Review Nikon 85mm f/2 AIS Lens Review

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well used and worn with some scratches on the front lens element

Background

More manual focus lens fun! Nikon’s very small 85mm f/2 AIS lens is next up on out list of legacy lenses to review!

The word on this lens is that it is ordinary and nothing spectacular. Coming along with us on this journey we will see if we can get something special about this. Got this locally for a good price.

I already have the Mitakon Creator 85mm f/2 in Nikon f-mount. I’m curious to see how this lens compares. The Mitakon has a bit of haze wide open and is larger in length and diameter, plus on top of it, the manual focus ring turns in the opposite direction of OEM Nikon glass, same with the aperture ring.

Could this legacy lens best the newer made lens?

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Handling/Size/Weight
This is a small lens, possibly the smallest 85mm lens that I’ve used on a Nikon camera.

You’ve got an all metal construction, as you would expect for a lens built between 1977 and 1981, of which this lens’ birth ranges.

It is easy to find the aperture ring and differentiate it from the focus ring without even looking at the lens. The aperture ring is probably the smoothest I’ve used on any of my legacy Nikon manual focus lenses. Positive clicks, but buttery smooth motion from f/2 to f/22.

I must say that there is something very satisfying when using a manual focus lens. While the more modern Nikon AF-S, full time manual focus override, lenses are more convenient – there is something quite different about the way that Nikon made their manual focus lenses. Manual focusing is satisfying, and just feels right. The focus ring is dampened, but only really moves when you want it to. It feels so smooth and the throw is such that getting precision and accuracy is almost effortless. The focus throw on this lens seems to be a bit longer than some of the other manual focus lenses I have. I have to twist, then reset my grip and twist again to get all the way through the less than 3 foot to infinity range.

The lens mounts perfectly and handles well on my favorite DSLR, the Nikon Df as well as on the FTZ adapter for the Z6.

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from left to right
Nikon 85mm f/2, ZhongYi Creator 85mm f/2, Nikon 105mm f/2.5

Weather Sealed
Not on this guy! An old AIS lens.

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Nikon Df
1/100, f/2.8, ISO 280

Image Quality
This lens has some scratches on the front lens element. It did not seem to have caused any issues with the image quality on our sample shots.

While it is not up to speed in relation to the thousand dollar state of the art Nikon lenses, this one can perform quite well. There is some slight hazing at f/2, but that quickly goes away at f/2.8

One thing I’d like to point out and I find this to be true for all Nikon manual focus lenses that I own: There is a potential for the aperture ring to move slightly past the widest setting. When this happens, it degrades a image quality quite noticeably.

So, for this lens, you can turn the aperture dial just to the right of f/2.8. I first captured this example on the Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 Q lens. That review is linked to the left and it is shown in the first set of images.

I mention this as it is easy to do accidentally. I just want everyone to be aware if it. It may be normal, but those may not know could appreciate the heads up.

It does fall off in sharpness from center to the edge at wider apertures.

Shooting on the Df, you’ll appreciate using it between f/4 and f/11, but don’t shy away from f/2.8 if you need it.

I did not notice any real distortion on this lens either. There are plenty of brick walls in the sample images, of which perspective correction was done, but not any kind of lens correction.

As I usually do, here are images to let the lens speak for itself.

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Nikon Df
1/100, f/2.8, ISO 140

Focusing
This is manual focus all the way, but since it was made to be manual focus, working the ring is a satisfying experience.

On the Df, the AF confirmation point worked well, even at f/2. The Z6 is easy too, as using the punch in zoom and focus peaking make using manual focus lenses trivially simple.

As mentioned in the handling section above, it takes a few turns to go from < 3 foot to infinity focus.

Bottom line here, is that if you’ve ever used a Nikon manual focus lens, you know what to expect here. It is all good!

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Fuji X-E3 + Mitakon Lens Turbo II
1/640, f/4, ISO 200

VR
No VR in the lens, but used on adapted cameras with IBIS, you do now have the ability to take advantage of it. Even the new Nikon Z mirrorless cameras have in body image stabilization that will work with this lens.

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Fuji X-E3 + Mitakon Lens Turbo II
1/300, f/4, ISO 200

Bottom Line
Not much is thought of manual focus lenses in this age, but i think people forget how easy it is to work with them once you give them a chance. The 85mm is a popular focal length for the portraits and if you like manual focus lenses, this is a good, inexpensive option for you to consider.

Another reason to give these older lenses a chance is the newer technology in the camera bodies. Here, we have punch in focusing and focus peaking when adapted to either a Micro 4/3, Fuji, Sony mirrorless camera as well as the newly released Nikon Z cameras.
 
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