on March 28, 2006
Ok, I have had this lens a couple of months now.
What at first seemed like a very good lens is now one I consider
exceptional. In fact it is now my favorite for several reasons.
First of all this lens consistently produces beautiful, even toned and complimentory Bokeh to my images. Bokeh is that term used to describe the elements of a photograph that are out of focus.
This lens has an extremely short depth of field and performs best on close subjects after f/5.6.
My observation of the VR function is this.... that Nikon intended that feature to be more useful when this lens is used for portraits. Up close and for sure when using the wider apertures depth of field is so brief that you need to stop down to capture the breadth of a bumble bee or the center of a flower completely in focus.
In either application this is destined to be a favorite Nikkor lens for many of us. For me it is already!
Focus is very fast and quiet. Build quality is solid! Hefty when held alone or nicely balanced on the D200 with MB200 battery dual battery holder.
I like the lens shade a lot and the packaging is as always, first rate. Comes with 5 year extended warranty, velvet pouch and front and rear caps.
If I could only take one lens this would be it without hesitation.
Matches up extremely well with the SB800 flash units.
I predict this will become a legendary portrait lens.
Late last summer, I wondered why Canon and Nikon had such control over the DSLR market. I had been a Konica Minolta 5D user. I went to a camera store and tried the Canon 30D and a bunch of lenses... okay... Nice... Then tried with the D200 with among others the 105VR. I love to shoot macro/close-up and shooting with this lens just blew me away in the store. I knew then that I had to change and began the task of selling off all my gear and making the move to Nikon.
The 105VR is such a a useful lens. VR is not that useful at macro level focusing. But this lens also doubles as a very good short tele, and VR is VERY helpful in those situations!
In this crop of lenses for Nikon mount (Tamron 90, Sigma 105, & Tokina 100) there is two areas where it excels: 1) the 105VR is constant length and when you are this close to things, it makes a difference; 2) AF-S (quiet focusing). The others really do extend quite a bit, you'll be surprised it you are not used to it. Optically it is superb as sharp or sharper than the competition. Solid construction, large snap on shade. This lens is a winner.
on March 3, 2009
This is a hidden jewel of Nikon that many do not know about and hardly ever talked about. It is a first macro lens with VR that when used as a portrait-head-shot lens, gives amazing bokeh. I've used two copies of this lens already and have never encountered any focus problems on either one of them, nor have I heard any focus problems from anyone else using it. Once it is in the right range (1-2m and infinity), focus is relatively fast. It is not as zippy as the legendary 24-70mm Nikkor, but fast-enough nevertheless. Once it locks on focus, you have supreme confidence that you'll have a super sharp picture. The VR works wonderfully at longer range, giving you about 3 stops of non-shake advantage (Nikon literature claims 4, but in my practice I get about 2-3). At close range less than 1 meter, your VR advantage reduces to about 1 stop. This 1 stop may not be significant when shooting bugs, jewelry, and such with macro flash, but is very helpful when you try to get focus. In macro mode, one should always shoot with flash systems or in a controlled lightbox environment anyways. Auto-focus at less than a few inches away is precise and spot-on, and is such a joy to use compared to your traditional manual focus macro photography. The depth of field is very shallow, and goes higher than f/2.8 when close-up at that range. Doing macros, you should always increase your f-stop anyways with ample lighting + lighting equipments.
If you're shooting your clients' diamonds and jewelry pieces at less than a few inches away, and then switching to their headshots at several yards away... you can do it all with this lens without any filters or switching lenses. This macro lens is a joy to use on APS-C to get a repro of 1.5X. On the FX bodies such as the D700, it is a superb medium-long head-shot portrait lens. IMHO the bokeh this lens produces is actually softer and creamier and more eye-pleasing than what Nikkor 85mm F/1.4D produces. It's very easy to produce creamier bokeh than Canon's 85mm f/1.2L shot at f/1.2! I can't believe people are just starting to discover this many years after Nikon released this lens. This has become my favorite lens for head-shots and shots where bokeh is of high importance.
Given so much praises of this lens, there are obvious down-sides. One is that it is super heavy, and the other one is that it is not cheap, at about $899 now. It was sold for less than $650 brand new a few months ago before the rise of Japanese Yen and before Nikon raised all of their lens prices. Also, this is not a beginner lens as depth of field is extremely shallow. It takes a lot of skills and experience to use such a shallow depth of field. Moving your focal point by a few millimeters will in fact alter your focus point, so be careful when doing shallow DoF head-shots as you may accidentally shift the focal plane on your client's ear/nose instead of their eyes.
There are complaints that the size of your macro subject changes with focus (termed "lens breathing"), but the complaints are usually from old traditional photographers who still mount their cameras on tripods. With this lens, you have VR, so you can just hand-hold most close-ups and tilt your body forward/background to adjust for size/framing.
As with all pro Nikkor lenses, this one is heavy duty with superb built quality and unparalleled resale values compared to any other brand. If you have a lot of cash to burn, this Nikkor is one of the least talked about but one of the highest praised general-purpose portrait + macro lens to get.
on May 31, 2006
Pros: Excellent image quality, excellent build, excellent VR implementation
Cons: pricey, shortens focal length when focusing close, max aperture goes down to f/4.8 at closest focusing distance
Impressively, the Nikon 105/2.8 VR shows center and corner sharpness through the entire aperture range. The sweet spot is said to be between f/5.6 to f/11, but inspecting 100% crops did not reveal much loss of sharpness at the larger apertures. This probably has a good deal to do with the ED glass element and Nano Crystal coating showing its worth, but it is also probable that the lens outresolves the 6-megapixel APS-C sensor on the test body (a Nikon D50), so any decrease in sharpness is not as apparent.
Likewise, color and contrast are also consistently well rendered through the range of apertures. The only flaws in this gem are flaring and chromatic aberration, which shows up in high contrast scenes from maximum aperture (f/2.8) and is minimized by f/5.6. This is, however, typical of many large aperture lenses at maximum aperture.
Bokeh is one of the best traits of this lens, pretty much up there with some of the best Nikkor lenses, like the 85/1.4 AF-D. Out of focus areas are smooth, and the 9-bladed diaphragm helps to render out of focus point lights as circles rather than harsh geometric shapes.
My complete review, with sample photos and more detail on VR effect, AF and effective aperture, is on my webpage, check it out!
on March 30, 2008
I ordered this lens and developed buyer's remorse while awaiting delivery. It is expensive, I'm an amateur, and I thought maybe I was spoiling myself beyond justification. When it arrived, I popped it on my D40x (just to see what it could do before returning it) and snapped off a few pictures of my daughter.
Wow. One look at those casually set up shots and I knew this lens wasn't going anywhere. The detail is so acute, the skin tones so alive, the bokeh so elegantly superior to my other lenses that I feel like I've suddenly elevated my whole game. We had a classic Vermont ice storm the next day, and I went out and shot close ups (twigs encased in ice, frozen buds, etc.) and the results were equally impressive.
It's a beefy lens, but one I don't want to be without, so it's time to upgrade my camera bag.
The price may give you pause, but the results won't. It's an excellent value.
on September 13, 2008
If you're looking for a Nikkor micro lens, this could be the one for you. I photograph coins, flowers, insects and various jewelry items. This lens is very versatile and quite sharp and contrasty. The VRII works very well, though, realistically, for macro photography, I'm not sure the VR is of any value, since you turn it off when the camera is mounted on a tripod.
I find the lens doubles very effectively as a short telephoto lens on a DX frame camera, providing excellent bokeh at wider apertures. As such, it doubles as an effective portrait lens, though that is not it's primary purpose (in my book.) It also performs well for other forms of photography; I've used it to get architecture shots, and find that it introduces very little distortion.
For macro photography I like this lens because of the effective working distance at 1:1. You still have 6-8 inches between the object and the front glass...plenty of room to get your lighting set up the way you want it.
The only downside, if there is one, would be that it's a rather bulky lens; some people don't like the way it fits their hand or balances on the camera. I've used it on the smaller D80 and a larger D300. I find the lens easy to handle, and both camears produce exceptional photos with this lens. I have medium sized male hands...but those with small hands may find the lens a bit more awkward?
The second party lenses from Tokina, Tamron and Sigma are also good...and a bit cheaper. Only you can decide what features are of value to you. For me, the VRII was "worth it" because I use the lens occasionally for interior shots at dinner events where I work. With f/2.8 and VR, I can often avoid using my SB800.
I've never regretted getting this lens.
on April 11, 2008
I wanted a macro lens. After doing a bit of research, there was no mistaking that this was one of the best that Nikon has to offer in terms of macro photography. There are a few things you need to be aware of this lens though.
1. Variable aperture. This was a shock to me. All my fast lenses (read: fixed aperture lenses) stay fast regardless of zoom or focus distance. So when I open my 80-200 f2.8 wide to it's max aperture of 2.8, it remains 2.8 unless I explicity change it. Not so with this baby. The max aperture is determined by "focus distance", so the closer you focus, the harder it is to achieve the stated f2.8 aperture. It's really a sort of a variable aperture lens.
2. Very painstaking to focus. This is a AF-S (silent wave motor) lens. All my previous experiences with AF-S lenses is that they focus silently and very very fast. This is not true for macro lenses. Because it's focusing range is so great, I found that the lens was hunting like crazy (very silently, of course). There is a focus-limit selector that you can set if you know the focus range is more than 0.5 meters (this limits the focusing from 0.5 meters to infinity but prevents macro focusing). The focus-limit switch speeds up the focusing a bit; but don't expect to whip up this lens and take the "candid moment" shot.
3. Shallow DOF. My Sigma 30mm f1.4 has a very shallow depth-of-field but then again, it's not a macro lens and cannot focus very close. This little baby has such a shallow DOF that even a tiny change in distance from camera to subject will throw the focus off.
Of course, none of these are limitations. They are basically features attributed to macro lenses. You just have to get adjusted to it.
And this is the best of the bunch. If you want to dabble in macro photography and are thinking of buying a macro lens, just go ahead and pick up one. Money well spent.
on January 10, 2009
After I got this lens I saw that a certain online reviewer panned it, saying the results were very iffy. I felt bad for a while but after getting consistently excellent results for months (at first with my D40X and then with my new D700) I figured he was just wrong or had had a bad lens. Well, I just went to his website to quote his own words about this lens not being recommended and I see he's changed his mind and now recommends it!
I love being able to focus at a distance of 12 inches. And it's compatible with my new AF-S Teleconverter TC-17E II (that I got mostly for the AF-S VR Zoom- 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED).
on May 24, 2009
This is a beautiful lens. I have used Nikon cameras and lenses for the past 40 years. To find a lens that does portrait and close up is wonderful. With it, the results are truly artistic. You feel more like a painter than a photographer because of the balance, colors and depth of field. Many people today judge a lens by sharpness alone. This lens will take you to a different level of photography.
on April 19, 2010
This is my first macro lens and I'm pretty happy with it. I use it on a DX body. Very sharp lens. For those who say it focuses slow, try playing around with the focus switch. Close up, it does tend to hunt a little but I generally just switch it to manual in this case. You'll be able to achieve a smaller minimum focusing distance in manual focus anyway. Also keep in mind that even though it's f2.8, the aperture does vary....you're not going to get f2.8 all the way through. This is the same as on the 60mm micro. For anyone that cares, this lens is now made in China and not Japan, although this is not an issue for me. Anyway, highly recommended and I'm very happy with it. If you're unsure about this, the 60mm, or the 85mm DX just play around with each (maybe rent first). I wanted VR and am going to upgrade to FX in the near future so that's why I went with this one over the others.