Three at 85mm

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by David Fink, Jul 9, 2005.

  1. It's a miserable rainy day here in the Arctic north, so I thought I would entertain myself by doing a quick unscientific comparison of three lenses at 85mm on the D2x. I find 85mm an extremely pleasing and useful focal length on DX bodies (127.5mm film equivalent), and I wanted to see how discernable would be the differences in sharpness and color rendition among these three lenses that I enjoy a lot:

    Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM EX
    Nikon 85mm f/1.4D AF
    Nikon 85mm f/2 AIS

    Again, my procedure was not intended to be technically exacting, as I am far too lazy to set up a rigorous testing protocol that would control for all the variables in such a comparison. Here are the relevant particulars of how I shot my little test:

    -- tripod mounted with shutter released by self-timer
    -- WB preset using ambient light sensor (same preset used for each lens)
    -- manual exposure measured with incident light meter (f/4 at 1/6s)
    -- AF with the Sigma and 85/1.4, MF (obviously) with the 85/2
    -- in-camera sharpening Normal
    -- JPEG Fine Large
    -- Adobe color space, mode I
    -- custom tone curve (the one developed by Andrew Raszevski
    http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1021&message=13805782), with -1.3 EV adjustment
    -- no post processing, except for cropping and conversion to sRGB

    Why the custom tone curve? And why JPEG? Well, I was interested to compare these lenses in "quick and dirty" real world terms, with an absolute minimum of post processing decisions. I didn't want to get into the thorny brambles of which RAW converter to use, nor worry too much about how much Levels and Curves to apply in PS. Of course I do shoot NEF in "mission critical" situations, but truthfully, the JPEG output from the D2x is pretty spectacular for everyday use. And if you're shooting JPEG, Andrew's tone curve comes as close as anything I've seen to producing acceptable "straight from the camera" results.

    So, when shot under the conditions detailed above, here are images (and 100% detail) from the three lenses in question:

    Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 HSM EX
    [​IMG]

    Nikon 85mm f/1.4D AF
    [​IMG]

    Nikon 85mm f/2 AIS
    [​IMG]

    Conclusions? You are, of course, entitled to your own. What I would say is that:

    1. With respect to sharpness, the 85/1.4 (not unexpectedly) was clearly the sharpest performer. The 85/2 came a fairly close second, and the Sigma, while lagging noticeably behind the two Nikon primes, still gave a very good account of itself.

    2. With respect to color, the differences were far more subtle. I did examine the WhiBal for neutrality in PS, and all three lenses were largely free of color casts. (The Sigma deviated from neutrality *very* slightly more than the Nikons, but we're splitting hairs here.) To my eye, the 85/1.4 produced, by a small margin, the most saturated colors overall, followed by the Sigma, then the 85/2. I was particularly interested in comparing color differences, because some users/reviewers have not been altogether pleased in this regard with the Sigma (for example, Paul "MontyDog") and the 85/2 (notably Bjorn). Maybe I am fortunate to have especially good samples of these two lenses, because I've been quite satisfied with the color from both.

    A few additional caveats to note: 1. For this test, I only shot each lens at a single aperture (f/4). Obviously, sharpness and (to a lesser degree) color will vary at other f-stops. 2. I did nothing in this setup to evaluate bokeh, although from experience I can report that all of these lenses are excellent in that respect, with the 85/1.4 being truly legendary. 3. Each lens was fitted with a high quality UV filter (Hoya HMC Super), which may have a very small impact on performance. 4. There are slight differences in exposure which I did not attempt to equalize in PS. 5. Both conversion to sRGB color space and pbase/Cafe compression will necessarily have affected the images you see in this posting.

    So there you have it. I hope the comparison might be interesting and/or helpful to some, especially to those who might be considering either the Sigma or the AIS Nikon, which are mentioned occasionally in other threads but are not as well chronicled as the 85/1.4.

    Best wishes,

    David
     
  2. MontyDog

    MontyDog

    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
     
  3. David,

    Not to sound stupid...but why do you have two 85mm lens

    Mike
     
  4. David,

    Also, I agree the 85 f/1.4 is the sharpest

    mike
     
  5. For Paul

    Hey there Paul,

    Some of my setup was already in place, so I reshot the 85/2 and Sigma 70-200 lenses, but this time with the D2x in Auto WB.

    Not much change. I think Nikon has really implemented a superlative Auto WB in this camera.

    Here are the comparisons of these two lenses with the earlier shots done with preset WB:

    Sigma
    [​IMG]

    Nikon 85/2
    [​IMG]

    I guess that contradicts my theory that Auto WB only works well with D and G lenses, at least in natural light with the D2x. (My S2 Pro still butchers Auto WB with non-cpu lenses.)

    Best wishes,

    David


    [/img]
     
  6. Hi Mike,

    Not a stupid question! The stupid part is, of course, the fact that provoked your question....namely, why in the world have two different 85mm primes?

    The short answer is lens lust, pure and simple. But there's actually a somewhat more rational explanation (or rather, a "rationalized" explanation).....since I sometimes still shoot manual focus film bodies (FM3a), I enjoy using several of the old AIS classic Nikkors. And it's great that they also meter on the D2 series.

    (Now please don't ask me why I have THREE 105mm primes, including two AIS 105/2.5's. That's even harder to justify!)

    Best wishes,

    David

    P.S. Yes, the AF 85/1.4 is a real gem, and clearly the sharpest of the three in this test, as I expected it would be.
     
  7. MontyDog

    MontyDog

    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
     
  8. MontyDog

    MontyDog

    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
     
  9. Same lenses with Fuji S2 Pro

    Shot the same test with the three lenses at 85mm on the S2 Pro (Auto WB).

    This time there was a distinct cyan cast on all images, and the cast was significantly heavier on the AIS 85mm.

    This supports two previous observations:

    1. The D2x's Auto WB is *much* better than that of some other dSLRs (the S2 in this case).

    2. At least in the case of the S2, Auto WB is less accurate with non-cpu lenses. (The Sigma and Nikon 85/1.4 were roughly equivalent, while the AIS 85/2 suffered.)

    Here are the images:

    Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 EX HSM
    [​IMG]

    Nikon AF 85mm f/1.4D
    [​IMG]

    Nikon AIS 85mm f/2
    [​IMG]


    Best wishes,

    David
     
  10. MontyDog

    MontyDog

    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
     
  11. Paul (and Phil)

    Paul, thanks for your test. Those results look very much as I would expect. I do believe your previous Sigma had an anomaly of some unknown kind.

    I've only owned the one Sigma lens (70-200 EX), so I can't compare Sigma as a "breed".....but I certainly haven't noticed any radical color differences between my sample and the Nikkors I own.

    By the way, isn't the 45-P a totally sweet little number? It's one of my favorites.

    Best wishes,

    David
     
  12. MontyDog

    MontyDog

    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
     
  13. MontyDog

    MontyDog

    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
     
  14. Iliah

    Iliah

    Jan 29, 2005
    nowhere
    Dear Paul,

    My friend had 300/2.8 Sigma, which was showing terrible CA, focus problems and was unsharp. The most depressing thing was that Sigma was not willing to deal with that.

    Peter has 70-200, which he is moderately happy with (my impression on his feelings, of course:)), and it seems to me it is not quite as sharp as it can be.

    I used to have 50-500, which behaved most wildly with any stray light - lack of contrast and focusing problems. And of course any presence of fog made it nearly unusable above 200mm.

    120-300 that I owned for quite some time was a very decent lens,
     
  15. MontyDog

    MontyDog

    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
     
  16. MontyDog

    MontyDog

    Jan 30, 2005
    #1064 - You have an error in your SQL syntax;
     
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