It comes as little surprise to see modern lens designs occupying the top slots in this group of focal lengths.
If autofocus and image quality are paramount the choice is a costly one; $2199 will secure you the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G, which also achieves the highest overall sharpness score of 16P-Mpix. If you’re looking for a bargain, the new f/1.8G version is promising.
Although it has a slower maximum aperture, obviously, it’s more compact, significantly cheaper and nearly as sharp. There are still some savings to be when compared to the modestly priced f/1.4 Sigma, and it’s sharper, and has less troublesome chromatic aberration.
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G||2199||30||16|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G||690||30||15|
|Sigma 85mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon||969||27||12|
|Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherique IF Nikon||328||26||14|
|Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF||1230||25||14|
|Carl Zeiss Planar T 85mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon||1280||25||14|
|Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D||329||24||14|
|Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM Nikon||499||24||13|
|Nikon AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D||460||24||14|
|Tamron SP 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO 1:1 VC USD Nikon||749||24||13|
|Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G||448||23||13|
|Sigma 70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro Nikon||499||23||11|
|Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T 50mm f/2 ZF2 Nikon||1280||22||14|
|Tamron SP AF 90mm F/2.8 Di MACRO Nikon||460||22||11|
|Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G||219||22||14|
|Tamron SP AF 60mm F/2 Di II LD [IF] MACRO Nikon||499||21||14|
|Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D||460||21||13|
|Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D||134||20||13|
|Carl Zeiss Planar T 50mm f/1.4 ZF2 Nikon||725||20||12|
|Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR||500||17||10|
The Samyang must also be worth considering. It’s not an AF model but it’s solidly made, has a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture and costs just $328. With that specification it would make a good choice for outdoor portraits and, as a manual focus lens, it will likely appeal to budding movie-makers as well.
Bear in mind on the D7100, 85mm lenses have a similar field of view to a 130mm focal length on a 35mm full-frame body, and are typically more suited to outdoor portraits than in a small studio. It’s one of the reasons why the shorter 50mm lenses (which approximate the field of view of an 80mm) are enjoying a renaissance.
At $329 the older AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D, if it can be found, is a (very) slightly better performer optically overall and marginally better at full aperture than the newer, more expensive SWM (ultrasonic motor) equipped AF-S Nikkor version. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM is another fine performer though, somewhat surprisingly; at $499 it’s the dearest of the three.
If the range of models offered wasn’t complicated enough, Nikon also offers a modestly priced ($229), lightweight AF-S 50mm f/1.8G model as well as an older film-era AF-D type at just $134. There are also some attractive macro lenses, which, if you don’t need the faster maximum aperture, can be a better all-round choice for their consistently high image quality. Of those, the Sigma 70mm is the best performer overall but the Tamron 60mm and the Nikon equivalent are both technically sharper.