The price tag might not suit everyone's budget, but this optic's performance is hard to argue with
with smaller budgets may prefer to consider the £900 previous-generation (non-G) f/1.4 alternative, or even the sub-£400 f/1.8 version.
However, if you have the money then this is a really stunning lens. From the outside there is nothing that really distinguishes this from other fast 85mm primes save for its cylindrical (rather than petal-type) lens hood. It has a wide focusing ring towards the front of the lens with a focus-distance window behind, just above the AF/MF switch in the left-hand side of the barrel. Although it tips the scales at just under 600g, the lens looks as if it could be slightly heavier and its mass therefore comes as something of a surprise.
Automatic focusing is nothing short of top-class: it proved reliable, quick and truly silent when tested on both a full-frame D700 and an APS-C D80. Focusing is entirely internal and manual intervention is fully supported in AF mode. The weight of the focusing ring is absolutely perfect.
Technical testing proved equally impressive. There was the smallest hint of chromatic aberration wide-open but after that the curves were so tightly grouped as to be indistinguishable. Right across the aperture range – from f/1.4 to f/16 – the lens returned higher than 0.25 cycles-per-pixel and from f/2.8 to f/14 the figures remained above 0.3 cycles-per-pixel.
As such, Nikon’s newest 85mm f/1.4 lens continues a trend that has been identified in previous reviews for consistently high MTF figures that are maintained with greater consistency, in a wider range of lenses, than other manufacturers are able to offer.
The only thing not to like about this lens is its high price, even though the added cost does bring genuinely improved performance. A mark has been deducted from the overall Performance figure for the trace of chromatic aberration at f/1.4 and for marginally less ‘bite’ than was expected in real-world images, but this is an admittedly harsh judgement on so fine a lens.