Which Manual Focus Nikkor 85 is Best?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by FilmOnly, Apr 29, 2010.

  1. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I will be looking for a manual focus Nikkor 85. I do not need the extra speed (or cost) of a 1.4, and so a 1.8 or f/2 would be fine. I plan on using this "portrait" focal length in a somewhat atypical manner--i.e. outdoors. Thus, sharpness will be essential. In certain situations, I will use the lens in a more conventional manner, too. Which 85 would be best--the AI 1.8, 1.8 H, 1.8 HC, AI f/2...? Please be as specific as possible.
     
  2. Pinholemaster

    Pinholemaster Member

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    Use to own an 85 mm f/2.0. Great lens. Small and lightweight. Never had a sharpness issue.
     
  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Don't rule out AId lenses! Single-coated pre AI lenses are my favorite Nikkor glass, and they are super cheap compared to AI and later lenses. An AId lens may go for less or may go for more than an unmodified pre-AI lens, depending on which way the wind is blowing, but one will almost certainly go for less than an AI or later version. If lens speed is really not important to you, I'd go for the slowest one you can get, as it will likely be the cheapest, and will be just fine in quality.
     
  4. rthomas

    rthomas Member

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    I agree. The original 85mm f/1.8 Nikkor is wonderful and you can find it AI modified.
     
  5. PhotoJim

    PhotoJim Member

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    The AF (D or non-D) manually focuses quite nicely (not very damped but I find it to be fine). The results are spectacular.

    I use my non-D AF lens on manual bodies more often than I AF with it.
     
  6. John_Nikon_F

    John_Nikon_F Subscriber

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    This one: [​IMG]

    I've had two. This version, and the single coated Nikkor-H version. Both perform pretty much identically. Both lenses were factory AI'd, when I got them. Not sure if my current one (the one depicted above on my F2A) was originally sold with the AI conversion ring or not, but, that doesn't matter to me. It is my favorite lens, and, since it's the MF version, it takes 52mm filters.

    -J
     
  7. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    If you are looking for the bargain of low price and high image quality, along with truly stellar build, choose a Nikkor 85mm 1.8 H or H.C. Same optics as the K series which was the forerunner of the Ai series, the H has less coatings than the H.C which truly has multi-coating. Make sure to get a good hood, the HN-7 works well, but shooting without the hood nearly wide open at a backlit portrait will grant you much praise form the subject, has a nice dreamy yet sharp quality, a Must Try with this lens. I have many 85's, 2 F2, H, H.C, the beautiful 1.4 AiS and the AF 1.8. Eventually I'll get the 1.4 AF when the new one comes out. The Scallopped Ring 1.8 H or H.C. has a great combination of price, value, build, speed, sharpness and character. I have 2 of the F2 models, the longer focussing throw Ai and the shorter throw AiS and while they are decent lenses and a handy weight and size, the MF 1.8 is a better lens.
     
  8. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    Wow--what helpful information! I will now do some hunting :smile:
     
  9. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    I forgot to ask: is the AI H NPK version single-coated or multi-coated? In similar condition, both the AI H NPK and AI'd versions seem to be in the same price range. I will probably go for one of these two.
     
  10. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    Since the H.C. clearly has a true multi-coating, many have assumed that the pervious series only had 'single' coating. Nikon (and a lot of other makers too) was putting more than one layer of coatings on lenses for quite a while, (especially on interior element sets, usually so the operator wouldn't "clean" them) and even stated it in product info. The full-on multi layer came after Pentax started making it a marketing thing, and everyone else had to keep up. That said the additional coatings do help with color rendition and contrast in backlit shooting, but if you shoot mostly B&W and use a hood the early series are quite sharp and have a charming character, seems to pull more subtle tones out the shadows in B&W for me. Some of my Nikkor F series have a cooler color 'tone' when shooting in color, sometimes that can add to the image impact. If you can find the H.C for good price get that one, especially if you plan on doing more color work, if not the H can be gotten for silly money and is a solid lens.
     
  11. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

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    I've got the 85mm Nikkor - H, f1.8, that I bought in Japan when I was in the Navy in the early 1970's.

    Has worked flawlessly.
     
  12. Leighgion

    Leighgion Member

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    I can't talk about "best," since I haven't used all the Nikkor 85's, but even my rather battered 85mm f2 AIS has never given me cause to complain about its optical performance.
     
  13. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    Thanks...

    I just discovered Ken Rockell's review and tests of the Nikkor 85s. I find it interesting that most here prefer the earlier versions (the 1.8), yet Rockwell prefers the 85/2 AIS. He refers to the reputation of the earlier 1.8s as "folklore" rather than truth.

    Also, in terms of price, the true bargain is the 85/2 AIS. At KEH, it goes for $149 less than the 1.8 AId version (I use KEH prices as my standard)--$364 (EX) vs. $215 (EX). I have not seen the deep discounts (which have been cited here thus far) for non-AI, AI H, and AId 85s. In fact, the opposite is true...the earlier lenses cost significantly more than the newer ones.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 30, 2010
  14. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    Well, I won't go into KR mental fantasyland but I own all of the MF Nikkor 85's including two of the F2's and I can assure you from testing many times both film and dig that while the F2 is a fine lens the 1.8 is better. Better wide open, better 1 stop down, less vignetting, sharper wide open and better sharpness over the whole field sooner, better bokeh, less veiling flare wide open, higher build quality, better coatings (the F2 seems to have less on the exterior, the same on interior compared to the H.C or K series). Yep, its lighter, and smaller, maybe that's all that KR judges on.
    That said the 85mm f2 does go in the bag as often as the 1.8, which for both is more than the 1.4 Ais, but I think that's purely for weight reasons. Sometimes I need to shave weight to add a few other lenses to the bag, and since I'm confident of my testing methods I can work around the F2's weaker points to fill the 85mm need. If the need for speed is top of the list than the 1.4 goes, if its a good chance I'll need more speed but might need more weight savings than its the 1.8.
    Funny how the marketplace has spoken, and the 1.8 has more value relative to the f2. Still, you can find deals on the 1.8 whereas the f2 seems to have a constant value.
     
  15. John_Nikon_F

    John_Nikon_F Subscriber

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    Ah, yes, the KR guy who doesn't actually test gear, just writes a review from a press release... Personally, I would take KR's recommendations with a grain of salt. Unless you need an 85mm MF lens that will matrix meter with an FA or an F4, the 1.8 is a better deal.

    -J
     
  16. dynachrome

    dynachrome Member

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    This question comes up on other websites too. I have an 85/2 AI and I like it. By the time of the 85/2 I think more people could afford such a lens. There just aren't that many 85/1.8s around. The ones I see are very expensive. The difference between 85 and 100 or 85 and 105 is not that great and I prefer shooting portraits with a 100 or 105. I also don't like shooting portraits with a lens as fast as f/2 or f/1.8 wide open. For these reasons I will reach for the 85/2 mostly when I need the extra speed and when I'm not shooting in the close range. I think both versions of the 105/2.5 are excellent for portraits. For Canon I have an 85/1.8 New FD as well as an 85/1.8 FL. I especially like the FL lens. For Konica I prefer the 85/1.8 Hexanon to the 100/2.8 Hexanon. My favorite 100s include the 100/2.8 Canon FD SSC, 100/2.8 Canon New FD, Minolta 100/2.5 MC Rokkor and 100/2.8 Zuiko.
     
  17. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    If you've got $1K to spend, the 105 2.0 DC AF-D is amazing outdoors. I use it for panoramas with digital, and it excels for that. It's also of course very good for short DOF activities (like portraits) like it's DC control ring is intended for. It focuses manually rather smoothly too; as I sometimes set it to manual focus for panoramas and IR digital.
     
  18. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    Ah Dynachrome, we have a few things in common. I've never forgotten how sharp negs were from the Zuiko 100 2.8, makes me wish I'd kept some of my extensive Oly collection around. As well the 85 FL is a real gem.
     
  19. FilmOnly

    FilmOnly Member

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    This additional commentary has been very helpful. I have never been one to focus on (pun intended) one person's commentary, KR's or otherwise. It is reassuring, though, when one provides a detailed explation of one's findings, as RidingWaves has done.

    I have owned the Canon lenses mentioned above...and I still own the Zuiko 100/2.8. All are very nice. If it were not for the problems I had with keeping the F-1N from malfunctioning in winter (this happened with more than one body), I would have kept my Canon gear. The Zuiko 100/2.8 seems to me to be the best of the bunch, though my first batch of results with the 105/2.5 AI has been quite impressive--dead-sharp real. I am not that impressed with my OM2n body, though. There is nothing terribly wrong with it, but I do not like the shallow (and thus impossible to use) tripod socket on the Winder 2, and the rather weak connection between the body and the Winder 2. My Nikons feel much more solid. Likwise, the Canons I had were very solid.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2010
  20. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    Yeah its kinda hard to get some sort of accurate comparison when you just shoot a few frames at the camera store. Much different than owning multiple samples (and having access to a few more) and doing a few rounds of controlled testing to really show what the lenses are all about. FWIW, from 5.6 on you could have any Nikkor 85 and they'll look nice and sharp, its what happens near wide open (and what you need the lens to do) that shows the difference. Compared the ends of the extremes, the 1.4 at F2 is already a sharper and 'cleaner' look than the F2 at F2, and even both at 2.8 the 1.4 still really shines in direct comparison, but both shot on different days and conditions the difference would be challenging to pinpoint. Its truly a testament to the F2 actually, once you get into the middle stops you'd certainly think that it was pretty darn good (and it is). Just on build quality alone I'd choose a 1.8 over the F2, some of the F2's Ai series have the potential to fall out of adjustment and the excessively fiddly internal construction means it can take a bit to repair it right. Also, the really long focus throw of the Ai 85 f2 makes it slower to focus, the Ais has a much shorter throw which I like.
     
  21. Steve Bellayr

    Steve Bellayr Member

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    I have the 85mm f2.0. It is a very good lens however after obtaining the 105mm f2.5 ais I seldom use the 85mm. Just a point to consider.
     
  22. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    I have both the 85mm 1.8 HC, and the AF 85mm 1.4, both are really good. The 1.4 is just fabulous at all apertures and is the first choice for portraits with shallow DOF, but would be overkill for your landscape work, both in price and weight.
    The 1.8 is much more compact and I agree with the others in that it should be your first choice, and don't dismiss the single coated version, especially if you are shooting B&W.