my best one. Unfortunately it was stolen in 2014. The one I baught after that wasn't that good for some reason, or maybe I was just biased. It s not easy to photograph with that lens.
    vilk_inc....I think you made a good decision. I regreted it from the first day I sold it cause I was too curious about those 1.8G lenses. Now I made my decision. I baught it yesterday from a guy in Munich for 600 bucks in mint condition.:)
    Very intersting what you wrote about color profiling. I might give that a try. I also work with Lightroom (first step) and then Photoshop.
    Another reason why I went back to the analog version is that I am not so good with the Autofocus. Of curse it is faster, but especially for portrait work, I am used to focus quickly on the eyes (or somewhere inbetween if the person is not facing me dirsctly), even if the motive is not right in the center of the viewfinder. With Autofucus, I have to move the camera to catch the eyes in the center, "freeze" the focus and then go back to where I want the motive to be in the viewfinder.I am just used to it because all of my life I was photographing analog and speed was never important to me (as you can see from my photos).
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2021
  10. Hi Jochen,

    I am sorry to hear your lens was stolen. About 20-years ago, a burglar broke into my house, and among other things, stole my FTn. I hate burglars! But I am glad you have found a replacement. I look forward to seeing the pictures you take with it.

    When it comes to focus, you and I are opposites. At the age of 78, I find manual focusing, especially without the aid of the green focus spot in the viewfinder, and without the split image of the FTn, to be challenging. If I am going to use the green spot to indicate focus, I might as well use full autofocus. As for the problems of focus and recompose, I can think of two solutions

    1) Use Back Button Focus There are several good videos on You Tube explaining the process. Here is a link to one of my favorites:

    How To Use AF-On And Back Button Autofocus - YouTube

    Yes, the video is by a wildlife photographer, but the principles are the same and it even has a section about implementing it on the D800. (Sometimes I think there is very little difference between portrait and wildlife photography, especially when taking portraits of children :) )

    Here are links to other videos on the subject:

    back button focus nikon - YouTube

    I have just started to use it; it does take some getting use to. I like it. It is easier and faster to lock focus and recompose by removing your finger from a button than by keeping a button half depresses. I would be interested in your opinion of the process.

    2) Do not recompose. Get everything you want and more. Do your final composition in Lightroom/Photoshop when you have all the time in the world. I learned this from an old newspaper photographer who was nice enough to give me a few informal lessons when I was young. As you can see from my photos on this site, all my pictures of people are candid - grab shots if you will. All of them are cropped images, the analog photos composed in the darkroom; the digital images composed in Photoshop/Lightroom.
  11. The word you are looking for is “rejects”. “Trash” works too. “Committee” refers to a group of people - the German expression “Ausschuss” translates to both. And quite often the Ausschuss (committee) produces nothing but Ausschuss (trash);)
    Last edited: Feb 27, 2021
    bgelfand likes this.
  12. @bgelfand: thanks for the videos. That's exacty how I set up my D800, using AF-On since a year and it has improved. But still, with the 85/1.8 G I did not get better results as I expected.I also found out that there is an AF inacuracy with the D800 and the 1.8G lenses. I tried to adjust by applying the finetuning setings, but still it was not 100% acurate. Even after sending my camera + all my autofucus lenses to the Nicon Sercive Point, I could'nt trust the AF entirely. Maybe it is my lack of experience of photographing with AF, but I am rather trusting my aging eyes than I trus the AF. I know, it is against popular opinion. This does NOT apply for the wide angle lenses. I definitely get better results with the AF.

    @dieter: thanks a lot for the clearification! "Trash" is the word I was looking for:)

Share This Page