Review Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S

For Nikon Z7 and Z6 users, this is the only autofocus portrait lens that can be used without an adapter.

The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8S is a bright portrait lens for the Nikon Z system. There are many different 85mm lenses with a brightness of f/1.8, and the prices vary widely. The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8S is certainly not one of the cheapest or smallest. But it is one of the best 85 mms.

Click on the product for specifications, prices and test results.

TEST RESULTS Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S:

PROS

CONS

  • Top class build and image quality
  • High contrast and high sharpness
  • Sealed against dust and splash water
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Not cheap
  • Not very compact

The new Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8S is another top-class lens for the Z cameras.

Nikon is working on a unique series with the new fixed focal points for the Nikon Z cameras. Not everyone will notice that immediately, and that is because of the brightness. It is ‘only’ f/1.8. Usually, lenses with that brightness are affordable counterparts of the more professional f/1.4 lenses. And you often saw that reflected in the image quality, which was just not as good as the more expensive and brighter versions. On the other hand, they were not only cheap, but also small and compact.

That is all different with the Z lenses. Nikon has equipped the Z cameras with the largest mount of all 35 mm system cameras. This ensures that the lenses already have a generous diameter. They are not particularly short either. The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S is even quite long for an f/1.8 85 mm. And the lens doesn’t have a starter price tag. It is clear that these are not cheap and compact entry lenses, but fixed focal points meant to achieve the highest image quality.

It is not without reason that these lenses have received the S tag. According to Nikon, that means that they are suitable for professional use. The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S is designed to perform well on the 47-megapixel Nikon Z7. And in the near future, there will probably be a model with even more pixels. To make a future-proof lens, it must therefore also be suitable for more than 50 megapixels. And if we look at the test results, we can already reveal that we are confident that this Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S can handle that.

The same applies for the Nikkor Z 85 mm F1.8 S as for the previously released 35 mm and 50 mm f/1.8 S. The lens has the same unique properties. To start with, it is just as suitable for photography as video. The stepper motor works almost silently, so that the autofocus is inaudible during video recordings. Nikon also tried to limit focus breathing as much as possible when designing this lens. With this phenomenon, the field of view of the lens becomes larger or smaller if you change the focus. This makes it seem as if you are zooming while only changing the focus. You don’t see that in photos, but you do when filming. With the Nikkor Z 85 mm F1.8 S, the focus breathing is therefore minimal. Another nice option is the ability to program the focus ring for something else when you use the autofocus. With automatic focusing, you no longer need that ring for focusing, and you can use it, for example, to change the ISO value or the exposure compensation.

BUILD AND autofocus

The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S is not a really compact 85 mm. With a length of almost 10 cm, it is quite long, and the diameter is not very small at 75 mm. The filter size is 67 mm. The weight is 470 grams. Just like the 35mm and 50mm, the lens is weatherproof, with gaskets around all rotating parts and a gasket on the mount. The lens also has a diaphragm with 9 blades for a nice background blur. The lens elements have Nikon’s Nano Crystal coating, and a fluorine coating on the front element ensures that dirt and moisture slide off the glass. The shortest setting distance is 80cm. That is sufficient for a close portrait, but of course not for something like macro photography. The broad focus ring is completely free of play, and there is a switch for switching between autofocus and manual focus. The autofocus is pretty quiet, fast and accurate.

VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION

The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S has almost no distortion. Remarkably, the camera still thinks it needs to be corrected, so that a very small barrel distortion in the jpegs turns into an equally small pincushion-shaped distortion. In both cases, it is too little to be bothered by in practice. The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S therefore performs well on this point.

In terms of vignetting, the Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S is very similar to the Z 50 mm. At full aperture, there is some visible, and even at f/2.8, it is not completely gone. It does decrease by about half with every stop down, and it is no longer visible at f/4 in practice. It doesn’t matter for that if you shoot in RAW or jpeg.

IMAGE QUALITY

The image quality of the Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S is really excellent. In RAW , we still see a clear difference between the corners and the center, at all apertures, and a considerably lower score at full aperture, but as soon as you apply the corrections in the camera, we see that the results are almost perfect across the range. The sharpness is then very high and smooth from corner to corner and almost the same for all apertures. Especially at full aperture, you can see a little bit of longitudinal chromatic aberration, but it disappears as soon as you stop down a bit. The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S is not a really compact 85 mm. With a length of almost 10 cm, it is quite long, and the diameter is not very small at 75 mm. The filter size is 67 mm. The weight is 470 grams. The lens is just beautiful. Blurry areas in the background are fairly quiet without hard edges. Bokeh balls are flattened slightly to cat eyes towards the edges of the image at full aperture, but we see that even with much more expensive and brighter lenses.

IMAGE STABILIZATION

There is no image stabilization on the Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S. For stabilization, this lens is therefore completely dependent on the built-in image stabilization of the Z7 camera. But luckily, it’s not a problem at all with this 85mm. In fact, the results are surprisingly good. At 1/125th of a second, there is no difference between shots with and without image stabilization. But where the shots without stabilization then quickly lose sharpness, the result with stabilization at 1/4th of a second is still the same as that of 1/125th. It drops off soon after that, but that is nevertheless a huge profit of about five stops.

Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S SAMPLE IMAGES

Curious about the performance of the Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S in practice? Click on the button below and visit our renewed web gallery with sample images. The images can be downloaded in full resolution to be viewed at 100%.

ConclusiON: Nikon Z 85mm f/1.8 S oN A Nikon Z7 REVIEW

As with the 35 mm and 50 mm, the Nikon Z 50 mm f/1.8 S is not the cheapest 85 mm on the market, but it is one of the best.

As with the 35 mm and 50 mm, the Nikon Z 50 mm f/1.8 S is not the cheapest 85 mm on the market, but it is one of the best.

Click on the product for specifications, prices and test results.

The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S is one of the best 85 mms that we have tested. The fact that the lens needs some help from the lens corrections, we find to be not a problem. After all, this lens is designed for that, and you apply those corrections both in the jpegs and after editing the RAW files. The f/1.8 brightness of the new series of fixed focal lengths for the Z6 and Z7 does not seem that spectacular, but it is a wonderful compromise between large, expensive and hefty f/1.4 lenses and compact, but much less bright f/2.8 lenses that also cost quite a bit if they are optically very good. We think it’s a very good choice. The Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S can compete with the best, and we have already tested a number of very good 85 mms. So that means something.Β  With this Nikon Z 85 mm f/1.8 S, you get the most out of your camera, and your set remains reasonably light and compact.Β 

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