Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4 lens not so hot.

Started May 22, 2013 | Discussions thread
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How to be a Tastemaker
In reply to MisterHairy, May 22, 2013

MisterHairy wrote:

It seems that the various comparisons out there in internet land are on the money. Much to my surprise.

It's interesting: as nathantw and Grevture point out, this opinion appears on the forum once a week or so; and when people post comparative photographs showing the "obvious" better-ness of an 1.8 (D or G) variant at various apertures, I seem always to prefer the frames from the 1.4!

Maybe I just have bad taste.  

I think anothermike actually has the most useful opinion I've read on this.   He can speak to it better than I can, but I'll paraphrase and he can correct me if I misspeak: he likes to point out that lens performance is so deeply linked to photographic subject--to focal distance, to lighting conditions, to the peculiarities of the body on which you use it--that proclaiming a "best" lens can be a deeply misleading business.   There might well be a number of circumstances in which the 85 f/1.8G does outperform the f/1.4G, but probably not all.  (If I had to guess, I'd imagine the f/1.8G is a little sharper at stopped-down apertures (say, f/5.6 and higher), at distances, and in situations that don't involve backlight, bright specular highlights, or other direct reflection.)   Does that make it a "better" lens?   No, not if you're shooting outdoor portraits in interesting light.

Honestly, I kind of hate these "The Cheaper Lens is Better!" celebratory posts for that reason: they pick one circumstance in which the inexpensive lens performs extraordinarily well and then assume it speaks for every use, for every taste, for everyone.

In so many situations, the level of performance we're getting from these optics really does delve straight into taste--because they're all sharp, they're all reasonably well corrected, they all resist flare pretty well.  That's something to celebrate--that there's a real art to these designs that takes some discipline and experience to appreciate.  Just jumping on sharp photographs as an opportunity to proclaim one's taste "superior" and determinative of "best" ruins the better opportunity for everyone else to talk about what's really going on.

M.

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