Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Micro-Nikkor AF-S VR 85mm f/3.5

I'm not too much into macros, and when I do, I use those superb AI-S micro-Nikkors, like the 105mm f/4 for example. But a friend of mine loaned me his Micro-Nikkor AF-S VR 85mm f/3.5 for reviewing purposes. It seems to be a relatively popular option with the DX consumer crowd, so I thought, why not?

+ pretty sharp (still, I do see differences compared to the AI-S)
+ VR is a really handy feature for using the 85mm as a DX portrait lens
+ the price is decent for what you get. Good value

- f/3.5 is not f/2.8. It doesn't matter at all for macros, but it does matter a bit for other uses
- not as sturdy as the AI-S. Build quality only 'OK'
- bokeh could be better

Sharpness (especially in the center) is really very good

Intended Users
Great for:
  • DX consumers (are there FX consumers, I wonder?!) who want a macro lens that can double as a short tele with VR
  • consumer-level macro
  • small, cheap, traveling option for short tele

Not for:
  • serious macro work. The bokeh was my biggest issue
  • true portrait work. Not great bokeh, only f/3.5, and some aberrations.
  • carefree operation in demanding environment. Nowhere near a pro-caliber build quality

Final Verdict
Not a bad lens, and very well balanced on small DX bodies. Together with a 18-105VR and a 35mm f/1.8, this lens will form a really good (consumer) trio that will offer great quality at a small price. But don't fool yourselves: This is not a true macro lens, and it's not a true portrait lens. It's only a compromise (a decent one, still).

Ultimately, if you're after top quality and don't want to mortgage the house, you have to ask yourself what matters most:
- Macro? Get one of the AI-S 105mm micro-Nikkors (if metering matters to you, on an entry-level body you'll need an AF version instead)
- Portraits? Get the AF-S 85mm f/1.8 (or even the AF-D, if you have a body with focus motor)

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