This is just between us, you understand; don’t let it get around.
We know there are photographers—professionals and enthusiasts—who consider NIKKOR Z lenses a—maybe even the—major contributor to the phenomenal performance of Z series cameras.
In other words, the glass actually might be more than half the full Z camera success story.
We found out Dixie Dixon is one of those photographers when we talked with her about her shoot with the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S. Dixie took all the accompanying photos with that lens on her Z 9, and the lens-camera combination’s incredible precision and performance quickly inspired total confidence, which in turn led to—no kidding—absolute fearlessness.
Here's that story.
The Sum of the Parts
“I shot almost everything with the 85mm at f/1.2, which makes sense for the way I like to work,” Dixie says. “In the past, before this lens and the incredible Eye AF possible with the Z 9, I was really leery to try shooting at a wide-open aperture like 1.2 because I was afraid I’d just miss focus just because focus had to be so precise. So I’d stop down to 2.8 to make sure I got the eye in focus, but man, with this lens—there’s no fear. It’s an incredible portrait lens—I’d say probably the sharpest lens I’ve ever shot, and the sharpest I’ve shot wide open. I shot the entire day hand-holding and pretty much wide open.”
So not only did the 85mm f/1.2 fit in perfectly with her style, it made her even more confident in pursuing those moments that showcased the style at its best.
There was one other key factor: the bokeh effect—not only beautiful, but reliably consistent. “I’ve used the 50mm f/1.2, and I love it, but the bokeh on the 85mm is even more incredible. When I shot at f/2—you’ll see in some of the shots—the bokeh is perfectly round, not an oval, and with creamy edges, which give the images a really dreamy, ethereal type of feel.”
Dixie doesn’t merely want backgrounds to be non-distracting, she wants them to add to the emotional caché she loves to create. “The 85mm f/1.2 blurs the background so beautifully, it’s really a dream lens for portrait photographers, wedding photographers, fashion photographers, anyone who photographs people. The secret sauce of this lens on the Z 9 is like magic. It’s a gorgeous, cinematic, fast, sharp combo.”
We’re glad she used that term, secret sauce, because we wanted to get a few words in about how the secret sauce—technology—drives the results she is able to get.
The 85mm f/1.2 is a dream lens for portrait photographers, wedding photographers, fashion photographers—anyone who photographs people.
Time After Time
First, start with 85mm, which has long been considered an ideal focal length for portraits. There are several reasons for this, including its perspective’s true-to-life, flattering facial views; its comfort-zone distance between photographer and subject; and the main advantage for Dixie and many others, its compression factor, which means that between the plane of focus, which is typically—and in this shoot, exclusively—the eye of the portrait subject, the focal length produces smooth transitions into the soft bokeh of flattering, non-distracting backgrounds that enhance images. That gradual transition is capable of creating an other-worldly, fantasy look that means so much to Dixie’s work.
There was one more immediate and important benefit. “I shoot a lot of backlit images—that’s part of my style, and a lot of times when I shoot backlit I have bright sun in the background and I’m going to get purple fringing on the edges of the subject, which I have to take out in post-production. But there was literally no purple fringing with this lens at all. It’s the perfect lens for what I do, even the lifestyle product photography—product in focus, everything else falling out of focus to maintain emphasis on the product.”
What Dixie found after the initial sense of wonder settled into assurance is that she was free to concentrate on creating situational images for fashion and portraits—“all hand-held, so I’m getting those moments that are happening spontaneously as opposed to a locked-down type of shot.”
Going to be shooting with the NIKKOR Z 85mm f/1.2 S on your Z camera? Relax, you’ve got this.
Dixie Dixon is a Texas born and bred commercial fashion photographer. Her passion has led her to shoot internationally in places such as Cannes, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Ibiza and Barcelona for various brands, TV shows, commercial campaigns and editorial projects. Go to her website www.dixiedixon.com and her ambassador page.More articles by this contributor