Efficiently coupling light from large telescopes to photonic devices is challenging. However, overcoming this challenge would enable diffraction-limited instruments, which offer significant miniaturization and advantages in thermo-mechanical stability. By coupling photonic lanterns with high performance adaptive optics systems, we recently demonstrated through simulation that high throughput diffraction-limited instruments are possible (Lin et al., Applied Optics, 2021). Here we build on that work and present initial results from validation experiments in the near-infrared to corroborate those simulations in the laboratory. Our experiments are conducted using a 19-port photonic lantern coupled to the state-of-the-art SCExAO instrument at the Subaru Telescope. The SCExAO instrument allows us to vary the alignment and focal ratio of the lantern injection, as well as the Strehl ratio and amount of tip/tilt jitter in the beam. In this work, we present experimental characterizations against the aforementioned parameters, in order to compare with previous simulations and elucidate optimal architectures for lantern-fed spectrographs.