Lazy Weekend With the 85mm 1.4

Nikon D700 | Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D

Started last weekend right with a trip to the cafe. Whoops, two posts in a row that show pictures of the same exact place! Shows you how often I go out for coffee I guess.

Since I’m shooting a wedding pretty soon, I decided to ask a favor of my cousin Josh, a New York based photographer. He was kind enough to ship some key gear out to me, including his most cherished Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D. That’s love right there.

Normally I take my E-PL2 with me for weekend errand running, but I was eager to give this 85mm a try, so along it came to Blue Bottle.

Ok, first off, I’m not used to this focal length. My mind’s eye tends to see wider, between my favorite 24mm through around 50mm.  When I use my 24mm f/1.4 or 50mm f/1.4, for instance, I can compose at either focal length in my head before I even raise the camera to my eye. I can even “see” 200mm in my head, since that’s my other frequently used focal length. When I first started shooting with the 85, however, I kept expecting it to be wider than it is.  I’d raise it to my eye and always find myself to be too close to my subject, cutting off areas I wanted to have in the frame (the top photo is an example), so I found myself taking a few steps back every time I raised the camera to my eye. Felt goofy and pretty awkward at first, hah.

It’s that guy again with the hat and the book stand! He must come here every day or something….

I can see why many dub this lens the “cream machine.” At f/1.4, wherever you put your focus point comes out sharp as anything, with everything behind it liquefying into some mighty attractive-looking bokeh. If I ever decide to buy this lens for myself, I’ll leave it at f/1.4 every time.

It’s a great lens for portraits…..of your friends making silly faces. Sorry Dez 😉

Taking a walk with Suki, I was again having a weird time with the 85.  I’m used to getting in close with wider glass when shooting her, so again I found myself raising the camera up, oops, taking a few steps back, composing again.

This thing excels out on the street. Color, contrast, sharpness…the last thing you need to worry about with this optic is whether or not it performs well.

This lens is a legend. If you think you want one, go for it! As for me, I’m not sure I need to own one right now, since I can just borrow it (heh heh).  Thank you Josh…sorry in advance if I delay a little in sending it back 😉


Nikon D700 + Nikkor AF 85mm f/1.4D

28 thoughts on “Lazy Weekend With the 85mm 1.4

  1. Gorgeous pictures. Smooth like butter! And the colors are screaming in the last two pictures. How nice that the beautiful aqua blue car is parked against a yellow wall for you.

  2. How funny on 2 accounts — first, I rented the Canon 85mm/1.8 last week and I felt the same way as you. I’m much more used to wider lengths, like 35mm or 50mm. I think I probably wouldn’t buy it… I am now eying the 35mm/1.4 though.

    And then, I went to Blue Bottle this weekend! This Mint Plaza location too. But my pictures are no beuno. These are fab, though. I’ll have to go back and retry.

    1. Hah! I’m surprised that we haven’t run into to you yet at BB. So you went there with the 85 1.8? If so, that’s just way to coincidental =P

      Based on your shooting I think the 35mm 1.4L would be a great match for you. I’ve seen some great work done with that lens! I think it’d be perfect for urban excursions and “cafe shooting” alike.

  3. wow, really smooth pictures with the aperture open. and the colors are tender and lovely. makes me give it a try in a shop or a cafe;)
    I have been using a 80mm and a 85mm, both of which I didn’t feel like using on my film cameras, because I often failed to bring my motif into focus. When I had films developed and found most of the shots are failure, I was really disappointed. But using them recently I’ve come to love these lenses, though my eyes and minds are still not used to scenes through the lenses.

    Have more fun with that nice gear of Josh’s;DD

    1. Thanks Akane! Yes, your shooting style is definitely more wide angle directed, much like mine. The 85 doesn’t seem to focus very close, so shooting in small, enclose quarters can be difficult.

      Shooting film can be a challenge when getting used to a new lens, I’m sure! Do you have digital adapters for your telephoto lenses? You’re 5D mkII might be a great way to save money on film while getting used to a new optic =P

    1. You can get a used 85 1.4D for less than a grand actually…not to shabby as far as pro glass goes. Still a pretty penny though, though many swear by it!

  4. Glad you’re giving it some love *outside* of weddings, man! I hardly get to shoot anything but brides with that lens. 😀

    On a crop body D300s, it’s an even longer focal length for sure! I’ve gotten used to composing twenty feet away from my subjects. I’ve gotten much better expressions and candids from the length.

    You can see why The Tokie 50-150mm has gotten less use these days: The 85 is more compact, inconspicuous, lighter, and sharper at any f-stop.

    Man, I sure want a coffee now.

    Talk about coffee and ‘cream’! Mwahaha.

    1. Coffee and “Cream.” That would have been a perfect title for this post. Man, why can’t I be a creative ham like you!?

      Thanks for the loan, bro. I might give it a try on a crop body and see what happens. I’m sure this thing will shine at this weekend’s wedding!

  5. Holy crap that lens is impressive. It must be weird but man you came out with some great shots Jonathan! But the colors and the sharpness is fantastic on these photos… makes me want an 85mm for myself 😀

  6. I simply love your photos. I always feel like I’m visiting a place at the same time you are. And the fact that your cousin sent you his camera is definitely love lol. And I had no idea he was from NY, great to know. Make sure to check out my blog at 5:30 pm Eastern.. I have an award for you :). Great post as usual.

  7. Hey Jonathan- Great shots with the 85mm. I have been watching this lens for a while and been wondering if it is worth the upgrade to the 85mm 1.4G. I have heard good things about the new update. But, as clearly shown here, this model still can crank our beautiful results. Fun stuff! I like the subtle de-sat colors in your images as well. Later-Jay

    1. Jay,

      Considering the price difference, I can’t see buying a G version over the D and feeling good about it. The 85D is fantastic, and my cousin picked it up for barely more than $900 used. Plus, I can use it on my film cameras…it works great on my old FM!

  8. You got 24, 50 so next is 85! Maybe within this year you’ll have one =) and I won’t be surprised! Pretty sure you’ll be creating bokehlicious sets with that. Good job Jonathan!

  9. Humina humina! Not much left to say that hasn’t already been said! Lovely photos as always. I enjoy reading this blog, it inspires me to get out there & shoot! Unfortunately here in NY the weather has been less than accommodating, lots of rain, (for the outdoor pictures I have in mind) but in the meantime, it’s great to come here & see wonderful pictures. Keep it up!

    1. Tati,

      Thanks again for your visit and comment. Say, why not grab an umbrella and head out in the rain for some shooting? You’d be surprised how bad weather can actually spice up your photos =)

  10. I’m glad I found your blog, thanks to Howie. Your work is amazing! I love this series shot with the 85mm; it’s a beast of a lens and looks like you managed to foot zoom with it perfectly. Your captures of the lightplay and shadows is truly inspiring.

    1. Thanks for discovering my blog and paying a visit! I wish I had a little more time with the 85, but it seems I’ll have to send it back to my cousin soon… might be a good lens to pick up in the future though!

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