The new Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S is the latest gem in Nikon’s collection of portrait lenses for the Z mirrorless cameras. I recently had the opportunity to test this wonderful lens, which was kindly provided to me by Nikon Bulgaria. Unfortunately, I had limited time with the lens, since I wanted to do a little more tests in more dynamic lighting environment to fully experience its capabilities. In the following lines, I will briefly share my impressions.


I don’t want to go too deep into technical descriptions and complicated features that would bore you, so I will just share the most important elements that make this lens so special.

  • Its optical system consists of a total of 15 elements arranged in 10 groups, including two aspherical elements and one ED (Extra-Low Dispersion) element, which help to minimize various types of aberrations, and the 11 rounded aperture blades provide a smooth, nice and natural bokeh. This is the first 85mm lens developed by Nikon with this aperture. Fans of the brand have been waiting for such a length for a long time, especially after the appearance of the Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S. Perhaps this became possible only after the development of the Z mount, but the wait is worth it.
  • Like most Nikon lenses, this one is well protected from atmospheric influences, which makes it suitable for use in less than perfect conditions.
  • What impressed me the most is the extremely fast and accurate auto focus. From the entire series of photos I took with the lens, I have not a single shot missed! This is probably helped by the dual motors built into the lens’ multi-focus system, which move in absolute sync to deliver fast, accurate and quiet auto focus.


For a small female hand, the Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S can be somewhat heavy. However, its ergonomics are very good and it fits perfectly in the hand. Compared to the more affordable Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8, which weighs just 470g, the Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 is 1160g, or more than twice as heavy.
Its focus ring is very large, which I imagine would also be convenient when working with video.
Again, like most higher-end Nikon Z lenses, it is equipped with a programmable button, which I personally set to the Subject Tracking function.

First shot is with Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S, the second one with Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 with aperture fully open for both lenses.

First shot is with Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.8 S, the second one with Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 with aperture fully open for both lenses.

Image quality

Here we come to the most important question on everyone’s mind – what is the image quality and is it worth to buy this lens?

To answer this question I decided to shoot side by side with the Nikkor Z 85 mm f/1.2 S and the Nikkor Z 85 mm f/1.8 S. I have owned the latter recently because I decided it was good to have something light on hand that sometimes replaces my main portrait lens – Nikkor AF-S 70-200mm f/2.8. This vario is excellent, but continuous handheld shooting with it can be quite tiring, especially attached to a FTZ adapter and mounted on one of the smaller mirrorless bodies like the Z6II or Z7II.

To be honest, it took me very little time to convince myself that there was no point in comparing the two lenses. They are simply created for different needs and to satisfy different criteria.

In my opinion, the main and most important difference between them is the smoother transition in the focus-defocus areas in favor of the brighter Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S. Another advantage of it is its great soft pattern, which is of great importance for correct skin tone rendering. It makes it very cinematic and kind of brings to me the message and vision of the older portrait lenses. The high light output, on the other hand, gives it a huge advantage when working in less well-lit areas. Auto focus with it is uncompromising and very fast. As I mentioned at the beginning, I don’t have a single missed shot from the entire session.
I shot the tests with the Nikon Z9 set to AF-C Wide Area focus mode. All photos taken at ISO 640, f/1.2. I wanted to do some tests under strong backlight as well, but I was unlucky with the weather.


Nikkor Z 85mm f/1.2 S is an outstanding lens and provides a very smooth transition in defocus areas. For fans of beautiful bokeh, this is the dream lens. Its fast and precise autofocus makes it extremely reliable. Despite its large size and heavier weight, it fits well in the hand. It has a very nice color rendering and enviable sharpness even at maximum aperture. Its only drawback is the high price, but for a professional photographer who wants a high-quality tool in his hands, this should not be a problem. 😉


Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.

A big thank you to my models Emo and Dasha who agreed to freeze together on this April afternoon and did brilliantly.
Dasha is a professional model with whom I also worked on another interesting project – the Nikon z6 II test, which you can see on my blog.

*This publication reflects the personal opinion and impressions of the author and is not for advertising purposes. Nikon Bulgaria has nothing to do with the statements made.