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Nikkor 85mm f2 AIS

Scott McLoughlin , Jun 08, 2004; 01:34 p.m.

Just seeking experiences with and opinions of the 85/2 AIS. The 85/1.4 AFD seems king of the hill here, but I'm attracted to the 85/2's small size/weight and its 52mm filter ring.

At this FL, I'm interested in whether the OOF areas are smooth with the 85/2. I understand the 85/1.4 AFD has bokeh to die for and more than credible MF capabilities, but again, I'm interested in portability in a small bag.

I have the 85/1.8 AFD, and while it's very (very!) sharp and a great bargain (thanks Nikon!), the OOF highlights are quite visibly exagerated, large and hexagonal and what not. Given that and its 62mm filter size, relative bulk and poor MF ring - for me, just for me - it's the wrong set of compromises. Some lucky soul will be getting her pretty cheap soon :-)

Web reviews of the 85/2 seemed mixed, so I turn here to the community for advice. Bonus question: for another centimeter in length and a partial stop, might I just park a 105/2.5 in my carry around bag instead?

BTW, I'm weilding an FM3a these days.



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Graham Line , Jun 08, 2004; 02:10 p.m.

If your main concern is portraiture and smoothness in the out of focus areas, the 105/2.5 AIS (especially wide open) is probably a better choice than the 85/2. The 85 is OK, but it has the more characteristic Nikon edginess. Its main advantages, in my book, are the compact size, slightly fatter barrel and 20mm less focal length -- 105s just don't work for me. You're not giving up much speed. Haven't used the 85AF, and it's been a while with the 85/1.4, so can't compare those.

The 85 is a nice workable journalistic lens, and better than some pundits' reviews would have you believe.

Vivek . , Jun 08, 2004; 02:32 p.m.

I like the 105 f/2.5 a lot for wide aperture shots.

Makes an excellent companion for my FM2n as well.

Albert Smith , Jun 08, 2004; 03:38 p.m.

I own an 85mm f/2.0 AIS lens and use it often. I find the lens to lack for nothing in terms of sharpness. I use mine at f/2.0 anytime that I need selective focus without fear. The out of focus rendition is a strange thing in my experience. It is not so much a constant, but depends on the focused distance, and in some situations it can be harsh. The effect is more pronounced when the background has specular highlights, so if possible I try to have backgrounds in which the light levels are constant across the frame.

With all of that said, I find that in the world of trade-offs, the 85mm f/2.0 Nikkor offers a very sharp lens in a size that can't be beat. It looks just a bit longer than my 50mm f/1.8 AIS lens. It is light and non-threatening for the street.

Just to let you know, I also have the 85mm f/1.8 AF, the 105mm f/2.5 AIS and still find this little lens to be useful. Couple it with a small wide-angle lens, and it makes a nice two-lens kit. I love my 105mm f/2.5, but I also enjoy the 85mm f/2.0. While I would never have both with me in the field, I would not be without either in my stash of lenses to choose from.

Here is a folder of street shots with many examples of images made with the 85mm f/2.0, and no aperture used was smaller than about f/3.5. They are mixed with some 24mm shots, but you should have no problem picking the 85mm shots, and if in doubt, click on the thumb to read the technical details.

85mm f/2.0 shots (among some 24mm shots)

85mm f/2.0 AIS Nikkor at f/2.0

Ade Rixon , Jun 08, 2004; 04:30 p.m.

I'm more than happy with mine, but I don't know what your standard is. Anywhere you can borrow one?

EM, 85/2 AI, HP5+

Jay . , Jun 08, 2004; 05:45 p.m.

Moose Peterson (who would have us believe he's actually held let alone tested every lens Nikon ever made)says the 85/2 is "nothing to write home about" (How's that for a scientific review, eh?). OTOH the late Galen Rowell took many of his finest photos with that very lens. I owned a couple of them. My photos might not have been anything to write home about but the lens was magnificent. And I owned the 85/1.4-AIS and the 85/1.8-AF-d at the same time.

James O'Gara , Jun 08, 2004; 09:58 p.m.

Great lens. I replaced it with a 1.4 but I can't really tell the difference.

Cafe in Minya, Upper Egypt, with nothing-to-write-home-about Nikon 85 f 2.0

Scott McLoughlin , Jun 09, 2004; 02:16 a.m.

Thanks all for the great advice - and wonderful photographs! I wonder if the 80/2 model is just particularly sample sensitive, accounting for some negative opinions. Who knows.

Thanks to Albert for the nice description of the bokeh issues, and to Josef for pointing out that if bokeh is my main issue, then I might just want a 105/2.5. Good point.

As it turns out, I ended up just placing an order for a 105/2.5. Basic rationale is: 1) 105/2.5 is just one of the classic Nikkors; 2) E+ used sample available from Adorama for a good price; 3) I need to compare the 105 and 85mm FLs for myself and see what works, especially since I'm a frequent-50mm (or 45mm) user; 4) for Lord knows what reason, I am finding myself oddly picky about OOF rendering in my shots; 5) 105/2.5 isn't that much longer/heavier than the 80/2; 6) I can always scoop up a nice 85/2 (or /1.4) later if the 105 proves too long for general duty :-)

So next week, the experimental carry around kit for me will be: FM3a, 28/2.8 AIS, 45/2.8P and the 105/2.5. I also have a Bessa RF and Nokton 50/1.5 for low light shooting - fits nicely in the smallish Domke bag should the need arise.

Thanks again and wish me luck!


Scott McLoughlin , Jun 09, 2004; 02:46 a.m.

Whoops. 80/2 -> 85/2. Forgive me, it's late :-)

Albert Smith , Jun 09, 2004; 09:34 a.m.

As it turns out, I ended up just placing an order for a 105/2.5.

You will not be sorry with the 105mm f/2.5 as your medium telephoto.

So next week, the experimental carry around kit for me will be: FM3a, 28/2.8 AIS, 45/2.8P and the 105/2.5.

Use trial and error to arrive at a good carry-around lens kit, and don't be afraid to experiment with those gaps between the lenses. I went through many kits, and each one was in my mind a way to streamline the previous one. I am 100% sure that my photography got stronger and more productive when I dropped lenses out of the kits. Think in terms of what you can shoot rather than what you can not. Instead of cursing the lens not in my bag, I try to make the most of the lenses I do have with me. Towards that end, I have widened my gap to about a 3 to 1 ratio, and almost always have only two lenses with me at any time for general let me see what I can find to shoot type of photography. I find that I get by quite well without the middle standard focal length when working with a medium tele and a medium wide lens. I use two basic kits, a 24mm and 85mm or a 35mm and 105mm. This keeps my eye tuned to only a couple of framings for the subject and reduces my lens changing, because I can shoot all day and never miss the 50mm.

Anyway? this works for me. Good luck in your search for the perfect kit.

street candid with 105mm f/2.5... pretty close to wide-open

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