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User Review of AF 85 1.8 and 105 2.5 AIS

Joe Guzzi

Deland, US
67 posts

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Joe Guzzi Basic Member
Sun 22-Jul-01 10:48 AM

A few weeks ago I posted a question asking about the AF85 1.8D and the 105 2.5 AIS, mainly to be used for head, and head and shoulder portraits. I received several replies, one of them included an offer of borrowing both so I could compare and decide for myself. That is what I have done. Thanks again Al.

I shot several rolls of different film, both color and B&W 400, with each lens. Sometimes half with one, half with the other, and the same subject at the same time under the same conditions. I used both of them from wide open to f/5.6, mainly head, and head and shoulder portraits. I used manual focus with the 85 but did try auto focus just messing around to see the focus speed of this internal focus lens.

The AF85 1.8 (non D) is a very sharp lens, even at 1.8 it's plenty sharp, but at this large an aperture depth of field is very narrow and you must focus manually. At 1.8, if the subject’s head is turned a little you must focus on the closest eye and only that eye will be sharp, the back eye is not. At 2.8 depth of field increases to the point where both eyes will be sharp, but it does depend on how much the head is turned. By f4 nearly the entire head will be in good focus and the lens is about as sharp as it's going to get. At all of these apertures the background is totally blurred. This lens has detents at 1.8, 2 through 16, and you can set it in between detents for half or third stops. At large apertures brokeh is very nice, but I noticed an occasional ‘ringing’ or a doubling of out of focus highlights. I did not have any problem with flare, but I always used the included lens hood, and didn’t use the lens in situations where flare could be a problem.

The 105 2.5 AIS is also a sharp lens, but at 2.5 it has a wonderful natural softness. At 2.5 the front of the face is in focus, if the head is turned a little both eyes will be in acceptable focus, but you still must focus on the front eye. At f4 sharpness increases, and nearly the entire head will be in focus but you still must focus carefully. At all of these apertures the background is very blurred. By 5.6 it's about as sharp as it's going to get and exact focus isn't quite as critical. This lens has detents at 2.5, 2.8 through 22 at full stops, and you can set it in between detents for half or third stops. I think the brokeh may be a bit better with this lens and I didn’t see any of the ringing that I did with the 85. At 2.5 I had an occasional smearing effect to the way out of focus background.

Both of these lenses let you explore selective focus, the 85 more so because of the extra stop and resulting shallower DOF. I found the most used range is from 2.8 to 4.0, but there are times where a little more or a little less is called for.

One big difference between these two is focus feel, needless to say the AIS wins hands down. Another is working distance, the 105 gives you an extra foot or two, you don't invade the subject’s personal space like you can with the 85 for head shots. The 85 would be better if you were limited in space, and it also would be better in low light situations because of the extra stop.

I have a N70 and there were several reasons why I wanted to prefer the 85. It’s an AF lens and would be more versatile than the manual focus only 105. I already have two other lenses that accept 62mm filters. The larger maximum aperture gives me more lens speed, something I need to inject into my lens collection.

Once I used both of them I found myself only reaching for the 105 2.5 AIS. I prefer it for several reasons. The natural softness at 2.5, slightly better brokeh with no ringing in the out of focus highlights, a little more working room, and the feel. In fact, I like it so much I decided to buy a clean one. Looking at used prices at KEH the best example was $275 without caps so I spent $349.95 US for a new grey market one from B&H. I received it two days ago and comparing it to Al’s very clean twenty year old version it looks the same in all aspects.


Joe Guzzi

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