Nikkor 85mm 1.8 af-s or nikkor 105mm micro vr?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by quang_tran|3, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. I'd like to have them both if I can, but for now, my wife would treat me badly if I did that :) so, I may only get one.
    I think I will shoot portraits more often (family, friends, etc.), but macro is a bonus. I almost bought the 85mm 1.8 af-s, but then I saw the
    105mm 2.8 vr micro used for only $300 more ($820). I read people reviewed the 105, and it sounds like a very good portrait
    lens beside being a superb micro lens.
    Please give me some advice which one would be a better choice if I can get only one. Also, can any body give a comparison of bokeh
    between the two? How much better does the 85 1.8 isolate the main object from background compare to the 105 2.8 at max aperture?
    Currently, I have nikkor 17-55mm 2.8, and nikkor 35mm 1.8, and I hate to get too close, destroying the natural expression on people face.
    Thank you very much in advance.
  2. My 2 cents: the 105mm VR is very sharp, but it might be too sharp for portraits. Because it's a macro, it's focusing speed is slower. The 105mm range is good range for portraits.
    Many felt the 85mm is too wide, but it has a great subject separation at f/1.8. That also depends if you are on DX or FX, for DX the 85mm is ok I think.

    If you think $300 is not much, you can use that to get a used 90mm tamron f/2.8 for marcro (works with low end DSLRs too in AF) and you get the best of both worlds.
  3. I have both. Both are excellent. I have never compared the bokeh between the two but the new 85mm f1.8 AF-S would be my choice for everything but macro work. My suggestion - get the 85mm and a set of $75 automatic extension tubes.
    I happen to have tubes and did a quick test with them and the 85mm actually does a pretty good job with extension tubes. Who would have thought...
    This was a quick test, shot hand held - the point of focus is slightly different between the two but the overall IQ is surprisingly quite similar. Both shots are completely unprocessed, opened in CS5 with default settings.
  4. Same 100% crop shot with the Nikon 105mm Macro
  5. My 2 cents: the 105mm VR is very sharp, but it might be too sharp for portraits.​
    Huh??? How can anything be too sharp for portraits? You'll love the benefit of tack sharp eyes! I love this lens for portraits and use it rather sparely for 'real' macros. Mind you, it may be a bit long if you use it on a DX camera - mine is FX and the length of the lens just right.
  6. Agree. The 105VR is my favourite lens for portraits.
    (BTW, time ago I tested it (the 105VR) against my 70-200VRII, and I found the zoom to be at the same level at portrait distances (actually, some pics were even sharper - D700). So, if Micro lenses are "too sharp for portraits", we should say the same about "longer pro zooms"! :)
  7. Not that I have either of these lenses (though I second the bargain nature of the 90mm Tamron macro), but I've never bought the "too sharp for portraits" argument. It's easy to smooth things in post-processing (or if you don't like computers, use a soft focus filter); getting things sharp is much harder, and skin smoothing is much better controlled by post or by lighting than by residual spherical aberrations.

    On FX, I originally got a 90mm Tamron as a short portrait lens/macro combination (it being close to 85mm). The 105mm Micro VR is quite expensive compared with the competition, and not optically much better, although it may handle more nicely. I already had a 135mm portrait lens, so a 90mm to complement it made sense; the problem with the 90mm + 85mm combination is that there's quite a lot of duplication. An 85mm + a Sigma 150mm would solve the problem, but cost a lot more... (There are always the Tokina and Sigma 100mm and 105mm macro lenses if that's an issue.)

    The older, AF-D 85mm f/1.8 was known for (slightly) ugly bokeh. The AF-S lens seems to be much better. For what it's worth, I have the Samyang 85mm f/1.4, which is extremely cheap for its optical quality but is manual focus - the AF-S f/1.8 Nikkor wasn't available when I got it, and I can't guarantee I wouldn't have gone that route instead.

    My feeling, based more on what I didn't do than direct experience with these lenses, is that the 105mm is a compromise - it's an over-priced macro whose VR makes it a convenient portrait lens (note that the VR doesn't help much for macro - it's not as clever as Canon's 100mm macro IS). The 85mm is a pure portrait lens - a pure macro to go with it might be a better combination.

    Re. focal length, 85mm is a short portrait lens on FX and a long one on DX; 105mm is a bit middling on FX (nothing wrong with it unless you're planning to get both an 85mm and a 135mm in the future - though I'm sure some 105mm f/2 DC owners would disagree with me) and possibly a bit long on DX (although I use a 200 f/2 for candids; there are no rules).

    Hope that train of thought helps.
  8. I have the 105 and a 85mm D lens. Go check the weights on the two lenses, there's a big difference. At portrait distances, the 105 has faster focusing than any other lens I have. It's faster than my 17-55/2.8. You pay a lot in terms of size, weight and cost for that macro "bonus"; it better be a big bonus for you.
  9. Bokeh? No-brainer, get the Sigma 85mm f1.4. It consistently rates the highest for portrait bokeh. And there's more good news. The Nikon 85mm f1.8G is a consumer grade lens. The Sigma is a pro lens. Better construction, and you get the full f1.4. If you can only buy one, this is it. For macro you could add a Marumi 2-element diopter to it, or an extension tube. I went the diopter route and am very happy. Because the Sigma is such a great performer, I'd simply pass on the Nikon.
    Kent in SD
  10. pge


    Quang, I only have one of these lenses but I also plan on owning both at some point. My only comment is that $820 seems like a lot of money for a used 105mm afs. Here in Toronto you can buy it new for that. I think you might be able to do a bit better than that.
    Local Toronto Camera Store
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Bokeh? No-brainer, get the Sigma 85mm f1.4. It consistently rates the highest for portrait bokeh. And there's more good news. The Nikon 85mm f1.8G is a consumer grade lens. The Sigma is a pro lens. Better construction, and you get the full f1.4. If you can only buy one, this is it.​
    Unfortunately, Kent Staubus omits an important part of the comparison. The Sigma 85mm f1.4 costs about $970 while the Nikon 85mm/f1.8 AF-S is only $500. At almost twice the cost, the Sigma'd better have some advantages.
    Personally, I tend to shoot at f2.8, 4 or 5.6 anyway to gain some depth of field. Therefore, having f1.4 over 1.8 is not much of an advantage. Any 85mm/f1.4 tends to be much bigger and heavier.
  12. "The Nikon 85mm f1.8G is a consumer grade lens" ... that comes with an excellent warranty from Nikon (5 years), should hold its value well being a quality Nikon lens, and will be 100% compatible with all Nikon DSLR cameras.
  13. Quan,

    DO NOT buy a used Nikon 105 VR at $820 USD.
    Buy a brand new one instead for only $90 more.
    This way it's factory fresh (you don't know the history of this used lens - humid storage in a dark & hot place?? dropped?? dog lens sample??)
    A brand new lens of this sort has Niokn USA warranty which YOU can utilize if need be. A used one will not offer you these important advantages.
    The Nikon 105 VR is a very nice lens by the way. I tend to use the 85 1.8 AFD lens much more for portraiture because I like to include body. But the 105 VR is a better performer optically. It's much sharper wide open.
  14. I usually don't have much trouble finding used Sigma lenses, and they are a true bargain. I did that with my 30mm f1.4 and also a 50mm f1.4 Sigma. I though since OP was OK with spending >$800 for a 105mm lens the Sigma wasn't much of a stretch. Lenses you tend to keep for years, so buy the best you can afford.
    Kent in SD
  15. "105 VR is...much sharper wide open" Perhaps compared to the AFD version, but I don't think that is quite true compared to the new AF-S version. The 85mm f1.8 AF-S version is extremely sharp, even wide open, and is likely as sharp stopped down to f2.8 as the 105mm at f2.8. The extra stop also gives a lot more control over DOF.

    Obviously both lenses are excellent so the OP won't go wrong either way. Or with the Sigma.
  16. Thank you all so much for your knowledgeable answers!
    My current budget is really about $500 for the nikkor 85 afs 1.8; but since I saw the 105 vr, I was wondering if I should just
    man up a little and get that and I can play with micro photography when I have nobody to aim at. Not that I have no
    problem with spending more than $800. I know I would be made to sleep with that 105 lens on the sofa for some times,
    but it's ok if it is the right choice :)
    Elliot Bernstein shared a very interesting option. I'm very impressed with the sample pictures you showed. Could you tell
    me a little more about the extension tube you used? What brand would you recommend? How does it affect the effective
    focal length?
    Thank you all again for your knowledge.
  17. Rick Chen and Andrew Garrard now made me look at Tamron 90mm 2.8, too. Interesting... Thanks a lot.
  18. I bought the tubes prior to purchasing my 105mm lens. The brand name is Meike, which seems to be a somewhat popular 3rd party knock off brand. There are numerous available on eBay. The 'generic' grip I just purchased for my D800 is the same brand. I hope it works as well as the tubes (expecting it any day).
    Should you get tubes, make sure you get metal ones so they are solid and can support the weight of whatever lens you choose to use without the risk of breaking (cheaper tubes are made of plastic - there is not a huge price difference between he two). And make sure they are Automatic (you can get manual tubes for $10 but everything is fully manual. The advantage to tubes is that there is no glass in them so that if you use a known good lens, you typically get good results. Results can vary from lens to lens but every lens I have tried them on (mainly primes) seem to work really well. Yesterday was the first time I have tried them on the 85mm lens. The results are surprisingly good (I was very, very surprised). I will have to do further 'controlled' testing.
    Having a dedicated quality macro lens (there are many inexpensive Nikon options) may be preferable if you intend of doing a lot of serious macro work. But for occasional use, the tubes do a really great job.
    I may post some other sample shots to illustrate sharpness and bokeh if I have some time to do so. The new 85mm AF-S lens IMHO is a very versatile lens. Its focal length has commonly been preferred as the ideal portrait focal length. Its fast f1.8 aperture gives you full control over the OOF areas. I am actually quite surprised at some of the comments above.
  19. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    Currently, I have nikkor 17-55mm 2.8, and nikkor 35mm 1.8, and I hate to get too close, destroying the natural expression on people face​
    I have not found the OP specifying the camera body/bodies he is using, but those two lenses are both DX. Assuming the OP has a DX camera body, IMO 105mm is way too long for most portrait work. In fact, 85mm could already been too long. Given that the OP wants to stay a bit farther away from the subject, 85mm may work well in this case. At US$500, the new 85mm/f1.8 AF-S should be a great choice.
  20. Shun Cheung,
    You're right in assumption of the DX camera. I have the D5100. I know it's a little odd to mount the big lens to it, but I've found
    no problem with it so far, and I have no budget to upgrade the camera in the near future.
    Actually, I really meant "candid" shooting instead of formal "portrait" as I wrote in original post. You can tell I'm still
    learning to use the proper terms here :)
    Thank you so much for your invaluable advice.
  21. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Moderator

    I know it's a little odd to mount the big lens to it​
    Quang, that was not what I was talking about. IMO, on a DX body, the 105mm focal length (not necessarily the physical length of the lens itself) provides an angle of view that is a bit too narrow for protrait.
    You could have a big DX body such as a D2X, but the angle of view issue is the same.
  22. Shun Cheung and all,
    I think I'm going to get the 85mm, and maybe I'll get the extension tubes for occasional macro shooting as Elliot
    The 105 seems to be a very good lens, too, but I may not use it up to what it is worth, at least for now. Maybe, some
    times in the future...
    Thank you very much for your responses.

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