Nikon 105mm f/1.4 vs. Nikon 85mm f/1.4: The Ultimate In-Depth Battle for Portrait Photography Supremacy

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As a portrait photographer, you know the importance of choosing the perfect lens to capture those breathtaking portraits that stand the test of time. With countless options available in the market, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to select the ideal lens for your needs.

Two lenses that have caught the attention of portrait photographers around the globe are the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F1.4E ED and the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm F1.4G.

Both lenses are revered for their impeccable image quality and stunning bokeh, but how do they compare against each other in terms of performance, build quality, and value for money?

In this article, we’ll delve deep into the world of portrait photography and provide you with an in-depth comparison of these two renowned lenses, helping you make an informed decision on which lens will bring your creative vision to life.

So, let’s embark on this fascinating journey and discover the unique characteristics that set these two lenses apart and learn which one has the potential to elevate your portrait photography to new heights.


Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F1.4E EDNikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm F1.4G
Max ApertureF1.4F1.4
Aperture TypeFixedFixed
Focal Range (mm)10585
Max Format35mm FF35mm FF

Comparing the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 85mm f/1.4, we can see that both lenses have a wide maximum aperture of f/1.4, which enables better low-light performance, shallower depth of field, and improved image quality. Both lenses also have a fixed aperture and are designed for use with full-frame (35mm) cameras.

The main difference between the two lenses is their focal length. The 105mm lens offers greater compression and a more flattering perspective for portraits, while the 85mm lens is a popular choice for portrait photography due to its balance between subject isolation and background inclusion.

In terms of low light performance, depth of field, and image quality, both lenses should perform similarly given their equal maximum aperture. However, the 105mm lens might provide more flattering facial features and better subject isolation due to its longer focal length.

Size, weight, and cost are other factors to consider, with the 105mm lens likely being larger, heavier, and more expensive than the 85mm lens.

In conclusion, neither lens is definitively superior, as each has its own strengths and weaknesses. The choice between the 105mm and the 85mm depends on your specific needs and preferences. If you prioritize greater subject isolation and a more flattering perspective for portraits, the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 may be the better choice. On the other hand, if you prefer a more versatile lens with a slightly wider field of view and potentially lower cost, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 could be the better option.

Design and Ease of Use

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F1.4E EDNikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm F1.4G
Diameter x Length (mm)⌀94.5×106mm⌀86.5×84mm
Weight (gr)985660
Filter Thread (mm)8277
Distance ScaleYesYes
DoF ScaleNoYes
Hood CodeHB-79HB-55

Comparing the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 85mm f/1.4, we can see some differences in their physical dimensions and weight. The 105mm lens has a diameter of 94.5mm and a length of 106mm, while the 85mm lens is slightly smaller with a diameter of 86.5mm and a length of 84mm. In terms of weight, the 105mm lens is considerably heavier at 985g compared to the 85mm lens, which weighs 660g.

These differences in size and weight can impact various aspects of photography, including portability, balance, discreetness, storage, and ease of lens swapping. The smaller and lighter 85mm lens offers advantages in terms of portability and discreetness, making it easier to carry around and less conspicuous in situations where blending in is important. It also takes up less space in your camera bag and is generally easier to handle when swapping lenses.

On the other hand, the larger and heavier 105mm lens may offer better balance when mounted on a camera, particularly if the camera body is also larger and heavier. However, its size and weight may make it more cumbersome to carry around, particularly during long shoots or when traveling.

In conclusion, neither lens is definitively superior, as the choice between the 105mm and the 85mm depends on your specific needs and preferences. If portability, discreetness, and ease of handling are your top priorities, the 85mm may be the better choice. However, if you prioritize a longer focal length for more flattering portraits and don’t mind the extra weight and size, the105mm could be the better option.

Lens Mount and Barrel

The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 features a metal lens mount with a rubber gasket that aids in reducing dust infiltration into the camera and lens. On the other hand, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens mount is made of dull-chromed brass and also includes a rubber gasket for weather sealing purposes.

Regarding the lens barrel, the 105mm is built with a polycarbonate shell which, despite the plastic exterior, has a solid construction with several metal components. Conversely, the 85mm lens barrel uses durable materials like magnesium alloy and high-quality plastics, providing a sturdy feel and a professional semi-roughed black finish.

Weather Sealing

When comparing the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lenses based on weather sealing, we find that the 105mm offers more robust protection against the elements. This lens is well-sealed and gasketed to resist dust and moisture, featuring a rubber gasket on its mount and fluorine coatings on the front and rear elements to repel fingerprints and dirt.

In contrast, the 85mm lens has a rubber gasket around the mounting plate for some protection against dust and moisture, but it lacks full weather sealing. There are no internal seals at the rings, switches, or front of the barrel, and the front element does not have a fluorine coating.

Weather sealing is an important consideration for photographers who frequently shoot outdoors or in unpredictable conditions, as it provides better protection, durability, and performance for the lens. While weather sealing may not be essential for portrait lenses in controlled environments, it can offer valuable peace of mind and protection for your investment when shooting in various conditions.

In conclusion, the 105mm lens has superior weather sealing compared to the 85mm lens. This feature makes the 105mm a better choice for photographers who often work outdoors or in challenging environments, as it provides enhanced protection and durability, ensuring optimal performance and longevity.


The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens features a large, 95mm diameter focus ring that is the largest in its class, allowing for easy focus override. The ring has a smooth movement with a 110-degree throw, providing accurate manual focus. Additionally, this lens includes a distance scale window and a switch for toggling between autofocus and manual focus. The focus ring boasts an ergonomic bevel and excellent tactile experience, contributing to its overall superior design.

On the other hand, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens has a single focusing ring located at the front of the barrel, covered in rubber for a comfortable grip. While the ring offers a positive feel and allows for fine adjustments, the distance scale window is barely visible, and the depth-of-field markings are only provided for f/16, making them less user-friendly.

Considering ergonomics, precision, control, build quality, and tactile feedback, the 105mm lens has a superior ring design compared to the 85mm lens. The larger focus ring, smooth movement, and ergonomic bevel make it easier to achieve precise focus, while the clearly visible distance scale window and convenient autofocus/manual focus switch add to its user-friendliness.

Overall, the 105mm lens offers a better experience in terms of ring design and functionality, making it the preferable choice for photographers seeking optimal control and handling.


Comparing the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lenses in terms of their switches/buttons, we can see some distinct differences.

The 105mm lens features a switch located on the left of the distance scale, enabling users to effortlessly shift between autofocus with manual focus override and manual focus. Additionally, this lens offers a full-time manual focus override via the M/A focus switch on the lens barrel. The focus distance window comes in handy for photographers aiming to preset focus to a specific distance.

Conversely, the 85mm lens is equipped with just one control switch: the focus toggle. This switch is responsible for alternating between autofocus and manual focus operation, providing fewer options compared to the 105mm lens.

Taking into account the available switches and buttons on each lens, the 105mm lens emerges as the superior choice. Its versatility in offering both a dedicated autofocus with manual focus override switch and an M/A focus switch grants photographers greater control and flexibility in various shooting scenarios.

Filter Thread

The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lenses feature different filter thread sizes, with the former sporting an 82mm filter thread and the latter a 77mm thread. The larger 82mm filter thread on the 105mm lens permits more light to pass through, resulting in soft, circular bokeh. Additionally, its front element does not rotate when focusing, making it user-friendly with polarizing filters. However, this 82mm filter thread size might be more expensive due to its larger size compared to standard filter threads.

In contrast, the 85mm lens comes with a 77mm metal filter thread that remains stationary during focusing, ensuring easy use with filters like polarizers. The included plastic bayonet hood doesn’t utilize the filter thread, allowing for simple attachment and removal of the lens cap.

Considering the filter thread sizes and usability, the 105mm lens holds a slight advantage due to its larger filter thread size, enabling the creation of beautiful, soft bokeh.

Nevertheless, photographers should also take into account their existing equipment, filter availability, and cost, as the 77mm filter thread on the 85mm lens might offer better compatibility and more affordable options.

Ultimately, the ideal filter thread size depends on personal preferences, photography needs, and the photographer’s existing gear.

Lens Hood

The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lenses come with their respective lens hoods included in the box/package.

The 105mm features a plastic HB-79 bayonet lens hood, which is easily mounted but tends to bend when pushed into place, giving it a less premium feel. Its smooth counter-clockwise rotation allows for easy attachment and detachment.

On the other hand, the 85mm includes a black plastic bayonet lens hood with a beveled shape, offering a visually appealing design. While it rotates smoothly on the lens, it may not accommodate larger filters like variable NDs. The hood provides adequate protection and shading for the lens, despite not being the best compared to previous models.

Focusing and Optical Stabilization

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F1.4E EDNikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm F1.4G
AF MotorSilent Wave MotorSilent Wave Motor
Rotating Front ElementDoes not rotate on focusingDoes not rotate on focusing
Min Focus Distance1m0.85m
Max Magnification (X)0.130.12
Full-Time Manual FocusYesYes
Focus MethodInternalInternal

Focusing Performance

The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lenses both boast impressive focusing performance. The 105mm lens features a quiet autofocus system with barely audible operation and a fast autofocus speed, making it suitable for still portraits and moving subjects. Its fine motor ensures accurate focus, while the internally focusing design and non-rotating front element enhance usability. The lens performs decently in low-light situations, outperforming some other lenses in dim environments.

On the other hand, the 85mm lens employs Silent Wave Motor technology for virtually silent and fast autofocus, ideal for a portrait lens. Its manual focus override and positive-feeling focusing ring allow for fine adjustments without hassle. The autofocus accuracy at f/1.4 is excellent, and the non-rotating, non-extending lens barrel makes it compatible with various filters. Though slower than its predecessor, the 85mm excels in reliability and focus accuracy.

While both lenses offer commendable focusing performance, the 85mm’s virtually silent autofocus, focus accuracy, and compatibility with various filters give it an edge over the 105mm.

Optical Stabilization

Both the 105mm and 85mm lenses lack optical stabilization, or Vibration Reduction (VR) as Nikon calls it.

The 105mm’s absence of optical stabilization may be due to the potential increase in weight and price, which Nikon considered unwise. Handheld shooting with this lens can be challenging, and photographers should use conservative shutter speeds. Although Tamron has demonstrated that large aperture primes can have image stabilization without compromising image quality, this lens doesn’t include it. Using a stabilized body like the Z7 or Z6 allows photographers to shoot confidently at 1/60 second without motion blur, but this doesn’t help Nikon DSLR users.

Similarly, the 85mm lens doesn’t have optical stabilization, which can introduce jitter into handheld video footage, affecting videographers’ work.

In conclusion, neither the 105mm nor the 85mm offers optical stabilization. As a result, there is no clear winner in this category. Photographers should consider their specific shooting situations and whether the lack of optical stabilization will impact their work. Using a stabilized camera body or employing other techniques, such as using a tripod or faster lenses, can help mitigate the lack of optical stabilization in these lenses.

Image Quality

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm F1.4E EDNikon AF-S NIKKOR 85mm F1.4G
Special Elements3 ED elements + Nano Crystal and fluorine coatingsSuper Integrated Coating, Nano Crystal Coating
Diaphragm Blades99
Circular ApertureYesYes


The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens displays some longitudinal chromatic aberration (LoCA) at wide apertures, with magenta coloration in the foreground and greenish hues in the background. However, this LoCA is generally not noticeable in real-world situations, except in the presence of specular highlights. Lateral chromatic aberration is moderate and on par with other similar lenses at large apertures. Spherochromatism, or “color bokeh,” is not a significant concern with this lens. Overall, the 105mm performs well in terms of chromatic aberration, spherical aberration, and coma.

On the other hand, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens exhibits very little lateral chromatic aberration, with only slight fringing towards the corners that is corrected in-camera. Axial chromatic aberration, or bokeh fringing, is present but fairly mild even at wide apertures. Spherochromatism can be observed at large apertures, but this is expected in long, fast lenses and can sometimes enhance the blur in green out-of-focus backgrounds. The lens shows some residual spherical aberration, causing a slight focus shift when stopping down, but overall sharpness remains excellent at certain apertures. Coma is evident when shooting wide-open, but can be reduced by stopping down slightly.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit some aberrations, with the 105mm showing moderate LoCA and lateral chromatic aberration, while the 85mm displays slight axial chromatic aberration and spherochromatism. Although neither lens is perfect in terms of aberration control, the 85mm outperforms the 105mm with less noticeable chromatic aberration.


The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens is renowned for its remarkable sharpness, earning accolades as one of the sharpest lenses some users have experienced. At its wide-open aperture of f/1.4, it captures sharp details on subjects, with the sharpness only improving when stopped down. The center of the lens exhibits the greatest sharpness, but the edges also maintain acceptable levels. At f/2.8, the lens resolves an impressive amount of detail, outperforming many other Nikon primes. The 105mm also performs well when paired with a teleconverter, and its exceptional sharpness makes it a top choice for portrait photography.

In contrast, the 85mm lens delivers excellent center sharpness at f/2.8 and very good corner sharpness at f/4, maintaining its performance until diffraction affects sharpness at f/16. The lens is sharp and contrasty at f/1.4, reaching peak sharpness across the frame at f/8. Although sharpness is slightly reduced at f/1.4 and f/2.0, the lens still performs remarkably well, achieving good sharpness even at wide-open apertures—a common expectation for high-end portrait lenses.

In conclusion, both the 105mm and the 85mm lenses offer superb sharpness for portrait photography. However, the 105mm stands out as the superior choice in terms of sharpness, delivering outstanding detail resolution and edge-to-edge sharpness, particularly when stopped down to f/2.8.

Bokeh Quality

The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens produces a variety of bokeh qualities, but overall, the bokeh is smooth, beautiful, and pleasing to the eye.

It can create dreamy and creamy background highlights without thick borders or onion-shaped rings, even when shooting wide open at f/1.4. The elliptical shapes swirling around the subject, known as “cat’s eye bokeh,” are typical for prime lenses and can give a special and appealing look to images. The lens also boasts an aperture range between f/1.4 and f/16 with nine aperture blades, contributing to soft, circular bokeh. While there are some color artifacts and a significant amount of vignetting when shooting wide open, the bokeh quality is still impressive, effectively isolating subjects from the background—ideal for portraiture and other types of photography.

On the other hand, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens produces beautiful and smooth bokeh, essential for portrait photography. The background becomes soft and undistracting even at smaller apertures, while the subject remains extremely sharp. This lens renders out-of-focus elements with a buttery quality, and its bokeh performance is excellent.

However, there may be some nervousness or outlining in the transition zone, and noticeable bokeh fringing is present at large aperture settings, which can be reduced by stopping down. Nonetheless, the lens is highly recommended for its superb job at isolating subjects and delivering exceptionally beautiful background blur.

In conclusion, both the 105mm and the 85mm lenses offer outstanding bokeh quality, making them excellent choices for portrait photography. However, the 105mm lens stands out with its dreamy, creamy background highlights and the captivating “cat’s eye bokeh,” providing a unique and pleasing look to images. The 105mm is the superior choice for bokeh quality, adding a creative touch and effectively isolating subjects from their backgrounds.


The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens exhibits varying degrees of flare and ghosting, depending on the shooting conditions. When shooting into the sun without the lens hood, ghosting and flare are more likely to appear in images, especially at wider apertures. However, with the lens hood attached and in most situations, the lens handles ghosting and flare quite well, thanks to the Nano Crystal Coat applied to the lens elements.

The lens can still produce a soft and pleasing flaring effect, which can be easily minimized or maximized as desired. When shooting with very bright sources of light at particular angles, light rays can negatively impact images, adding some ghosting and flare. Despite this, the overall performance is not bad, and the lens can produce pleasant-looking background highlights, especially when shooting at wider apertures.

On the other hand, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens is equipped with Nano Crystal optical coatings that effectively minimize ghosting and flare. However, when shooting directly into the sun or with a bright light source, flares and ghosts can still appear in images, depending on the angle and position. To prevent these issues, it is recommended to keep the supplied plastic hood on at all times. Despite some loss of contrast when shooting straight into the light, the lens still produces sharp and contrasty images under a wide range of lighting conditions.

In conclusion, both lenses have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to flare and ghosting. However, the 85mm lens has a slight edge in managing these issues, thanks to its consistent performance under various lighting conditions.


The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens produces noticeable vignetting at wider apertures, especially at f/1.4. However, this can be part of the lens design and can create a pleasing effect, particularly for portraits. Vignetting is easily correctable using post-processing software like Lightroom. The lens hood included with the lens helps to minimize vignetting. While vignetting is present, it may not be significant enough to be noticed by most viewers in real-world situations. Moreover, the vignetting effect decreases significantly when stopping down the aperture, so it’s not a major issue.

On the other hand, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens exhibits strong vignetting at f/1.4 and f/2, but this can be desirable for portraits and can be compensated for using post-processing software. The levels of vignetting can vary between different lenses and even between different apertures of the same lens, but it is not necessarily a problem and can be part of the lens’s unique rendering style.

While some photographers may choose to remove vignetting through automated tools, others appreciate it as part of the lens’s character. It’s essential to note that vignetting can also be affected by factors such as the camera used and shooting conditions.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit vignetting, particularly at wider apertures. The 105mm lens shows noticeable vignetting but is not a major issue, while the 85mm lens has strong vignetting that some photographers may find appealing. Since vignetting can be easily corrected in post-processing or minimized by stopping down the aperture, neither lens has a clear advantage in this aspect. It ultimately comes down to personal preference and the desired artistic effect for your photography.


The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens exhibits relatively little barrel distortion, as evidenced in a portrait photo shoot with a photographer’s niece and sister. This distortion can be easily corrected in post-processing software, such as Photoshop’s lens distortion filter. However, there is some slight pincushion distortion at 0.84%, which is still considered acceptable and not noticeable in images.

In comparison, the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lens shows a little bit of barrel distortion, which is almost non-existent when shooting at longer distances. At relatively close distances, Imatest measured barrel pincushion of 0.38%, which is negligible. Although noticeable distortion and some color fringing can be observed when the lens is used fully open in exceptional cases, stopping down the lens a bit does help to prevent this, or it can be fixed in post-processing.

The distortion pattern is somewhat peculiar, with straight lines near the center appearing almost straight but with a visible increase in the amount of curvature towards the corners of the image area. Overall, the level of distortion is low, and the problem can be easily fixed in post-processing software using lens correction modules.

In conclusion, both lenses exhibit minimal distortion, with the 105mm lens having slightly more pincushion distortion at 0.84% compared to the 85mm lens at 0.38%. However, both lenses offer acceptable distortion levels that can be easily corrected in post-processing. In terms of distortion, the 85mm lens has a slight edge over the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 lens due to its lower distortion values and less peculiar distortion pattern.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, both the Nikon 105mm f/1.4 and the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 lenses excel in portrait photography, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

Considering focal length, sharpness, and bokeh quality, the 105mm lens emerges as the superior choice due to its greater subject isolation, outstanding sharpness, and dreamy bokeh quality. However, the 85mm lens has a slight edge in terms of distortion control and is more affordable.

If money is not a concern and versatility is desired, owning both lenses for portrait photography is a great idea. The Nikon 105mm f/1.4 would be ideal for achieving a more flattering perspective and captivating bokeh, while the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 could serve as a more versatile option with a wider field of view and lower distortion.

Meet the Author

Wei Mao

Wei was a cruise photographer who worked at Disney Cruise Line. He is a lucky traveler who has been to more than 20 countries with his camera while working on an around-the-world cruise. Photography has changed his view of the world forever. Now he wants more people to benefit from photography through his blog.

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