Nikon’s New Portrait Master

Nikon Z Series users rejoice! The Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S has just been officially launched, promising high-quality portraits a plenty.

85mm is, of course, one of the ‘standard’ portrait focal lengths beloved by full-frame users and up until now, the Z 6 and Z 7 have had nothing like it, at least from Nikon itself, unless they use F mount lenses using the FTZ adapter. The new 85mm lens is the sixth to reach market for the Z Series, and the longest focal length so far, too.

The Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S is the sixth Z Series lens to be officially launched.

Built specifically for the Z mount, the new lens is claimed to deliver incredible detail throughout the frame, and the wide f/1.8 aperture should give perfect subject separation when shooting at, or close to, the maximum. Focal length wise it’s a natural fit for classic head-and-shoulders framing, but that’s not to say you can use it further off for full length shots – or for closeups.

The lens has a streamlined look, and lacks the lens function button and info display of the recent Z Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 S.

The lens’s construction is 12 elements in 8 groups, including 2 Extra Low Dispersion elements and like other high-end Nikon lenses it uses the company’s Nano Crystal Coat to suppress reflections and flare, and improve contrast in backlit situations. The lens also uses a nine-bladed iris for smoother, rounder background blur.

Expect smoothly defocused areas from the lens’s nine-bladed aperture.

Minimum focus is 80cm, but what will really excite Z Series portrait shooters is the prospect of using the Z 85mm f/1.8 S with the updated Z 6 and Z 7’s Eye AF mode, recently available via a firmware upgrade, which should ensure pin-sharp focus even when shooting at the widest apertures.

The only controls on the body are the AF/MF switch and the customisable control ring, which defaults to manual focus.

The lens is also promised to be outstanding for movie work as it has silent aperture adjustment and near silent AF, while focus breathing is all but eliminated, so you should get very little change in framing as you pull from one subject to another.

The Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S’s maximum aperture should give you lots of capacity for twinkling bokeh.

Build wise, the Z 85mm f/1.8 S is weather and dust sealed like others in the S Line, but it lacks the lens function button and display panel of the recent Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S. Like all S Line lenses it has a programmable control ring though, and this can be used for manual focusing (by default), aperture control, or exposure compensation. The lens measures 99mm long with a diameter of 75mm, weighs 470g, and takes 67mm filters.

Shooting wide open the lens gives lots of subject separation, even with a wider framing.

The Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S will be available from 5 September 2019 with an RRP of £799.

Below are some more official shots from the new lens.