Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 Ai-S

This is not really a review of the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 Ai-S – so I won’t really be talking about sharpness (although it’s pretty damn sharp), contrast (great from f/2 onwards) etc etc. Just my thoughts on using this lens on my 5D Mark II. Firstly, a couple of shots of it mounted on my 5D via an adapter I got from Singapore. It fits nicely enough and there’s a little bit of play – but again, even my canon lenses move a tiny bit when mounted – certainly nothing to worry about in terms of affecting image quality. 

A little bit about the lens. It was released in 1981, so the design is older than I am. It weighs around 600 grams – feels perfectly balanced on the 5D – not too front heavy, which is the feeling I got when I used the Canon 85mm f/1.2L (don’t have that lens… I wish I did tho!). 

Why did I get it? Well, let’s just say I can’t afford the Canon equivalent right now. Got it off ebay for a pretty decent price.

A quick and dirty shot using my 40D + 100mm Macro on a tripod with available light. 

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Manual aperture, manual focus with depth of field markings… 

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Aside from f/1.4 light gathering abilities, this lens is all about bokeh. 🙂 Wide open shot. Love the shapes – they are circular in the centre of the frame and become more elliptical towards the edges.

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At f/1.4, I could isolate Rena (well, not completely) from the distracting mess that is my apartment. 

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I took the lens to the yacht club – a friend of Rena’s was having her birthday party there. This was shot almost directly into the sunset… I’d say the lens handles flare pretty well. 🙂 

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Blowing bubbles… 

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This shot was taken at ISO 3200, f/1.4, 1/50. Nowadays with supersonic ISOs in DSLRs and IS lenses, it’s opened up a new world in low light photography – but sometimes you just need f/1.4. If I had an f/2.8 lens with image stabilizer, I could probably still take the shot – but with a shutter speed of 1/15 which would certainly have had a healthy amount of motion blur.

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This lens ultimately shines as a portrait lens. Ah, back-lit portraits with sunset glow… who needs a reflector when you’ve got photoshop? 

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A candid of CP and HV – I like the patterns on their dresses. ISO3200, f/1.4, 1/50 again.

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My favourite shot from this lens. 🙂 ISO 1600, f/1.4, 1/10. Yup that 1/10. A single low-power florescent light bulb behind her. Depth of field is ridiculously thin as you can see. 🙂

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I’m still getting to use to this lens. Manual focus is certainly tough and something I’m yet to master. For static objects, live view with 10x magnification makes it infinitely easier to get accurate focus – but for moving subjects, I find that it’s not practical. Especially when trying to capture the moment, live view shooting blacks out the LCD for too long and I might miss shots as a result. 

I doubt I’d use this lens for wedding photography, which is a pity because I love the perspective, the bokeh and its low light ability. Perhaps for a portrait session or for detail shots. Even then, I’ll concede that autofocus will win out 9 out of 10 times – so I’ll use this lens when:

  • It’s so dark that autofocus won’t work anyway;
  • Detail shots where autofocus can be a little off if I want to focus on a point that doesn’t have a lot of contrast;
  • Low light portraits, when I really want an 85mm perspective.

Ok that’s it for now – I’m hunting around ebay for more cheap second hand manual lenses. :p

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