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4.9 out of 5 stars
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4.9 out of 5 stars
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on 1 November 2014
I initially purchased the Nikon 85mm 1.4G. It's a great lens but somehow felt a bit fragile with such a huge amount if glass. It was also heavy. The build quality felt a little plastic for the money unlike the nikon pro zoom 24-70mm which is built like a tank.

Luckily I was able to sell the lens for pretty much the price I paid for it and I exchanged it for the 1.8G.

It's much lighter and doesn't feel as precious. On a D810 the picture quality is the same and feels a little quicker at focusing

I never shot the 1.4 wide open as it was too hit and miss and I tend to shoot portraits at f2.

If you can't decide between the two I would recommend the 1.8G

For the record I also have the two nikon zooms 24-70 and 70-200. Why do I need a prime? It's much nicer to shoot intimate portraits hand held with a shorter prime lens than a larger 70-200.

I have bought a BW nano crystal filter to make up for the lack of coating on the 1.8G.
33 comments| 30 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I wrote an updated review for Amazon's sister site DP Review and feel it's a more well-rounded one, now that I've used the lens quite a lot, now. Instead of replacing the original, which some found useful, I've left this as it was, at the end.

I shoot music bands and soloists in dark pubs for the local paper and for the artists themselves, often with no extra lighting and I don't use flash. Rather than use my heavy, very obvious and slower 70-200mm f2.8 Sigma, I've got this gem. I almost always shoot at f1.8, where it's sharp (TOO sharp for actual portraiture) and the resulting bokeh is pleasing and deals with background details (dartboards, TVs, switches, menus!!).

On my D700 it's 85mm and on my D7000 it's 127mm, a really useful focal length. At max aperture, combined with both these camera's high top iso's, you can literally get a result out of near darkness.

When you've been manhandling a heavy D700 for several hours at a Festival, the lightness of this lens is a revelation, but still strong enough to pick up that combo by the lens. The hood is good and deep and fits much better than many Nikon's, which can be prone to being knocked off (easy in pubs). The excellent handling means I can get down to 1/30 sec, without blur.

The SWM is good, quick and near silent. A model or quiet piece of live music (in a church?) doesn't want noise from a lens motor! I'll often use MF though, as it's still not infallible and no system can latch onto low contrast and dark bits and the ring is a good size and the mode is easily switchable.

Relatively good value - when compared to the f1.4G and the still evergreen 'D' model that still sells well and is quite pricey secondhand (my original choice).

I don't mind the all plastics - it won't go white-water rafting or be dropped out of planes as I skydive (I don't do either, actually).

Problems: You cannot attach a teleconverter, as the rear element is flush with the back flange.

I think of Nikkor lenses (I still use a couple from the early 70s) as lasting forever - the supposed in-built 10 year lifetime span both worries and disappoints me, a bit.

Original review:

My review primarily examines the reasons for my choice of this latest "G" series version of a very popular lens.

Let's get the quality issue out of the way - this is a Nikon Nikkor prime lens, with a fast, but not the fast-est maximum aperture. Of course it will be sharp at f1.8, even better at f2.8 and by f4.5-5.6, will be able to cut diamonds. That's a given - Nikon would be laughed off the planet, if it didn't.

I regularly use a Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 Apo, which for many would be a dream lens - and is quite adequate at full aperture, too, thank-you. It's great for a walkabout zoom at night at outdoor festivals and carnivals and such.

Now, I know a lot of local musicians and often photograph them in the dingiest, most badly lit places possible. Their lighting is for 'mood', definitely not for photographers! Now, I - and we - can always tell when a stranger photographer (press) encroaches into our domain, as they'll have the biggest kit that money can buy - and then, with another camera, just in case.

I now want to be more discreet and also, to enjoy the music more, instead of wrestling with my 1.4kg, 20cm long 70-200mm monster. Sure, you get variable focal length but that will always impose a compromise into any lens design.

Take the 85mm focal length, on my Nikon D700, a short telephoto and on my D7000, an equivalent of 127.5mm. I worked out, from my metadata, that a very high percentage of my pictures of solo musicians were taken around the 120-130mm mark. There was a real reason why the 135mm prime lens of old was considered an essential purchase, along with the 28mm, after the standard 50mm. A head/shoulders portrait of someone in a large room at a comfortable distance falls within that focal range; sure I've got my fast Sigma 24-70mm f2.8 HSM as well, for photos of the band, but rarely would I need longer than the 85mm at the long end - and the Nikkor would easily stand cropping, if need be, in any case.

I bought an old manual focus Nikkor 135mm f2 on a well known auction site and soon became addicted to this maximum aperture and used it a lot, except with the D7000, it equates to 202mm, which means one has to almost go outside the building to fit anything in! Instead of buying either a brand new 135mm f2 A/F, at about a grand, or an 85mm 1.4 (about the same) I've just bought this 85mm f1.8 'G'. Still fast, but highly usable and with Silent Wave Motor (SWM) AF, for just over one third of the cost of either of those others.

Why the new "G"? It does take larger filters - 67mm, instead of 62mm, but few use colour temperature filters these days, anyway - and as many decry, has a lot more plastic 'padding' on it.

Secondhand, a very good condition "D" is still so popular, you're looking at £260, easily, with a new one (one of the very few Nikkor lenses Nikon still sell alongside its 'update') being not a huge amount more. IF you're buying brand new, the 'G', again, IF, you shop around, is about that difference again, on top of a new 'D'.

Now, to that extra padding and bulk - I've got big hands and am used to handling a big 70-200mm for a day and so, I actually prefer something less dinky. From what I've read, the extra plastic girth actually provides better protection to the SWM motor (cheaper Nikon bodies have no compatibility problems with this lens) and to the glassware. Nikon also say that the lens has a weather-sealed rubber lens mount.

SWM - Anybody who's regularly used any lens with SWM, or, for an example, Sigma's alternative - HSM (Hypersonic Motor) - will know how these almost magically flit the focus between closest and infinity in an instant - and silently. If, you've got a nervous sitter, or a pet, or a hushed concert hall, would you rather have a (in comparison) a conventional whirring, noisy AF motor, or silence? If there's ever any lens where the extra cost and virtue of SWM over that of the 'ordinary', it must be this one.

Which brings it down to value for money. It's fast, but not the fastest. It's useful, if you have need of one. It could be a breadwinner, if that's your market. It's quality, though made in China, the gold embellishments and 'crinkled' black casing feel assuring and the lens hood is a good size and decently made. The handling is exemplary, manual focus is light, but with resistance, the size/weight ratio ideal, for me. Mine cost me exactly the same as my very old, horrendously stiff manually focussing 135mm f2, which IS made like they made tanks and Volvo estate cars and will probably outlive me - but this is 2012, SWM is genius and Nikon have updated an old favourite, very successfully, in my opinion.

In use - the lens IS sharp, very sharp, even wide open. A professional portrait photographer friend described (I lent it to her) its defining powers as "cruel" on the human face, even at f1.8, which at least means the sharpness is there in the first place. She doesn't follow equipment trends but thought the lens cost was about double what it actually is. The only reason why she's not ordering one is because she only uses DX format and likes to be intimate with her subjects and prefers a standard 32mm prime lens.

Technical reviews have stated that the lens' performance dips from f11 on, with the smallest aperture, f16, faring worst, due to diffraction. I used it at that, as I needed the depth of field and for all intents and purposes, it's still fine.

Handling - on either the D700, or D7000, the lens is the perfect size and the focussing ring falls naturally to hand. Its light weight does not lower the feeling of quality it does not feel cheap or flimsy. In the field, the AF goes from nearest to furthest focus in a fraction of a second and swiftly and easily finds its subject.

All in all - a lovely lens that is causing quite a stir among my photographic friends. Sure, it's not the f1.4, but IS the price of a Nikon flashgun, or a Nikkor 70-300mm VR zoom and not the cost of a new D300S body. I'm not saying that the half stop less won't make much difference, but for most it probably won't much, certainly not as much as the cost disparity.
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on 4 April 2012
This lens is an update to the old film lens the 85mm f/1.8D. What are the updates? The lens now has an autofocus motor onboard, so you can now get AF with any Nikon body - even the entry level ones. AF on fast primes is rarely what you could call 'fast' actually I'd say it's a tiny bit slower than the D version. Nikon considers this new generation of G lenses a bit more accurate. I guess this is good, it's what you want with a portrait lens. Keep in mind accuracy for focusing 1.8 glass especially at short range means AF isn't fast, but make no mistake if you set up your camera correctly and use good AF technique you can track moving kids nicely etc so even dynamic portraits are possible.

Optical improvements have been made to this lens also, it is sharper wide open than the old f/1.8D version and it has improved bokeh performace. Maximum sharpness and performance right into the corners is found around f/5.6 but it is decently sharp in the centre at f/1.8. On a body like the D800 don't stop down beyond f/8-11 for absolute performance as diffraction will set in (don't let this limit your creativity though, if you need DOF, stop down to f/22 by all means!).

In terms of price it's relatively cheap. The alternatives are the older film lens (which I'd be happy with if I used a body that could AF it), or the more expensive f/1.4 varieties the D or the G.

Weather sealed - a big bonus. Still, don't go swimming with it eh! Buy this over a slow kit zoom anyday. Perfect or portraits on a full frame camera or even a DX camera - remember it will be even more telephoto on a DX body, around 127mm.
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on 18 April 2012
I have previously owned and used the Nikon 85mm f1.8D and the 85mm f3.5G Micro on my D300 and have now sold both of these lenses as I have purchased this latest 85mm incarnation. The f1.8 series of prime lenses from Nikon give you most of the performance of the more expensive pro f1.4 versions but at a fraction of the price.

I only use the lens on DX (crop sensor eg D300s, D7000, D5100, D3100) size cameras, so I can't comment on FX (full frame eg D700, D800, D4) camera usage, but I have found the lens to be tack sharp on my D300, particularly when stopped down a little. Even at f1.8 though, the lens is plenty sharp enough and I won't hesitate to use this for weddings where I put it on the camera in the evening to get candid portraits and photos from the wedding breakfast and evening reception.

On DX I use the 85mm focal length as a prime substitute for the long range zoom (eg 70-200 or 50-150 etc). The 35mm equivalent focal length is 127.5mm and for my needs I very rarely need anything longer. For an FX user to get an equivalent reach lens on their camera they would need the Nikon 135mm f2 which costs the best part of £1000!! As such, 85mm is too long as a walkaround lens on DX, but great for tightly cropped indoor portraits and headshots, or more long distance work outside or in large studios.

Compared to the older f1.8D version, this lens is much bigger - it looks quite bulky, but it feels very light on the camera. The lens is made from hard plastics but still has a high quality look and feel and a rubber gasket around the mount. The hood when reversed completely covers the focus ring. Some have criticised the quality of the hood, but it is similar to those supplied with all recent Nikkor lenses I have used and it seems perfectly robust and well made.

The autofocus speed on the lens is comparable with other primes I've used (35mm f1.8, 50mm f1.4 and f1.8D etc) and is perfectly adequate for the lens' intended use (portraiture). I used to find the f1.8D version of this lens irritating as the focus ring moves when you use autofocus so you have to move your fingers. That version is also noisier due to it using the camera screw drive instead of the AF-S style motor of the newer lens.

Overall I am delighted with my purchase and would recommend it to anyone in the market for a long prime lens.
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on 15 October 2015
Such an impressively sharp lens on my old Nikon D2Hs. Fast, light, well-built. If I had known Nikon were this good then I'd have gone for a Nikon system. I have a Canon full body (5D mark ii) with equiv lens and this Nikon blows the IQ of the Canon away in my opinion. Saying that though I have three systems (the other being Fuji Xs) and I use each system for different purposes, the Nikon really was just a plaything although I am seriously considering ridding myself of the Canon and moving towards the Nikon.
I only shoot in manual so I cannot speak of how this lens performs on AF though if I remember rightly on the D2Hs not all the AF features would work on it anyway.
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on 3 February 2013
Oh my god this is a marvellous lens for portraits. I took pictures of my daughter and wow. The bokeh is creamy and the lens at f1.8 is sharp getting really diamond cut around 5.6/8. Silent, fast focussing lens that is perhaps too sharp for portraits. Its a big lens taking 67mm filters but the lens hood is well made and deep. Very impressed with this lens and on a D7000 it brings it to life. Get one quick!
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on 6 May 2013
I never liked the idea of prime lenses, without zoom, without VR and all that. But after using it, I changed my mind, and mostly have prime lenses now. This is a really good lens, and the sharpness is amazing. One of the best Nikon primes that doesn't break the bank.
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on 6 October 2012
Used this lens on my D600 for the first time today and I was very impressed with the results. Used it for candids street mainly and it excelled ion this. Even when using it at a distance it did brilliantly. This being an area that trips up a lot of other lenses in that they lose definition and sharpness. I also tried it for landscapes and was equally impressed.
The focus is fast and near silent and for the most part accurate. I did manage to get a few unsharp images but this was shooting at 1.8 with moving subjects so 100% would be too much to ask. The manual focus ring was a pleasant surprise in as much as it is well damped with greet feel and easy to use. Flare is only an issue when shooting into the sun which is to be expected. Overall I am very pleased with this lens and will be putting it to good and frequent use. Highly recommended.
As far as deliver is concerned. Amazon did what they always do. Prompt and well packaged. Given the customer service that can be expected from Amazon it sort of makes me wonder why I even bother checking elsewhere before buying from Amazon. . . . And no I am not in the employ of Amazon and do not get any kind of commission.
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on 9 December 2014
Simply excellent. I know clear and sharp sounds like the same thing, but until you've seen the difference you may not believe that they are two different things, especially if you've been shooting zooms before. That said, this is clearer and sharper than even other well regarded primes like the 28mm 1.8G or 50mm 1.8G (All micro-adjust checked).

Just eye popping clarity and contrast. So much so it makes you want to find things that need this focal length to photograph.

I guess clear means contrast in usual terminology, but to me clear gives a better impression of what you are getting. I assume it's this which make the colours seem so vibrant too.
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on 25 August 2013
Great piece of kit. Good value. Goes everywhere with me. Currently carrying out a survey of the biodiversity in a field in an isolated area of Co Roscommon. This lens has been superb in capturing plant, insect and butterflies. On occasion I have been lucky enough to capture a few birds as well. The images are sharp and well defined just as you would expect from Nikon.
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