Things I Use: Nikon 85mm f/1.4G

So the 24/1.4 I mentioned picking up in my earlier post was not actually the end of the insanity for me during 2012; in November, I also purchased the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G fast prime. Truth be told, this was the last lens I was even remotely thinking about – I ceased even perusing what people were selling on craigslist after picking it up, as getting any more equipment at this point would be a total waste (if I wasn’t already squarely into that territory). Indeed, even the 85/1.4 was pretty excessive considering I already had the older but fully functional 85/1.8 AF lens. But after months of waiting for someone to offer the lens on craigslist, I actually finally bought it new from 42nd Street Photo when they had a promo for ~10% off. That might not seem like a huge discount, but Nikon strictly controls retail pricing across all sellers so things are very rarely available below regular Nikon-mandated prices. Also, used prices are often only ~20% below new prices, so any Craigslist seller would probably ask for pretty close to what I paid ($1495) in any case.

I’ve just had the 85/1.4 for a couple of months, so I have less experience and fewer examples than with the 24/1.4, but I’m using this lens a lot too. So far, over 90% of the shots I’ve taken have been at f/2.8 or wider; almost 40% were wide open at f/1.4. I don’t actually have too many examples I can share, since many of friends kids at birthdays and the like that I ought not to post here, though Olivia’s always got a face or two to show:

The above highlights an important difference between this lens and the 24/1.4, which is that depth of field is super shallow (Olivia’s eyes are in focus, but her lips aren’t, and even without clicking for the larger image it’s easy to see that the hair around her shoulders is totally blurred). Still, it was nice to get that shot at ISO 900 – instead of ISO 3600 with an equally expensive f/2.8 zoom, or at ISO 12800 with  a kit lens! And true to what was claimed about the lens, it is consistently great at blurring the background in a pleasing way. This is even true when the background is pretty close, like with this picture of Leo:

 Many lenses do OK, even at smaller apertures, when the background is far away (like in the first shot), but in this case, what you see behind Leo is actually the bench seat and wall he was sitting against (he was leaning forward over the table a little). Both of these pictures are just casual snapshots, but it is really nice to be able to have backgrounds just fade away like that.

One final example is a total miss on focus, exacerbated by Olivia moving a little too fast for the shutter speed I’d set (1/160th); I really wish I’d gone to 1/500th and taken the ISO penalty. Still, she looks semi-pro – if you ignore that this is badminton, not tennis; if you ignore that she completely and totally missed the bird; and if you ignore how she’s holding the racket. For reference, she totally can’t connect with a badminton bird yet :).

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