Nikon 85mm 1.8d review

nikon 85mm 1.8d review

Nikon 85mm 1.8d AF Nikkor is a classic lens for portraiture, but it can be used in a large number of other types of photography. The lens was introduced in March 1994 and became a replacement for its older version without “D” letter. The lens has a short but informative title: Nikon 85mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor, where “AF” means that the lens has auto focusing, but it works only on cameras with integrated autofocus motor, “85mm” indicates the focal length, “f/1.8” is its maximum aperture. The letter “D” indicates that the lens transfers focusing distance to the camera, which is a very important feature for flash users.

Main characteristics of Nikon 85mm 1.8d AF Nikkor.

Basic properties:

FX – the lens was designed for full-frame Nikon FX cameras

AF (auto focus) – support auto focus on cameras with internal focusing motor

D (distance) – transfers focusing distance to the camera

IF – internal focusing

– SIC – special integral optic illumination

RF (Rear Focusing System) – a system of focusing which uses moving of the optical elements from the mount side

The diameter of the front filter:  62 mm, metal thread for filters.

Focal length: 85 mm (for Nikon DX is 127.5 mm).

The multiplicity of the zoom: 1 X (this fixed focal length lens doesn’t have the possibility of changing the focal length).

The number of the diaphragm blades: 9 rounded blades.

Aperture: from F/1.8 to F/22. The lens has an aperture ring.

Minimal focusing distance: 0.85 m, maximum magnification 1:9.2.

Weight: 380 g.

Optical scheme: 6 elements in 6 groups. The lens doesn’t use special optical elements.

Hood: HN-23 supplied with the lens, it is screwed into the thread for filters.

Production period: 1994 – 2012, later replaced by Nikon 85mm 1.8g.

Manufacturer country: Thailand.

nikon 85mm 1.8d hood

Nikon AF Nikkor 85 1.8d has a small weight and size, you can always take it with you and get great pictures. When you take it into the hands the first thing you notice is its excellent build quality.

This lens can be used on full-frame Nikon FX cameras. It will work fine on film and digital FX and DX Nikon cameras.

Nikon 85 1.8d has no built-in focusing motor. It can be used with automatic focusing only on cameras with a focusing motor. On cameras without motor you need to focus manually. I do not recommend to buy this lens for cameras without a focusing motor.

Maximum aperture of Nikkor 85 1.8d is f/1.8. This is a very good value for low-light photography.

Lens focal length is 85 mm – a classical focal length for portraits. For Nikon DX cameras equivalent focal length will be 127.5 mm, which is also well-suited for portrait photography.

A forward part of the lens doesn’t turn and doesn’t go backwards/forward during focusing. Only the back block of lenses moves, it is called “Rear Focusing System”. It will be no problem to use different filters with this lens.

The lens has a manual aperture control ring. Turn the aperture ring to a value of  f/16 and fix it with a special lever to be able to control aperture values from the camera or to automatically set the aperture on modern DSLRs. If you will not do so, then in number of cameras, the display will show an error – “FEE”. The aperture ring can be rotated to values f/1.8, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16. Intermediate values can only be set through the menu of the camera.

The lens is completed with a metal hood. It really helps to prevent flares. I usually use a protective filter, wound on the lens, and a hood twisted in a filter. Therefore I don’t use a protective cap.

Nikon 85 1.8d has a window with a scale of the focusing distance in meters and feet, the depth of field scale for values of f/16 and f/11 and the label for use in the infrared spectrum.

Disadvantages of Nikkor 85 1.8d:

  1. The lens has chromatic aberrations from f/1.8 to f/4. But you can easily remove it with Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.
  2. The lens doesn’t have a focusing motor, as described above. Still, keep in mind that it was designed in 1994, and nobody thought that Nikon will release a “couple” of non-motorized DX cameras.
  3. I think that the main disadvantage of this lens is a fact that there are very strong competitors such as Nikon 85 1.4d and Nikon 85 1.4g. F/1.8 is worse then f/1.4 in luminosity and bokeh. Chromatic aberrations disappear at f/2 in Nikon 85mm 1.4d, while in Nikon 85mm 1.8d they disappear only at f/4. Buying Nikon 85 1.8d you will always think about fact that a better portrait lens exists. Nikon 85 1.8d is better only in its price. If your camera does not have a focusing motor, then the cheapest variant for you is Nikon 85mm 1.8g and very expensive Nikon 85mm 1.4g.

nikon 85mm 1.8 autofocus lenses

Focusing speed of Nikon 85 1.8d is exactly the same as Nikon 85 1.4d. Also, Nikon 85 1.8d has faster focusing speed compared to Nikon 85 1.8g and Nikon 85 1.4g.

The lens doesn’t have distortion – this means that it is ideal for portrait photography, it doesn’t distort people’s faces. Vignetting disappears only at f/5.6 on FX cameras. The lens is sharp from f/2.5. The maximum sharpness is achieved from f/4 to f/8. If you close the aperture more than f/8 you will only achieve increased depth of field.

Pictures from the lens have a slightly cold hue. The lens is not very friendly with backlight and side light, but it has a good bokeh. The lens gives rounded circles in bokeh zone from f/1.8 to f/2.2. From f/2.5 it gives “nuts” instead of circles.

I like this lens – it is compact, well assembled, with fast focusing and sharp picture. Of course, Nikon 85mm 1.8d is outdated, and its updated model Nikon 85mm 1.8g better in everything. I recommend Nikon 85mm 1.8d for those who wants to get a real portrait lens for little money. Images from this lens will be much more interesting than from 50mm lenses.


Nikon 85mm 1.8d is relatively old, but a very good portrait lens. Its new version Nikon 85mm 1.8g  generally better in all aspects.

Here are photo examples  taken with the lens.

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Review Nikon 85mm 1.8d review

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