Nikon Z 85mm f/1.2 S Review


The Z 85mm f1.2 S is an ultra-fast short telephoto portrait lens for Nikon’s extensive range of Z-series mirrorless cameras.It’s primarily intended for use with professional Z-series full-frame cameras like the Z9 and Z8, but it is also compatible with Nikon’s APS-C camera range too, where the effective focal length would be 127.5mm.Designated with the “S” moniker, lenses in this line are designed for ultimate sharpness (hence the S). It is the second f/1.2 lens for Z-series cameras, joining the Z 50mm f1.2 S prime.Lens construction for the Nikon Z 85mm f1.2 S lens includes 15 elements in 10 groups, including 1 ED element, 2 aspherical elements and elements with Nano Crystal Coating. Nikon claims that this lens is incredibly sharp from edge to edge, and with its f/1.2 maximum aperture is ideally designed for low-light shooting.The lens is completely dust and moisture sealed. There are 11 diaphragm blades which are designed to help produce attractive out of focus areas.Portrait photography is the obvious kind of subject for an 85mm lens, but it’s also something you could consider for other subjects including pet photography, still life photography, street photography and wedding photography.The Nikon Z 85mm f1.2 S lens is available now priced at £2999 / $2799 in the UK and USA, respectively.This lens was first announced in February 2023. It is designed in Japan and made in China.

Ease of Use

The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.2 S is one of Nikon’s larger lenses in the Z series, with its size and weight being unsurprising considering the very wide maximum aperture of f/1.2.
It’s significantly larger than the much more compact 85mm f/1.8 S lens – and probably not one you’d want to consider as an “everyday” or “walk around” lens, but more for specific shooting requirements or events, such as portraits, weddings and so on.
At 1160g / 2 lb 9oz, it’s even heavier than the 50mm f/1.2 and much, much heavier than the f/1.8 version which tips the scales at a more manageable 470g.
Measuring 102.5mm x 141.5mm / 4.1in. x 5.6in. (diameter / length), again its a lot bigger than the f/1/8 lens, as you’d expect, which measures 75mm x 99mm.

Having said all of that, though, it still balances fairly well with full-frame cameras in the Z series – we’ve been using it with the Zf, but it would also work even better with the Z8 and Z9.
Although it will fit on the Nikon Z APS-C models, the smaller size of those cameras would make it very front-heavy and generally unwieldy to use.
Similarly to the other lenses in this line-up, build construction is very high quality, with a metal lens mount.
To attach the lens to your camera, you first need to line up the white dot around the base of the lens to the white dot on the lens mount.
Once you’ve done that, twist it to lock into place. When you want to release the lens, you need to push down the button at the side of the lens mount and twist in the opposite direction.

Like most Z mount lenses, the outward construction is fairly simple and straightforward. Towards the base you have the focal length and aperture written (85 / 1.2 S), while just next to it is a switch for moving between autofocus and manual focus. When working in autofocus, you can still manually override the focus if necessary.
A thin, ridged ring sits towards the base of the lens. This is a control ring which can be set to a few different functions via the main menu.
It will have a default option, for example adjusting aperture in aperture priority, but you can also assign it to exposure compensation or ISO sensitivity if you prefer.
You can even set it to have function whatsoever, which might be helpful if you were worried about accidentally knocking it and changing a setting.

At the centre of the lens, you have one more control that is only found on Nikon’s more expensive, premium-end Z series lenses, namely a customisable L-Fn button.
Unlike the control dial, the L-Fn button can be assigned to a far greater range of controls, including metering, switching on raw, zooming into the scene (to check for focus), playback and much more. Again, you can also have it set to “none” if you prefer.
Strangely, there’s no OLED display window on this lens, as found on the comparable 50mm f1.2 where it displays either the aperture or focusing distance.
A large ring in the centre of the lens is used for adjusting manual focus. This is ridged and has just enough give to make slight adjustments easy to do.
However, it doesn’t have hard stops at either end to help you ascertain when you’ve reached the maximum/minimum focusing limit.

If you are using manual focusing, there are some settings you can activate to make it easier. From the camera’s main menu, switching on focus peaking will help you ensure easier focus, while zooming into the scene can also ensure focusing is on point – which is especially important if you want to focus manually at very wide apertures such as f/1.2.
Focusing, if you choose to stick with autofocusing, is very quick, and very quiet, which makes it ideal for use in a wide range of situations where quiet focusing is advantageous – for example while shooting video, or in quiet places such as churches.
A very large lens hood is supplied in the box (HB-106), which you can attach to the front of the lens. To do this, you need to line up the white dot on the lens hood with the white dot at the front of the lens.
Simply then twist it to lock it into place – and do the reverse when you want to take it off. You can also turn the lens hood backwards for easier storage and transportation.

Focal Range
The Nikon Z 85mm f1.2 S lens has a single focal length. If using the lens on a full-frame camera with DX format activated, or with a DX-camera, the equivalent focal length is 127.5mm. The angle of view when shooting in FX format is 28°30’, and in the DX format, 18°50’.

Chromatic Aberrations
The Nikon Z 85mm f1.2 S lens has been designed to the highest optical standards, and as such we wouldn’t expect to find too much evidence of chromatic aberration. Usually typified as blue or purple fringing along high-contrast edges, it is often a problem with cheaper lenses.
We struggled to find any incidence of chromatic aberration appearing with this lens, even when examining images closely at 100%.

At the widest aperture of f1.2, there is some slight noticeable shading in the corners when photographing a white wall. This is not something which is overly noticeable with more usual subjects, and the effect lessens at f/2.0, before pretty much disappearing altogether at f/2.8.

Pin-cushion distortion is well controlled in both the JPEG and RAW files.

Sunstars and Flare
The Nikon Z 85mm f/1.2 S is capable of creating quite nice sunstars when stopped-down to f/16, as shown below, and flare is also well controlled even when shooting directly into the sun.

The Nikon Z 85mm f1.2 S lens is not a designated close-up or macro lens, but thanks to its focal length, it’s still a good option to consider when shooting classic macro-type subjects, such as flowers. The minimum focusing distance is 0.85 m / 2.79 ft and the maximum magnification is 0.11x.

Bokeh is the word used to describe the out of focus area in an image. It is generally described in qualitative terms, such as creamy, smooth or pleasing.
With a very wide maximum aperture, 11 rounded diaphragm blades, and a mid-range focal length, we’d expect the bokeh from the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.2 S lens to be nothing less than stellar, and it certainly does not disappoint.
Bokeh here is rounded and attractive, while also producing a natural drop-off effect from the main subject. Since feelings on bokeh can be quite subjective, we have included some examples below to help you make your own mind up.

In order to show you how sharp the Nikon Z 85mm f/1.2 S lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

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