If you like to shoot portraits, an 85mm prime lens could be one of the best investments you'll ever make for your DSLR. Richard Sibley and Michael Topham put five models through a rigorous test

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 G AF-S


As can be seen on the charts, the Nikkor lens begins to improve at around f/4 and by f/5.6 there is virtually no difference between the centre and edges of the frame. At f/11 the resolution drops slightly, but the best range for this lens is f/5.6-f/8.


The Nikkor lens is fractionally worse that the other lenses on test when shooting at f/1.4, but only by around 0.5EV. In total, it is around 0.7EV darker at the edges than the centre. By f/2.8, the vignetting is reduced and registers only at around 0.25EV.

Curvilinear distortion

The Nikkor lens is very similar to the Canon lens in terms of distortion, although once again the
mean -0.2 barrel distortion means that it is of absolutely no concern.

See our graphs explained

Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 G AF-S

Price: £1,179
As one of Nikon’s premium prime lenses, does the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 G justify its price tag?

The Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 G AF-S is the successor to the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D IF (see page 47), and an alternative to the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 G AF-S (£375). Being a professional-grade, medium telephoto prime, it’s designed for FX-mount Nikon DSLRs such as the D610, D800 and D4S, but it is also compatible with DX-mount (APS-C) DSLRs such as the D7100, where it offers a focal length equivalent to 127.5mm.

Smaller and considerably lighter than the Canon lens, it consists of ten elements in nine groups, with nine aperture blades. Nikon’s Silent Wave Motor (SWM) keeps the AF quiet and operation fast, and Nano Crystal Coatings help to reduce ghosting and flare. Out of the three AF lenses in this test, this is the quietest in use, plus its large focus ring offers an extremely smooth and fluid movement when manually focusing, with just the right level of resistance over a quarter-turn. The lens locks onto subjects instantly without any hesitation and there were no obvious signs of hunting even when the lighting conditions darkened.

The build quality is first-class, feeling more durable than the Sigma lens despite weighing less.

Score: 4 out of 5

Data file

Filter diameter 77mm
Lens elements 10
Groups 9
Diaphragm blades 9
Aperture f/1.4-16
Minimum focus 85cm
Length 84mm
Diameter 86.5mm
Weight 595g
Lens mount Nikon

  1. 1. Anatomy of an 85mm lens
  2. 2. Canon EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM
  3. 3.
  4. 4. Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF MC
  5. 5. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM
  6. 6. Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar T*
  7. 7. Second-hand alternatives
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