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

Started May 22, 2013 | Discussions thread
Shotcents
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Re: Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4 lens not so hot.
In reply to MisterHairy, May 23, 2013

MisterHairy wrote:

It's funny to see comments like mine bring out the anxiety attacks in the easily undermined. The insecure owners of the more expensive kit who need to reassure themselves that they have spent their money wisely.

Maybe I should add a little background. Maybe not. I have eight years of use of the 85/1.4D, and we have sold a great many images made with it. Film and digital. It is a lovely lens, but I always hated the clumsy AF/MF switching when I wanted to tweak the focus. Obviously, that's not a shotcoming specific to the 85D, but the shallow DOF means that tweaking can be more common than for other lenses (which was my original reason for swapping out the 1.4D for the 1.8G). I have also used the Canon 85/1.2 with our 5Ds and 5DIIs  (less so nowadays, as I work nearly 100% with the Nikons) and have to be honest; that's a fantastic lens. The best 35mm format 85mm on the market in my opinion. (and it's only an opinion!)

I am no stranger to the "joys" of shallow DOF photography. I also have a bit of a gear fetish, like many of the contributors here. I love fine kit which is a joy to use and do often spend over and above what's absolutely necessary so that I can work with nice gear. I also appreciate the law of diminishing returns. I know for a fact that even our most demanding clients will not be able to discriminate between either of the 85G lenses. Part of that is because they are not photographers, and part of it is because as the togs, we are normally able to control the environment to bring out the best in both our clients and the equipment. Both of these points will go an awfully long way to mitigate any differences, clear or subtle, between lens choices. In years of studio sessions, when I have offered clients a choice of images, shallow DOF and more "normal" DOF, very VERY few have preferred the shallow DOF option. The commercial fact (as they appear in this neck of the woods, in our specific niches) is that portraiture below f/2.8 or f/4 is nice for the home collection and internet bragging rights, but simply does not put much food on the table. There is always a cry of "this is why the pros love the 1.4 lenses" in these discussions, but I can't help but suspect that it is not the pros who make these outlandish and really rather patronising comments. The aspiring photographer is easily wooed by the shallow DOF shots with just the iris in focus. The guys (and girls!) who need to feed their families have a more pragmatic understanding of what works and makes successful images.

To the gentleman who was kind enough to point me in the direction of the various sources of test data on the web (photozone.de et al), perhaps you might like to sharpen up on your reading skills, my friend. All of the test data out there supports my claim that at wider apertures, the 1.8 lens is sharper. Much so for the first stop or so. Above f/5.6 or so, the 1.4 lens may be marginally sharper, but I doubt that many eyes could discriminate between the two. Especially in a print (you know, those things that you sell to clients).

I must confess that I never used the 1.4D on the 800Es; only the 700s, D2X and film. I must also confess that I am making my sharpness comparisons in this case from 100% screen viewing. Shoot me now! I do appreciate that these differences would not be visible in most if not all prints that we are likely to make (11x14 is common, with 16x20 way behind) and that's kind of the point here. Aside from the warm and comfy feeling that I am using the best (OK, I can reassure my clients about this, but it actually has little commercial value), the additional £900 for the 1.4 is looking unjustifiable.

Build wise, the 1.4 lens wins, although I might actually prefer the more damped feeling of the 1.8's focus ring. The weather sealing is not that important to me, nor, I suspect, many other portrait shooters. Pleasing blur is important, but this isn't Japan, and the reality is that at typical working apertures, there is little to tell between the two lenses. The 1.4 lens is a little warmer, but that's hardly a massive hurdle to get over for the 1.8. Flare resistance might be a valid point for many, but personally, this is not a big deal.

Clearly, my opinion is based around my own usage patterns and personal bias. I appreciate that, but I think that folks who respond by calling my observations "garbage" are revealing rather more fragility and immaturity than they might like. I am sorry that you feel threatened by my actual observations based on actual use of the actual gear in question. Maybe you're using a lesser camera, which is masking the inadequacies when you sit at your screen, peeping away.

I am busy, but I will see if I can muster an hour or so to provide some side by side examples (yes, yes; on a tripod, using live view, 3s delay etc. etc.) at a coulple of focal distances and a range of apertures to back these assertions up, since I realise that words alone provide no opportunity to berate my focusing skills.

I look forward to being told that I must have swapped the exif (IF [and it's a big IF] I can work out how to upload images to this site).

Got cramp from typing now.

Really very well said.

But this is a gear forum and there will always be those who cling to their lenses like a security blanket. I love owning the best kit too, but I have a deadly streak of pragmatic blood running through me. I never doubted that my old 85mm 1.4D was better than the 1.8D. It was CLEARLY better.

But this is just both the case with these G lenses and now where left with very subtle differences that come down to taste rather than inarguable and easily provable performance limits. Even with the price, weight and reputation of the 1.4G working magic on my NAS soul, I could not bring myself to prefer it over the 1.8G. Nikon did a terrible thing and also a great thing!

You get what you pay for but you also should quantify what it is that your getting and if it has real value to your work. If it doesn't that you're just buying jewelry. There's nothing wrong with that and I've certainly done it over the years.

This time I didn't. And now I somehow have this 85mm lens that I paid 396.00 for with rebate that just happens to be one of the best lenses I own with only the 50mm costing less.

Robert

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