Data Sheet: Nikkor Ai 85 mm f/2

Pekka Buttler, 12/2022

Specifications

The table below summarizes the lens’ key specifications:

Brand:Nikon Lens nameNikkor 85mm 1:2
Focal length(s)185 mmAngle-of-view228°30
Maximum Aperturef/2In Production1977–1981
Lens mountNikon FSubfamily (if applicable)Ai-type
Length352,9 mmDiameter463,6 mm
Filter ring diameter52 mmWeight308 grams
Lens element count5Lens group count5
Aperture blades (S/R/C)57 SFocus throw255 °
Minimum focusing distance0,85 mMaximum magnification1:8,1
Has manual aperture ringYESHas Manual focus ringYES

Further notes:
• The Nikkor Ai 85/2 was introduced in 1977 and it was at the time Nikon’s first lens using these specifications, and it replaced the Nikkor K 85 mm f/1.8.
• This lens was in turn replaced by the Ai-s 85 mm f/2, which is optically identical but has been ergonomically (shorter focus throw) and cosmetically tweaked (as well as being Ai-s compliant).
• Nikon offered a two alternative steel hoods:
• the HN-7, filter thread mounted hood, and
• the HS-10, filter thread mounted snap-on hood

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. Pre-Ai lenses can further be subdivided into
• F-type (1959–early 1970s: metal focus ring and single-coated),
• C-type (early 1970s–mid 1970s: metal focus ring and multicoated), and
• K-type (mid 1970s to 1977: rubber focus ring and multicoated).
A significant share of remaining Pre-Ai lenses have since been converted to Ai-spec (Ai’d)
• 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.

Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s Nikon’s main emphasis in short tele lenses was on the various designs of 105 mm f/2.5 lenses. Even so, Nikon has also since 1964 continuously offered a 85 mm lens with a max aperture of either f/1.8 or f/2. The development of these is summarised below:
• 1964–1971 85mm f/1.8 (6 elements in 4 groups, 6 blades, 1 m MFD, “Nippon Kogaku”) (F-type)
• 1971–1972 85mm f/1.8 (6 elements in 4 groups, 6 blades, 1 m MFD, “Nikon”) (F-type) [data sheet]
• 1972–1975 85 mm f/1.8 (6 elements in 4 groups, 6 blades, 1 m MFD, “Nikon”) (C-type)
• 1975–1977 85 mm f/1.8 (6 elements in 4 groups, 6 blades, 0,85 m MFD) (K-type)
• 1977–1981 85 mm f/2 (5 elements in 5 groups, 7 blades, 0,85 m MFD) (Ai-type) [this lens]
• 1981–1995 85 mm f/2 (5 elements in 5 groups, 7 blades, 0,85 m MFD) (Ai-s-type)
• 1987–1994 85 mm f/1.8 (6 elements in 6 groups, 9 blades, 0,85 m MFD) (AF-type)
• 1994–2020 85 mm f/1.8 (6 elements in 6 groups, 9 blades, 0,85 m MFD) (AF-D-type) [data sheet]
• 2012–today 85 mm f/1.8 (9 elements in 9 groups, 7 rounded blades, 0,8 m MFD (AF-S-type)
• 2019–today 85 mm f/1.8 (12 elements in 8 groups, 9 rounded blades, 0,8 m MFD (Z-mount)

Adapting

Besides adapting, this lens can be used natively on all current high-end Nikon dSLRs and several earlier medium-to-high-end older Nikon dSLRs7. Likewise, if it still has its 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.

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 may not allow for auto aperture, but even then the lenses can be used in stop-down metering mode.

Footnotes

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 Aperture priority and manual metered modes on Nikkor Ai lenses: D2, D3, D4, D5, D6, D200, D300, D300s, D500, D600, D610, D700, D750, D780, D800, D800E, D810, D850, D7000, D7100, D7200

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