I've read reviews on other sites of photo equipment. Some of the stuff other photographers care about seems trivial to me. I'm not interested in zooming into the corner of a picture at 1,000% to complain about fringing or chromatic aberration or some other defect to then declare the piece of equipment "junk". I just want to know how it works in the real world. But, also, for my first review I am including the results of a test I wish more reviews had, the drop test!
I bought the Nikon 85mm 1.8 af-D used through KEH I don't know how long ago for probably around $350. I'm thinking I haven't had the lens much more than a year at this point, and it has quickly become one of my favorite lenses. It is fantastic for portraits, and I also learned how good it was at capturing the action at comedy shows.
Performance wise, the focal length combined with the super fast f/1.8 aperture can really isolate the subject from the background, and the out of focus areas are rendered very smoothly. The f/1.8 aperture also makes it great for low light work, like when shooting performers at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival. My favorite thing to do with it, however, is to get real tight head shots. Even when stopped down to 2.8, you get a very shallow depth of field that renders a persons ears softly while giving tack sharp eyes. And it's a sharp lens. When used correctly, razor sharp.
Upon further testing, I was able to identify its weakness. It did not pass the drop test. Now, mind you, the test was not scientific. For this test, the lens was dropped from a height of approximately 3 feet onto a concrete surface. I have very little data to compare the 85mm's performance in the drop test with, as fortunately I haven't tested many of my lenses this way. My 18-55 kit lens failed a very similar test in Costa Rica a few years ago. I also imagine that nearly every lens would fail this test in the manner I administered it.
So other than an inability to fall hard onto concrete without breaking, this was a fantastic lens. I potentially could have the lens repaired, but the cost of repair on some of the older lenses often exceeds the cost of replacement with comparable used items. So you would imagine that as satisfied as I was with this lens I will be buying another just like it? No. I totally would, I really did love this lens and would absolutely recommend it to people (although check that the auto focus is compatible with your camera body) The only other complaint would be the screw in lens hood is less convenient than the newer design of the G lenses. After some careful research on forums, I have seen how the newer G version of this lens is optically even better. The ultimate replacement would be the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 af-s G, but at over $1600 I'm not quite in the position to go full pro yet. I need to earn my way into the top of the line pro gear, and when I get it you will be disappointed at how little impact it has on the picture.
I know, it seems odd to spend a whole blog entry talking up a piece of equipment just to say it has very little impact on the picture. The top of the line pro lenses are the best you can get. But not having the best equipment you can get doesn't prevent you from taking the best pictures. Better photographers take better pictures. Better cameras have their advantages, but a great camera in the hands of a shitty photographer doesn't help, and Ansel Adams never had a camera as advanced as the ones I use, and it didn't seem to hurt his career.
But, in spite of all that, I have a new Nikon 85mm f/1.8 af-s G on the way. I should have it by tomorrow. It will be a bit of an upgrade, but $1200 less of an upgrade than the f/1.4 version. Expect my photo's to look the same as they did before until I get to be a better photographer.