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by Bart Arondson

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I'm looking to buy a 85mm portrait lens for for my D7000. My budget is around $300-400.

I've currently shortlisted the following two lens:

  • Nikon 85mm f/1.8G
  • Samyang AE 85mm f/1.4 (the one with the AE and focus confirm chip)

The Nikon is a tried and tested lens in this regard and there's a rebate ongoing in which its available for $396. However, the Samyang is still cheaper ($329), has a larger max. aperture (f/1.4) and supposedly produces excellent bokeh. The biggest drawback of the Samyang is that its manual focus only. Does anybody have any experience in using this lens? How sharp is it wide open, and how difficult is it to manually focus it at at max aperture?

I'm a sucker for shallow DoF images. Would there be a significant difference in the amount of background blur between f/1.4 and f/1.8?

And in the end, which one would you recommend and why?

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I love my Nikon 85mm f/1.8... It's a sweet lens. flickr.com/photos/spqr_ca/8327846663/in/photostream –  John Cavan Feb 24 '13 at 4:31
    
Here's the Flickr group for the Nikkor lens: flickr.com/groups/nikkor85mmf18g/pool (that should give you some idea what it can do). –  John Cavan Feb 24 '13 at 4:33

3 Answers 3

Subsequent to this, I went ahead and purchased a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM lens, although at a significantly higher budget than what I had at the time of posting the question.

I'm extremely happy with the results so far, its tack sharp in the center (even wide open) with lovely soft bokeh. Its the closest lens you can get to the pro 85mm f/1.2 or f/1.4 lens from Canon and Nikon at a significantly lower price.

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Adorama just posted a nice objective article comparing all available 85 mm lenses for Nikon.

http://www.adorama.com/alc/0014085/article/Which-Nikon-85mm-Lens-Is-Best-For-Your-Portrait-Photography-Needs

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+1 That's timely. Covers the above options and more. –  MikeW Feb 24 '13 at 8:19

I would go with the Nikon for one main reason: wide-open, with such a shallow DOF, I personally wouldn't want to have to manually focus. Simple.

Both are superb lenses. The DXO ratings are very close: Nikon 85mm 1.8G vs. Samyang 85mm 1.4. The Nikon edges the Samyang in sharpness according to them, but I doubt you could tell the difference in sharpness outside a lab test. I have the Nikon 85mm 1.8D and the bokeh and shallow DOF are amazing. At that focal length it's easy to throw backgrounds out of focus compared to 50mm, so I don't think f/1.4 is critical vs f1.8.

The Nikon has 7 rounded aperture blades vs 8 straight blades on the Samyang - not sure there's a clear winner there.

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