9 out of 10 points and recommendedSharpness, bokeh, ruggedness, fast apertureAF speed, screw-on hood, focal length a bit too long for 1.5-crop sensors.
Sharper than any other lens I own, including the 50mm 1.8D and the 70-200VR. My most detailed and sharpest images (where you can see the pores on the skin) were done wide open.reviewed October 21st, 2005 (purchased for $750)
If you don't know what bokeh is, try using this lens at f/1.4. A downside of using such a wide aperture with its inherent shallow depth-of-field is that you have to know exactly what you're focusing on or else you might get the hair or ears in focus and not the face, for example.
Very good feel to the rubber grip around the focus ring, too bad I can't manually focus this using the D70's tiny viewfinder.
The screw-on hood requires several rotations to be seated snugly, and it fits into the filter thread. You can't screw the hood on the lens in reverse for storage.
Autofocus is slow. Don't expect to use this for fast-action shots or quick candids. I used this in a dark wedding reception on one D70 and the second D70 had the 18-70 kit lens. The kit lens focused just fine but the autofocus kept hunting on the 85 f/1.4 and was nearly useless unless I switched to MF.
This lens is built for three-quarter portraits and headshots, where it really shines. Lens wide open, you can easily render a wall totally blurred half a meter behind the subject. Because of its telephoto nature, doing portraits of two or more people may require you to back up really, really far.
It's well worth the money I paid and I've since stopped using the imposing 70-200VR for portraits. It's also brought about a newfound interest in primes, especially for portraiture. My clients overwhelmingly choose pictures taken with this lens over those taken with other lenses during events.
Disclaimers: I haven't used this lens for sports and I've never used the 85mm f1.8D.
9 out of 10 points and recommendedSharp, compact, lightweight, f/1.8, too cheap to NOT purchaseTerrible flaring, could be sharper at f/1.8, slow AF, plastic construction
Lenses like this can help to convert people stuck on zooms to try out a prime. The price, shallow DOF, and image quality are its major selling points. Stop the lens down a bit to get the sharpness that everybody's talking about. At f/1.8, it's not as sharp when you look at your pictures at 100% but still very usable. AF is slow and noisy. Bokeh is a mixed bag--usually mediocre when you have a very organic background (like trees and foliage). It's more practical for me to use this lens as an all-around lens than my 85mm f/1.4 because of the focal length, but 50mm (on a DX sensor) can still be a bit limiting--too much reach at times.reviewed October 21st, 2005 (purchased for $90)
9 out of 10 points and recommendedCreamy bokeh, fast AF, very sharp, perfect focal length for a 1.5x crop62mm filters, more prone to CA than my other lenses, minimum focus distance not close enough, points of light in bokeh are not perfect circles
As a recent convert from zoom to prime lenses, I'm finding this lens to be permanently fixed to one of my D70 bodies. The other D70 has the 85mm f/1.4. This is the perfect pairing to my shooting style, which is strictly portraits and events and an aversion to wide angle and telephoto.reviewed November 23rd, 2005 (purchased for $450)
Compared to the 85mm, the Sigma is a bit softer at f/1.4. But the AF speed blows away the 85mm thanks to the HSM and has yet to hunt in low light unlike my Nikkor; this with the f/1.4 aperture makes this a great ambient-light lens. The Sigma shows CA more often than any of my other lenses. Points of light in areas of defocus appear more oval or oblong than circular--this can be annoying when there are a lot of points of light. This doesn't affect the typical blurred background except when there are concentrated light sources in the background.
With an f/1.4 aperture on this lens, you won't need a full-frame sensor to achieve a really narrow depth-of-field. Any less DOF and it'd be just a guessing game as to which eyelash from the nearest eye of your subject is in focus.
Closest focusing distance is 16 inches, which is a bit too far for those times I want to really want to fill the frame with the subject's face. That's when I'd have to pull out the other D70 that has my 85mm. So I use this lens for group shots and full-body shots and the 85mm for my headshots and candid facial expressions.
In conclusion: has three things you need for available-light photography--very wide aperture, HSM, and the wide focal length to let in more light. As a bonus, the lens is very sharp. Unfortunately, CA will sneak its way into more images than you'd like but it's not enough to keep me from using this. It's dethroned my 18-70 as the new permanent lens for one of my D70 bodies. For my kind of photography, I'm all set with an 85mm f/1.4 on one D70 and the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 on the other.
9 out of 10 points and recommendedVERY Sharp, light, portableOnly cons are cosmetic: plastic mount, cheap plastic feel, no distance scale
I do professional work and I actually sold my 17-55DX for this. I was put off, at first, at the plastic mount and lack of a distance scale but the optical quality is amazing. I find it sharper than my 17-55. The f/2.8 wasn't needed on my 17-55 since I take pictures of people at smaller apertures and the extra 80mm reach of this lens makes this all the more appealing. I use this on a D2Hs and it focuses flawlessly in the most difficult conditions, albeit slightly slower than the 17-55.reviewed February 6th, 2007
The filter size is 67mm just like my new 70-300VR, which is a plus. Sharpness is out-of-this-world. I've never noticed any CA, but frankly I've not looked for it. Vignetting is supposed to be pretty high, but I like vignetting for my line of work. I don't do architecural work so the distortion I hear about from this lens hasn't been noticeable.
Despite the much-publicized shortcomings of this lens, it does everything that I want it to do and it does it pretty well.
10 out of 10 points and recommendedVery sharp, lightweight, AF-S, VR is amazing, full frame, good bokeh, increasingly popular 67mm threadslowest focusing AF-S lens I own
First off, I shoot mainly portraits and events and so my experience with this lens is limited to such photography. When I need a fast lens, I resort to my fixed focal length lenses; otherwise I use consumer zooms. After having owned many, I'm a firm believer that pro zooms aren't worth their price at the sacrifice of additional focal length and price.reviewed April 8th, 2007 (purchased for $500)
I sold my 70-200VR and Sigma 120-300 for this 70-300VR and have had very few regrets. I'm not a big telephoto geek, which is why I sold those pro zooms.
Sharpness on the 70-300 is surprisingly good. When my 85 f/1.4 was undergoing repairs and I needed shallow DOF for a portrait, I zoomed out to 300 at f/5.6 and got the basic shot I needed. It wasn't 85mm quality, but it was close and my client was very happy with the shot--not knowing that I could've done a little better with a different lens.
VR worked well for me. I like to think that I have steady hands. I was able to handhold this at 300mm and 1/10s under heavy concentration. But under most circumstances, 1/40s is safe for me with VR on.
I own other AF-S and Sigma HSM lenses, and this one is clearly the slowest of the bunch. It has hunted on several occasions but it's clearly better than the $100 70-300G that I used to own.