Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G review: An awesome prime that doesn’t cost the earth

By Paul Carroll - Monday January 21 2013

Lens Review
Introduction | Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens performance | Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G versus competition | Conclusion

Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G: The best 85mm prime on a NikonD3x?

Achieving an Overall DxOMark Score of 35 the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G prime lens is the best 85mm lens we’ve tested on the Nikon D3x DSLR. Scoring 17P-Mpix for sharpness, which is above the average of 15 P-Mpix on our database for 85mm primes, with a good 1.9TStop Transmission score and virtually no distortion, optically this is a very good lens. At just 4um Chromatic Aberration is well controlled too, although the weakest aspect of the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G is vignetting, which is strong when shooting at the maximum aperture of f/1.8. 

That DxOMark Lens Metric Score for Sharpness of 17P-Mpix places the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G 3rd out of the 14 85mm prime lenses on our database (Full Frame mount for Canon, Nikon and Sony camera). This is just behind the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G with a score of 19 P-Mpix and the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM for Canon also with 17 P-Mpix.

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Scoring 17P-Mpix for sharpness when tested on a Nikon D3X the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G prime lens is the 3rd sharpest of all 85mm lenses on DxoMark.

As you’d hope from a prime lens the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G delivers excellent sharpness at all aperture settings up to f/11 with only a minimal dip in performance at its minimum aperture setting of f/16. Importantly sharpness is also homogeneous across the frame, which means photographers can expect great edge-to-edge sharpness at all aperture settings from f/1.8 to f/16.

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Excellent Sharpness is maintained on the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G at all apertures up to f/11 with only minimal drop off at f/16
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Image sharpness on the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G is homogenous across the frame at all aperture settings from f/1.8 to f/16.

One of the weaker aspects of the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G lens however is corner shading, or vignetting, when shooting at wider aperture settings.   Between f/4 to f/16 it’s well controlled but stopped down to f/2.8 the undesired effect starts to become visible and at the maximum aperture of f/1.8 it’s positively heavy.

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Corning shading on the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.8G is evident using apertures of f/2.8 and wider with shots at f/1.8 requiring correction in post-production.
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Shooting at the widest aperture vignetting encroaches well into the frame and is only removed completely with the aperture stopped down to f/4