Would you spend $800 on a AIS Manual lens

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by hjoseph7, Aug 10, 2014.

  1. I have an 85mm F2 AI Nikkor lens which has received some pretty low marks in regards to picture quality. The 85mm F1.4 on the other hand receives stellar reviews, but those stellar reviews come with a price.
    This lens is currently selling for about $800 "used" on B&H. After glancing at some of the prices for this lens on eBay I said to myself maybe my 85mm f2 is not so bad after all. Is the 85mm f 1.4 really worth all that money considering it is not AF ?
  2. No... way...
    If you can step back a step or two or three, the 105mm f2.5 is great for one quarter of the price.
  3. Have you actually been disappointed with the image quality you get from the 85mm f/2?
  4. For that kind of money, I think you can do better.
    The Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.8 already mentioned by Peter is less, especially if your camera will take the non-AI versions which are often selling under $100). It has been called "a Nikon legend" and the "finest lens Nikon has ever produced" (Hillebrand and Hauschild, Nikon Compendium)
    The later 1981 105mm f/1.8 is another great lens (sold recently for $300-400).
    On the other hand, AF-S version 85mm f/1.4s are going for twice as much as the MF one, so....

  5. Forget about what the reviewers say go out and shoot it to See how you like it. I have the 85mm f/2 and I personally am very happy with the way it works. I also have the 85mm f/1.8 AI-S and I have access to the new 85mm f/1.4G. Most of the time if 85 is the focal length I want I am happy with the f/2.
  6. Supposed legends defy common sense sometimes. An item sells for what someone wants to pay for it. Some folks want something and have deep pockets. Lots of hype is built by some websites about a specific lens. "If I only had that lens Stella ... I coulda been a contender!"
    Some relatives of the "85 1.4 mystique" genre on ebay recently -
    28mm 2.8 Ai-S 0.2m close focus (the 8 element in an 8 group wonder) sells for about $ 375 USD.
    35mm 1.4 Ai-S sells for $ 400-500 routinely.
    and last, but not least ...
    28mm 1.4AFD sells in many cases for $ 3000 + !
    I confess my lust regarding the 28 2.8, ebay in ~2005 for $ 125 and the 35 1.4, ebay in ~2003 for $ 250.
    I'll have to rely on my death benefits for anything more $$$$ :eek:)
    Jim M.
  7. "Have you actually been disappointed with the image quality you get from the 85mm f/2?"
    I haven't really put it to test. I maybe took a handful of pictures with it ever since I purchased it 3 years ago from ebay. I rather use my 105mm f2.5, but since I bought it I might as well use it.
  8. I have both the 85/2 Ai and the 85/1.4 AF-D and the 1.4 is the superior lens. Beautiful creamy pictures at f2 something the 85/2 can't do imo.
  9. What if I don't care for creamy picture at f/2 but rather tact sharp picture at f/8 then is the f/1.4 is much better or not?
  10. I don't have any personal experience with the 85mm f/1.4 AIS but would just note that Bjørn Rørslett says the AF-D version (which I have and love) is better than the AIS (at wide apertures). Since the AF-D is available for around $750 from KEH (EX with caps and shade), I wouldn't pay $800 for the AIS version.
  11. I have the 85mm 1.4. Image quality is superb. Very sharp, but not the easiest lens to focus. It's either in or out, requires some fiddling when hand holding. It asks for a tripod. It's one of those no pain no gain things. I think I paid, not having the receipt at hand, about $750.00 in 1988. I just had a CLA on it to free up the helicoid, it worked, and does aid in focusing. As for what things are worth to people? Well, its not a thousand yet.
  12. "Supposed legends defy common sense sometimes"
    I practically gave up on the 35mm f1.4 AIS, although I would love to have it, it is way beyond my budget and sensibilities. I did manage to purchase the "legendary" 28mm f2.8 when I received a severance package, but to me it is not so legendary, rather average in my opinion.
  13. $800 is not absurd, but look around a bit more and you should be able to get a very good one for $550-650. Sometimes you can find an AF-D for about $750.
    I currently have the 105/1.8 (keh ugly for $235) and I do like it but have not compared it to others that I have had yet. Just bought it recently because I could not find an 85/1.4 in my price range. If the Nikon 85/1.4 is anything close to the Contax Zeiss 85/1.4 that I used to have, and I believe that it is, then it is worth the $600 range.
    Yes, the legenday Nikon AI/AIS lenses, a few of them mentioned above, have maintained their higher values, for a reason.
  14. What about the old 85/1.8? I think that was made into the AI era, and older ones aren't hard to convert anyway. You can get those under 200 bucks from KEH in "bargain" grade.
  15. I have both. The 85mm f/1.4 is terrific and, frankly, lives up to it's hype, but it is large and heavy. The 85mm f/2 is good and way more compact. I compared many short teles, including the Nikkor 105mm f/2.5, to compliment my Sony A7 kit. The 105mm is pretty sweet and it was a toss up with the Canon FD 100mm f/2 which was the one I finally selected. I prefer the 100mm focal length for close portraits.
    Make note I dislike one-eye-sharp portraits. I shoot close and I stop down to F/4-5.6. In this f-stop range the added , speed, size and weight of the big Nikkor is no advantage. I focus more on the sitter's pose and expression than obsess over the relative quality of the unfocused background.
    The f/2 version may not be as "good" as the f/1.4 version but for portraiture it is fine plus the biggest bonus is you already own it. If you just have to have the fast aperture, you might look at the Samyang 85mm f/1.4.
  16. I liked the 85/2, and unless you have a compelling reason to like the 85/1.4 AI(s) for the money, I'd stick with it. The 85/2 is not so sharp wide open, but really only the latest 85s are sharp wide open. By f/4-f/5.6 it is wonderfully sharp and resolves single-pixel wide detail.
    If you're looking for cult classics in this range of focal length, I'd recommend the 75-150/3.5 E. For about $125, you can have one of the most amazing lenses Nikon ever made. You'll have to fix the notorious floppy one-touch zoom ring, but it's a small price to pay for what the lens delivers.
    The 28/2.8 AI varies by sample, the best of which are counted among the sharpest lenses ever tested both at photozone.de and at 16-9.net. I prefer the 28/2 AI, or my copy of it anyway. I have the 28/1.8g, but still keep the AI lens both for its performance and its look.
  17. SCL


    I think sometimes people get caught up in the nuances of a len's performance, when in practical terms the differences really don't matter in ordinary everyday work, and, of course, it is easy to lust after the "very best". Admitting to having done this a couple of times in my life, I must say that very often practicality wins out over absolute performance (however my folly was a Leica Noctilux when really the good old Summicrons did the jobs just fine). If there is only a nominal price difference, of course, I might go for the uber lens, but more often the really good performance of the next lower level works out just fine, unless you really really NEED that extra umph from the stratospheric model.
  18. If you have an 85/2 but never use it, and you have a 105/2.5 but never use it, what makes you think you'd get any use out
    of an 85/1.4? Instead spend your money on a trip or something so you'll have a chance to use the lenses you have.
  19. The Samyang/Bower/Rokinon etc. 85mm f1.4 MF lens for 250-300 bucks new (get a chipped version) is a viable option. There are plenty of reviews and comments about this lens (regarless of brand badge) on the net regarding the quality of this lens.
  20. If the nuances one is looking for involve the character of "look" of a lens, then it need not be expensive. There is another category of "value" that involves sought-after brand names and engineering marvels/curiosities. Large front elements on fast lenses are sometimes fashioned to be reminiscent of the Hope Diamond. These are pretty lenses. But lenses that take pretty pictures don't always cost a lot.
    Some of my favorite looks: 28/2 AI, 85/2 AI, 75-150/3.5 E, 105/2.5 AIs, 105/2 DC, 135/2 DC, 180/2.8D
    None of these were overpriced. The DC lenses at $1000 or so were the most expensive, but are a bargain compared with the 85/1.4G. The rest were all under $260, and the 75-150 was $125.
    I actually prefer working with manual focus most of the time, except where technically impossible. I found autofocus to exert too much influence on my subconscious choices for composition.
  21. A bad 85mm f2.0 Nikkor?!? - I recall late Al Kaplan praising the old LTM versions all the time and suggesting them as the journalist's better choice over 90mm Summicrons. - I really believed the 85mm f2.0 to be the legend that made Nikon popular at all. - Did they water the old formula down for the AI version? - Or what went wrong?
    I won't buy non AF lenses for my DSLRs or MILC. - I tried to focus a 80mm Summilux R on a friend's R8 that was surely made for that chore (unlike contemporary DSLRs) but I didn't like it at all. - With less than 1" DOF at f1.4 in headshot distance I feel too clumsy to notice at which side of OOF I might be. f2.0 seems fast enough for my needs.
  22. The rangefinder versions of the 85mm f/2 are a classic five-elements-in-three-groups Sonnar design, like
    the early 105mm f/2.5; the SLR version is a different, five-elements-in-five-groups configuration. Personally I like both, but YMMV.
  23. No, it's not.
    Take Andly L's advice and use the money to take the actual kit you do have, somewhere nice.
  24. I've spend quite some money on AiS lenses, but as Peter said all the way at the start, to me the main reason I do not feel any urge for the 85 f/1.4 is the 105 f/2.5. That is just a terrific lens, and very affordable. $800 for the 85 f/1.4 is a bit the normal price, but the AF-D is now priced very similar, making it quite a more difficult choice. But fact is, these remain expensive lenses whereas the 105mm lenses (also the f/1.8) cost a lot less.
    Just for your consideration before you give up on it; the AiS 35 f/1.4 is the AiS lens I paid most for, and mine looks heavily used, the clicks on the aperture ring aren't very defined, optically it's fine - all worth it; I adore that lens. However, it is not a lens I frequently recommend because it's got character, and too much of it for most people probably. The f/1.4 and f/2 performance is very lacking for those who like the sharp, contrasty look which the Sigma 35 f/1.4 Art does so much better. The Nikkor is fare more moody, with a very distinct look. It's, in my view, only worth the money if you like how it looks at f/1.4 (though at f/4 and f/5.6 it's incredibly sharp and nice contrasty too - but who pays top money for f/4 performance?). Same applies to the AiS 50mm f/1.2 (where I got lucky and found a pristine hardly used sample for a very decent price), though that one already starts performing normally at f/2. Not as much a wild child as the 35 f/1.4.
  25. I found this thread very interesting. I have a d700 and D300. I also have several Nikon manual lenses 'left-over' from my film days, including the 70-150: super image quality. The problem is that age/eyesight/glasses do not lend themselves to manual lenses. I recently passed over a very nice 105mm f2.5 because of that. The price was really very little and with a warranty. Perhaps I should have tried it.
    One of our sons recently bought a Canon 85mm f1.2. A great deal of money, but what stunning image quality, even at full aperture.
  26. As I see it you have two options:
    1) Use the 85mm f/2 Nikkor and be happy. It really isn't a bad lens at all going by my AI-S version bought from new around 1980. You really have to be a dedicated pixel peeper to find much wrong with that lens. It's also small, light and generally handles very well.
    2) Get the Samyang AE 85mm f/1.4, which IME is a far better lens than any non-aspheric design like Nikon's elderly 85mm f/1.4. You'll save money and get better optics and automatic coupling to a DSLR. The lens is fully useable wide open, and practically faultless at f/2 - where, yes, it will give you better corner sharpness than the f/2 Nikkor, but the corners probably aren't that important for the sort of use an 85mm lens usually gets.
  27. As others above have said, this has been a really interesting thread.
    I've never really been into the 85mm focal length, preferring an Ai 105mm 2.5 instead from which I have got some wonderful images. The 105 is a deservedly 'legendary' lens.
    I too have lusted over a 35mm 1.4 but never found one at the right price. I soon gave up on 35mm focal length when I realised that it is never wide enough for me. I once had the 'legendary' AIS 28mm 2.8, but found it to be a bit soft in the corners (so, so sharp in the centre though). So, I got a 28mm f2 Ai that I feel is a more balanced lens for landscapes as it is consistently sharp well into the corners. It is also excellent with the sun in the image whereas I've had really bad flare with the AIS 28mm 2.8.
    I have the 35mm 1.8 DX - a lovely little lens which I use on my D40.
    I've also had the really good 75-150mm E zoom too, but prefer the 50-135 Ais - this is truly and amazing lens at all apertures, it's only fault being that it does not cope with strong, direct light sources in the scene and flares badly. Other than that, its is VERY sharp.
  28. I have used the 85/2 AIS, 85/1.8 AI converted, 85/1.4AFD, 85/1.8AFD, 105/2.5AI, 105/2DC, and many others for portraits.
    The recent 85/1.8AF-S G gets my vote as a lens that provides exceptional performance for a fair price in the short tele focal length.
  29. I should have mentioned in my earlier posting that I do have the Tokina 100mm f2.8 atx macro. Whilst I cannot compare it with any of the Nikons referred to, I can say it provides truly excellent images both for macro and portrait work. The defining power is such that some ladies might want the final product softening a little.
    My lens, in near mint condition, cost £200 here in the UK
  30. ".......but rather tact sharp picture[​IMG] at f/8"

    If you are planning to shoot at f8, almost ANY Nikon lens will produce an excellent, tack sharp photo. Why on earth would you seek out a heavy 1.4 lens if you are not opening up the aperture.

    My advice if you are not satified with your 105/2.5 (not quite sure why you are not in love with that lens) and insist on an 85mm lens, is to buy either the 85/1.4 AF-D to save money, or for that matter, the 85/1.8 AF-D which is smaller, lighter and far less money. If you are shooting at f8 - what is the compelling reason to buy a fast lens?
  31. Yes, I would. . . . Having most of the older Nikons, NON AI , AI and AI-S lenses, and using them, many are as good as the new plastic lenses. I would like to spend more then $800 dollar for a nikon 13mm f/5.6 AI-S, but I can't afford 50,000+, yes fifty-thousand dollar+ for it. I would happily settle for a 3000 dollar prize range. Or. . . . A Noct-Nikkor 58mm /1.2 AI-S, ( I haw the 50/1.2)(?) over or around 5000 dollar lens. Maybe, 1500.00 but not 5000.00.
    The 85mm f/1.4 AI-S is a stellar lens, and it is worth the price if you not get used to-mach of AF and all other automatization. I had the AF version, sold, trusted better the AI-S version.
  32. I used the 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor for years, and can't say enough good things about it. Sharp, smooth to focus, lightweight, fun lens to shoot. I sold it in 2004 and sometimes think I want to get another one.

  33. If you can step back a step or two or three, the 105mm f2.5 is great for one quarter of the price.​
    IMO the Nikon 105/2.5 manual focus lens is among the greatest slr lenses ever made. YMMV
    Henry Posner
    B&H Photo-Video
  34. "IMO the Nikon 105/2.5 manual focus lens is among the greatest slr lenses ever made"
  35. Nice read, this series. I have recently gone back to manual focus lenses for things that do not need speed- landscape, and particularly closeups with or without an extension tube. As a hobbyist, it's mostly about fun and experience. The old MF nikkors handle so smoothly and are a pleasure to use. They feel like precision instruments especially with Live View as a guide. Recommended- 28 f2; 35 f1.4; 105 f2.5 and 105 f1.8 (I'm finding this one a little easier to focus than the f2.5), 75-150 f3.5 series E, and a zeiss 21 f2.8 I've had for years. I have an 85 1.4D AF that is marvelous, so I haven't needed the MF version. As far as price, if you can afford it and want the experience, why not. Look at new lens prices. These are a bargain (unless you need focus speed)
  36. Mr. Posner can, presumably, try out any lens that exists at any price, and what he comes up with is the good old 105/2.5. I already have one, but if I did not, I think I'd take that recommendation very seriously.
  37. The 105 f2.5 is great. I've got the earlier version, 5 elements in 3 groups.
  38. Recently I spent $1500 on an AIS lens and felt I got a bargain, so my answer is yes. I think you should use the 105mm 2.5 for the next week or two and give it a fair shot. You may forget about the 85mm.

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