Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.8 G (FX) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Nikon / Nikkor (full format)

Review by Markus Stamm, published August 2021


85mm is a focal length very popular for portrait photography. Typically, very fast lenses are used for that purpose (f/1.4 or even faster), because they have a reputation of offering the smoothest bokeh and the most appropriate skin tone rendering. Unfortunately, those lenses are usually fairly big, heavy and most of all expensive.

Luckily, there are alternatives, both in terms of lenses and also, what to shoot with a moderate tele prime. Not everyone needs a special portrait lens (some maybe don't even shoot portraits at all). With the AF-S 85/1.8 G, Nikon offers such a more affordable and budget-friendly alternative for mainstream clients and purposes.

The lens offers most of the technical standards of the late F mount era, especially a silent-wave AF drive, which makes it compatible with the complete range of current Nikon DSLRs.

In this review we take a look at how the lens performs on our 45 MP review camera, the Nikon D850. We also reviewed the lens on the Nikon D3x back in 2012, so if you're interested in how the lens performs on a lower resolution FX body, please have a look here. For obvious reasons, parts of the earlier review have been reused here.

The build quality of the lens is very decent thanks to an outer barrel made out of high quality plastics. It's the same material used on most recently released consumer primes, in fact the lens looks and feels like a scaled up variant of an AF-S 50mm.

The rubberized focus ring is nicely damped and operates smoothly. We're glad to report that the focus unit follows the focus ring immediately and without any delay, even when changing the focus direction.

Thanks to an IF (inner focus) design the length remains constant regardless of the focus setting and the front element does not rotate. Using a polarizer is therefore no problem.

The lens features a Silent Wave ultrasonic drive allowing for a near-silent autofocus and manual override at all times. The AF speed is quite fast for a portrait prime, but still slower than the high-end f/2.8 professional zooms.

The AF-S 85 is a G-type lens and thus does not offer an aperture ring.

Optical construction9 elements in 9 groups
Number of aperture blades7 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.8 m (max. magnification ratio 1:8)
Dimensions80 x 73 mm
Weight350 g
Filter size67 mm (non-rotating)
HoodNikon HB-62, barrel-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)
Other featuresLens provides distance (D) information to the camera, Silent Wave AF motor

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