Nikon 85mm Tilt Shift Lens Review

By | 07/11/2022

Lens Reviews

The 85mm f/2.8D PC Micro Nikkor Review

Roger Engle (ziggy7)

Keywords: micro, macro, lenses, nikon, nikkor, pc, pc_e, 85mm, 105mm, hb_22, scheimpflug, fotowand, targets, fuji, velvia, zeiss, luminar


Perspective control objectives are commonly associated with architectural photography. However, their chapters to regulate the distribution of depth of field make them susceptible of consideration by macro photographers, subject field where DOF is always a limiting factor. The 85mm f/2.8D PC Micro Nikkor is tried here from the perspective of the nature photographer, non only to learn nigh its quality simply to also sympathize its functionalities as applied to this specialty.

Click for a wider view of the 85mm PC on a Nikon D100

The lens mounted on a Nikon D100 body

The universal photographic format was built-in from Oskar Barnack when in 1925 applied the utilise of 35mm cinematics moving picture film to the camera he was designing. The Leitz camera, later on Leica, was ridiculed for its subminiature format, only his proposal ended upwards being the foundation for modern photography. Every bit vastly proven, such format is most convenient and acceptable for action photography and offers enough sensitive surface for static images of high quality, now profoundly improved by modern films. And then it is used for the majority of nature photography work.

However, the compact design prevented from keeping tilt-shift movements of the eyes, an essence of view camera photography. Through bellows and gears large format cameras can modify the distance between the film and the lens, displace it reciprocally in the horizontal or vertical, or change the angle of the lens axis through rotation. These allow for spectacular manipulation of the credible subject size and relative position, as well as depth of field and perspective.

Fortunately for us Nikonians, the vast Nikon lens itemize contains shift lenses in 28mm and 35mm focal lengths for the typical applications in architecture, plus the
85mm f/two.8D PC Micro Nikkor, also for still-life and close-up photography.

The lens is compared hither to the 105mm f/ii.8D AF Micro Nikkor, being this i virtually probable owned past those contemplating the conquering of the 85mm PC.

Tested for Nikonians and readers of Fotonatura, the Castilian-speaking nature photography forum, nosotros also accept this opportunity to give thanks Nikon Spain and its official Castilian importer, Finicon Due south.A. for their support in making this article possible and its publication here.


in a lens, ways a displacement of information technology, maintaining its optical plane parallel to that of the movie or digital sensor; information technology moves the lens axis abroad from that of the epitome frame; hence its name, shifting. It is useful to change the relative position of the subject(s), without moving the photographic camera, and to correct perspectives.

Lens shift (Illustrations courtesy of Nikon Spain / Finicon, Southward.A.

changes the incident angle of the epitome on the movie or digital sensor, by rotating the lens. Information technology has an issue on the depth of field, extending the focused plane, not parallel to the motion-picture show or sensor anymore.

According to the Scheimpflug principle, a abrupt image occurs where the focusing or bailiwick plane, the lens optical plane and that of the film/sensor intersect. It is easy to comprehend the importance of this principle remembering that, at macro photography under ambience light, i seems to never have enough depth of field and light looks similar seldom sufficient for closing down the lens while maintaining reasonable shutter speeds. So with this adequacy, photographers can now focus on collywobbles without having to exist parallel to their bodies or closing the lens downwards to its smallest aperture.

Both shift and tilt tin be performed in all directions and be combined.

Obviously the lens requires to be of a special pattern, and not only mechanically. The circle of the projected image must be much bigger than that to unremarkably cover the flick or digital sensor format, since the corners or margins volition be used, where low-cal fall and optical aberrations are more noticeable.

This explains why these lenses need to be and are ultra-corrected.


The 85 mm f/2.8D PC Micro Nikkor lens arrived in an excellent rigid and padded instance. The objective is huge but its size can be judged every bit small, considering its features. Its weight of 770 grams / 27.2 ounces is virtually double that of the popular 105mm f/2.8AFD Micro Nikkor. This could represent a problem for our back just not for its utilize; we will need a tripod anyway.

Click for a larger image

The lens mounted on a D100 body
Focused at infinity (left) and minimum working distance (at right)

The accessories forepart thread is 77mm and the frontal element is well within the lens housing to reduce gamble of flare, even when not using the not included specific HB-22 hood. Build quality tin can’t be said to exist but exceptionally excellent. Incorporates the CRC image correction characteristic for close focus, non standard in Nikon wide angles. The focusing ring is smooth but house; equally in all modern Micro Nikkor lenses, the engraved distance scale is less progressive for long distances.

With a totally extended helicoid for minimum distance focusing, the reproduction ratio is 1:ii or half life-size. Such working altitude is 39 centimeters/xv.4 inches, identical to that of the 105 mm at the same repro ratio. Real luminosity of the lens under these weather is f/4.5, since the nominal value of f/ii.8 corresponds to infinity. We must recall that fifty-fifty when not shown in the viewfinder of older cameras, effective aperture is diminished every bit the focusing helicoid is extended.

The most spectacular characteristic of this objective is its thick central body, which includes two precise ramps with gears, with a screw and terminate for control. One is for tilting and the other for shifting, possible at a maximum of 12.4mm and 8.3 degrees respectively.

Click for a larger image

Shift and tilt motion is feasible in all directions, because at the mount of the lens there is a machinery to gyrate it around its own centrality.

On the image at right you may see an animation with all possible movements. Be patient, it is a 240Kb prototype; information technology may take some time to load.

All movements animation

The lens shutter has nine blades making the diaphragm iris almost perfectly round, so the out of focus areas are softer than on the 105mm Micro Nikkor. Minimum discontinuity is f/45, corresponding to a real f/72 with the helicoid at full extension.


Due to the obtrusiveness of both the mobile ramps for shift and tilt, and the mount, in that location seems to be no room for aperture communication with the body, so it is completely manual. Once pre selected in the discontinuity ring, a button needs to be depressed to close the diaphragm iris down. Although this does not seem agreeable in this day and age, it is completely understandable given the characteristics of the lens itself and its mount.

On the other hand, the lens belongs to the D serial and has the chip to collect and send distance data to the body, assuasive for 3D matrix flash.


Through the viewfinder it is immediately apparent the cleanliness of the image and the loftier resolution of lines this lens captures and transmits. It is rumored to be the Nikkor with the highest clearness.

Click for enlarged view

The smashing massive lens

Despite its obtrusive appearance, the lens is non hard to operate, one time y’all gain confidence and acquire to operate it. It certainly is not a lens for activity photography but for the studio or in exteriors with a tripod. Needing a tripod for macrophotography should non exist anything new for those wanting crispness from any lens.

The merely difficulty resides in the impossibility to use the metering system when shifting and tilting are in use, because information technology was designed for an image coming into the mirror in a direct line. The electronic telemeter is besides inexact when the lens is either shifted or tilted.

And so the workflow begins facing the subject with the lens wide open. And so meter in manual style. Later on the aperture is dialed in for the selected shutter speed, and then shifting and tilting come in, implying an exposure compensation. Here is where the tricky part really begins; the exposure compensation requires experience. Fifty-fifty when we know that shifting volition not exceed ane f/finish and that in shifting is always bigger than in tilting. Finally, the diaphragm iris is closed to its desired (and at first, guessed) aperture, press the push button to shut downwardly the lens and so action the cameras shutter release.

The process above is the suggested by the manufacturer but it is also possible to do the movements equally required with the lens closed downwardly; then, in aperture priority mode the exposure is virtually always correct, eliminating the need to guess. The only problem would be the darkened viewfinder.


Given the potential of this lens for macro photography, it became interesting to written report the DOF and to compare it with that of the 105mm Micro Nikkor. So we first visualized information technology by performing the classic ruler test, photographed at 70º of the lenses’ optical axis. Working distance was 39 cm or 1.3ft, significant a reproduction ratio of 1:2 for both lenses.

Three apertures were tested in three series: the 85mm PC in normal position, fully tilted and the 105mm. The 85mm PC without tilting rendered similar results to the 105mm so there is no point to present those images here.



When the 85mm PC is fully tilted its advantage is notable due to the modify of the focus airplane, specially at medium apertures. Evaluation of test results is more than complex since diffraction plays an important role in both lenses, reducing perceptible differences.

Click for enlarged view

Comparative DOF around the minimum working altitude for the 105mm f/2.8D AF and the 85mm f/2.8D PC Micro Nikkor unshifted and untilted.

The graph above shows the theoretical DOF data, as supplied by Nikon when both lenses are focused at a working altitude of xl cm or 15.7 inches, at the range of nominal apertures. The depth of field of the 105mm Micro Nikkor is bigger than that of the 85mm; withal, 1 should not forget nosotros are looking at fractions of decimals in centimeters, i.eastward. millimeters. This differences grow bigger at shut-down apertures: at f/32 the DOF of the 105mm is i.3cm vs 0.9cm on the 85 PC.

Now, when DOF is compared for longer distances, information technology becomes evident the small reward of the 105mm only exists at short working distances.

In the graph below, each pair of lines of the aforementioned color compares DOF for both lenses at the aforementioned working distance, at different apertures (in the X axis), expressed in centimeters at the Y axis. The longer line of each pair belongs to the 85 PC since it reaches f/45.

Interesting to discover is how at f/32 and 100cm (one meter) from the bailiwick, the 85 PC surpasses the 105 lens by almost 5cm (2″): with a DOF of 19.5cm against just 15.4cm.

The shift and tilt lens can reach even further at f/45; DOF is and so 28cm / 11 inches. This aperture is nevertheless not advisable due to the diffraction at such close down aperture.

Of grade all of the to a higher place corresponds to the 85mm without shift or tilt.


The resolving powers were compared using five Fotowand resolution targets over a 60x90cm (23.6×35.4″) blackboard. Lenses were mounted on a Nikon F4, film was Fujichrome Velvia l. This examination is only indicative because it was not performed at an optical lab and with a brand new out-of-the box 105mm Micro Nikkor for the comparison, but with our own working sample. No absolute measurement is hence given, merely a comparison between curves of the optics.

Click for enlarged view

Blackboard with v targets for resolution tests

A series of three images was shot at each aperture for each lens. Reading of results was made directly on the slide motion picture, backlit, with a binocular microscope at 60X, selecting the best value of the three series for each lens. For the sake of brevity but the center images were processed, notwithstanding the fact that the relative behavior on the outside images was equivalent.

The results confirm what intuitively suspected, the resolving ability of the 85mm PC is very high and surpasses the 105mm Micro Nikkor at all apertures, which is a superb lens.

Results too ostend the degrading effect of extreme closed-down apertures, typical of the macro lenses. In practise, the last two apertures should be avoided unless an emergency.

Showing such degrading, the images that follow (beneath) are enlargements of the center images of the resolution targets at f/8 (at left) and at f/45 (at right) for the 85mm PC.


We began field testing after engaging a group of ants and agreeing on a suitable portion of dear as compensation. With their assist we tested the 85mm PC Micro Nikkor lone and with a PK-thirteen extension ring. In the form of the test were able to attest the bourgeois design of objective: no lightfall nor vignetting were present ever.

Click for enlarged comparative view

85mm f/2.8D PC Micro Nikkor in the field

The image in a higher place, made near 1X (life-size) at f/22, shows the clear do good of tilting the 85mm PC downward, with a PK-13 ring, over the classic conventional, and only possible culling made with the 105mm Micro Nikkor as testify at right.

Past clicking over whatever of the two you lot may see a comparative blended.

Click for a comparative larger image

Later, tests with longer working distances and bigger subjects were fabricated possible thanks to the flowers in the dinning room.

This fourth dimension we but worked with the 85mm PC. The paradigm was proposed at a altitude of 0.90 meters, approximately ane grand, and pro ceded to shoot without whatever shift or tilt, at normal position, as shown at right.

Click for enlargement

And then we completely tilted the lens to a side. We wanted to explore tilting as a artistic resource, not to have everything in focus, but to apply focus selectively. The result of inclining the lens towards the right and then recomposing is shown at right.

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The composition is at present successfully altered, placing emphasis in just one flower. The inclination of the lens allowed for a symmetrical tilting movement without change in the perspective.

Right then our interest was turned to the flower in focus, since it had kept its fragile and interesting stalk. As customary, all were at the same plane at a certain tiptop over the petals, which forces a conventional take, basically frontal.

Click for enlargement

Subsequently making the classic image, we took reward of tilting. Displaced the tripod to the right, rotated the entire camera to the left then tilted the lens to the right. ¿Result? Optical magic immune for keeping all stem in focus.

Clcik for enlargement

With a normal objective a closed-down aperture approach would have been required, altering the background.


Studio-blazon tests immune us to go used to the peculiar handing of the lens and to learn what to expect from it.

Then we moved out into the field and its maneuverability was rather expert, manifestly due to the previous training. Handling information technology is not equally piece of cake as with other lenses, however, with some practice 1 achieves a level of reasonable deployment agility.

Clcik for enlarged comparative view

Click for enlarged comparative view

85mm f/2.8D PC Micro Nikkor, normal at left, tilted at right, same aperture


There was an obvious involvement to try out this great lens on a digital trunk, both for having a smaller format than that on moving-picture show and for the potential advantage of wider movements before reaching the edges of the prototype. Unfortunately information technology is designed for 24x36mm format and its own features prevent its utilize on digital bodies.

The crop gene, due to the size of the sensor, implies a vision bending equivalent to a 127mm lens. This does not affect the movements, but forces i to be farther removed from the subject area, loosing practicality. If it were some 25mm shorter in its focal length it would experience like ideal. Besides, the small viewfinder of the D100 is an inconvenience for a lens requiring full frame vivid coverage.

In other words: The sensor existence smaller than a 35mm film frame, the tilt/shift movements could have been much wider if designed specifically for non-total-frame digital. On a D100 it was obvious than the mechanical tilt limit was reached much before the image circle was compromised over the sensor. In curt, complete optical performances possible on a 1.5x sensor were impossible due to the mechanical limit set upwards with a 24×36 format in listen.

Therefore this is non an objective to perform 100% on digital macro photography with tilting, due to its focal length and extension limits. For that, one can opt for shorter focal lengths or other systems.

For example, using Nikon PB-4 bellows de Nikon with incorporated plow, or with magnifying lenses mounted in a Zörkendorfer helicoidal tiltable extension. This combination allows to reach over 17 degrees of tilt as shown at correct on a D100 body, with a reproduction ratio of almost 2X using a 40mm Zeiss Luminar lens.

Click for enlargement


The 85mm f/2.8 D PC Micro Nikkor has an excellent built and combines peachy versatility with an exceptional optical performance. It is greatly useful for nonetheless-life and close-ups, maintaining fantabulous performance at macro photography between 1:ii and even 1:i magnification ratios when adding an extension band or tube. It is an ideal tool for shut-up photographers, producing results unattainable with normal lenses. Although information technology doesn’t resolve images by itself and one needs to learn to use and sympathise its limitations.

On the negative side, the architecture of the mount and the lens itself forces the lens to be transmission; aught that cannot be overcome, but remains a minor nuisance. We miss more functionality with digital bodies and would love to see more tilt capability.

What nosotros appreciate, however, is the render to the view photographic camera craftsman spirit. This lens forces the lensman to design its image and pre visualize the wanted upshot, a learning experience to further our own evolution. What else tin can nosotros desire than a lens from which you learn to run across?


  • Impeccable mechanical construction
  • Superb optical quality
  • Versatility of movements
  • Big potential for macro photography; not only at ane:2 but upwardly to ane:1 with extension rings/tubes


  • Manual diaphragm
  • Designed for 24x36mm film format, somewhat reduced functionality on non-full-frame digital bodies
  • Weight

In summary: A near tempting proposition and extraordinary performer.