I have spent three months with the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 lens for the Nikon mirrorless bodies with a Z mount. This lens rivals the classic F mount lenses, which have been in Nikon’s lineup for decades between D and G type lenses.
Table of contents
This lens has impressive stats from top to bottom.
- Maximum aperture: f/ 1.8
- Dimensions (diameter x length): 3.0 in. (75 mm) x 3.9 in. (99 mm)
- Weight: 16.6 oz. (470 g)
- Mount: Z mount
- Focal length: 85mm
- Maximum aperture: f/ 1.8
- Minimum aperture: f/ 16
- Format: FX (full frame)
- Lens elements: 12
- Lens groups: 8
- Diaphragm blades: 9
- Focus: Auto and manual
- Focus motor: Internal and silent
- Minimum focus distance: 2.62 ft. (0.8m)
- Filter size: 67mm
Build quality and feel — Nikon 85mm f/1.8 S
Just like the other Nikon S line of lenses, this feels like a solid lens. It feels like nice alloy all around.
The focus ring is smooth and silent. The grip is just enough that you can use fingertips instead of full fingers to turn.
Mounting the lens on the Nikon Z bodies has that beautiful Z mount click sound and holds perfectly as expected.
The lens isn’t too heavy, but also not too light. It’s just the right balance of weight to make it comfortable.
It is worth noting that while I did not use the feature, the lens has a Programmable Control Ring. By default, it controls the focus, but you can change it to manage aperture or exposure compensation in your camera settings.
It is also worth noting that this does not have Vibration Reduction built-in. A prime lens like this does not usually need VR, and being that the Pro Z bodies have VR built-in, it did not bother me one bit.
Image quality — Nikon 85mm f/1.8 S
Because I am a big fan of the 85mm f/1.8 F mount lens and used to its exquisite image quality, I expected nothing short of perfection from this Z mount version too.
The quality isn’t better or worse than its predecessor (F mount version). However, being able to avoid using the FTZ adapter is ideal. Not because the adapter is bad, but because it’s just one more thing to deal hold and worry about.
So switching from the F mount to the Z mount version was a no-brainer. It’s native to the Z bodies, which means you get stunning image quality, speed of focus and accuracy. That’s especially important when filming video footage. Did I mention this thing is silent?
The lens is exceptionally sharp no matter what aperture you throw at it. I made photos at f/1.8, 2.8, 5.6, 8, 11 and even 16. It always performed flawlessly.
Opening up to f/1.8 gets you this buttery smooth bokeh behind your subject. If you’re a fan of bokeh, then coupling the lens with the Z mount makes for quite stunning results.
Comparing the Z mount lens to its DSLR counterpart
I mentioned earlier that I prefer the new Z mount lens (f/1.8 S) over the F mount lens (f/1.8G) coupled with Nikon’s FTZ adapter. This section will share a comparison of specs and features between the two choices and share a side-by-side look at the same photo using the two lenses.
The following comparison is when used with Z cameras that feature in-camera VR like the Nikon Z 6, Z 6II, Z 7 and Z 7II.
NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S
- 5-axis stabilization
- Silent autofocus
- 9 aperture blades
- 16mm distance from sensor
NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G + FTZ Adapter
- 3-axis stabilization
- Quiet autofocus
- 9 aperture blades
- 46.5mm distance from sensor
- 350g +135g = 485g
If you would like to see a scientific comparison between both lenses, check out DxOMark’s rating comparison between the two lenses. One is while tested on the Nikon Z7 and the other on the Nikon D850. You can view that here. Or click here to view the spec by spec comparison at B&H.
I cannot say enough about how incredible this lens is. Having owned the 85mm f/1.8 D and G lenses and now the S lens, I can genuinely say that Nikon has produced the best version. It is such a pleasure to work with and feels so natural — as if it’s existed forever.
It makes sense, though. I mean, Nikon has had years to perfect their lenses. The Z mount just opened possibilities of where Nikon can go with their new lenses, and this is proof.
And yes, after a few months of using Nikon’s loaner, I’ve decided to purchase the lens.
If you are in the market for a new portrait lens for your Nikon Z 6II or Z 7II camera, then look no further! This lens not only combines a fantastic build quality, solid image quality and is so fun to work use. It’s perfect for your portraits, headshots or whatever you might need the 85mm focal length for.
Nikon NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S Lens
Popular for portraiture, the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.8 S from Nikon is a short-telephoto prime characterized by its flattering focal length and bright f/1.8 design. The maximum aperture strikes a balance between size, weight, and speed, offering suitable speed for working in difficult lighting yet remaining sleek enough for handheld use. In terms of optics, two extra-low dispersion elements are featured, and help to reduce color fringing and chromatic aberrations in order to achieve high clarity and color fidelity. Also, both Nano Crystal and Super Integrated Coatings are used to suppress flare and ghosting for greater color fidelity and higher contrast.