Nikon Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.eight S lens
“Is f/1.eight adequate for a premium portrait lens? On this case, completely.”
Autofocus suffers when underexposing with publicity preview on
Apart from the upcoming 58mm f/zero.95 Noct, Nikon has taken a conservative method with its Z-series lenses, as the brand new Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.eight S demonstrates. Whereas this isn’t as thrilling as rival Canon’s method of churning out vibrant f/1.2 primes that value hundreds of , it is likely to be a wiser transfer. An 85mm f/1.eight doesn’t sound spectacular on paper, however that is precisely the kind of lens that is smart for the smaller profile of a mirrorless digicam. It’s compact, light-weight, and economical. It additionally occurs to be actually sharp.
So whereas the Z 85mm gained’t wow you with its spec sheet as a lot as Canon’s $2,700 RF 85mm f/1.2, it’s arguably a extra helpful portrait lens. And at $800, regular folks can truly afford it.
Design and specs
The Z 85mm f/1.eight S takes design cues from Nikon’s different S lenses, with a frivolously textured exterior floor and enormous focus ring that may be reprogrammed to manage different settings. It is rather minimalist in look, with no focus distance scale and only a single change that units the main focus mode. Mounted to a Z 6, it’s comfy to carry and completely balanced.
Sure, it’s “simply” f/1.eight, however I’m unsure why there may be a lot fuss over ultrafast lenses lately. An f/1.eight aperture is sweet sufficient to realize a really shallow depth of area on a full-frame digicam, and given the spectacular high-ISO efficiency of recent sensors, you don’t really want extra light-gathering means.
By choosing f/1.eight over f/1.four — not to mention f/1.2 — Nikon was capable of hold the 85mm S lens significantly extra compact. It’s just below four inches lengthy, three inches in diameter, and weighs a hair over a pound. A bit surprisingly, that is truly bigger than the F-mount AF-S 85mm f/1.eight, a lens designed for DSLRs. There are good causes for this, nevertheless.
The place the F-mount 85mm f/1.eight was at all times meant as a price range various to the professional-level f/1.four model, that’s not the case with the Z-mount 85mm. It makes use of a extra complicated optical design with 12 components in 9 teams, a nine-bladed aperture diaphragm, and two stepper motors powering the main focus system. As with the Z digicam our bodies, additionally it is dust- and moisture-resistant to be used in all climate circumstances.
Make no mistake, that is meant to be a premium lens, and for essentially the most half, it undoubtedly performs like one.
Picture high quality, autofocus, and bokeh
I’ve to confess, I’m a bit of shocked by how good the 85mm f/1.eight S is. Normally, you may inform a portrait lens goes to be good simply by taking a look at it — the Sigma 105mm f/1.four Artwork, for instance, has an enormous entrance factor that virtually screams how superior it’s — however the Z 85mm is way extra modest. It doesn’t actually look that spectacular, however the outcomes are beautiful. Even extensive open, I seen no chromatic aberration in real-world testing, even in particulars simply past the depth of area, the place it’s normally most noticeable. Eyelashes and particular person strands of hair are tack sharp, or fade naturally into oblivion as the main focus falls off, with none distracting coloured fringing.
The lens does sharpen up a bit extra by f/four, however the distinction isn’t big, and I solely seen this in goal check pictures, not real-world use. Briefly, you need to have free rein to decide on no matter aperture you want for the specified depth of area with out having to fret about softness.
That’s to not say you’ll at all times get excellent focus at f/1.eight, nevertheless. I seen that Nikon’s Eye AF within the Z 6 usually centered on my topic’s eyelid moderately than the attention itself. This wasn’t at all times the case, nevertheless it did pose an occasional downside for close-up portraits, the place the depth of area was shallow sufficient that eyelashes might be in focus, however the iris can be a bit gentle.
On the whole, autofocus velocity was normally excellent. Nevertheless, when you’ve enabled “Apply settings to stay view,” which displays your publicity settings within the brightness of the preview picture, and also you purposefully underexpose a scene both by stopping down the aperture or growing the shutter velocity, the lens will begin trying to find focus rather more. By turning “Apply settings to stay view” off, I seen AF efficiency was way more constant and the lens not often hunted, even with the aperture stopped down.
To make sure, that is extra possible an issue with the digicam system as a complete, not simply the lens, nevertheless it’s a difficulty to concentrate on nonetheless.
However what everyone undoubtedly needs to find out about is the bokeh. To begin with, sure, f/1.eight is loads extensive sufficient to get ample quantities of blur in your photographs, and the Z 85mm’s bokeh is actually stunning. Blur circles type strong disks that mix and overlap in a lovely approach, with none distracting “onion rings.” As much as f/2.eight, the blur circles are practically completely spherical, however you can begin to see an angular aperture form at smaller f-stops. This isn’t essentially unhealthy — it’s a matter of opinion, you both just like the look otherwise you don’t — however is probably a bit stunning given the 9 rounded aperture blades
At any fee, a lens like that is designed to be shot at or close to wide-open, and the Z 85mm actually shines right here. Along with the shallow depth of area, it has a really gentle vignette that evenly fades in, gently drawing your consideration towards the middle of the body with out inflicting the corners to be distractingly darkish. It could not fairly match the look of one thing just like the Sigma 105mm f/1.four on a DSLR, however it’s so a lot simpler to make use of (to not point out, cheaper) that you could be truly get higher outcomes and extra keepers.
As the primary true portrait lens for Nikon’s year-old Z sequence, the Z 85mm f/1.eight S is a winner. The mixture of a vibrant aperture, sharp optics, and compact design make it an ideal match for the Z 6 or Z 7 digicam our bodies. It delivers a shallow depth of area with out breaking the financial institution — or your again. There are only a few conditions the place I really feel like I’d want and even desire a sooner lens on a full-frame digicam.
That’s to not say Nikon gained’t make wider-aperture portrait lenses sooner or later. Certainly, the corporate has frequently touted the Z mount’s bigger diameter for enabling wider apertures than what’s attainable on the F mount. Regardless of the promise of f/zero.95 glass, nevertheless, I’m more than happy that Nikon has taken a extra conservative method to this primary spherical of Z lenses. An 85mm f/1.eight simply is smart, and there may be little or no to not like right here.
It could have taken Nikon a very long time to get its mirrorless efforts dialed in, nevertheless it’s lastly doing it proper with an inexpensive, user-friendly method to lens design that doesn’t sacrifice optical efficiency. Different producers ought to take word.
Is there a greater various?
Not at present. When you’re a Nikon Z-series photographer and also you desire a good portrait lens, that is nearly the one choice in need of adapting an F-mount lens.
How lengthy will it final?
This lens feels very effectively made and appears like it can maintain as much as skilled put on and tear for a few years. Lenses are likely to have lengthy product life cycles, so don’t anticipate a substitute anytime quickly.
Do you have to purchase it?
Sure. Whereas $800 isn’t precisely low cost for an f/1.eight aperture, it’s a good value for a premium portrait lens — and that’s what the Z 85mm f/1.eight S is.