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LENS PORN: Nikkor 85mm f/2 (AI Version)

Nikkor 85mm f/2 (AI Version)
Nikkor 85mm f/2 (AI Version)



The Nikkor 85mm f/2 AI is a short telephoto prime lens introduced by Nikon in 1977. It is an ideal focal length for shooting portraiture when using either FX (Nikon's jargon for full frame cameras) or DX (APS-C cameras like my D5200, where it becomes 128mm).

The Nikkor 85mm f/2 is the smallest in Nikon's family of 85mm's. It is a desirable lens because it is already decent at f/2, then gets really crispy from f/2.8 onward. This AI version means that it is treated with Nikon's updated multicoating and better optical formula for best image quality. That is the Nikkor promise.

This is a fully manual lens. No AF, no electronics inside. Who needs AF when you can focus better through manual focusing! With its smooth to operate mechanism, this makes the lens a sheer joy to use.

The copy that I have here was battered and basically unusable. After restoration work, the mechanism are working fine now, the glass is cleaned, and the outward appearance is at least more tolerable. The missing rubber focus ring grip was also supplied. However, what remains is that the front element's coating has faded in some parts. (The purpose of the coating serves to control flare, contrast and colors.)

Considering its condition, this lens is already decent and very pleasant at f/2. However, I often like to use it at f/2.8 to get more in focus (at f/2, I always find myself missing focus). Wow, this lens produces crispy images, nice colors, and there's nothing to complain about.

It's also nice to focus because of the smooth mechanism and it does not have focus breathing. Focus breathing is when you focus closer or farther, you will notice that the framing changes -- like the view becomes wider or narrower.

This portrait focal length on my DX camera becomes 128mm. This is still a nice range because I can move a bit and you can still shoot the subject with some background, unlike a 105mm or 135mm where it becomes too narrow and more useful for face or head/shoulder shots at 2 meters.

The Minimum Focusing Distance of 0.85 meters is another advantage of 85mm's over longer primes like 105mm (MFD=1 meter), 135mm (MFD=1.5m), or 200mm (MFD=2m).

Nikon only put in 7 aperture blades. If you like to shoot stopped down like in my case f/2.8, then those bokeh balls will look heptagonal. With 8 blades, these balls should at least look pleasantly rounded. I'm not picky with number of blades, but when the lens is 85mm or longer, it should have at least 8 blades.

CONCLUSION: Overall, the Nikkor 85mm f/2 AI is a great portrait lens on a budget, even if it has only 7 blades. I would foremost get this if I already didn't have a lens of that focal length. But since I already have a Tamron Adaptall 2 SP 90mm f/2.5 Tele Macro (52B), I will keep the Tamron since it doubles as a macro lens. 










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SPECS

Nikkor 85mm f/2
AI Version

First Introduced
1964

Versions
1964 - Nikkor-H 85/1.8
1974 - Nikkor-H c 85/1.8
1977 - Redesigned Pre-AI version
1977 - Nikkor 85/2 AI
(The lens we're reviewing here)
1981 - Nikkor 85/2 AI-s
(same as AI, it has an extra mechanical feature that Nikon eventually never used)
1988 - Nikkor AF 85/1.8
1994 - Nikkor AF 85/1.8 D

Focal Length
Used on FX = 85mm
Used on DX = 128mm

Minimum Focusing Distance
0.8 meters

Focus Throw
180 degrees

Filter Thread Size
52mm

Aperture Run
f/2 - f/22 in full stop clicks
(7 blades)

Treated with Nikon Integrated Coating

Made in Japan

Nikkor 85mm f/2 (AI Version)







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Samples

Nikon D5200
Profile - Standard

Nikkor 85mm f/2 AI
Mostly shot at f/2 and f/2.8






Nikkor 85mm f/2 (AI Version)











f/2





f/2.8

f/4











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Links

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