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85/1.4 vs. 105/2DC

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by Uncle Frank, Sep 15, 2005.

  1. I can't have both, and I'm wracked with indecision over which one would best round out my kit. I have an engagement photo gig lined up a few weeks from now, so it's bringing the issue to a head.

    Geno P. offered me some advice on a DPR thread.

    There's a lot of merit in his remark. I've been leaning towards the 105 because of focal length spacing. I like long lenses, and it would complement the 20mm + 28-70 pair nicely, replacing the cumbersome 80-200 for event work. I wonder if it's any better in bright conditions than the 85, which seems to do its best work in the dark? I understand it's reasonably sharp at f/2 as well, which is about as wide as I'd want to go for a portrait.

    On the other hand, I think the longer focal length might make me lose close contact with my subjects, which is the way I prefer to work. I don't think the 85 would kill my love affair with the 28-70, because it's not AFS, and isn't suited for event work. The 85 has a full f/stop advantage over the 105, and would round out a lightweight prime lens travel kit (20mm, 60mm, 85mm) nicely.

    To complicate the issue further, Geno went on to say...

    What kind of problems are these bad samples infected with? If they're common to the lens, it would rule out the purchase of a used copy altogether.

    I hate to base a $1000 decision on incomplete data and a coin flip. I'd appreciate any input/opinions that owners of one or both of these fine lenses might offer.
  2. W Thorne

    W Thorne

    Jul 24, 2005
    I used the 105f2 DC on my F4's and this was a great lens. Used it both AF and manual focus. I was never real crazy about the DC feature though.

    This summer I bought my first digital camera, a D70s and I'm not so impressed with the 105. The focus is off and it seems a little slow and clunky. The camera does fine with all my other lenses.

    I will probably replace it with the 70-200 zoom. Also I really feel it is a little to long for what it is meant to do. If I did it all over again I would look harder at the 85 f1.4.

    Maybe I got one of those bad lenses?
  3. Hi there UF,

    I do have both, and I agree that it would be a difficult choice if one had to decide on one or the other.

    Regarding the 105/DC and the issue of bad samples, I think the primary matter is how well the defocus control is aligned/calibrated. I've read several people discuss that "true 0" on the defocus ring is not always the position marked on the ring (this is the case both for the 105 and 135 DC). I know this is exactly the situation with mine, where optimal subject sharpness is attained with the defocus control set slightly off the zero point. If you buy the 105, be sure to test sharpness at all apertures at every defocus setting. Once you determine where "true zero" is for your sample, the lens becomes a joy to use, and the results are among the best for any Nikon lens.

    As much as I like the 105 though, I would have to say that I use the 85/1.4 much more frequently. As you implied, the shorter focal length keeps you better connected to subjects, and the extra stop often comes in handy. Plus, the image quality is legendary.

    I don't think your Beast would become superfluous for you if you bought the 85. You spoke to several of the reasons.

    Bottom line -- both lenses you are considering are superb, and you can't really go wrong with either. Have you considered buying the 85 and the manual focus AIS 105/2.5? (The latter is a lens I enjoy even more than the 105/DC, and it can be had for extremely attractive prices these days.)

    Good luck on your decision. Keep us posted.

    Best wishes,

  4. This was my original thought but I've never used the 105DC. If you are planning on dropping a grand on a new lens and have an 80-200 2.8, I'd sell the 80-200 and put up the balance to get the 70-200 VR.

    I owned the 80-200 and own the 70-200 VR, and you can take it to the bank that there is NO comparison... the 70-200 is out there in a class by itself.

    But, that's just my opinion.

  5. I don't own either but the 85mm f1.4 is on the top of my list. With the portrait shooting I do it is a natural.
  6. Hi, Woody! That's not an option I'd consider. I'm primarily interested in event photography. If the light is low, I use a flash rig (sb800, CB Jr. bracket, Lumiquest softbox). The 80-200 works just fine for candids under those conditions.

    I didn't think the 70-200 was worth the price differential when I made my choice a year ago, and after >5000 shots with the 80-200, I'm even more convinced that it isn't... for what I do. The 70-200VR requires less skill on the part of the user, but with good technique, I'd challenge anyone look at a print and tell one from the other.

    Imho, as far as bokeh is concerned, the 70/80-200 series lenses are good, but they aren't in the same league as the 85/1.4 or 105/2DC. My interest in the 85/1.4 or 105/2.0 is primarily for money shots... posed portraits.
  7. It's one or the other. If I bought both, my wife would relocate my studio to the street :cool: .
  8. I have the 85 and am currently lusting after the 105 and 135 DCs or the 85 PC.

    In any case, the 85 is easily my favorite lens. I really wish I could find a 40 or 50 or thereabouts with the same qualities. I now own three 50s and the 55 and am looking to buy the 28 2.8 .2m (supposed to be sharp for closeup stuff) next.

    All because I want something shorter than the 85 with its qualities. It is that much better than anything else I've used.

    Just my two bits.
  9. Definitely, Gordon. We both need one.
  10. rloeb

    rloeb Guest

    Well, I own them both and ...

    They do two very different things. On a D2X the 105mm is a little long for most portraits and the 85 is just about perfect. I also have the 70-200, which has plenty of uses, but not for portraits. It's too much lens. I like to move around a lot, engage with my subjects, try strange angles, etc. The 70-200 is unwieldy in this mode. The 85 is perfect for that, particularly when you are using natural light. I also use it in the studio, with studio strobes, but I put a 4X ND filter on it to keep the depth of field under control. I do use the 105 when the subject is a young child, because I prefer tightly cropped portraits and the 85 puts you too close, particularly if you have "mom" helping you. Just to confuse the issue, some of my best portraits were done with the 17-55 (at the long end, of course). That produces a shot similar to that of the 85 on a film camera. None of this really helps you. What really matters is what kind of framing you really like. I've been cutting off people's ears since 1961. If you like plenty of background, you'll find the 105 too long in many situations.

  11. Silly question Frank, but with the 1.5 crop doesn't that put the 105 out of the range for portraiture?

  12. I've done a lot of head shots of my toddlers using a 105 micro. Not a bad length for smaller subjects.

    PS, how do you like that 35 1.4 compared to the 85? :wink:
  13. FishSauce


    Aug 10, 2005
    Chicago, IL

    I have 85 1.4 but I don't have the 105 so I could not compare

    I really like the 85mm 1.4 for the shapness and the DOF in wide open, if you tend to shoot wide open then in my opinion this lens could be second to none.

  14. Thanks, Rog. That's a powerful recommendation coming from someone with your background.
  15. Hi Rog,

    It's a real sweet lens, isn't it? I don't quite understand the point of using an ND filter though. Couldn't you just dial down the output from your strobes?

    Best wishes,

  16. That's true by classical standards, Rich, but times are a-changing. :smile:.

    These days, the leading edge can be anything from 300mm lenses for headshots to wide angle lenses for portraits. The "rules" are out the window, and the correct focal length for people pics is a matter of personal preference and style.
  17. cwilt


    Apr 24, 2005
    Denver, CO
    Uncle Frank,

    I can not comment on the 85 vs 105 because I believe that will have to be a personal decision based on your shooting style. Both are magical, for lack of a better term. My 105/2 is used mainly for tight head shots, but that is the way I use it and may not be your style. What I can say is that even at f2 it is sharp.

    The 85 and 105 are more about artistic shots where the 28-70 is more photojournalistic. When you mount one of these lenses you will be after a certain shot and will be more focused because of that.

    It all comes back around to you, and what your vision is. For those that say the 105 is to long for portraits I often use the 180/2.8. :wink:
  18. My preference is for head and shoulder shots, and some of them will be of couples. That has me thinking 85mm is as long as I'd find useful.

    Very nicely put, and useful to my decision. Thanks.
  19. Hello Uncle Frank,

    For what is is worth - I would go for the AF DC 105 f/2.0 D - because I think that it gives a better spread in respect to your curent lenses.

    Can't say anything about quality issues because I don't own a 105 - I do however own an AF 85 f/1.4 D as well as an AF DC 135 f/2.0 D and they are extremely well built and I asume that the 105 is in the same league.
  20. That's one of the reasons I love photography... despite all the technology involved folks still use what they use just because they love it.

    When I hit the street, I leave the D2X at home and carry my D100 and 35-70 2.8 just because I love what the combination gives me so I know where you're coming from.

    Good luck with a very difficult decision!

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