Review Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G (@ FX)

Since the beginning of 2012, Nikon has been offering the AF-S NIKKOR 85 mm f/1.8 G: an affordable (€529 list price), bright short telephoto lens with a fixed focal length. The Nikon 85 mm 1.8 G replaces the Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 D, which dates from 1994, and it has a newly designed optical system designed to meet the high demands of modern digital SLRs. The new model of the Nikon 85 mm 1.8 is 30 grams lighter than its predecessor and is suitable for cameras with either an FX or a DX sensor. The popular 85 mm focal length offers the ability to make portraits that are framed to head and shoulders. At the same time, you get high sharpness and a beautiful background blur/bokeh at open aperture, meaning you can ‘isolate’ subjects really well.


Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G ED and Nikon D800E

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This Nikon 85 mm lens is perfect for shooting portraits. In addition, this short, bright telephoto lens is also well suited to landscape photography, concert photography and low-light photography. The very low distortion makes the Nikon 85 mm 1.8 G also suitable for architectural photography.

Construction and auto focus


The AF-S NIKKOR 85 mm f/1.8 G comes with a lens hood and a soft lens bag. Weighing in at only 350 grams, this weatherproof compact 85 mm lens is lighter than its predecessors. This low weight is realized by using high-quality plastics, without sacrificing the solidity of the lens. On this lens, there is only a switch for AF/MF. Image stabilization is not built-in. Manual focus runs smoothly. The Silent Wave Motor (SWM) ensures discreet but accurate auto focus.

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At maximum aperture, you will in some situations encounter visible vignetting. Still, there are many – often even less bright – FX lenses at full aperture show more vignetting. The vignetting at f/2.8 is completely gone. In practice shots we made at f/1.8, the vignetting present was not at all disturbing,


FlowersNikon AF-S 85 mm f/1.8 @ 50 ISO, f/1.8 and 1/800 sec


Distortion is virtually absent. This lens is also good to use for reproduction – or architectural – photography, where it sometimes matters a great deal where distortion is concerned.




The Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 comes with a lens hood. Even so, this lens is good that you never, or almost never, will have flare even without the lens hood. Even when during testing we photographed straight into the Sun, we saw no ghosts in our pictures.




The Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 is a perfect combination with the Nikon D800E when it comes to sharpness: the center sharpness is from full aperture already very high and reaches its absolute maximum at f/5.6. In the far corners, the image was slightly softer at maximum aperture. That is already completely gone after 1 aperture stop. Really super.


Nikon AF-S 85 mm f/1.8 @ 50 ISO, f/1.8 and 1/800 sec

Chromatic aberration


The Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 consists of nine elements in nine groups. In the documentation of Nikon, I found no elements of the special glass types that are applied to prevent color mistakes. Nevertheless, lateral chromatic aberration (green and purple edges at sharp contrast transitions in the corners of the picture) well under control.

Longitudinal chromatic aberration (color bokeh) can certainly be found with this bright lens at maximum aperture. In the 100% partial enlargement on the left, the color bokeh is identified by the green and red edges in the bokeh. We run into this often with bright lenses 
(< f/2.8).



The 7 rounded aperture blades, the longer focal length and the high brightness of the Nikon 85 mm f/1.8, together with the large sensor of the Nikon D800E, deliver a beautiful background blur at. As with most bright lenses on a camera with a full-frame sensor, the shape of the bokeh changes at maximum aperture in the corners into a catseye.


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Conclusion Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G test with Nikon D800E

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See our list of tested lenses or the lenses with a Nikon mount tested by us to compare the performance of this lens to other lenses.
ECWYSIWYG scoreThis table shows the performance of this lens when you store the files in the camera as jpg, with all available in-camera lens corrections applied. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: “What you see is what you get”. {insertgrid ID = 308}
ECPure RAW score: This table shows the performance of this lens when the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera.
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  • Very high image quality on all fronts: very high resolution, amazingly low lateral chromatic aberration, no distortion
  • Well built
  • Attractively priced


  • Nice bokeh, but still slightly less beautiful than that of more expensive lenses
  • No built-in image stabilization
  • AF at f/1.8 not that precise

The Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 G delivers superb picture quality at an affordable price.

You have purchased an affordable Nikon FX camera, but you still don’t know which lens you should take? Then both the Nikon 50 mm f/1.8 and the Nikon 85 mm f/1.8 are very good choices. Both lenses are of the very best quality. The Nikon AF-S 85 mm is the optimum in terms of brightness, image quality and price/quality ratio. Which of these two Nikon f/1.8 lenses you choose depends on how you want to use them. For bokeh and portrait photography lovers, that’s a no-brainer: to the photo store to buy a Nikon 85 mm f/1.8!


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