Why are 85mm lenses still so expensive?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by darin_cozine, Nov 27, 2014.

  1. With all the the micro and aps sensor cameras, 50mm lenses now make perfect portraits.
    In fact I just used my 50mm f1.4 OM Zuiko for just such a shoot.
    -Why then, are 85mm prime lenses from all brands so frikkin expensive?
  2. Canon's 85/1.8 is rather affordable. I guess it's a matter of numbers sold. The 85 mm face a fierce competition from 100 mm (macro) lenses.
  3. I guess because they were quite rare and comparable expensive in film days. 50ies were sold in kit sets and were common. And there are still film shooters and FF-DSLR users who use these lenses for portrait work.
  4. I don't recall spending fortunes on my LTM Jupiters although the old 9 was a tad more expensive than a mint 12
    Sony's 85mm f2.8 or Nikon's slower one(s) seem affordable new. - 300 something Euro range. Tamron offer fast 90mm macros.
    What could or should make 85mms cheap in your opinion?
    The only impact I've seen from small sensors towards the portrait lens market: stuff like the new Pentax 55mm f1.4 or Fuji's 56mm f1.2 made to be APSC portrait lenses and priced 670 to 1000 Euro.
    The days of affordable 3rd party bread & butter primes seem over now.
  5. It's not that 85mm lenses are particolarly expensive. It's 50mm lenses that are generally cheap compared to all other lenses. A 35mm prime commands about the same price as a 85mm, and more extreme focal lengths than those tend to be slower and/or more expensive.
    Personally, I never warmed up to 50mm on APS-C for portraits, it's just a bit too short and not as pleasant on facial features as longer lenses. So, I'd argue whether they are ideal (a perfect portrait in the end has relatively little to do with the lens used, and more with light and other skills anyway). I much prefered 85mm on APS-C, my 50mm saw little work on APS-C (a lot of work on full frame, but not for face-only portraits).
  6. Wouter +1 on the cost issue.
    Personally, I like the 75-85mm equivalent range for portraits. However, I do consider my Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 (on 35mm film) my favorite mid-telephoto.
  7. I'm not an optics engineer but I sense that what Wouter says about cost is correct. For sometime in most of the decades prior to 2000 the 50mm was standard on most cameras, its design having been worked out for many years, the manufacture of it perfected in terms of cost (generous use of performance plastics rather than metal), and (especially) the volume sold of 50mm lenses was sufficiently high to keep prices down (Leica and current Zeiss are special cases). Fast 85mm lenses have rather complicated optical structures, as do multi-element 35mm and shorter retrofocus lenses. Some offerings from Voigtlander-Cosina are modern lenses with cheaper prices (75 and 90mm) compared to the comptetition. Overall, I think the high prices relate in part to the number of 85mm lenses sold, which in this age of zooms, is relatively small.
  8. You didn't learn, how optic drawn images at different focal length. The 50mm is not the same as a 80mm and so on. You 50mm has a certain characteristic how to form the image including DOF back ground softening , etc., regardless you mount this lens on a full frame or a croped sensor or a 4/3 or even tinier sensor cameras. The 50mm lens is not 75 or 80mm lens on your camera, it is still a 50mm with the caracteristic of the 50mm focal lenght. You only, and I said, ONLY, cropping the projected area of the lens ( a full frame lens ) to the smaller and smaller sensor and foolishly thinking, you have a 75 or 80 mm lens. You don't.
    The 85mm lens is made differently then the millions of 50mm lenses, and for that, is more expensive.
    Plastic and metal dose not make different in the optical quality of the lens. Prince my-be, and in profit making, yes.. It is the glass that make the image, not the housing.
  9. Supply and demand.
    Try to buy a 135mm f3.5. Everyone made them and no one wants them. So, because of that I could snag a near perfect Takumar M42 mount for $10 same with my Zuiko OM mount in that focal length, another $10 find. Another example of large supply, little demand is the ubiquitous 28mm f3.5, another little loved focal length/aperture combo that you can pick up for latte money.
    I to wanted an 85 f2 for my OM system. Finally just had to bite the bullet and come up with the cash.
    An associated reason for the supply problem was that, as far as I know, no third party lens maker ever made a fast 85mm lens except for some pre set T mount models in the mid 60's, like the Vivitar 85mm f1.8. And even they go for big bucks now.
  10. Large supply, but not little demand, John. That's why the supply is/was so large. The result is that there are plenty of 50 mm, 135 mm or 28 mm lenses still to be found.<br>Small supply makes the less ubiquitous lenses (more) expensive, even when demand for them is also small.
  11. Both Nikon and canon make reasonably priced 85s as others have said. They're not a cheap as 50s, in this I agree with
  12. The Samyang/Rokinon/Bower/Vivitar and you name the brand, 85mm F1.4 manual focus lenses are excellent and dirt cheap. Under 300 bucks for the chipped version and name your mount.
  13. Yeah, now for the last few years there have been third party 85mm lenses but that is not true for dead mounts like the OM mentioned in the opening post. Mostly just Nikon or Canon or Sony (Minolta AF) mount. So it does not do us old film dogs that still hold on to their beloved Olympus OM, Minolta MD, Pentax M42, and other manual focus metal-mechanical-manual cameras while also using our lenses on the current crop of interchangeable lens digital cameras with electronic viewfinders. In fact I see Vivitar has a cheap 85mm f1.8 for $114 at Adorama's ebay store. That's not to bad a price but only for Nikon mount. At least it is a manual focus lens. I don't know what you get for $114, might be interesting to find out but I have no Nikon MF bodies and at this late date do not want to take on another system. That way lies madness.
  14. The Nikon 85 G1.8 is $496.
  15. supply and demand... pretty simple... Other lenses do the same job, prime lenses are for those willing to specialize and invest in them... A smaller group for sure...
  16. My Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is the most inexpensive lens that I own. It's highly rated on the D800 family (according to DxO). It's lightweight, autofocus is accurate albeit not super fast, and if I ever drop the thing, I'll be out less then 500 bucks. I carry it everywhere.
  17. 85mm f/1.4 and f/1.2 lenses are expensive, because of the diameter required. 85mm / 1.2 = 71mm, which is nearly 3 inches wide. The front element probably needs to be a little bit wider than that to prevent vignetting.
    Producing glass elements that size that are sharp edge to edge at a wide aperture requires quality materials, a very good design, and demanding manufacturing tolerances. You get what you pay for.
  18. You can buy a Nikon or Canon 85mm f/1.8 for under $500 or a Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 for under $300. That's not very expensive. They're more expensive than 50mm f/1.8 lenses, but they're also larger and more complex, with more glass in them.

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