A few thoughts from one who owns both these lenses...
For me, one of the main reasons for choosing between them is the maximum aperture - not to cope with poor lighting but to have more options for depth of field control. A secondary reason might be the quality of the out-of-focus background - again the 85mm tends to win here. Lastly, the amount of space you have available - the 85mm allows you to shoot from a little closer.
Having said all that, I tend to use the 105mm more often - that's because I usually have the space and prefer the slightly different perspective from the greater distance, and because most of my portraits are against a plain white backdrop for use in theatre programmes so the "bokeh" isn't relevant. The VR is useful too, if I'm shooting hand-held and need a slower shutter speed for any reason.
Since your asking about these two lenses and according to your profile your shooting FX, I think the question is really about aperture and bokeh. Your style will drive this. You have a 50 f 1.4 so you may gain some insight looking at your shots using that lens. Check the EXIF data to see what apertures you shot your people with, and how often you shot it wide open. It's really about controlling the background. My own preference is for the 85 f1.4, on full frame (which I don't have anymore).
I use the 105VR and am happy with it. If I were shooting for pay, I'd have the 85 and shoot it wide open with an FX body. It is a wonderful lens, with great attributes for portraits. I do agree with Brian that the 105 let's you get back a bit further and delivers a bit flatter perspective. Since I shoot DX, for me it's a little like shooting the old 135mm, a perspective I like. YMMV.
I just wonder if I could ever master the DOF with a lens wide open at f/1.4. I tend to find that even f/2.8 is challenging sometimes to properly tame for the right creative effect. I like fast lenses though, if for no other reason than I appreciate a nice bright viewfinder and easier focus.
I do think the 85mm makes more sense indoors though. A 105mm or longer is fine outdoors, but indoors I always feel like I just dont have the right focal length. I hate using the 70-200 for this type of thing because it is so heavy to handhold for a long portrait session.
I just found out about borrowlenses.com and it looks like they have a pick-up location here in Sacramento. I think I'm going to rent it for a weekend shoot and see how I do with it (and if I can get some keepers at f/1.4).
Of course you can master DOF with an 85mm at f/1.4 below an example. It just needs lots of good practice.
I use it indoors and outdoors.
I don't use my micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 for portraits, because I more often than not photograph ladies. And it is overly sharp, it reveals "wrinkles to come, not even there yet", according to one of my favorite subjects. I use the manual focus 105mm f/2.5 AI-S for when the added focal length is preferable. Attachment#1 (jpg file)
>I just wonder if I could ever master the DOF with a lens wide >open at f/1.4. I tend to find that even f/2.8 is challenging >sometimes to properly tame for the right creative effect. I >like fast lenses though, if for no other reason than I >appreciate a nice bright viewfinder and easier focus. >
One thing about the f/1.4, it isn't a fixed aperture, you can always stop it down. The f/2.8 can't get any more open than that.
I own both the older 85mm f/1.4d and the 105mm VR lenses, and for portraits I go for the 85mm every time using both the D300 and the D600 bodies. I like shooting at apertures larger than 2.8 for portraits, but that's with a single subject. Having the ability to shoot larger than f/2.8 opens up some creative choices that you simply don't have with the 105mm in my opinion.
While the 85/1.4 is a revered portrait lens, would I be sacrificing much in going to the 85/1.8? The partial stop is almost insignificant. I'm looking for a less expensive alternative myself. What would I be giving up with the 1.8G vs the 1.4G in terms of quality all thing being equal.
So I just picked up an 85/1.4G. Wow. Extraordinary sharpness, amazing bokeh. I'm just scratching the surface, but this was a good investment. It has it's purpose, and will likely be on the camera less often than the 50 or mid range zoom, but the results are stunning.
>So I just picked up an 85/1.4G. Wow. Extraordinary sharpness, >amazing bokeh. I'm just scratching the surface, but this was a >good investment. It has it's purpose, and will likely be on >the camera less often than the 50 or mid range zoom, but the >results are stunning.
>While the 85/1.4 is a revered portrait lens, would I be sacrificing >much in going to the 85/1.8? The partial stop is almost >insignificant. I'm looking for a less expensive alternative myself. >What would I be giving up with the 1.8G vs the 1.4G in terms of >quality all thing being equal.
Hello! So how's the 85 1.4? Still loving it? I'm kinda in the same boat but leaning towards the 85 1.8G (that you were also considering)for my D600 that I just picked up. I was also considering the 105/2.8 micro and the 105 DC. However aside from portraiture I was also hoping to use this lens for middle/high school basketball in small dimly lit gyms. I normally use a 50 1.8D which I already had on my D70 and would like to get a little bit closer.
Have you tried your 85 1.4 for action shots? Does it focus fast enough? Per reviews the 1.8G AF speed should be pretty close.
>>So I just picked up an 85/1.4G. Wow. Extraordinary >sharpness, >>amazing bokeh. I'm just scratching the surface, but this >was a >>good investment. It has it's purpose, and will likely be >on >>the camera less often than the 50 or mid range zoom, but >the >>results are stunning.
A follow up question for ALL, specially those who have the 85 1.4/8G, would the 85 1.8G a good choice for portrature and indoor basketball in small dimly lit gyms? Is the AF fast enough?
I do plan on purchasing a 70-200 f4 maybe 6 months for now but I know that would be to slow. Maybe I hit the jackpot and can afford the 70-200 2.8 but chances are slim.
Sat 22-Dec-12 02:39 PM | edited Sat 22-Dec-12 02:42 PM by JonK
All of the advice above is valid; the choice of lens is subjective,l and depends on what you shoot, where you shoot, and how far away you are from the subject.
In high school and college the 105mm f/2.5 was my favorite and most-used lens. The added working distance made me less obtrusive, less part of the moment. The 105mm made for a great candid or street lens, super sharp and with excellent bokeh. The 85mm f/1.4 is stellar, in a class by itself, so fast and with perfect bokeh.
Fast forward thirty years. On a DX body I used the 85mm more because the crop factor made the 105mm a bit tight. That was, of course, true of the 85mm too, but I just backed up a bit.
Fast forward to today, where I am again shooting FX. I can use both lenses again, just like years ago. Two differences: the current 105mm f/2.8 is almost twice is big as my old 105mm f/2.5, and I'm not sure the bokeh is as nice. Also, I'm trying to break my habit of the past ten years of grabbing the 70-200mm f/2.8…
BTW, the sharpness of the 105mm — or any lens other than the 85mm f/1.4 shot wide open — can easily and wonderfully be handled by the NIK Dynamic Skin Softener filter!
The real answer: you should try them both. There is no wrong choice here; you want to determine your preference.
Jon Kandel A New York City Nikonian and Team Member Please visit my website and critique the images!