Gear: Nikon’s new 85mm f/1.8G lens!

For those of you who love photos with lots of dreamy bokeh, this new lens is welcome news. What’s so special about it? It’s the perfect portrait lens at an awesome price!


Nikon previously announced this updated 85mm f/1.8 lens and it is finally available for order. You can order it online here at the same trusted B&H store we always shop from:

Nikon 85mm f/1.8G

Nikon has been on a roll with their prime lenses lately. They’ve been updating their older f/1.8 “D” lenses to the newer “G” type lenses. The “G” lenses will now auto-focus on ALL Nikon DSLR camera bodies. With the older “D” lenses, you had to own an upper pro-sumer grade camera body (D90 and above) for the auto-focus to function. It started with the 35 1.8G, then 50mm f/1.8G, and now 85mm f/1.8G. This is great for everyone because it makes it affordable for us to get the performance and quality of a nice fast lens at a fraction of a cost of the ultra expensive “pro” grade fast primes. What is a “fast” lens? It’s typically a lens with an aperture that can open up to f/2.8 or better… to f/1.4. A larger aperture opening allows the camera to take in more light, which means better photos in dim lit environments. A fast lens also lets you create dreamy bokeh!

So what is “bokeh” anyways? Bokeh is the quality of out of focus areas in your photograph, typically the background. Many lenses can create bokeh, but not all of them are nice and buttery smooth. Nikon’s famous “cream machine” lens 85mm f/1.4G is priced at $1700. It is famous for rendering it’s out of focus area into smooth buttery cream cheese. This separation of subject and background is often used by portrait photographers to put more emphasis on the subject. But this kind of “creamy bokeh” comes at a steep price.

Another great use of “bokeh” is to render background lights into nice round circles. For example, in the rooftop photos from our LA jewelry shoot, we used the 85mm f/1.4 to render the background city lights into a cool circular mosaic backdrop. But you don’t need an amazing helicopter rooftop as a backdrop, you can create fun lights with a simple swimming pool as in this older nightime bokeh session of ours or this Valentines portrait.

So what’s the difference between the 85mm f/1.4 and this 85mm f/1.8? Let’s get the obvious out of the way… it’s $1200 cheaper! What are you NOT getting with a lens that is $1200 less? Your lens will not be as heavy duty (who abuses their lens anyways right?). Your lens will not have as many glass elements inside (the difference will be minimal, don’t worry). The f/1.4 lens is able to take in 2/3 of a stop more light, but as newer cameras improve their high ISO performance.. this difference is minimized. The focusing of the f/1.4 lens may be a bit quicker. But, at the end of the day, is all that worth and extra $1200? If you know us… we’re all about maximizing the value in our gear purchases. If we didn’t already have the 85mm f/1.4D purchased a few years back, being priced at $500… this would definitely be our 85mm lens of choice. But if you have the budget for it, and must own the latest and greatest… by all means go get the 85mm f/1.4G. If anything, you won’t be able to blame the lens for not creating the photos you had envisioned 🙂 You know? We all go through that at some point… “darn it, if only I had the better lens… my photos would be better”. ;p

Anyhow, that’s why this new little brother, the 85mm f/1.8G that’s listed at 1/3 of the price ($500!) is such welcome news. Photographers who don’t need the ultra pro lenses should definitely look at this lens. Right now, the lens is on “pre-order” status.. but make no mistake of this, get in line now. This lens will be popular and I am expecting it to be consistently out of stock… much like the updated 50mm f/1.8G lens.

Now, let me set it straight that I have not used this lens yet. But if any indication from the recently updated lenses is true, all signs will point to it being a spectacular lens for the money. The updated 35mm 1.8G has been great and the updated 50mm 1.8G has been awesome.

A little more info about the 85mm focal length itself. It’s a great portrait focal length because it compresses the frame and eliminates any kind of distortion that you may get from a wider lens. On a crop-framed sensor camera, you will need a lot of room to use this lens… which is why it’ll be perfect for an outdoor portrait lens!

It’s a great time to be a portrait photographer.. Nikon is updating their “affordable” fast prime lenses! It’s allowing more and more photographers to get in on some of this fast lens fun.

Thanks for stopping by our website. If you have any questions, feel free to ask below in the comments section!

  • Gonna have to get myself a Bokeh Kit. Super excited to try this out. And again this coming year if you have a session that you'll be doing in the Green Bay/Appleton area please let me know = ). There are a lot of things I would love to learn. Loving all the great feedback from you both that always tends to help me a lot. Susan

  • Megumi (Natalie) said:

    Thank you for all your recommendations and always keeping us (readers) posted. I got myself the 35mm since the 50mm feels so tight on my d90. I love how it gives me more room to take pictures without taking that extra step back. Thank you guys! ^_^

  • cynthia said:

    can't wait to get my hands on this one!

  • bmeans said:

    Would it be possible for you to show some comparisons of the 85 1.4 vs the 85 1.8? I'd love to see the difference (if any!)

  • bought it and love it... pictures are super sharp...cant wait to really use it in OR...