The 85mm 1.4 AIS

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by royall_berndt, Nov 18, 2017.

  1. This lens was a marvel, but is damaged beyond repair. Do you think a 135mm 2.0 AF D would be equally good as a portrait lens?
  2. I suspect you're about to get feedback from several forum members who I know if the 135 DC and like it, so I'll get in first with a different view.

    I got one early in my Nikon ownership - its reputation was one of the reasons I switched from Canon. It was very much a disappointment for me. It does, as advertised, produce very smooth bokeh - but it does so partly by having a lot of LoCA, meaning that anything sharp edges around the transition zone gain coloured halos, worse than most "remove fringes" software will look at (I spent many hours in Photoshop with photos of a friend's wedding stopping her hair looking green and pearl jewellery looking purple). It's also prone to incorrect focus, especially at non-0 DC settings (which makes the fringing worse). On top of that, it's not all that contrasty, at least wide open. (I prefer to reduce contrast in post processing, not try to increase it.)

    Many of these problems go away on stopping down (reduced aperture reduces LoCA, increases the DoF which his focus misses, and increases contrast by reducing whichever aberrations are causing its reduction) - but it's a big and expensive lens to shoot at f/5.6 the whole time, and frankly a 135 f/2.8 AI-S is decent once stopped down a little.

    I mostly use my 150mm Sigma macro or 70-200 instead these days (though the vr2 I have is weakest around 135mm and wide open), and bit the bullet on a 200 f/2 just before the mk2 pushed the price up. The Sigma 135mm f/1.8 (or the Mitakon f/1.4!) has my attention for an upgrade in the future.

    YMMV. It was Nikon's main long portrait lens for a long time and had happy customers, it was certainly designed to do the job (though so was the 85mm f/1.4 AF-D, and I've no interest in its corners - or the LoCA of the AF-S). Mine did have a reasonably large bubble in the glass (visible looking through it with backlighting), but Nikon UK swore it was fine, and the LoCA is a deliberate part of the design.

    One thing... What body are you using? The replacements I've suggested (along with options like the 85mm Sigma and 105mm f/1.4) are all G lenses.

    Anyway, don't get too scared off, but this lens really wasn't as magic, for me, as I'd hoped. Try before you commit.
  3. For reference, there's a shot where I got it to work (viewed small) here, and examples of the LoCA problem here. If you never shoot high contrast monochrome edges at wide apertures you may see nothing to worry about - but I do a lot of shooting that shows this up, and it bothers me.
  4. Same experience re: LoCA. Besides, there’s a huge difference when shooting a 135mm if you’re used to an 85mm. Why not get another 85/1.4 AIS? Or get the AFD version, which has slightly less contrast but even better bokeh. Honestly, if I were in the market for an 85mm, I’d buy a Sigma 85/1.4 ART which outshines those two lenses. Of course, there’s also the AFS version of the 85/1.4.
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2017
  5. Any experience with the Zeiss 85mm 1.4 in Nikon mount? In comparison with the Sigma?
  6. Which Zeiss? The planar (older design), milvus, or otus? The Sigma art lens (not so much the previous version) tests better than all of them, is cheaper, and has autofocus; it's on my "to buy" list. I believe it has a bit of mechanical vignetting; I don't recall if the Zeisses do. I suspect you buy the planar for its rendering rather than test results; the Art, milvus and otus are all modern designs and extremely good by most measures.

    The 85mm Nikkor AF-D does something horrible to its corners at wide apertures - ok if you want to blur them to isolate the subject, but to me it looks unnatural, and my subject isn't always centered (I often have detail in the focal plane at images edges), so its rendering isn't for me; YMMV.

    I had an 85mm Samyang (not in the league of the rest, but decent compared with the old version of the Sigma and the 85mm AF-D, with better bokeh than the 85mm f/1.8 AF-D and probably less LoCA than the AF-S lenses). I got an 85mm AF-S f/1.8 because I found manual focus too annoying for candids especially at 36MP, but the LoCA of the AF-S annoys me, and it sounds as though you're happy with manual focus, so you may have different priorities. It might be worth considering the 85mm Samyang on a budget, as is the Samyang 135mm f/2 (you could probably get both for the price of a Zeiss - and Zeiss also make a decent 135mm).

    If you can afford them, I'm sure any of the Sigma art, otus or milvus will make you happy. Something cheaper might, too!

    But no direct personal experience, no. If someone would like to buy me an otus and the Sigma art, I promise to report back...
  7. My reply is about mf lenses but since I just bought a few here it is. I just got the 135/2 Nikkor and the classic 105/2.5. I shot some portraits earlier this week with both on a D4 and D800. The 135 was closed to about 2.8 and the 105 to f/4. Both were incredible, everything I hoped for. Only problem was DOF and that was mostly the 135. The 105 was razor sharp, exactly what I was hoping for. I would have shot it wide open but DOF was already very narrow. I got the 135 primarily for its speed, some days I find that's the best answer. It's big and heavy compared to the 135/2.8 but there's nothing else quite like it. Another portrait option is the 85/2. It's small and lightweight, gives up very little in speed and is very sharp. I carry it around in a go-bag with two bodies and two other lenses.

    Rick H.
  8. I have the 85mm f/1.4D and the 135mm f/2 DC, and like them both very much for portraits and events. I don't use the DC feature and have a preference for the 85mm, but I choose between them depending on how far I want to be from the subject. Switching from 85 to 135mm as your portrait lens will change how you shoot and might put you in situations where you can't back up far enough for the framing that you want. I don't think a broken 85mm is a good reason to switch, unless you've been wanting to work with a 135mm already. If you like the DC feature the 105 f/2 DC is supposed to be somewhat sharper than the 135, should be available for less money, and might be a better choice. According to reports in different places, Nikon's 85mm f/1.4g is sharper and autofocuses more reliably than the "D",while the Nikon 105 f/1.4e is an absolutely superb lens.

    There is an interesting and relevant thread here.
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2017
  9. AF is quite a luxury .. but then again, the all critical eye sharpness is often not continuously tracked by AF, so clever MF can do the trick almost as well..
    My 85/2.0 has nice OOF/bokeh .. but really isn't that good on D800 (chr.aberrations, sharpness) .. but even today, I again fell in love with the 105/2.8 micro MF.
    Very versatile lens (did I mention it focuses rather closely, if desired?), virtually no CA, sharpness great, OOF/bokeh rather nice under most circumstances. And not too long .. 135mm might be. Recommended!
  10. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

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