85mm f/1.8 D

Started Jul 31, 2022 | Discussions thread
johnanderson Regular Member • Posts: 264
^This (nt)

AllyM wrote:

anotherMike wrote:

I don't think one can say that the set of "all" older lenses means they "all" have character.

Many an older lens (and the 85/1.8D or AFD is certainly in this category) are actually utterly devoid of anything that we might typically ascribe to "character". I abhor the use of the word "clinical" or "sterile" to describe a well corrected lens (because a well corrected lens is just honest and transparent to the scene), but *this* lens might just garner those descriptions. It's one of the least pleasant rendering lenses in my 35+ year experience and I can't for the life of me see why anyone would own one and not upgrade unless budget is a limiting factor. I say this because it's flaws (CA, astigmatism) are ones that in most cases are objectionable to the eye. Lenses with character are generally defined as such because of an under correction of spherical aberration (and particularly the older portrait lenses have this in significant quantities) and thus a softness that works well with some (but not all) types of portraiture. These lenses also might have OOF transitions and bokeh that lend themselves to portrait work. The 85/1.8 is not real sharp wide open, so that perhaps is a draw to some, but the bokeh and transition quality is subjectively rough to say the least, although obviously bokeh might be the single most subjective image quality attribute in lenses.

Nikon today, with their better modern lenses, very much "tune" their lenses to portrait use in the portrait distance ranges, which causes all sorts of angst when the flat test chart sites (who by nature of the deal have to test in closer distances) get a hold of them and they don't "win" the test chart battle, so it's still quite possible to get character in a modern lens.

Sorry to say, IMO the 85/1.8 D/AFD was never a character lens. Just a generic, garden variety lens from the film era that would rank near last in my list of 85mm lenses I've used when classified under either the "honest/transparent/accurate" or "character" rendering categories.

The 85/1.4 AFD, most certainly was and is a character lens and should be your choice given what you're looking for. If you need a 85mm lens that will work on a film body, and don't mind manual focus, give the 85/1.4 Zeiss Milvus a go - and you'll see what a modern character lens can be about.

Generally speaking there are much more characterful lenses from that era because they were not as well corrected...a bit soft...suffer from veiling flare etc. More lenses now just reproduce the scenes is than back in the 80s and 90s for sure. That is fine...I wouldn't be putting too much weight into the word clinical. People just mean it draws the scene as is. But many find that boring. Unless I am shooting landscapes...I dislike these sort of lenses generally speaking.

Take the 50mm 1.4d you mentioned. I'll accept the issue at f10. But I don't go near that aperture. F8 is about the most ill push to 99% of the time. For critical shots id review them...and id never ever be anywhere near f10 for weddings or portraits ever. I've been up to f11 before at night to really pop the diffraction spikes which btw other new lenses don't seem to do well...especially in camp nikon. I love them - this lens does unparalleled spikes from as low as f4! I also love the bright red flaring off axis when the sun or any hard light hits the front element. I love the spherical glow when shooting at f1.4-2.5 in bright back-light or at low light in weddings. I love the draw. I've used the sigma 50mm 1.4...as crazy as you will think this is i ditched it and went back to 50mm 1.4d and 1.8d lenses (backup). I've owned a mixture of old and new glass for a long time. I guess I am saying...you might hate it but I know why I shoot what I do.

I prefer the 85mm 1.4d too...why I own it. But I'd still use the 1.8d over the G. Dislike how it renders and I have used it...not just looked at samples. I even prefer the 1.4d to the 1.4G. I have my reasons for shooting what I do. As long as the photographer understands that we are good. I'm not saying one lens has magical qualities but they all draw differently. Like a fine wine I choose what works for me. I also save a heap of money and I am not easily convinced to blow the cash on a 50mm 1.2. I genuinely do not like the look from it. The mcnally shots do nothing for me. It is like Whitney Houston. She was a consumate professional singing wise...could hit every note pitch perfect. But it was just devoid of soul. It felt like a pro going through the motions. It feels plaquey. They took all the breathing in sound out the records. (Patrick bateman mode off). It's just personal preference. A what floats your boat...sinks mine kind of deal.

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