Why 85 mm lens

heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,003Member
edited December 2016 in Nikon Lenses
So the 85mm is supposed to be a "classic" focal length for portraits...

These days with the 1.5 crop cameras it also becomes a 127.5 which i guess can be considered as the other classic focal length of 135mm. So lets talk about these 2 uses of the 85mm ... or is it exclusively used in the "classic" FX format?

Why would you get an 85mm prime when you can use a bunch of 70-200 or 24-70(or 35-70) zooms? is that aperture so important ?

All in all ... why 85mm prime? what is the hype about ?

Post edited by heartyfisher on
Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

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Comments

  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,003Member
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • Vipmediastar_JZVipmediastar_JZ Posts: 1,608Member
    Well A prime will "always" be sharper and can be had at 1.2 1.4 1.8 vs 2.8 zoom so that is a plus there.

    I like my 85mm 1.8g because it is light and does a decent job but for my copy usually f2 or 2.8 to be sure. If you have a short distance to work with this is a good focal lenght. I am now reconsidering the nikon 105mm 1.4 for the 85mm art. I shot the 105 and 85 recently and I had more 85mm. Mostly the 105mm I used is macro lens and I was not doing macro or beauty shots. The shots were tight which is fine but I needed more working distance and while a 50mm was used in both sessions for more body the 85mm produces a decent look and the face is less distorted here. The longer the focal lenght you are not getting the face to look flat. That is something i learned the Hard way$.

  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 2,161Member
    There is nothing my bag of primes can't do that my 24-70 or upcoming 70-200 will not be able to do. However, the reverse is not true and what the zooms can't do is the photography that I really love.

    The only reason that I am getting the zooms is convenience when I am shooting events and laziness if I am not shooting something serious.
  • BVSBVS Posts: 179Member
    Won't the prime likely have better bokeh as well?
    D7100, 85 1.8G, 50 1.8G, 35 1.8G DX, Tokina 12-28 F4, 18-140, 55-200 VR DX
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 2,161Member
    Mostly a function of f-stop and focal length, Nikon does not put aspherical elements in their portrait lenses, so that is a factor too.
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,130Member
    Aperture is important "creatively". Taking pictures is the easy part - the reason fewer and fewer people are making money with photography. Yes, the 85mm focal length is relatively easy to imitate with a 24-70 or 70-200 but that f/1.4 - f/1.6 look won't be.
    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • tc88tc88 Posts: 179Member
    Prime is not necessarily sharper. However, the DOF associated with f/1.4-1.8 is tough to achieve with a zoom. That's why Canon even has a f/1.2 85.
  • PeachBlackPeachBlack Posts: 141Member
    Birds don't necessarily fly, a bus full of old people headed to Atlantic City isn't necessarily ending up at a casino, and Russian brides haven't necessarily lost their virginity... necessarily. A general claim doesn't have to imply a universal one. Primes are sharper than zooms is a true statement. Exceptions don't follow the general rule, and that's why we call them **exceptions.**
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,003Member
    edited December 2016
    so what I am hearing is the advantage is
    1) The large aperture... can I say .. I dont buy that ... blur and DOF at 200mm F2.8 is better.
    2) another reason is its sharper... i dont buy that as well. sharpness is overrated and the zooms are sharp.
    3) Distortion.. or lack of .. well nope dont buy that either .... the the zooms can do that too.. and with more flexibility...

    So where does that leave us ? TELL ME ??? or is it because 1+1+1=9 ? ie the combination is somehow "magical"? whats the magic ?
    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • PeachBlackPeachBlack Posts: 141Member
    edited December 2016
    Hearty, it seems that you are just being argumentative. If you don't have any experience with them, then you're refusal to believe certain things comes from a place without experience. I would suggest that you experience one for yourself without prejudice rather than make exclamative proclamations stating that proponents of 85mm primes lack sense.

    85mm is a great tradeoff between distance to the subject, background blur, and lack of distortion when shooting people relatively close in. If you shoot at 200mm you have to be really far back. Even 105mm is best for just headshots because to get a full torso shot you have to be quite far back. I have used my Nikon 70-200/2.8 VRII exactly twice in the last two years. Even closed down a bit, the photos don't look as nice to my eye.
    Post edited by PeachBlack on
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 2,161Member

    so what I am hearing is the advantage is
    1) The large aperture... can I say .. I dont buy that ... blur and DOF at 200mm F2.8 is better.
    2) another reason is its sharper... i dont buy that as well. sharpness is overrated and the zooms are sharp.
    3) Distortion.. or lack of .. well nope dont buy that either .... the the zooms can do that too.. and with more flexibility...

    So where does that leave us ? TELL ME ??? or is it because 1+1+1=9 ? ie the combination is somehow "magical"? whats the magic ?

    Yes, blur and DOF at 200mm f/2.8 is better. But it is even better at 2.0 and you need a prime for that.

    Yes, some zooms are sharp. But my 85 1.4G is sharper at 2.8 than my 24-70 2.8E at 2.8. Careful if you read the MTF chart as you will initially think the zoom is sharper. But that is comparing the zoom at 2.8 to the prime at 1.4. I do think that sharpness is overrated in many situations, but sometimes it really counts to me so I use a prime. After I recover from the 400 2.8, I will buy the new 105 and 70-200. That will be an interesting comparison.

    Distortion. I don't know. I don't really care. Lightroom fixes any distortion issue and I find I avoid that, because I generally prefer the vignetting not to be fixed. For the few times that I have a flat line where you can see the distortion, Lightroom fixes that.
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,003Member
    edited December 2016
    I never said that "proponents of 85mm primes lack sense." what I am saying is that the arguments put forward dont make sense. I want us to have a more coherent stance on what "makes" a 85mm prime. What is this "Magic" ? I have thoroughly enjoyed the 85mm images on this forum. But I really want to know why perople use it why is it a Classic. I am a "root cause" kind of guy. I want to know the "why"..

    I am the kind of person that would never understand "personal" attacks as I am mostly thinking about logic and underlying base cause.. yes a geek and a nerd. I get confused why people start going for personal attacks when we are discussing whatever topic.

    So back on topic.. WHAT IS THE MAGIC of a 85mm prime? is it just an undefinable "personal preference" ?
    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,003Member
    edited December 2016
    "85mm is a great tradeoff between distance to the subject, background blur, and lack of distortion when shooting people relatively close in"

    This sound like the "magic" ... !!

    If that is the "Magic" then using the 85mm on DX would be pointless.. well not pointless .. but a different functionality. It would also mean that there is a place for a dedicated DX prime of say 55mm or 56 mm F1.2

    PS:That sounded familiar so I searched a bit and .. Fujifilm has a 56mm F1.2 !! cool.. and Sony has a 55 f1.8 ....

    Post edited by heartyfisher on
    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • PeachBlackPeachBlack Posts: 141Member


    So back on topic.. WHAT IS THE MAGIC of a 85mm prime? is it just an undefinable "personal preference" ?

    I just told you.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 2,161Member
    I don't believe in magic. However, to me Nikon's 85mm prime is a highly competent lens in a focal length that happens to be very useful for one subject that I like to shoot - portraits.

    Ken Rockwell said:
    The Nikon 85mm f/1.4 AF-S G is simply astonishing. It is the first lens I have ever used in over 40 years of photography that excels at both the scientific aspects (sharpness and lack of coma, especially at f/1.4 in the corners), and the artistic aspects of defocus, all at the same time. Every other lens I've used is either super-sharp, but renders distracting backgrounds (most aspherical lenses), or others may may have pleasant bokeh, but aren't always that sharp (like the previous 85mm f/1.4 AF-D, whose corners never really get sharp).

    Nasim said:
    Beautiful bokeh is the sole reason people buy 85mm lenses and the 85mm f/1.4G is no disappointment – as you can see, the bokeh on the lens remains to be very good. Whether you use this lens for portraits, concerts, weddings or other types of photography, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G will do a superb job at isolating your subjects, delivering exceptionally beautiful background blur.
  • tcole1983tcole1983 Posts: 968Member
    edited December 2016
    No pro here, and not speaking for the 85, but i have always fancied my 105 for portraits. With the 105 wide open at f2.8 and they always seem to come out just right. Sharp, nice bokeh, right amount in focus. It gives me the working distance I have been comfortable with especially for more candid type shots. To me there is just something i get from it that i don't with zooms. I just don't ever wow myself with one shot with my 17-55 at 55 or my 35 f1.8.

    If i didn't have the 105 i would have ther 85.
    Post edited by tcole1983 on
    D5200, D5000, S31, 18-55 VR, 17-55 F2.8, 35 F1.8G, 105 F2.8 VR, 300 F4 AF-S (Previously owned 18-200 VRI, Tokina 12-24 F4 II)
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,130Member
    Hearty, unfortunately the scarcity of portrait shooters on this board along with very few posted samples from any 85mm lens shot at wider apertures is probably going to make it difficult to provide for you explanations and samples that would help you understand the usefulness of a prime lens at this focal length. To stand 30 feet (9 meters) away and shoot a 70-200mm lens at 200mm is just not optimal in every shooting situation. And even if done, the look of the final image will be different even if the 200mm shot has nice bokeh. Does that difference matter to everyone - no, but to some it most certainly does.
    There's a certain quality and visual appeal that can be attained shooting that lens within close proximity to your subject while maintaining nice cordial communication with them instead of yelling. I do think there is a bit of magic, but it takes shooting it the right way.

    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • PistnbrokePistnbroke Posts: 1,034Member
    edited December 2016
    I have had the Samyang 85mm f 1.4 and used it at a couple of pre wedding shoots ..no problem to focus, fantastically sharp and the bokeh was great at F2 but that's it .....no use tying up a camera with it at a wedding so I sold it ....
    Post edited by Pistnbroke on
  • PeachBlackPeachBlack Posts: 141Member
    edited December 2016
    Can't do this with one of your zooms and can't shoot it with 200mm because the room is too small. The difference is plain to me. If you can't see or don't like the aesthetic, then I can't help you.

    Cami-1280-Edit-copy
    Post edited by PeachBlack on
  • vtc2002vtc2002 Posts: 249Member
    @PeachBlack absolutely beautiful image.
    I like using the 85mm for portraits. I like being close enough to the person that I can communicate with them and if they are tense or nervous I can talk to them to get them to relax. Whether it's magic or whatever you want to call it the 85 does have qualities that produce portraits that clearly standout from other lens. However, I do not like the any of the Nikon 85mm lenses. I have the 85 1.4 D, 85 1.4G and 85 1.8 and they all have issues with chromatic aberration's. @WestEndFoto I am not picking on you and I apologize in advance if it comes across that way. The image the you posted on November 5 in the PAD titled Free there are clear chromatic aberrations in her hair on the left side (her right). I really like the image. The expression on her face and the composition are great. This is not a criticism of your work but it is a criticism of the Nikon lenses. I only used your image because it is available for everyone to see. The amount of time it would take to remove the CA's in Jeff's (if they can be removed) would be extensive. I have lots of images with the CA's from the Nikon lenses. Some I have been able to remove the Ca's and many more that I could not or the end result looked just as bad. I enjoy post processing but I do not enjoy trying to fix things like CA's that could be fixed by Nikon.
    The review that Nasim has on his website is new. In his previous review he was very critical of the CA of the 85 1.4G. I am not sure why he removed it but he does discuss it in the readers comments.
    After reading the Sigma 85 Art reviews I ordered and have received the lenses but I have not had a chance to use it but hope to soon. From what I have read and the people that know that have used the lens the prevalence of CA is significantly lower that the Nikon lens.
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 2,161Member
    It is a valid criticism of this lens and I didn't take it any other way. My current "portrait set" is 50, 85 and 135. I think I am going to transition to the 400, 200, 105 and 50. Except for the 50, there are no IQ issues with Nikon in this set and I will save the 50 for last, giving Nikon a chance to get their act together.
  • tc88tc88 Posts: 179Member
    edited December 2016
    Hearty, here is my take on this.

    There are focal length and aperture. The focal length should be determined by one’s composition. Note for people portraits, there is also perspective distortion one needs to worry about. For illustration, you don’t want the view point to be right in front of the nose where you see the face, but not the ears. So regardless of the focal length, the subject has to be some distance away to look normal. In fact, the further away the subject is, the less distortion there is, (and we are not talking about any lens yet). On the other hand, you don’t want the subject to be too small in the frame. So currently 85mm tends to be the middle of the focal length range people arrive at. Of course, some people prefer smaller subjects, so they may use 35mm. Others may prefer head shots, so they may use focal length beyond 135mm. Also there is background to consider. An 85mm composition with subject being 20 feet away is very different from a 135mm composition with subject being 30 feet away. While the subject may look similar, one background is a 1.5x wider angle of view than the other. You can even argue people’s taste can change over time and another focal length may become popular. The point is, the focal length used should be a decision from the composition.

    Now after the focal length is decided, there is the second aspect of portrait photography to consider and that is subject isolation. Human brains tend to associate objects in focus with importance. To bring focus to the subject, it’s useful to defocus the background. Some people want to go to the extreme to blur everything other than the subject. That’s why there are f/1.2 lens made. Others may want to show some background to give context, and in that case, f/2.8 can very well be enough. So it’s really personal taste again. If f/2.8 is all one needs for a given focal length, then a zoom will do. On the other hand, primes can be made with a larger aperture opening due to simpler designs. So if you want the effect of f/1.8 or larger, you will have to go for a prime.

    Hope this explains my take. Happy New Year! To everyone else too. :)
    Post edited by tc88 on
  • WestEndFotoWestEndFoto Posts: 2,161Member

    Can't do this with one of your zooms and can't shoot it with 200mm because the room is too small. The difference is plain to me. If you can't see or don't like the aesthetic, then I can't help you.

    Cami-1280-Edit-copy

    Now if Nikon really wanted to hit the ball out of the park, they could make a 1.4 tilt shift where the camera/lens automatically adjusted the tilt and focus to get both eyes in focus.
  • heartyfisherheartyfisher Posts: 3,003Member
    <3 Very nice image @PeachBlack

    Probably just about the perfect example of what makes a 85mm 1.4 (?) a special lense !

    Like you and other have said its all about required distance to subject and crop for that image!

    I analyzed it a bit more and looked at the DOF and (DOFcalculator) (yeah excuse the geek in me :-) ) and came to the following ( incomplete ?) thoughts/musings...

    1) A tighter crop would also probably be very nice. ... Say from a 105 or 135 or from an 85 on a DX ie. Same distance to subject. and the aperture could be f2-f2.8 with similar DOF.

    2) As you said .. if you had more space.. the longer lenses say 135,,200 would also be similar. But probably not as "intimate".

    3) I would wonder how a sharp 50mm 1.4 on DX would render. You could get closer (frame crop) to have the same DOF. However, you may get too close and the person could get uncomfortable?




    Moments of Light - D610 D7K S5pro 70-200f4 18-200 150f2.8 12-24 18-70 35-70f2.8 : C&C very welcome!
    Being a photographer is a lot like being a Christian: Some people look at you funny but do not see the amazing beauty all around them - heartyfisher.

  • KnockKnockKnockKnock Posts: 335Member
    Did a search, no one has mentioned it yet. Weight, size, light-capturing at f/1.8-2.7999.

    Happy New Year!
    D7100, D60, 35mm f/1.8 DX, 50mm f/1.4, 18-105mm DX, 18-55mm VR II, Sony RX-100 ii
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