Image on the left Nikon 105mm 1.4E and the Nikon 85mm 1.4G on the right (shot on D5 @ f1.4)
The Answer – The Nikon AF-S 105mm f1.4E-ED
This is what Nikon has to say ‘This short telephoto lens can defocus backgrounds with painterly finesse and isolate subjects with three-dimensional fidelity. For those seeking the ultimate in image quality in photography or videography, there’s no close second.’
The 105mm f1.4 E features a complex optical design with 14 elements in 9 groups, and a minimum focus distance of 3.28 ft (1.0 m) making it ideal for portraits and Beauty work.
“But I use an 85mm for headshots”
The 105mm has a slightly narrower angle of view and a slightly greater image magnification than the 85mm, resulting in marginally more pronounced subject isolation, the 105mm has long been a popular alternative to the 85mm.
The Nikon 85mm 1.4G suffers from more Chromatic Aberration, more distortion and isn’t as sharp as the 105mm E, added to this the 105mm has a nice ‘natural vignette’ present at most apertures*.
How good is it? Compared to say the Nikon 105mm 2.8G & 85mm 1.4G?
Results from DXOmark (DXO dubbed it ‘The best performing lens in the lineup below 200mm)
105mm 1.4E Sharpness 33P-mpix whereas the 105mm f2.8G IF-ED Micro lens has a score of 21P-mpix
and the 85mm 1.4G score is 30P-mpix. The older 105mm f2DC lens scores 23p-mpix.
Although the 105mm has high sharpness wide-open and excellent peripheral sharpness, peak performance is achieved at f/5.6-8 (this is the case for most lenses).
*The 105mm also has quite significant vignetting (-2 EV wide open) which (in my opinion) is actually a nice thing for portrait lenses.
With the much rumored Nikon D850 just around the corner (45Mpix)* only the best glass will do! We will be doing a full test on the D850 as soon as we can get our hands on one!
Front filter thread 82mm (you might want to consider ND filters to take advantage of f1.4 aperture)
Why not try it next time you hire the 85mm 1.4G or 105mm 2.8G and see for yourself!