Nikkor 85mm f2 AIS

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by scott_mcloughlin, Jun 8, 2004.

  1. Just seeking experiences with and opinions of the 85/2 AIS. The 85/1.4
    AFD seems king of the hill here, but I'm attracted to the 85/2's small
    size/weight and its 52mm filter ring.

    At this FL, I'm interested in whether the OOF areas are smooth with
    the 85/2. I understand the 85/1.4 AFD has bokeh to die for and more
    than credible MF capabilities, but again, I'm interested in
    portability in a small bag.

    I have the 85/1.8 AFD, and while it's very (very!) sharp and a great
    bargain (thanks Nikon!), the OOF highlights are quite visibly
    exagerated, large and hexagonal and what not. Given that and its 62mm
    filter size, relative bulk and poor MF ring - for me, just for me -
    it's the wrong set of compromises. Some lucky soul will be getting her
    pretty cheap soon :)

    Web reviews of the 85/2 seemed mixed, so I turn here to the community
    for advice. Bonus question: for another centimeter in length and a
    partial stop, might I just park a 105/2.5 in my carry around bag instead?

    BTW, I'm weilding an FM3a these days.

  2. If your main concern is portraiture and smoothness in the out of focus areas, the 105/2.5 AIS (especially wide open) is probably a better choice than the 85/2. The 85 is OK, but it has the more characteristic Nikon edginess. Its main advantages, in my book, are the compact size, slightly fatter barrel and 20mm less focal length -- 105s just don't work for me. You're not giving up much speed. Haven't used the 85AF, and it's been a while with the 85/1.4, so can't compare those.

    The 85 is a nice workable journalistic lens, and better than some pundits' reviews would have you believe.
  3. I like the 105 f/2.5 a lot for wide aperture shots.

    Makes an excellent companion for my FM2n as well.
  4. I own an 85mm f/2.0 AIS lens and use it often. I find the lens to lack for nothing in terms of sharpness. I use mine at f/2.0 anytime that I need selective focus without fear. The out of focus rendition is a strange thing in my experience. It is not so much a constant, but depends on the focused distance, and in some situations it can be harsh. The effect is more pronounced when the background has specular highlights, so if possible I try to have backgrounds in which the light levels are constant across the frame.
    With all of that said, I find that in the world of trade-offs, the 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor offers a very sharp lens in a size that can't be beat. It looks just a bit longer than my 50mm f/1.8 AIS lens. It is light and non-threatening for the street.
    Just to let you know, I also have the 85mm f/1.8 AF, the 105mm f/2.5 AIS and still find this little lens to be useful. Couple it with a small wide-angle lens, and it makes a nice two-lens kit. I love my 105mm f/2.5, but I also enjoy the 85mm f/2.0. While I would never have both with me in the field, I would not be without either in my stash of lenses to choose from.
    Here is a folder of street shots with many examples of images made with the 85mm f/2.0, and no aperture used was smaller than about f/3.5. They are mixed with some 24mm shots, but you should have no problem picking the 85mm shots, and if in doubt, click on the thumb to read the technical details.
    85mm f/2.0 shots (among some 24mm shots)
  5. I'm more than happy with mine, but I don't know what your standard is. Anywhere you can borrow one?
  6. Moose Peterson (who would have us believe he's actually held let alone tested every lens Nikon ever made)says the 85/2 is "nothing to write home about" (How's that for a scientific review, eh?). OTOH the late Galen Rowell took many of his finest photos with that very lens. I owned a couple of them. My photos might not have been anything to write home about but the lens was magnificent. And I owned the 85/1.4-AIS and the 85/1.8-AF-d at the same time.
  7. Great lens. I replaced it with a 1.4 but I can't really tell the difference.
  8. Thanks all for the great advice - and wonderful photographs! I wonder if the 80/2 model is just particularly sample sensitive, accounting for some negative opinions. Who knows.

    Thanks to Albert for the nice description of the bokeh issues, and to Josef for pointing out that if bokeh is my main issue, then I might just want a 105/2.5. Good point.

    As it turns out, I ended up just placing an order for a 105/2.5. Basic rationale is: 1) 105/2.5 is just one of the classic Nikkors; 2) E+ used sample available from Adorama for a good price; 3) I need to compare the 105 and 85mm FLs for myself and see what works, especially since I'm a frequent-50mm (or 45mm) user; 4) for Lord knows what reason, I am finding myself oddly picky about OOF rendering in my shots; 5) 105/2.5 isn't that much longer/heavier than the 80/2; 6) I can always scoop up a nice 85/2 (or /1.4) later if the 105 proves too long for general duty :)

    So next week, the experimental carry around kit for me will be: FM3a, 28/2.8 AIS, 45/2.8P and the 105/2.5. I also have a Bessa RF and Nokton 50/1.5 for low light shooting - fits nicely in the smallish Domke bag should the need arise.

    Thanks again and wish me luck!

  9. Whoops. 80/2 -> 85/2. Forgive me, it's late :)
  10. As it turns out, I ended up just placing an order for a 105/2.5.
    You will not be sorry with the 105mm f/2.5 as your medium telephoto.
    So next week, the experimental carry around kit for me will be: FM3a, 28/2.8 AIS, 45/2.8P and the 105/2.5.
    Use trial and error to arrive at a good carry-around lens kit, and don't be afraid to experiment with those gaps between the lenses. I went through many kits, and each one was in my mind a way to streamline the previous one. I am 100% sure that my photography got stronger and more productive when I dropped lenses out of the kits. Think in terms of what you can shoot rather than what you can not. Instead of cursing the lens not in my bag, I try to make the most of the lenses I do have with me. Towards that end, I have widened my gap to about a 3 to 1 ratio, and almost always have only two lenses with me at any time for general let me see what I can find to shoot type of photography. I find that I get by quite well without the middle standard focal length when working with a medium tele and a medium wide lens. I use two basic kits, a 24mm and 85mm or a 35mm and 105mm. This keeps my eye tuned to only a couple of framings for the subject and reduces my lens changing, because I can shoot all day and never miss the 50mm.
    Anyway? this works for me. Good luck in your search for the perfect kit.
  11. "Web reviews of the 85/2 seemed mixed, so I turn here to the community for advice." --Scott McLoughlin

    This might be a good place to start...

    Why you can't trust lens tests by Bob Atkins

    Statements made by David Ruether have got me thinking that perhaps there is a similarity in concept and design between the 85/2.0, 105/2.5 and 135/2.8 AI & AIS and some older version with the same optical formula. Here is a link...

    Subjective Lens Evaluations by David Ruether

    "performance declines at wide stops near minimum focus (both conditions together), otherwise this lens is excellent even wide open" --David Ruether

    This statement is repeated for all three lenses. David’s rating for all three is 4.8 which is quite good on his scale. I know this statement is true of the 105/2.5 Xenotar types. The 105/2.5 trades some sharpness for mellow backgrounds at portrait distances at apertures of f/2.5 to 4.0. Perchance Nikon wittingly designed the 85/2.0 and 135/2.8 to do the same?

    My own experience is the 105/2.5 AI and AIS (2 samples), 105/2.8 AIS Micro (1 sample) and 85/1.4 (1 sample) beat the 85/2.0. My test were very rigorous but only at a distance of 2m. This distance definitely favors the 85/1.4 as it has CRC and the 85/2.0 does not. I’ve done printing for a friend who’s asthma keeps him out of the darkroom. I can say his 85/1.4 K version factory AI(ed) is definitely competitive with 85/1.4 AIS. If I wasn’t broke I’d try to buy it from him.

    I’ve taken flak for reporting all this before but I won’t lie and I won’t make up stuff to please. Anyway my assessment is the 85/2.0 is a good lens, hell I own one, but the 105/2.5 AIS and 85/1.4 AIS are special.


    Dave Hartman.

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