I sold my Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF AF-S to fund the purchase of this much acclaimed lens. It's not that the Ultra Wide Angle (UWA) Nikkor is no good but I'm simply not fond of shooting wides because of DX resolution issues with ultra wide angle lenses and I'm more of a portraitist than a landscapist. I don't want to rot the Nikkor UWA in my bag so I decided to let it go and got myself this portrait lens.
This lens is not locally available so I ordered it from someone who sourced it out in Hong Kong. After four days of eagerly waiting, I finally got this lens and the next day I tried using it on a studio, shooting some lady friends. My first hand experience was not depictive of its capabilities because of the controlled lights we used inside the studio. An outdoor photo opportunity was forthcoming two days after my studio shoot and I was so excited trying out this lens on outdoors for the first time.
It was indeed a pleasurable lens to use and I had a chance to see it in action shooting this wonderful lady from the United Kingdom by the name of Natalie. The Nikkor 85mm f/1.4D IF is one of the best lenses that I have used so far. It is extremely sharp, the contrast and color saturation are good and the bokeh is so smooth and silky that's why it is fondly called as "the creamy lens". The build quality is likewise beyond reproach and good lenses like this are always Made in Japan unlike consumer grade Nikkors which are usually manufactured in Thailand.
The 85mm focal length is best suited for 3/4ths, waist to head shots or half body portraiture while the 105mm focal length is good for head and shoulders portraiture. Having tried it outdoors for the first time and with Natalie as my first subject to work with it, it was really a pleasurable experience. Natalie is a very professional model who is currently based here in the Philippines. Despite her constant movement, which is a sign of an experienced model, the creamy lens is fast enough and can easily adjust its focus with the D200 spinning its motor. I tried shooting at wide open, f/1.8 to f/2.5, the sharpness is impressive and the out of focus portion blends well and the bokeh circles are rounded and not polygonal like my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D AF. It's bokeh rings are bigger than its f/1.8D sibling obviously because it has a wider maximum lens opening.
The blurry background or what we call bokeh is so creamy and not crunchy like the bokeh of my long forgotten Nikkor 70-300mm f/4-5.6G. Compared to my Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D's bokeh, this 85mm is a lot sweeter and smoother. Having tried it indoors inside a moderately lit restaurant, the D200's setting can go down as low as f/1.4 aperture, 1/60th shutter speed @ ISO 200 shooting at 2500 Kelvin to eliminate oversaturation of colors. This lens is very heavy and is made to last for a long time. I am more of an available light shooter than a strobist that's why this lens is a must for me. Although I like playing with the lights in CLS, I still think getting this fast lens can make me a more versatile portraitist. This is a very pricey lens but in photography gears, we always get the advantage of what we pay for no matter how miniscule it may be.
Modelling credits goes to Natalie with whom I'm very grateful for having had the opportunity to shoot a British national for the first time. Make-up by Pam Dionisio.