Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 G IF-ED Lens (f/2.8)

Review of the Nikon AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 G IF-ED Lens (f/2.8).

Overall Rating:

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This lens is 16 years old and made in Japan surprisingly enough though some later samples are made in China. It debuted with a price of $900 USD. Around the time of the introduction of this lens, the Nikon D3 — a 12MP camera — was modern. Because it's a telephoto lens, it has no aspherical elements, and has just one small ED element due to it's relatively slow maximum aperture for a prime. This lens has a good reputation for being sharp and having great bokeh. But does it?

This lens has a gold ring. Does this mean it is a pro-caliber lens? (Does its performance warrant this?) Maybe. Many F-mount FX (and some Z-mount) lenses have this ring while only a few DX lenses have it.

Performance

Lens is noticably sharper in the center than the corners, but the corners are quite good. This is no doubt due to it being a prime/single focal length lens of only f/2.8. There is some color fringing (including longitudinal chromatic aberration a.k.a. LoCA) both at far and near/macro distances, and some vignetting wide-open which is completely gone by f/5.6.

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parsley covered in micro-bugs (focus-stacked, detail)
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plant-destroying insects on parsley (detail of above)
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common garden weed at a 1:1 reproduction ratio (detail)
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coins at a 1:1 reproduction ratio (detail)

Color fringing detail at 3-to-1:

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center at f/2.8 (non-macro distance)
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corner at f/2.8 (non-macro distance)
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center at f/5.6 (non-macro distance)
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corner at f/5.6 (non-macro distance)

Barrel distortion is almost non-existant (0.2%), and there is no flaring.

Because it is a prime, it has a higher t-stop value meaning it lets more light in than most zooms so shutter values will be slightly higher given the same subject and aperture.

Diffraction has begun by f/8.

The autofocus is snappy. The lens suffers horribly from focus breathing which maybe due to its internal focus design given its huge focus range of 1 ft to ∞. The lens shortens its focal length as it is focused closer. Using a depth of field calculator will be a challenge.

Again, the lens is sharp, very sharp, particularly at f/5.6 and in the center. This includes at 1:1 and infinity focus. The corners are less so.

The VR is nearly useless at 1:1 and other macro distances just like it is on the Nikon AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm 1:3.5 G ED VR Lens. Otherwise, it works well when combined with the IBIS of Nikon mirrorless cameras.

Using Teleconverters

Typically, teleconverters perform best with long prime lenses, not macro lenses. So how does this lens perform with the TC-20E III, TC-17E II and TC-14E III teleconverters. All of these teleconverters can mount to this lens and the autofocus will function. Note that the aperture decreases as it is focused to 1:1. And, the focal length of this lens lessens as it is focused to 1:1. This is how Nikon have such a compact lens with internal focusing that focuses to 1:1. So the below effective focal lengths are not always true. This is known as focus breathing.

Using the TC-20E III Teleconverter
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This 2× teleconverter makes for a f=210mm/5.6. An f/5.6 lens is completely useable with the Nikon DSLR autofocus systems. Nikon mirrorless cameras work great at autofocusing this lens. The autofocus doesn't take a noticeable hit with this teleconverter attached.

With this teleconverter attached, the lens goes to a 2:1 or 2× reproduction ratio, but at what cost?

Suprisingly, this teleconverter works well with this lens!

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sharpness @ f=210mm/9.5 when using the TC-20E III teleconverter; 2:1 reproduction ratio (detail)
Using the TC-17E II Teleconverter
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This teleconverter increases this lens to a f=180mm/4.8 which, like the above teleconverter, is a very useable aperture.

With this teleconverter attached, the lens goes to a 1.7:1 reproduction ratio.

Nikon really need to come out with an improved version of this 1.7× teleconverter, the TC-17E III. This magnification is at a sweet spot with 1.7× magnification and a loss of only 1.5 stops of light.

Nikon have quit developing for the F-mount, so the likelyhood of a TC-17E III coming out is none, unfortunately.

If the TC-20E III works well then it is safe to say that this teleconverter works well, too.

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sharpness @ f=180mm/8 when using the TC-17E II teleconverter; 1.7:1 reproduction ratio (detail)
Using the TC-14E III Teleconverter
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This teleconverter increases this lens to a f=150mm/4 which is again a very friendly aperture. All Nikon DSLR autofocus systems can quickly acquire focus at this f-stop.

This teleconverter performs admirably with many lenses, how does it perform on this one?

A greater than 1:1 magnification is achieved here. With this teleconverter attached, the lens goes to a 1.4:1 reproduction ratio.

It seems all these teleconverters have satisfactory results.

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sharpness @ f=150mm/7.1 when using the TC-14E III teleconverter; 1.4:1 reproduction ratio (detail)

Infrared

This lens is just okay for infrared photography.

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infrared, f/22

Ghosting & Flaring

Both flaring and ghosting are somewhat problematic for this lens.

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ghosting f/2.8
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flaring f/32

Bokeh

The bokeh is fair wide-open and stopped down some. Overall, the bokeh is neutral at non-macro distances. At macro distances, the bokeh suffers from a strong "double-vision" effect. A macro lens really should have super creamy, smooth bokeh.

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f/3
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f/4
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f/5.6

Compatibility

"G" lenses like this are not compatible with older cameras, but they are compatible with all Nikon DSLR's and Nikon Z mirrorless cameras with the FTZ adapter.

Construction

This is a largely metal lens with a little plastic. It is very sturdy. The manual focusing feels good and there is no slop in it. It does focus beyond infinity to, assumingly, accommodate the UV wavelength, or perhaps to see beyond light itself!

This lens has a focus and depth of field scale but it's usefulness is limited because it is so small no doubt to help make the autofocus faster by making it travel less.

Specifications

Focal length 105 mm
Maximum aperture f/2.8
Minimum aperture f/32
Lens construction 14 elements in 12 groups
Angle of view 23°20' (15° with Nikon DX format)
Minimum focus distance 0.314 m/1 ft (from focal plane)
Maximum reproduction ratio
No. of diaphragm blades 9 (rounded)
Filter-attachment size ø62 mm
Diameter × length Approximately 83 × 116 mm/3.3 × 4.6 in.
Weight Approximately 720 g/25.4 oz
Price $900 USD

Images

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