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Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G Thomas, updated June 2012
 

Nikon Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G with D800 review

The Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G was announced August 2010. It's the longest of four prime lenses sporting an f1.4 focal ratio in Nikon's current range, with the 50mm, 35mm and 24mm completing the line-up.

I reviewed this lens back in March 2011 with the D300 and D700 bodies (see my Nikon 85mm 1.4G review), but this was prior to the launch of the AF-S 85mm f1.8G and the D800 body. The arrival of Nikon's 36 Megapixel D800 begs the question of how this lens performs on a full-frame body with three times the pixel density of a D700 - which translates into a 73% higher linear resolution.

In this update I've retested the lens with a D800 to see if Nikon's most expensive 85mm prime can deliver on a 36MP sensor. To that end I'll just repeat the Siemens-star resolution test as my earlier tests including longitudinal CAs and behavior in contra-light do not depend on the resolution of the body. As such this page is to be read as a complement to my existing Nikon 85mm 1.4G review - please take a look at both for a complete report on this lens!

   
   



Sharpness and contrast

What follows are near-center results (first column) followed by DX-corner results and FX-corner results on a D800. The D800 results from the DX-corner should be a very good approximation for performance on a 16MP DX sensor (like the D7000), because the pixel-pitch of both sensors are the same. But differences in the AA-filter and micro-lens-design of a D800 and a D7000 might yield different end-results.

Processing was done in Lightroom 4 from RAW at camera standard settings. This is another deviation from my former tests which were developed in CaptureNX 2. This was triggered by a close comparison of both RAW-converters: Lightroom 4 has a sharpening algorithm that can be better tuned for small details. Noise-reduction is set to 0, sharpening to 70/0.5/36/10, with no extra tone, color, or saturation-adjustment. White-balance was adjusted to a neutral white and I did some exposure compensation to make the brightness match. CA-removal is ON. Focus was achieved as usual live-view based and it was done separate for the center and the corners because the lens has slight field curvature.

These are 100% crops!

Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G with Nikon D800
100% crop from center
Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G with Nikon D800
100% crop from DX-corner
Nikkor AF-S 85mm f/1.4G with Nikon D800
100% crop from FX-corner
   
f1.4, 100 ISO
f1.4, 100 ISO
f1.4, 100 ISO
         
   
f2, 100 ISO
f2, 100 ISO
f2, 100 ISO
         
   
f2.8, 100 ISO
f2.8, 100 ISO
f2.8, 100 ISO
         
   
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
f4, 100 ISO
         
   
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
f5.6, 100 ISO
         
   
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO
f8, 100 ISO

Now on the D800 as a new test-platform we can look a little deeper into the performance of the Nikon AF-S 85/1.4G. And it turns out that the performance is still very impressive at f1.4 and f2.0 in the center and the DX-corner. F2.8 produces a visible improvement and the center is almost at peak performance although the red coloration indicates some focus shift to the back. Stopping down to f4.0 still benefits the DX-corner but the center remains almost unchanged. Excellent performance continues at f5.6 and f8 while diffraction sets in at f11 and becomes pretty visible at f16 (not shown here).

The FX-corner suffers visibly from being looked at with a 1.7x larger magnification than on a D700. But there is still some good definition in the images wide open although cloaked by lower contrast and some obvious astigmatism. You need to stop down to f2.8 to see an improvement and only at f4.0 - f5.6 is the FX-corner up to speed with the center and DX-corner.

 

Nikon AF-S 85mm f1.4G sample images

The following images were taken with the Nikon AF-S 85/1.4G on a D800. Each image was recorded in RAW and converted with Lightroom 4 at camera standard settings. Noise-reduction is set to 0, sharpening to 70/0.5/36/10, no extra tone, color, or saturation adjustment was used. Some images have White Balance set to a standard daylight value to make them comparable. You can click on each image to access the large original. Please respect our copyright and only use those images for personal use.

The first image shows what you can achieve in a typical landscape situation. Not that many people think of a 85mm large aperture prime as a landscape lens. But the 85/1.4G produces very impressive images at infinity with fine details that are sharp right into the corners of the 36MP FX-sensor. At f2.8 center-performance is already very good and stopping down to f4.0 increases contrast a bit and reduces the magenta fringing.

Unremarkables: Infinity shot with Nikon Nikkor 85/1.4G on a D800
f5.6, 100 ISO; Below: 100% crops from center of main image at different apertures
 
   
f1.4, 100 ISO
 
f2.8, 100 ISO
  f4.0, 100 ISO

The next row shows 100% crops from the lower right corner. Apart from the vignetting it's pretty astonishing how this lens performs even wide open. And from f4.0 on you get a very good performance.

Unremarkables: corner performance with Nikon Nikkor 85/1.4G on a D800, 100% crops
 
   
f1.4, 100 ISO
 
f2.8, 100 ISO
  f4.0, 100 ISO

 

The second shot, below, is a good indication of the bokeh that this lens can produce wide open. Very important for applications like portraiture. The 50% crops are from the background, the sharpest point, and the foreground in the overall image. They demonstrate the extraordinarily smooth rendering of out-of-focus elements.

Tulips: bokeh shot with Nikon Nikkor 85/1.4G on a D800
 
Main image and all 50% crops: f1.4, 100 ISO

Other images shot with this lens are available on my flickr set here in full resolution. Have a look if you like.

 

Summary

This is just a summary of the points that we have learned from using the lens on the D800. For additional material and insights have a look at my full Nikon 85/1.4G review.

The pixel-density of the 36MP sensor shows that there are limits to the performance of this lens. But to be fair, that was to be expected: Almost any lens will show flaws wide open on a D800. And we are still talking about a very high level of performance here. Other than that the Nikon 85/1.4G confirmed its excellent resolving power and buttery bokeh of my first review. How it compares to its smaller brother - namely the 85/1.8G (see my Nikon 85/1.8G review) - will be subject to the upcoming 85mm shootout which will not only compare sharpness but also bokeh and other performance-indicators side-by-side to give you a final verdict.

If you have any question, comment or suggestion regarding the review head over here. A selection of my shots with this lens updated with new images shot with the D800 can be found there.
Und wenn es irgendwelche Fragen, Kommentare und Anregungen zu meinem Review gibt, hier gibt's die Möglichkeit auch für unsere deutschsprachigen Forums-Besucher. Und dort ist eine Auswahl an Bildern, die ich mit dieser Linse gemacht habe. Inklusive neuer Bilder mit der D800.

 
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Todd and Sarah Sisson are two of my favourite landscape photographers and in this superb ebook, they'll reveal the secrets behind their wonderful photos. Over 130 pages, it combines tutorials, field guides and technical advice, using the beautiful scenery of New Zealand as a backdrop. An informative and attractive ebook that's highly recommended for anyone wanting to improve their landscape photography! Well worth the price.
     
All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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