Nikon 85 f/1.8 G – first impressions

Equipment is such a topic for photographers that it sometimes makes you wonder whether you are a gear collector or actually a photographer. A while back I bought a 70-200 f/2.8. Two things stood out for me: its size and its performance. The auto-focus was blazingly fast and the photos came out sharp from wide open and up. Just as well as it performed, as heavy and bulky did it turn out to be. I brought it a couple of times when I intended to go out shooting, but soon I realised this was not going to cut it. Over a year after its purchase, I have used it less than 10 times outside of my flat. Clearly, that is not something I am proud of.

The Nikkor 85mm f/1.8G weighs in at approximately 350 grams compared to the 1540 grams of the earlier mentioned telezoom. It is also significantly smaller. If only it were sharp enough I would be overjoyed.

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Well, is it? As it turns out it damn well is. I never use my 50 mm at anything wider than 2.8, where it indeed is tack sharp, because going from f/1.8 to f/2.5 it goes from very soft to still too soft to use. In conjunction with a lacking sharpness, the auto focus never was very precise.

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The 85, on the other hand, is definitely useable wide open, and progressively gets sharper for each third of a stop I close the aperture down. There is some visible chromatic abberations going on wide open that mostly disappear by f/2.2. Sadly, the AF is noticeably slower. Hopefully it will be able to keep up with moving subjects.

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My next project will be to get this beauty out on the streets and try to capture a different sort of perspective compared to my 50 mm. Bokeh, it sure does deliver, as seen in above images. Street action? We shall see.

/Martin

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