Data sheet: Nikkor AF 28-85 mm f/3.5–4.5

Pekka Buttler, 02/2024

There are two optically identical but cosmetically different versions of this lens:
• Nikkor AF 28–85mm f/3.5–4.5 (1986–1990)
• Nikkor AF 28–85mm f/3.5–4.5 (New) (1990–1999)
(see more under ‘versions‘).
Hence both versions will be addressed in this data one sheet.

Pictured: Nikkor AF 28-85 mm f/3.5–4.5 (New)


While the table below summarizes the lens’ key specifications of the pictured sample, the earlier lens differs only minutely

Brand:AF NikkorLens name28-85mm 1:3.5–4.5
Focal length(s)128–85 mmAngle-of-view274°–28°30
Maximum Aperturef/3.5–4.5In ProductionAF 1986–1990
AF (new) 1990–1999
Lens mountNikon FSubfamily (if applicable)AF
Length389,4 mmDiameter470,4 mm
Filter ring diameter62 mmWeight511 grams
Lens element count15Lens group count11
Aperture blades (S/R/C)57 SFocus throw110 °
Minimum focusing distance80 cmsMaximum magnification1:8,3
Has manual aperture ringYESHas Manual focus ringYES

Historical notes

• When Nikon introduced its autofocus system (the F-501 camera and AF lenses) in 1996, they initially introduced 6 primes (from 24–300 mm), one tele zoom (the 70-210/4 [data sheet]), one macro lens, one autofocusing teleconverter and four lenses corresponding to the definition of a standard zoom:
– Nikkor AF 35–70 mm f/3.3–4.5 [data sheet]
– Nikkor AF 35-105 mm f/3.5–4.5 [data sheet]
– Nikkor AF 35–135 mm f/3.5–4.5 [data sheet]
– Nikkor AF 28–85 mm f/3.5–4.5 (this lens)
• The initial AF version of the 28-85 (1986–1990) was modernised in 1990 and given a rubberised focus ring, but otherwise no changes were made. That later version (pictured sample) remained in production until 1999.

Further notes

• No AF-D version of the 28–85 was ever made. Instead, the 28–85 was replaced by the AF-D Nikkor 28-105 f/3-5–4.5 in 1998/1999 [data sheet].
• This lens has a manual aperture ring. Also it is of the generation of Nikon AF lenses where autofocus was actually facilitated by a focusing motor in the camera body (not the lens). The lens does not offer controls to switch between manual and auto focus. Instead, this operation would be done on the camera body.
• Nikon offered a dedicated, bayonet-mounted hood for the lens (the HB-1).
• The lens changes length while zooming. It is at its shortest at the 85 mm setting and lengthens progressively when moving towards 28 mm where it is at its longest.

Left: Nikkor AF 28–85mm f/3.5–4.5 Zoomed to 85 mm
Middle: Nikkor AF 28–85mm f/3.5–4.5 Zoomed to 28 mm
Right: Nikkor AF 28–85mm f/3.5–4.5 in macro mode

• The lens’ length also changes when focusing, and the filter thread and bayonet mount for the hood do rotate when focusing.

• While the MFD is relatively unimpressive, it does not really impede the lens’ usability at the longer end. However, in the 28–50 mm range the minimum focusing distance does act as an impediment and places limits on the lens’ usability.
• The lens does offer a macro mode at the wide end (manual focus only), that allows a 1:3.4 maximum magnification in combination with a wide-angle perspective.


The 28–85 mm prosumer lens was a relatively short-lived design in the Nikkor lens lineup and was replaced in 1998/1999 by the Nikkor AF-D 28-105 mm f/3.5–4.5. During that time, the following three versions were manufactured. Optically they are fundamentally the same design, and share the elaborate 15 elements in 11 groups design as well as the minimum focusing distances, macro functions, as well as several other specs. The table below will highlight the key differences (numbers based on other sources)

diameterlengthweightfocus ring
Ai-s 28–85/3.5–4.5 1985-2005manual67 mm89 mm510 gbroad, rubber ring
AF 28–85/3.5–4.5 1986-90autofocus71 mm89 mm540 gvery narrow, plastic ring
AF 28–85/3.5–4.51990-99autofocus71 mm89,5 mm540 gnarrow rubber ring. (this lens)

A brief genealogy of Nikon SLR lens types

Nikon is undoubtedly one of the great names in 35 mm SLR photography. The Nikon F mount has been in continuous production since 1959. During that time, the mount has developed/changed in some detail, however without ever fully sacrificing compatibility.

In short (a longer version is here), the development of Nikon’s SLR lenses can be traced as follows:
• 1959–1977: Pre-Ai. Manual focus lenses that use ‘rabbit ears’ to communicate selected aperture with the camera body.
• 1977–1986: Ai and Ai-s. Manual focus lenses that may have ‘rabbit ears’ for backward compatibility, but are designed to communicate selected aperture with the camera body through indentations in base of aperture control ring.
• 1986–today: AF and AF-D. Autofocus lenses that do not have a focusing motor within the lens, but rely on the focus motor within the camera. All AF and AF-D lenses are simultaneously Ai-s lenses (they are Ai-s lenses extended with AF) 6
• 1996–today AF-S and AF-P. Autofocus lenses that have an internal focusing motor and do not rely on the body having a focusing motor.


Besides adapting, this lens can be used natively on all current high-end Nikon dSLRs and several earlier medium-to-high-end older Nikon dSLRs. Moreover, if the camera body contains a slot-drive focusing motor, this lens will even auto-focus7. Likewise, if the lens has been retrofitted with ‘rabbit ears’, it can be natively used on all Nikon F-mount film cameras ever produced (without the rabbit ears, it is limited to post-1977 bodies).

Thanks to being a fully manual lens (manual aperture, manual focus), the lens can be adapted to all mirrorless cameras using a suitable dumb adapter (and such adapters are easy to find). Moreover, a large range of special adapters (helicoid adapters, tilt/shift adapters, speed boosters) for using Nikon F lenses on most mirrorless systems are available. Currently no adapters for mirrorless exist that would allow autofocus through the slot-drive screw.

Using Nikon F lenses on non-Nikon SLRs and dSLRs is likewise a distinct possibility. Thanks to the relatively generous flange focal distance of the Nikon F mount (46,5 mm), adapter rings for all dSLR mounts are available as well as for a goodly portion of film-era SLR mounts. Such rings will not allow autofocus, and are unlikely to support auto aperture, but even then the lenses can be used in stop-down metering mode.


  1. Focal length is (unless stated otherwise) given in absolute terms, and not in Full-frame equivalent. For an understanding of whether the lens is wide/tele, see ‘Angle-of-view’. ↩︎
  2. Picture angle is given in degrees and concerns the diagonal picture angle. Rule of thumb:
    > 90 ° ==> Ultra-wide-angle
    70–90 ° ==> Wide-angle
    50–70 ° ==> Moderate wide-angle
    40–50 ° ==> ‘Standard’ or ‘normal’ lens
    20–40 ° ==> Short tele lens
    10-20 ° ==> Tele lens
    5-10 ° ==> Long tele lens
    < 5 ° ==> Ultra-tele lens ↩︎
  3. Length is given from the mount flange to the front of lens at infinity. ↩︎
  4. Diameter excludes protrusions such as rabbit ears or stop-down levers. ↩︎
  5. S=straight; R=rounded; C=(almost)circular at all apertures. ↩︎
  6. There is a further sub-class of AF-D lenses called AF-I lenses that are otherwise AF-D lenses (meaning, fully Ai-s compatible), but have an internal focus motor. Only long tele lenses were made in AF-I variants. ↩︎
  7. As of this writing, the following Nikon dSLRs fully support autofocus, aperture priority and manual metered modes on Nikkor AF/AF-D lenses: D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, Df, D200, D300, D300s, D500, D600, D610, D700, D750, D780, D800, D800E, D810, D850, D7000, D7100, D7200 ↩︎

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