Nikon 85mm f/3.5 DX VR Micro-NIKKOR ED AF-S

Written by

Model: 85mm-f35G-ED-VR
Specifications: 1:1 maximum magnification
F/3.5 maximum aperture
VR II – Vibration Reduction
Dedicated DX (Cropped Sensor) lens
True Internal Focus (IF) design
AF-S (Silent-Wave Autofocus)
Price: R6000
Product Link:

Ease of Use: 5 / 5

Pricing: 5 / 5

Video Quality: 5 / 5

Photo Quality: 5 / 5

Features: 5 / 100

The Nikon 85mm lens is a very interesting lens, to say the least. When it was released, many asked what it’s purpose was and whether it is worth it. Unfortunately this answer isn’t that straight forward. Price-wise this lens is the same as the venerable 60mm f/2.8 lens, but a good R3500 cheaper the high-end 105mm f/2.8.

The 85mm is solid and the build quality seems very decent for a lens in this class. The fact that this is a AF-S lens, counts heavily in its favour. This basically means that the 85mm is compatible with ALL Nikon DX format DSLRs, even the ones without an AF motor, like the D300, D3100, D3200, D5000 and D5100.

On the DX format DSLRs from Nikon, it translates to the full-format equivalent of 127.5mm. This puts the 85mm into portrait lens territory. But therein also lies part of the dilemma. The slower maximum aperture makes the 85mm less attractive as a portrait lens. Luckily it has VR II optical image stabilisation and the bokeh looked rather pleasing, due to the 9 bladed aperture designs.

As you’d expect from a fixed focal length lens, the 85mm is very sharp and doesn’t suffer from any real distortions. Wide open though, the vignetting is slightly higher than I would have suspected and the only flaw seems to be the Chromatic Aberrations (CA) (fringing). This lens unfortunately suffers from both magenta and cyan CAs. Luckily this problem can be solved with post processing, especially when shooting in RAW. Strangely this problem only occurred with the D3200. With the D7000 the lens was basically CA free.



Overall, the Nikon 85mm focuses very fast, as you’d expect from a fixed focal lens. The lens did struggle more in low light conditions, especially when having to focus at closer distances. This does not mean to say that it was slow in low light conditions. Overall the lens focuses quite fast, and will not hinder shooting.

So is this lens worth it?

Yes, I would say so. This is a sharp lens with minor manageable CAs and otherwise minimal distortions. The slower aperture gets help from the VR II, which helps with very pleasing results. The price tag also helps put this lens more into amateur and hobbyist photographer’s league, those looking for a dedicated macro lens at a decent price.

Mechanical Performance: 3.5/5
Optical Performance: 3.5/5
Value: 4/5
Overall: 3.5/5

Like our Fortress of Solitude Facebook page and Follow us on our @Fortressofs Twitter account.


  1. Marc Crowther

    I bought the 105mm f/2.8 for my D3200. Pro Grade, with Nano coating and it’s a Full Frame for my potential move to Full Frame later on. It only cost an extra 3k which for the grade lens if not a lot more, plus Macro Work is easier at longer distances. My 40mm Macro at 1:1 was way to close to the lens. :)

  2. Hein Schlebusch

    Hey Marc

    I fully agree with you on the 105mm lens. It most definitely is the “big daddy” macro lens in the Nikon line-up and the fact that its an FX lens is huge. I’ve shot with it and its probably the sharpest lens I’ve every used.
    R3k+ is a lot of money for many. Depending on websites I saw up to a R4k difference. The other thing might also be that not all want to eventually go on to full frame, or even think that far ahead. The 85mm is a versatile lens that can also be used for portraits and gives very good results for the price its in.

    But if you do have the cash, the 105mm is probably the best lens you can buy for that money. :)

Leave a Comment