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

Started May 22, 2013 | Discussions thread
nathantw Senior Member • Posts: 1,731
Re: How to be a Tastemaker

MarkJH wrote:

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.


Well said. I was a bit disappointed with the f/1.4G when I got it. I wondered why I paid so much. I went out and took night pictures and saw the purple fringes. I took daylight pictures and saw the green and magenta fringes. The lens didn't focus properly until I fine tuned it, something I never did before. It was frankly, a horrible experience.

However, I found that ViewNX2 fixed the color fringes in my night pictures. The daylight pictures were also correctable to an extent. The focusing problem was resolved and I finally went out and started using the lens. I went outside and shot things at different distances, different apertures, different lighting and they all turned out to be a fantastic.

In some ways it was like my 85mm f/1.8 AF that I had a love/hate relationship with. I hated that I couldn't use the lens wide open, I hated the internal reflections when shooting at night, but I LOVED the lens when stopped down. Once you learn the characteristics of a lens, you then can use its strengths to create the photographs you want.

I didn't know the 85mm f/1.4G lens. Everything about it was wrong. Everything I tried initially made me want to return it. However, after deciding to find out the strengths and weaknesses I found that the lens was really good, wide open (the reason I purchased the lens) to stopped down. So, If I had made an initial determination of the lens on a short demo, I would have dumped it, especially if I had a lens I knew like the back of my hand and compared the two.

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