Best Nikon Lens for Portraits – AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 prime lens

In 35 mm format photography a “normal” 50mm lens is very good for many tasks including portraiture, but the 85 mm short telephoto really shines in this style of photography. This Nikkor lens has evolved over the years and as a review I am committed to presenting you information from personal experience with a product – so my lens is an older model, now “archived” as Nikon calls it. My lens is pictured below.

Currently available versions include the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G and the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8G ED lenses. The latter enhancement includes “Extra-low Distortion” glass and is priced at about $50 more for this added feature. And the ultimate 85mm lens from Nikon is the AF-S NIKKOR 85mm f/1.4G lens. I have read several reviews of this lens in which the reviewers were heaping praise upon the designers for making a lens with such a beautiful creamy bokeh. Well it had better be darn creamy for an extra $1000 above the f1.8 lenses!

So getting back to my golden oldie AF NIKKOR 85mm f/1.8 – I frankly don’t recall if I purchased this lens new in-box or if it was used. Nevertheless, the image below of my infant daughter was taken in September, 2007 with a Nikon D1x (a mere 5 megapixel camera):

“Olivia” shot with D1x at ISO 400, f1.8, 1/6000s on Sunday September 9, 2007

I don’t know what you, dear reader, think about this photo but I think that the bokeh is pretty darn creamy! And if you want creamier bokeh go ahead and spend another $1000 above the f1.8 price points! If I can produce an image like this on a D1x camera imagine how beautiful the images will be on a 36 megapixel D800! By the way, I had an awesome 11×17 print made that still hangs in her grandparents’ home.

This is perhaps my favorite lens in my entire kit. It is probably worth your time, if you are considering the addition of a prime portrait lens to your collection, to look for used 85mm Nikon lenses in Excellent condition (meaning they were cared for by previous owners). If you cannot find a decent used lens, the f1.8 variants I have mentioned are both great lenses and you can expect excellent results in your portraiture work.

Bottom Line

  • Fast 1.8 aperture
  • New models are reasonably affordable
  • Used, “archived” models in great shape would be an excellent buy
  • Find a way to include one in your camera bag

Best Nikon Lens for Portraits – AF Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 prime lens




Fast f1.8 aperture


Suitable for portraiture