Nikon recently delivered the newest lens in the mirrorless S lineup, the 85mm F1.8. This is a portrait photographer’s meat and potato lens; I have used my 85mm F1.4 for years around the globe with amazing results. But with new technology and the closer mounting distance of the S lenses, could this new lens replace my trusty 85mm F1.4? Time to find out.
Here are the specs; the 85mm S F1.8mm is longer at 3.9″ but weighs less at approximately one pound. My 85mm F1.4 weighs 1.3 pounds and is 3.4″ long. Filter on the new S 85mm is 63mm versus 77mm on the F1.4. It should be noted we are comparing a 1.8 lens with a 1.4 lens…I don’t own the 85mm F1.8 DSLR lens. Take a look at the image above to see the side by side comparison. The Z7 with the 85mm S F1.8 feels more lighter and smaller than you would expect when you shoot them side by side.
I took both lenses out on recent portrait assignments, and shot them side by side. Above is a 300 percent crop of a model’s eye using the new 85mm F1.8 lens. Absolutely stunning…this is at 300 percent! Is it sharper than the older (2010) 85mm F1.4 wide open or even at 1.8? Yes, without a doubt. As you close down and shoot at middle apertures, I honestly didn’t see much difference. There is also more color fringing on the 85mm F1.4 than on the new lens. Once again I had to check and recheck my images in the computer…this lens is absolutely a stunner shot wide open, tack sharp…you better make sure you have your focus point on the eye of your subject.
A few other noteworthy things on the new S 85mm F1.8. This lens will have ‘VR’ via the in-camera body stabilization on the Z cameras. Autofocus performance seemed good even in low light. Bokeh is pleasing. I continue to love being able to use a ring on the lens to adjust exposure compensation without searching for the exposure comp button.
My trusty 85mm F1.4 is most likely going to get replaced by this new lens. There is a slight difference in bokeh quality, maybe a tiny bit smoother on the 85mm F1.4. But the improved acuity is stunning and easily justifies this lens for me. I also have a 105mm F1.4 which is a much newer, sharper lens than my older 85mm. And the bokeh on the 105mm is dreamy!
Nikon continues to march forward with some beautiful, high performance lenses for the mirrorless system. With the addition of the 70-200mm F2.8 later this year, most photographers will have a complete set of lenses for much of their work. I get this question almost every week…am I getting rid of my DSLRs like my D850 and D5. No way! We use these cameras consistently, and on assignments/workshops we often use both. With the announcement of the D6, I’ll be first in line to get one. I can’t wait to see the specs!