Nikon 105 2.8 Macro, VR AFS, Quick Field Review

I enjoy close-up and macro photography. I own Nikon’s spectacular 200mm f4 AF macro lens and the 60mm 2.8 macro. I have been curious to see how the new 105VR compares to these other lenses in terms of optical quality, handling, and use as both a macro and portrait lens.

The 105VR is loaded with features. It has Nano crystal coating, an ED glass element, Vibration Reduction, Internal Focusing, and a Silent Wave AF motor. The lens comes supplied with a very substantial lens shade which is necessary due to the exposed front element. The front lens element is not recessed like it is on Nikon’s other two macro lenses.

Having used the 105VR in the field for a few days, here are my observations: The lens handles extremely well despite the fact that it’s rather large and bulky. The build quality is very high, better than the 60 but not as good as the 200 macro. The weight and balance of the lens on the camera was near perfect, better than my other two macros. I enjoyed carrying it, even after a full day of shooting. The VR, focus limiter and AF/manual control switches are all well placed and convenient to use. I would rate handling as one of the lenses best attributes.

On a DX camera, the effective focal length of the lens is 158mm. For close-up and macro photography this is an ideal focal length to work with. Working distance in the macro range falls between the 60mm and 200mm. I found the 158mm focal length a little long when it comes to portrait and landscape photography. Being an outdoor photographer, I can work around this problem by zooming with my feet (physically moving further away or closer to my subject).

The Vibration Reduction feature works great at distances of about ten feet and further from your subject. It is progressively less effective the closer you get to your subject. In the true macro range, VR should be turned off and the camera and lens locked down on a sturdy tripod. Although Nikon says VR offers 4 f stops of improvement over hand-holding, my tests showed more like a 2 to 3 stop improvement.

Silent Wave focusing is a feature I wish all my other lenses had. The 105VR is fast to focus and is extremely quiet. I did experience some focus hunting but nothing I would consider to be problematic. As is the case with VR, AFS focusing should be turned off when working in the macro range.

The lens is sharp at apertures from f2.8 all the way to f16. I really like the color rendition of this lens. The colors seem to be more punchy than some of my older Nikon lenses. In comparing the 105VR to the Nikon 105 2.8AF lens I did not see any differences in terms of sharpness. As far as the 60mm 2.8 macro is concerned, I would give a an edge to the 105VR. When comparing it to the 200 f4 AF macro, I found the 105mm to be as sharp or perhaps even a little sharper.

The 105VR macro lens is well worth the money considering its versatility, feature set, build quality, and optical performance. If you are in the market for a great handling, multi-purpose macro and portrait lens this Nikon is the lens to beat.


Nikon D70S, Nikkor 105 2.8 Macro, VR AFS, (copyright) Adam Turow

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