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I have a Nikon D7000. The 85mm f/1.4 looks pretty awesome, but I don't have the money for it. What's a good alternative that won't break my bank? I'm open to other brands.

I have the 85mm f/3.5 macro. It's very good, but difficult to use under low light without flash.

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What's more important -- aperture size or focal length? –  Billy ONeal Jun 24 '11 at 2:42
    
If you're looking at 85mm f/1.4 - I'm assuming you like portrait work? –  rfusca Jun 24 '11 at 2:47
    
focal length is more important, for tele purposes. I do like portrait work. The f/3.5 is pretty great for portrait actually, just not under low light. –  rabbid Jun 24 '11 at 3:13
    
The easiest way to get disappointed is not to buy what you want. Maybe you can finance it by selling some lesser used lenses or other object you get little use from. –  Itai Jun 24 '11 at 3:53
    
@Itai - Good advice - but many times we have to make compromises when dealing with photography in a non-professional sense (and I'm sure the pros do too at times). 1.7k is alot of money at once for hobby photography (but yes, I know many hobby photogs buy at these prices as well) and I completely understand where rabbid is coming from. Sometimes you can compromise and be pleasantly surprised. –  rfusca Jun 24 '11 at 4:00

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

You're got a few options, depending on where you want to compromise:

  • Manual focus, the Rokinon 85mm f/1.4 is actually rated pretty decent and people are generally pretty happy with it. Optically, most places rate it pretty well and its a mere 300 dollars.

  • If you want to go a little shorter, the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 is a decent lens, but the slightly more expensive Sigma 50mm f/1.4 is a more modern design and rated top of class by many. (I own the Sigma 50mm, and LOVE it.)

  • You can drop your max aperture just a bit and get the Nikon 85mm D f/1.8. Its significantly cheaper, almost as fast, but the autofocus is definitely going to be slower than the newer AF-S on the new 85mm f/1.4. Its an older lens, but still a winner, although some of the lens coatings and such are probably not as up to par with the newer models.

  • A little longer in focal range, but a stop faster than your existing macro, the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 or the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 make an good replacement for your existing lens - you'll be able to recoup a significant amount of money towards the purchase and still keep macro capabilites. It is, however, 2 stops slower than the f/1.4. Your D7000 has excellent high ISO, so this shouldn't be as much of a problem as on some other cameras. (One of these will be my next lens choice). There are several shooters choosing telephoto macro lenses for portrait work.

It really boils down to if you want to replace your existing lens (I'd choose the last option then) or augment your existing lens (I'd choose the second option then). If you get two lenses at the same focal range, one is probably going to sit on a shelf most of the time.

EDIT: I didn't bring up the newer Sigma 85mm f/1.4 because its still a rather pricey lens - double of the cost of most of the alternatives above. Its supposed to be rather nice, and its new, but still a costly option. If its in your price range though, its the most direct replacment.

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I second this answer. For me, the 85mm 1.8 is a fantastic alternative. If I had to do it again, though, it might be difficult to compare with the Tamron 90mm. I know the second is a macro lens, but I can't bring myself to buy it and have two lenses in roughly the same range. –  mmr Jun 24 '11 at 3:44
    
great advice. I could part with the macro feature, I don't use it much even though I love it. I should people / large objects more than I do ants / rice. I was actually looking at the 85 mm f/1.8, but I'm wondering if the outdated tech will be a problem? That said, I really like the bokeh of the 1.4... –  rabbid Jun 24 '11 at 4:47
    
@rabbid - It's supposedly a pretty decent little lens. Only you are going to be able to judge if the older tech is a problem for you - most notably the autofocus speed. A lot of older lens were good optically. The DoF difference between 1.4 and 1.8 is pretty minimal. As far as bokeh goes, the 1.8 uses a 9 rounded bladed aperture so its a good sign. At the end of the day, its about the pictures. Take a look at pixel-peeper.com/lenses/?lens=119 for some pictures. For macro, you can always get some extension tubes later since its not a feature you often use. –  rfusca Jun 24 '11 at 5:02
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It's worth noting that Rokinon is only one of several names under which that lens is sold. If I'm not mistaken, it's actually made by Samyang, but it's sold under a half dozen (or so) different names: Bower, Rokinon, Vivitar, etc. If you find a new 85/1.4 for less than $400 or so, it's undoubtedly the same Samyang design. syopt.co.kr/common/pdf/f=85mm.pdf –  Jerry Coffin Jun 24 '11 at 7:21
    
I should add that the 85/1.4 seems to be only part of Samyang working toward becoming a "respectable" 3rd party lens maker -- their 14/2.8 has gotten pretty good reviews, and they recently released a 35/1.4 that seems quite competitive as well (competitive even if you don't take the price into account -- and absolutely stunning when you do). –  Jerry Coffin Jun 24 '11 at 7:37

The new Sigma 85mm f/1.4 is a stellar lens by all accounts but costs about the same as the Nikon 85mm f/1.4D, but is a massive saving over the 85mm f/1.4G. The Nikon 85mm 1.8D is a good, but not great lens. It is however very affordable.

Of you could go with a smaller aperture and longer focal length to get similar DoF. Something like a 105mm macro lens (there's no such thing as a bad macro lens, so get any of them).

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Thanks for your reply. Which 105mm macro are you referring to? Could you post a link to it? How does the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 compare to the Nikon 85 1.8D and the Nikon 85 1.4G? Scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest? Thanks –  rabbid Jun 25 '11 at 1:44
    
Something like a Nikon 105 VR macro, or a Sigma 105mm f2.8. There's also the Nikon 105 f/2 DC lens which has the defocus control to kill the background and is a great portrait lens. –  fwgx Jun 25 '11 at 17:12
    
Thanks. The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 looks pretty good! Not sure about replacing my f/3.5 with an f/2.8, I think the difference in aperture is not much. –  rabbid Jun 26 '11 at 0:04
    
Yeah there's not much of an aperture difference, but there will be little DoF difference due to the longer focal length. So as long as you don't need the wide aperture to maintain shutter speed, the lenses will have a similar effect. The longer lens will have more compression in the image which can be better for portraits, but it depends on the working distance you want. 105mm for head shots is great but for full length photos is a bit long usually. –  fwgx Jun 27 '11 at 7:54

as noted above, there is the very good Tamron SP AF 90mm f/2.8 Di Macro or detailed review here. Other - also good (saw some review), cheaper and very promising looks the Samyang 85 mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF - but as I know, it does not have AF - but do not know how important it is for you.

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Just to throw another lens in - I have the Carl Zeiss 85mm 1.4 - its still pretty pricey and is manual focus only, but it is a bit cheaper than the Nikon 85mm 1.4.

When I bought it, I did try out the Nikon 1.4 and the nikon 1.8 and i thought that the 1.8 was exceptional value for money

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Do you really need f1.4? You might try the Nikkor 84mm f1.8 as an alternative.

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If you're willing to compromise on focal length, the 50mm version is 1/3 the price.

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Thanks for your answer. I already have a 35 mm f/1.8, which I love very much. The 50mm might be too close to the 35? What do you think? –  rabbid Jun 24 '11 at 4:50
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@rabbid: No idea. I've never owned either lens -- just turned this up from a quick Google searhc. –  Billy ONeal Jun 24 '11 at 4:58
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I don't think they're too close at all. 35mm is a normal, and 50mm is a short portrait telephoto. –  mattdm Jun 24 '11 at 12:09
    
Hmmm I'll think about it. D7000 is 1.5x cropped, so 35mm is 52.5mm on that cam, and 50mm is 75mm. Whereas 85mm is 127.5mm. I'll have to try them to see the difference. Thanks! –  rabbid Jun 25 '11 at 1:46

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