The Nikon 85mm F/1.8G Review

Best Value

8 Build Quality
9 Image Quality
10 Value
10 Versatility
9.3

Versatility

This is why I love the Nikon 85mm f/1.8G , it’s worth every penny you’ll pay for it and not a penny more or less. The lens is cheap enough that you aren’t going to feel reluctant to drop it into your bag for any and every situation that comes up.  Not that $500 is “cheap” but in relation to the quality of lens you’re getting combined with the small, light aspect of the lens I’d say it’s a steal.

The lens is fast enough (in regards to its ability to achieve a wide aperture of f/1.8) that you can use it handheld in incredibly low light.  If you own a camera that handles high ISO shooting well, you can shoot as late into the evening as you want with very little light.

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Handheld, ISO 3200, f/1.8, 1/125 sec..

The lens is small and light enough that you can use it on just about any camera in any situation without giving it two thoughts.  I use the Nikon Df , which isn’t a large camera, and the lens feels well-balanced and lighter than my lightest zoom lens (the Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G lens).  If you are planning on doing a lot of handheld shooting then I’d highly recommend this over its bigger, more expensive, f/1.4G brother.

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The 85mm lens is tack sharp and renders backgrounds a pleasant blur.

Conclusion

The Nikon 85mm f/1.8G has easily displaced my 50mm lens as my favorite prime lens.  The lens produces professional quality images without breaking the bank.  The image quality is so good that had I bought the f/1.4G version I’d consider selling it, buying this lens, and using the difference to buy another lens.

Normally you might associate the 85mm focal length with portraiture…  You’d be missing out if you thought that’s all this lens is good for.  The 85mm focal length is one of the best focal lengths for street photography, still life photography, and photographing wizards.

The size and weight of this lens is a huge selling point (unless you’re planning on leaving it attached to a tripod mounted camera) in a world where consumers want smaller and smaller cameras.  From a travel and street photography perspective, the small size and weight of this lens are just about perfect.

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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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