85mm has long been one of my favorites, if not my favorite focal lengths in 35mm film photography. I've had an 85mm lens in one form or another for about as long as I've been shooting Nikon cameras and I love the way the world looks through this lens. Almost all of Nikon's 85mm lenses, manual focus or autofocus, are superb, but one stands out as legendary--the manual focus f/1.4 AI-s.
I have lusted over this lens for a long time. Every photographer I talked to who has one loves it and every photographer who told me they sold one, regretted it. This is one of those lenses that both collectors and shooters covet, so prices stay pretty high. After watching eBay's ridiculous prices for a while, I decided to have Bellamy Hunt (The Japan Camera Hunter) source mine. I gave him a budget and he found me a minty example for less than the eBay ones I had been drooling over.
I had this lens for about eight months before I got around to shooting it. I'd been on a rangefinder kick and kept pushing this Nikkor aside to shoot my Leicas and Canon P. I'm sorry I waited so long. One roll of Acros in my Nikon F2AS, shooting this lens at Spud Point Marina in Bodega Bay on a Sunday afternoon and I must say, I am impressed.
This lens is super sharp and delivers creamy, dreamy bokeh. It's quite nice for black and white work. Like all Nikon AI-s lenses, it's well made with excellent fit and finish. Focus is smooth and steady with just the perfect amount of friction. F/stops are wonderfully clicky. Only downside is that this is a big and heavy beast...over a pound and a half of metal and glass. Mounted on my F2 body, it is a lot to heft around.
There's a lot to learn and much to explore with this lens. I don't shoot portraits very often, but this lens makes me want to try some. In the meantime, here are some shots from my first roll. Nikon F2AS, 85mm f/1.4 Nikkor AI-s on Fuji Acros 100 film.