March 2005

Nikkor AIS 85mm f/1.4

The fastest Nikkor telephoto lens!



After owning two of the fast telephoto Nikkors, I finally got the chance to own the last in my collection, the Nikkor Ais 85mm f1/1.4. I have heard many praising the 85mm focal length to be the best focal length for portrait, and 85mm f1.4 being the KING of the portrait lens. My previous preference of portrait lens was the Nikkor AFD 135mm f/2 DC for film camera, but since the advancement of digital with FOV (field of view) 1.5x for Nikon DSLR, the 135mm lens (effective 202.5mm) becomes too long to be convenient for portrait. On the other hand, Nikkor 85mm (effective 127.5mm) becomes quite like my previous 135mm on DSLR.


Ok, you might wonder, why Ais and not the AFD version? Simple, I don't find the needs to spend double or triple the $$$ for a AFD version. Of course my initial dream is to get the AFD version at not more than RM2000 (US$530), but it seems quite unlikely as this lens has been too popular in the market (comparatively, it is easier to get the 105DC or 135DC lens at below that price). I saw someone offering the Ais version in the net, at around my budget for the AFD version, thus I decide to try it out.


The purchasing story...

The seller advertised the lens to be in MINT condition at S$800 (in Singapore), which I think is overpriced for an Ais lens. Trying out my luck, I offer the seller a price which I think is attractive enough for me to try out the 85mm f/1.4 lens ~ S$500. I re-re-reconfirmed with the seller if the lens is really in like new condition, and he assured me yes and we come to an agreement of pricing ~ S$550. I went to Singapore with a friend of mine, met the seller at Penisular Plaza (Singapore center for photography shops). When the seller took the lens out of a bag, immediately I saw some scratches on the barrel. Definitely not MINT! Seller told me that he "overlook" that scratches, as the glass is perfect thus he "forgot" about the scratches. What an excuse! Upon checking the glass, I saw some marks on the front and rear element. Double assured by the seller that that can be cleaned off, not coating defect. I told the seller I am not happy with the condition, as it is definitely not MINT. After some deep consideration, we agree to a price of S$520, definitely not as attractive if the lens is in real MINT condition, I would rather pay S$550 for it. (a bit off topic, the seller has an Ais 180mm f/2.8 gold ring lens for sale as well, MINT/LIKE NEW as mentioned by him, S$850 price. Again, scratches on the hood and definitely not MINT. U bet I am not buying...).


The condition


After reaching home, I immediately took my cleaning kit and start cleaning the lens. As usual, my cleaning procedures are to use a wet cloth to clean the exterior/body of the lens first (with both front and rear lens caps on). Later, blow the glass clean, use lens cleaning tissue + some cottons + cleaning fluid to carefully clean the front and rear elements (should I write an article on lens cleaning? After 5 years in photography, I have learnt quite a good and effective way of cleaning a lens...hahaa...I thought so myself. Email me to encourage me and tell me why you need that article...if I receive enough responds, then I will do so.). To my relief, the marks on the front and rear element are gone. Great! The external condition is near mint, quite satisfying myself.



First impression


The lens is heavy in hand, definitely much bigger and heavier than the Aied 85mm f/1.8 that I used to have. As you can see on the photo at the left, the can almost cover the entire Nikon FM2 when view straight from the front.


Focusing is silky smooth, but the aperture ring doesn't clicks as "click click sound". Still, not too bad for a 2nd hand lens. Front the viewfinder, it is bright. I change the aperture from f1.4 to f1.8 and press the DOF button, I can see some differences in the bokeh. The f1.4 aperture is a tag blurer and smoother in the background. Ok, I don't have any DSLR with me at the moment, and I haven't got the time to go out and shoot using my film camera yet, so I will leave the article as it is now.


Here I share with you some of the photos of my new toy (product shots have become one of my liking now...hahaaa...).


The pink colour coating used in the front elect.


I love the silver metal of the manual lenses of Nikkor. In AF Nikkor, only the DC lenses is having the solid metal ring. Function of the ring? Nothing but purely cosmetic and FEEL... :)


A very simple way of identifying an AIS lens from an Ai lens is by just looking at the aperture index. An AIS lens will have the smallest aperture coloured in orange (upper left pic), whereby Ai lenses will be in yellow, blue...etc. Another identification is looking at the lens mount, an AIS lens will have the "cut off" (lower left pic).

Notice the sudden change in size/lens diameter from the aperture ring forward.

The coating of the rear element is green in colour, different from the front element (pink).



How big is the lens? When mounted onto my Nikon FM2 Millennium, the center gravity of the setup move mostly to the lens. Though the lens is a bit heavy, but the combo feel very nice in hand. Here I share with you



(picture shows the lens mounted on the Nikon FM2 Millennium camera that I bought in year 2000)




Here's I mount the brightest to the IMO the most sexy manual Nikon, F3 that I have. The balancing is better, and the feel is better as well :)


(picture shows the lens mounted on the Nikon F3 camera that I bought recently)



(from minimum focusing distance to infinity, the lens extended by around 2cm)