Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm 1:4 Ai-S Lens (f/4)

Review of the Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm 1:4 Ai-S Lens (f/4).

Overall Rating:

This lens was introduced as the 105mm f/4 bellows lens of 1970, and in 1975 it was introduced as a regular focusing F-mount lens in the pre-AI (K) variant. It was then made into the Ai F-mount version in 1977, and finally into this Ai-S version in 1981 (until 1983, 40 years ago). About 25,000 units were produced in the Ai-S version and about 45,000 units were produced in the Ai version making for a whopping 70,000 units combined.

This lens doesn't feature close-range correction like its faster cousin the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Ai-S lens does.

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compared to the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Ai-S

This lens goes to a 1:2 reproduction ratio on its own and then to 1:1 when used with the PN-11 extension tube (a necessary part). Concerning focusing at its 1:1 reproduction ratio, it is very hard to see the subject when using a DSLR due to the maximum aperture of only f/4. It is much easier with a mirrorless camera.

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fly at 1:1 reproduction ratio using PN-11 extension tube — DX mode (detail)
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penny at 1:1 reproduction ratio using PN-11 extension tube — full-frame / FX mode (detail)

This sharp little lens exhibits somewhat high color fringing for a slow prime lens, but this is easily removed in post.

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transformer, sharp but with some heavy color fringing (detail)

This lens has basically no distortion to deal with. This is common to the Micro-Nikkor line.

The bokeh is only fair because highlights take on the shape of the diaphragm which is the shape of a heptagon.

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bokeh f/4
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bokeh f/5.6

Flaring is not too bad because, while the coatings are primitive, there are too few number of elements to cause a great deal of reflections inside the lens. Ghosting is moderate again thanks to the few number of elements.

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ghosting at f/4
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flaring at f/32

Infrared photography is no problem for this lens as there are no hotspots.

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infrared at f/32

This lens is Ai-S compatible so it will work with some Nikon bodies in program and aperture priority mode and the front element does NOT rotate when focusing so using a polarizer is easier. There is a long, useful hood built into this lens, something missing from its faster f/2.8 cousin.

This is an all-metal design with excellent manual focusing. There is no play in the focus collar. The build quality is high.

This lens has a focus and depth of field scale.

Unlike newer lenses, this lens stops at infinity.

Diffraction begins around f/8, but depth of field is important so f/11 may be optimal when doing macro photography. Diffraction is too great to use much beyond this f-stop.

Using Teleconverters

Why use a teleconverter with macro? To replace the extension tube, or to achieve greater reproduction ratios, or magnification.

The TC-14A, TC-201, TC-14 and TC-300 teleconverters all mount without issue.

Without extension tube, the TC-300 can barely mount to give a magnifcation of 1× (1:1 reproduction ratio). Combine the TC-300 with the 52.5mm PN-11 to reach 2:1, but do not expect a bright image. Focusing is difficult. Also, depth of field will be fairly shallow.

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fly, using TC-300 teleconverter and no extension tube — DX mode (detail)
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salt, using PN-11 extension tube and TC-300 teleconverter — full-frame / FX mode (detail)
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penny, using PN-11 extension tube and TC-300 teleconverter — full-frame / FX mode (detail)
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penny, using PN-11 extension tube and TC-300 + TC-14 teleconverters — full-frame / FX mode (detail)
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penny, using PN-11 extension tube and TC-300 + TC-14a teleconverters — full-frame / FX mode (detail)
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transformer, using TC-300 teleconverter (detail)
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transformer, using TC-201 teleconverter (detail)
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transformer, using TC-14 teleconverter (detail)
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transformer, using TC-14A teleconverter (detail)

Honestly, color fringing, which is easily removed in post, is a bit on the high side, but it is rather high regardless of use of a teleconverter or not — remember, teleconverters just magnify. Notice the vignetting occuring in the PN-11 + TC-300 + TC-14A image. This would be a good image to use DX mode on to eliminate the vignetting.

For some reason, color fringing, though present, seems a little better on images with teleconverters attached.


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Nikon lens construction legend

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