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Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro Nikkor

 
Lens Reviews / Nikon Lenses i Lab tested

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Buy the Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro Nikkor

Lab Test Results

  • Blur
  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Geometric Distortion
105mm $522
average price
image of Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro Nikkor

(From Nikon lens literature) Medium telephoto Micro lens for portrait and other high magnification close-up applications. Provides extra working distance for elusive subjects or ones requiring supplemental illumination. Continuous focusing from infinity to life-size (1:1).

NOTE: Nikon makes two 105mm f/2.8 Macro lenses. This lens is the version without Vibration Reduction. An updated version of this lens incorporates Nikon's VR technology as well as AF-S, at a higher price.

Test Notes

The 105mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor is one of our personal favorites. It's on the big and clunky side, and doesn't focus terribly quickly (it depends on the focus motor in the camera body, rather than on a fast "Silent Wave" motor in the lens itself, but its optical characteristics are just so good that we can forgive its minor shortcomings. In fact, stopped down to f/5.6 to f/8.0, this is the lens that we use for all our resolution tests of Nikon-mount digital SLRs. (We also love macro photography, a task this lens is specifically designed for.)

When it came time to put the 105mm f/2.8 to the torture test in our lab, we were pleased to see that its performance lived up to the impressions we'd gained through personal experience. Even wide open, sharpness is on the good side of average, and quite uniform over the entire frame. Dropping down just one stop to f/4 improves sharpness a fair bit, and the "sweet spot" extends from there to roughly f/11, with the best sharpness around f/5.6. Like many lenses though, images from the 105mm get soft when you stop it all the way down to its minimum aperture of f/32. Chromatic aberration is on the low side of average, with a maximum value of about 0.03-0.4% of a picture height, and an average aberration of roughly half that, across the full aperture range. Exposure uniformity is truly excellent, dropping from a worst case of 1/4 EV at f/2.8 to less than 0.1EV at all other aperture settings. Geometric distortion is an almost imperceptible 0.04% pincushion.

No two ways about it, the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 is a fantastic lens, particularly if you're into macro photography. While it's in a good focal length range for use as a portrait lens, it's probably too sharp for that usage. (But just a slight blur filter applied in Photoshop(tm) could quickly take care of that.) It's probably not for everyone, but if you want a supremely sharp, high-quality lens in this focal length range, you can hardly do better. If you're a macro shooter, this is a superb tool, with the added benefit of a comfortable working range, thanks to its 105mm focal length.

Nikon 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro Nikkor User Reviews

9.1/10 average of 14 reviews Build Quality 8.9/10 Image Quality 9.5/10
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  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (52 reviews)
    super sharp! good working range
    slow AF

    a very good performer.. especially for the (used) price. I still prefer this lens the newer one. IQ is exceptional. Super sharp. Good for portraits & people too, though AF may sometimes feel too slow.

    Simply my favorite macro lens. a very usable focal length for work & flawless optic design.

    reviewed October 11th, 2012 (purchased for $245)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (15 reviews)
    Very Sharp, Great Close Focusing, Avail for a song used
    Focuses Slowly, No VR

    The 2.8D Micro 105 is an outrageously excellent lens.


    To see what this lens does from F3-F32 (it is sharpest far focusing at F8) check here:
    http://glamourphotography.co/?p=406


    To see the sharpness of irises in a head shot, look here:
    http://glamourphotography.co/?p=197


    To see a macro shot of a sapphire ring, look here:
    http://www.culturedwoman.com/CommercialProducts-1/Jewelry/16978386_gC9546#1299604738_CSnbsGZ-X2-LB


    I favor the 2.8D micro for macro work and also love it for portraiture when extreme sharpness is desired.


    My finding is, VR is not necessary or useful in macro or flash studio photography.

    Speed of focusing is also not usually an issue, in these specific realms.


    Not first choice for use in fast moving sports.

    While AF focusing works pretty well for most relatively static applications, this baby goes through an extreme range of focus distances (close to far).

    All micros generally take more time to focus than lenses limited to strictly long focusing.

    So usually, you can expect non close focusing lenses to focus much faster than micros, due in fact to their more narrow overall focusing ranges.


    Lens is often available used for stupid cheap money...


    If you shoot close and love sharp, you too may love owning this lens.

    reviewed September 10th, 2011
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (31 reviews)
    quality stopped down, particularly in macro
    AF

    I've the AF version, and I like very much the pictorial results in close up photography.
    The definition isn't so high with distant subject, but is very high the resistance at both flare and CA.
    The definitio is high with aperture closed over f16 (and I like it in macrophotography).

    The AF is the only cons: it's extremly slow, and in FF (D700) is a little bit too much imprecise.
    I don't know if it derives from the slow speed, but I preffer my 60mm in FF (not for quality, actually).

    reviewed December 8th, 2008 (purchased for $500)
  • 7 out of 10 points and recommended by (5 reviews)
    Solid build, recessed element, speed/size/focal length combo
    Slow and chunky AF

    Slow and chunky AF date this lens a little compared to the excellent AF-S products, but it is a fabulous lens anyway. Compact, solid and really sharp.

    reviewed October 3rd, 2008
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (5 reviews)
    Sharpness, colour, sharpness, contrast, sharpness, bokeh and sharpness
    Slow AF, a bit awkward AF/MF switch

    For anything that doesn't move too fast, this is the ultimate short telephoto lens. I use it for macro, product shots, portraits, as a walk-around and a couple of other things. The price reflect the fact that I bought mine used.

    Focus is very slow, and a bit noisy, and the AF/MF switch is a bit tricky to change without looking.

    But at the end of the day, there are few lenses beating this one for sharpness, colour, contrast or bokeh. And since the front element is buried so deep down inside the lens, there's no need for a lens shade. It also shares filters with my 50mm f/1.8

    reviewed March 17th, 2007 (purchased for $375)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (7 reviews)
    Extremely sharp
    None

    The lens is extremely sharp by F5.6. At wide open it is on par with the 80-200 F2.8 lens.

    When shooting portrait, it produces broken with pentagon shape.

    I use it mainly for closeup (ie. flowers) and it produces extremely sharp prints.

    Highly recommended.

    reviewed January 1st, 2007 (purchased for $800)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (4 reviews)
    size, weight
    noisy AF, extends when focusing

    I compared the performance of this lens with the new version (AF-S VR 105/2.8 G) in summer 2006. The full text of my review can be found at my web:
    http://dawep.net/test.html


    The main results are:
    - the new version produces better bokeh compared to this version
    - the new version is slightly sharper wide opened and also slightly sharper when fully stopped down
    - the pictures made with this "old" version had no trace of CA even wide opened. Surprisingly, despite one ED glass element, the new version revealed some minor amount of CA between f2.8 and f4, which was, however, comletely absent at f5.6.
    - the new version was slightly better when focused at infinity compared to this version
    - the size and weight make the new lens less pleasant to work with. This old version fits much better into my hands.


    Conclusion:
    According to my experience, the new version is NOT an significant upgrage in terms of picture quality, especially sharpness, over this old version. If you do not mind slow and noisy AM (when shooting macro, you will probably MF anyway) and extending lens barrel and you do not need VR (for medium telephoto work), consider also the "old good" version for your purchase.

    reviewed December 31st, 2006 (purchased for $814)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (36 reviews)
    Excellent build and image quality, great with R1 macro flash
    A bit large and heavy, focal length shortens as you focus closer

    This is an excellent lens. I have been shooting macro images of small animals and plants, mostly with Nikon equipment, for over 30 years and overall this is my all time favorite macro. Image quality is great, better than good enough to take maximum advantage of the demanding sensor on the D2x. I almost always shoot using flash at about f/16-22, so I can't say much about wide open, but stopped down it is superb.

    The ability to focus to 1:1 without any additional supplementary lenses or extension tubes is a major plus, makes it easy to move in for detail shots of very small animals or parts of animals or plants. The fact that the lens has an extra threaded ring that can carry the mounting ring for the R1 closeup flash set is great, too--the weight of the flashes is carried by the main lens tube, but not the focusing mount.

    I do wish that it did not shorten focla length when focusing extremely close. lens to subject distance can get a bit short, particularly in the 1:2-1:1 range. I have read in a review somewhere that its effective focal length at 1:1 is something like 60 or 65mm, and that is easy to believe.

    All in all, a truly great lens, and I hope they do not discontinue it in favor of the new VR model. For someone who never uses autofocus for macros, and almost always uses flash, that one seems ot have no advantages, and it is far heavier, larger, and more expensive. If you can afford the price, this is the best macro to get for nature macros with a Nikon.

    Sample images:

    A gecko, shot with just an SB-800

    http://www.pbase.com/northqueenslandphotos/image/67706586

    A very short-legged skink, shot with dual flashes

    http://www.pbase.com/northqueenslandphotos/image/67706591

    reviewed December 29th, 2006
  • 8 out of 10 points and recommended by (15 reviews)
    already at f/2.8 very sharp uniformly from edge to edge, 1:1 w/o accessories
    not very saturated colors, not that contrasty wide open, lens barrel extends

    Although this lens and it's VR brother are the least sharpest members of the Micro-NIKKOR family, they still are very sharp. There simply is no Micro-NIKKOR that can not deliver pin-sharp images. The 105/2.8 reaches it's maximum sharpness much earlier that the 60/2.8, which needs to be stopped down at least a full stop.

    Bokeh is neutral at most. Highlights in the sharpness transition near DOF are rendered quite ugly. This is a non issue when you can control the background (e.g. black cardboard).

    The lens is equally good at infinity and at it's near limit. It has virtually no distortion and very low CA. On a D200 or D80 it should not be used at f/16 or slower unless DOF requires so. Manual focusing is a bit fiddly at infinity but there are macro lenses that are much worse in this domain.

    As all modern Micro-NIKKOR designs this lens uses a trick to minimize barrel extension and maximize effective aperture when focusing all the way down to 1:1. But this trick comes at a cost: The effective focal length decreases significantly. This can be very annoying when you try to do macro work on a tripod without a macro focusing rail.

    reviewed November 27th, 2006 (purchased for $460)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    Image quality, 1:1 magnification, f2.8.
    Slow focus.

    Great macro lens that reaches 1:1 magnification. Good bokeh. Excellent image quality both for closeups and for more distant subjects. Even when not shooting macro, I keep using it as a telephoto for landscape (because it's brighter and has more contrast than my other zoom) and portraits.

    reviewed November 20th, 2006 (purchased for $500)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (7 reviews)
    High Contrast and Sharpness
    Slow focus

    Highly recommended macro-lens for Nikon mount.
    Better even than 105VR in term of image quality, sharpness, chromatic aberration.
    Some visible CA (but still least than 105VR), that can easily correct by Photoshop and Nikon Capture.

    Too much extend lenght of lens when full life size focusing. Slow focus speed (better using manual focus for near 1:1 magnification).

    Moving lens tube prone to suck some dust/particle inside of it.

    reviewed November 16th, 2006 (purchased for $690)
  • 9 out of 10 points and recommended by (9 reviews)
    Very sharp & contrasty
    Short working distance

    This is an old classic and an excellent lens. It is very sharp and obviously optimized for closeup work, but still works well enough at longer range.

    I was personally disapointed witht he fact that focal length reduces to around 60mm at 1:1 magnisifaction. THis means that the working distance just wasn't good enough for bug photography. Because of that I traded up to a Sigma 150mm.

    reviewed August 1st, 2006 (purchased for $500)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (8 reviews)
    Tack sharp, no distortion, good working distance for macro shots
    Slow focusing

    This is the lens that we use for all the product shots on Imaging Resource. (Originally on a D70, now on a D200.) It's my favorite lens, partly because I love super macro shots, but also because I appreciate really great optics. This lens is almost completely distortion free, with no visible chromatic aberration, totally flat field, etc, etc. (The DxO tests show some CA, so I'm sure it's there, but it's never interfered with any image I've tried to shoot.) The 100mm length is also great for macro shooting because it gives you a good working distance from your subjects.

    The one limitation of this lens is that it has no focus motor in it, so it can take a really long time to rack the focus all the way in or out when the camera is hunting for proper focus. There's a focus-limit switch that restricts the focus range to non-macro territory, significantly cutting the worst-case travel of the optics, but it's never what could be called fast. I've owned this lens for something like 15 years now, and my sample is finally getting sticky in its focus travel - Needs to be professionally serviced, cleaned, and relubricated, but it's a fantastic optic, and one that's held up very well under a lot of usage.

    reviewed April 14th, 2006 (purchased for $600)
  • 10 out of 10 points and recommended by (3 reviews)
    Extremely sharp, high contrast, easily handheld for macro use, good portrait lens
    none

    Excellent macro and portrait lens, though portraits tend to high contrast. Good working distance for macro work.
    Excellent lens for underwater use, ideal macro lens in a SLR housing.

    reviewed October 24th, 2005 (purchased for $260)