Lens review

Nikon Nikkor Z 85 mm f/1.8 S

Nikon Nikkor Z 85 mm f/1.8 S
13 March 2020
Maciej Latałło

1. Introduction

The Nikon F system was launched in 1959 and at that time it didn't feature an 85 mm lens. The first Nippon Kogaku reflex camera debuted with the following instruments: the Nikkor 3.5cm f/2.8, the Nikkor-S 5.0cm f/2, the Nikkor-P 10.5cm f/2.5 and the Nikkor-Q 13.5cm f/3.5. Still 85 mm focal length wasn't completely neglected and, as far back as the manual era, they offered three such models: 2/85, 1.8/85 i 1.4/85. At the beginning these were simple constructions, with just 5-7 elements in their optical system. The Auto Nikkor-H 85 mm f/1.8, shown in 1964, was the first 1.8/85 model in Nikon's line-up (or, in fact, in the Nippon Kogaku's line-up as the company was called at that time). It consisted of 6 elements positioned in 4 groups. In the following years two versions of that instruments were released, the first already with the Nikon name on its barrel and the second one featuring multi-coatings (Nikkor-H.C).

In 1973 the Nikkor 85 mm f/1.8 was released – it also featured multi-coatings and a rubberized manual focus ring. Its optical system was the same as in previous models.

Nikon Nikkor Z 85 mm f/1.8 S - Introduction
Manual 1.8/85 Nikkor lenses. Photo by. M. Górko.

Only two years later the producers decided to abandon 1.8/85 parameters and they showed the Nikkor 85 mm f/2 with NIC coatings and a system consisting of 5 elements positioned in 5 groups. The return to 1.8/85 parameters took place already after lauching an autofocus system, in 1988, with the AF-Nikkor 85mm f/1.8s. It wasn't just an older construction with autofocus but a completely new instrument with 6 elements positioned in 6 groups. Its production ceased in 1994.

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In autumn 1994 the AF-Nikkor 85mm f/1.8D was lauched, a lens that lasted out untill the digital era as its successor was announced only in 2012 in the shape of the Nikkor AF-S 85 mm f/1.8G. The new model featured not only ultrasonic autofocus motor SWM but also a completely new, more optically complex design consisting of 9 elements positioned in 9 groups.

If anybody thought 9 elements in the 1.8/85 model without stabilization were a lot, they had to correct themselves in July 2019 when a new, mirrorless Nikon system was supplemented by the Nikkor Z 85 mm f/1.8 S – that lens was composed of as many as 12 elements. We were very curious how the design influenced its optical properties so we ordered one specimen for our tests and were looking forward to seeing results.

We've been lent lenses for our testing procedures courtesy of the Nikoncompany – thank you very much!

You are also invited to get acquainted with our test procedure, described in the article "How do we test lenses?" If you feel it’s still not enough, please go to our FAQ section where you can find some further explanation.

Nikon Nikkor Z 85 mm f/1.8 S - Introduction

Nikon Nikkor Z 85 mm f/1.8 S - Introduction

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