The Nikon 85mm F/1.8G Review

Best Value

8 Build Quality
9 Image Quality
10 Value
10 Versatility
9.3

I typically only review gear I buy for my own personal use and I do an extensive amount of research before I shell out the cash because, well…  I don’t hate my money.  If you’ve been following PhotolisticLife for some time now you’ll probably realize I’m not super technical, I don’t give a butterfly fart about all the graphs and charts posted on various other sites that try to bury you in technical jargon that only other technical writers understand.  I just want to know if my photos will look good.  So naturally, that’s who this review will appeal to.  Instead of getting caught up in minute differences between two comparable lenses that only a microscope could discern, lets see if the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G can deliver the results you care about.

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Build Quality

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G is weather-resistant, matched with a solid build quality that will most likely outlast your camera body.  The closest comparison to this lens is it’s bigger brother, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G which is 3 times more expensive, larger, and heavier than the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G .

If you’re on the fence between the two lenses I’ll give you the hard truth (sorry if you already own the f/1.4 larger, heavier, and more expensive lens), the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G makes more sense for everything but studio work.

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Shot at ISO 400, f/4

Image Quality

Superb.  DXOMark ranks the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G as one of the best prime lenses for the Nikon Df (it’s number 5 on a list of 30 and it’s one of the least expensive).  The lens is sharp, captures beautiful bokeh (that’s the out of focus background you see in some photographs with wide apertures), and has minimal distortion that’s easily correctable in post processing.

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ISO 1600, f/1.8, 1/500 sec..

Note:  If you’ve done your research and are considering the heavier, larger, more expensive Nikon 85mm f/1.4G then you may have noticed that the f/1.4 renders images a little warmer than the less expensive f/1.8 version… This should not even be a consideration if you use even the simplest post processing software, it’s an easy adjustment of the white balance.

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The Bokeh the lens captures is beautiful.

The only downside I noticed shooting with the less expensive f/1.8 as opposed to it’s bigger, heavier, more expensive brother (the f/1.4) is that lens flare can “flare” up in very difficult lighting (by difficult I mean I was shooting directly towards the sun).  You may be thinking “why would you shoot towards the sun?” and I’ll tell you it happens more frequently than you’d think.

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Should lens flare be a consideration for you?  I don’t think it’s out of control, the example above is an extreme situation where I was literally shooting directly into the sun.  Changing your angle could eliminate all of the flare.  With that being said, there are a good number of people who ADD lens flare in post processing…  It’s all about preferences.  I don’t own any lenses that would not have lens flare in this same situation, it’s just varying degrees.

Value

One of the most important consideration most people have is the cost.  In a perfect world lenses would be affordable for everyone but in the real world good lenses usually cost an arm and a leg.  Luckily, the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G doesn’t require you to sell your first-born child to buy.  The lens costs less than $500 and because of the demand it holds its value very well (Used lenses sell for only $10 or $20 less than brand new ones).

Simply put, for the cost of the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G, as opposed to the Nikon f/1.4G, you get a lens that’s 97% the lens that the f/1.4G is for a third of the cost.  The money you save buying the f/1.8G version can be used to buy another lens or even a decent back up DSLR.

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13 Comments

  • Very nice review.
    I must tell you that i still try to decide if nikon 85 1.8 G is the better solution over the 1,4 G.
    i had 1,4 G lens in my hands and i must tell you that i still dream about it.
    Unfortunately like you already said , you must sell you baby to buy one.
    The cost of this lens is stellar.
    In fact if i better think, the most important point is not the lens it self, is to be albe to achieve that look of the pictures taken with 1,4 g, with 1,8 g.

    do you think is it possible ? .

  • One of the BEST reviews I have read! You are honest, to the point, and very informative! I own the two expensive PRO lenses 20-70mm and the 70-200mm and I love them both, but both are very heavy and bulky, but still they have their specialties. However after reading several reviews, especially yours, I will be buying a Nikon 85mm f/1.8 very soon.
    Thanks Again!

    • Thank you! I really appreciate the feedback. You will love the lens. The two zoom lenses you mentioned are excellent as well but you’re right, they can get heavy on a long day.

  • Have to say that is the best review of a lens i have ever read , thanks for you time in this review wonderful job I’m buying one in the next few hours what joy …………….

    • Awesome! Glad you liked it and I appreciate the feedback. If you purchase through a link in our review it helps the site and doesn’t increase the cost for you. Thanks again! Take care.

    • The optics are similar but I don’t think the 1.8D is weather sealed (that may or may not matter to you). What type of camera do you use, if you plan to use auto focus you’ll want to make sure it’s a newer f mount where the autofocus motor is inside the camera body. Also, the 1.8D requires you to press a small button near the aperture ring to lock it so you can control the aperture via the electronic dial on your computer. You have to switch between auto and manual on the 1.8D via the switch on your camera as opposed to the g where you can either use the switch on the lens or just start moving the focus ring to switch to manual mode. All in all, if size and price are a concern I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the 1.8D.

      • Thanks, John. I ended up picking up a used copy (very good condition) of the Nikon 85mm 1.4D instead. Couldn’t resist this magical and beautiful lens. Although heavier than the 1.8 G/D.
        I have previously mainly been a 50mm shooter, but now really getting in to 35mm (f/2D) focal length. Combined with my new 85mm, I believe, I will have a very versatile and compact street, travel and life in general set-up. Shooting with a D750 btw.
        Don’t know if 50mm will be relegated over time, or if it will continue to be a stable lens in my arsenal.

      • Nice! I asked myself the same thing once I jumped into the 35mm f2d and find that the 50 had been collecting a bit of dust. I will keep it for those times I want to do travel photography and I want to keep a little more distance (more dangerous areas). The 85mm is quite good for this as well. Sounds like you’ve got a great kit! Enjoy.

  • Hi John,

    This is a great review of the 85mm 1.8 lens. I use this lens along with the 50mm 1.4 and 28mm 1.8 lenses on my Nikon D750. I think the three together are great combination of lenses for a keen enthusiast like myself and they suit most every situations and not too heavy to carry around with me.
    I like using the 85mm lens as it is long enough to make me think how I am going to use it. I tend to squeeze shots in with the 50mm lens and make more compromises with it, I can’t do this with the 85mm, the shot has to be thought out. I think the image quality is great and I’ve not been too troubled by flare.
    Have you any thoughts about a 135mm prime for Nikon?

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