AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D lens review


Released in 1994, the AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D is a full–frame, fixed–focal–length short telephoto lens that can be used on both FX and DX format cameras. It is a classic portrait lens when used an FX format camera; on a DX format camera it becomes a medium telephoto optic. The lens has six elements in six groups and dimensions of 71.5mm by 58.5mm; it focuses down to 85cm, weighs only 380g and takes 62mm filters. If necessary, you can find simple explanations of the terms below here. Most of the photographs here were taken with this lens.

AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D

The lens was tested on a 12MP Nikon D700 camera. FX format cameras of higher resolution will put a further emphasis on some of the performance deficiencies reported in the review. At the same time, light fall–off and corner sharpness will be less problematic when the lens is used on a DX format camera.

Handling and autofocus

The lens is fairly light and compact for its focal length and fast aperture and balances nicely on all Nikon camera bodies I have tried it on. When mounted on bigger cameras such as the Nikon D700, the lens seems to have been purposefully made to fit cameras of this calibre—it is as substantial as the camera yet does not make it nose dive when you carry it on your shoulder.

Lens mount is metal; lens barrel, on the other hand, is made of high–quality plastics that, thankfully, do not give the lens a "plasticy" feel. Indeed, the lens has a certain heft to it and, due to this, leaves the impression of a solidly built optic. Filter thread is made of plastic, too; it does not rotate during focusing, which makes using a polarizing filter easy.

Autofocus speed will largely depend on the camera body used. On the Nikon D700, autofocus is very snappy and accurate, albeit quite audible. It might seem a bit on the slow side if you make the lens go from close focus to infinity, but even then is does so in a very confident manner. The lens uses camera body's AF motor for focusing and thus on Nikon's lesser DX format cameras that do not have a lens drive (D40, D40x, D60, D3000 and D5000) can be used in manual focus only.


Centre: the lens is already plentifully sharp at f/1.8 and centre sharpness gradually improves further as one stops the lens down, albeit rather marginally. In case of my sample of the lens centre sharpness peaks at f/8. Sharpness deteriorates again at f/16 due to diffraction but the lens is perfectly usable at this aperture if or when greater depth of field is needed.

Corners and farthest corners: the lens is slightly soft at apertures larger than f/2.8 (a tiny bit more so than in the centre); however, given how the lens is usually used at these apertures (portraiture), this is mostly inconsequential. For all intent and purposes the lens is equally sharp from f/4 through to f/8, where sharpness is best. An almost imperceptible softness creeps in at f/11 and diffraction takes it all at f/16, although, again, the lens is perfectly usable at this aperture.

In short, the lens is very, very sharp. There is nothing more to say here, really.


As shown in the test shots below, the lens exhibits a modest degree of vignetting at f/1.8. It might actually come in handy if one intends to emphasise the main subject; if necessary, it can be almost completely removed in post processing. The aberration will be unnoticeable in most images at f/2.8 and is virtually gone by f/4.

  AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D light fall-off at f/1.8   AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D light fall-off at f/2  




  AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D light fall-off at f/2.8   AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D light fall-off at f/4  






Even if you use the worst pixel–peeping techniques known to humans to uncover distortion you will see none—the lens produces no visible distortion whatsoever, both at infinity and close distances.

Chromatic aberration

The lens produces a very small amount of chromatic aberration: it is visible at f/1.8, unobjectionable at f/2.8 and almost imperceptible at smaller apertures.


The lens has a relatively simple design and, partially due to this, flare is very well controlled. Even shooting directly into the sun does not visibly degrade contrast. It is possible to induce ghosting by having very bright sources of light in an image but it is normally minimal in both amount and size. Below is an example of the worst flare that I have been able to induce on purpose (the shot was taken on a hazy morning).

  AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D flare test shot  


Bokeh is a very subjective criterion and you can see below for yourself what out–of–focus areas look like at different apertures. If you are interested in my opinion, though, bokeh is, well, just so–so. It is not too bad, but in my experience bad enough to gradually become a niggling annoyance in the long term if your photographs often have out–of–focus background.

  AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D bokeh at f/1.8   AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D bokeh at f/2  




  AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D bokeh at f/2.8   AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D bokeh at f/4  




  AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D bokeh at f/5.6   AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D bokeh at f/8  





Bokeh gradually improves as the lens is being stopped down but it does not get to look really creamy. Below is a real–life example taken at f/1.8—pay attention to rendering of the patterns on the dress.

AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D bokeh example


If you are looking for a general purpose short telephoto lens and portraiture is not your favourite type of photography, then the AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D is a superb optic and represents a great value for the money. If, however, you primarily intend to photograph people with this lens, you might be disappointed with rather mediocre rendering of out–of–focus areas. I suggest to look at other options if bokeh is crucial to you.