85mm f/1.4G AF-S, first impression

Started Sep 2, 2010 | Discussions thread
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85mm f/1.4G AF-S, first impression
Sep 2, 2010

I've compared the Nikon AF 85mm f/1.4D with the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G for a few hours today - on tripod outside.

1) The Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G is a bit fatter and longer than the Nikon AF 85mm f/1.4D (both lenses without hood). The same holds true when comparing the lenses with hood. But the new lens balances very well with a D3X. The hood of the new lens is very tight. (I prefer the shape of the hood from the old lens, but I'll get used to the new one). The new lens is supposed to be heavier but I don't really feel this in my hand.

2) The Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G focuses one inch closer than the AF 85mm f/1.4D with AF enabled. Also, when the camera is used on tripod with a subject close to the camera, the out of focus images look more blurry with the new lens due to a slightly higher magnification factor.

3) Bokeh looks very similiar on both lenses so far - creamy and very beautiful. It seems Nikon hasn't changed the OVERALL CHARACTER of bokeh by a lot. I have seen no strange bokeh so far, neither in front of nor in the back of the plane of focus. But I have only compared the two lenses with a few subjects with my D3X at f/1.4-f/2.8 on a monitor at 100%.

4) At long distances and landscapes, the new lens is just a tiny bit sharper at f/1.4 (if at all) in image center, but it's really not enough to matter. At the edge of the frame, sharpness is a lot better (but this doesn't matter in portraiture). When closing the aperture down, sharpness is always a tiny bit better in image center with the new lens (again: not enough to matter), but at the edge, the new lens is a lot better (sharp from corner to corner at f/6.3). I don't intend to use this lens for landscape work nor is this lens intended for landscape work, but the comparison shows some aspects Nikon tried to improve.

5) Unfortunately, colors have shifted slightly. The new lens produces warmer colors. I really hope this doesn't have an impact on my concert photography (in a similiar way as the 50mm f/1.4G AF-S, which causes problems in concerts due to the warmer colors). Also, overall contrast has improved visibly. It's not a day and night difference, but you can see it in trees and bushes of landscape shots.

6) The Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G focuses slower than the Nikon AF 85mm f/1.4D lens in situations when one has to go from close to far (AF-S). We might be talking about a factor of 1.5 slower if you have to go from near to far. That's better than expected, but it's still a bit slow. It's quite a bit better than when comparing the Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.4G with the Nikon AF 50mm f/1.4D (the G lens is a real snail, we are talking about a factor of 2 there). On the other hand, when small changes in focus occur and the camera is in AF-C mode, the autofocus is a lot faster and more reliable than with the old lens.

So far, to summarize:

Beautiful bokeh, very similiar to the old lens and at least as good as the old lens, better edge sharpness at long distances in landscape shots but little improvement in sharpness at image center (landscape shots, long distances). Don't extrapolate this to close distances. Closer focusing and slightly larger magnification (not enough to matter). Overall improvement in contrast, but also a slightly warmer rendering. Slightly slower focusing in AF-S when going from near to far, but much better focusing in AF-C mode for small focus changes (e.g. in sports or portraiture).

These are preliminary findings and as such not worth much. So don't waste your time critisizing my findings, there will be quite a few tests on the internet in near future. I rather would like to put this lens to good use during the next weeks.

I haven't touched what really matters: Character of the lens in portraiture, behaviour in backlight situations, longitudinal abberrations and so on.


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