Nikon 105mm f/2.8
Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AF Micro (FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 1:1 macro, 52mm filters, 19.8 oz./562g, about $350 used). You can get them at this direct link to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay). You also ought to be able to find them used at Adorama.
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New: 105mm f/2.8 VR (2007-today)
Older: 105mm f/2.8 AI-s (1983-today)
"Micro" is Nikon's word for macro. This is a macro lens. I'll use the words macro and micro interchangeably.
This is Nikon's original 105mm AF Micro and it's a great lens. I bought this one used in 1999. It focuses right up to 1:1 life size with no fooling around. If focuses quickly in both AF and manual modes. And yes, of course it's sharp all over at every distance and f/stop.
This 105mm was replaced by a newer VR version in 2006.
This version has at least two separately cammed groups of internal elements that move separately from one another as the focus is changed. This keeps the optics optimized at all distances. For this reason you will probably hear klunking if you shake your lens. This is normal. In fact, mine sounds like a loose hardware store!!!
In the old days of manual focus lenses, most lenses were built of glass bolted into a single solid metal barrel. The whole thing moved in and out to focus as one unit. There were only about two moving parts, and the tiny space between those was filled with a light grease so there usually was NOTHING to rattle. Therefore, the rattle test was popular for checking used equipment.
Modern AF lenses often run dry without grease. They are made to focus with as little drag as possible to help reduce the drag on the AF motors. Therefore most will clunk a little bit and have some play.
Nikon's premium CRC (automatic close-range correction) lenses have at least two separate sets of elements moving in relation to each other as one focuses. This is done so that the lens retains optimum performance as the distance changes. These tend to rattle more because there is more stuff moving around. The ultra-wides and fast wides were first ones to have this feature starting in 1969. All the micro/macro lenses since 1977 have had this. Nikon uses extra sets of helicoids to control the different groups of elements.
The 105 AF is more amazing still. Not only does it have CRC, but now the internal elements are all moving around on cams as you focus! Some elements move non-linearly while focusing from one end to the other. Cams allow Nikon continuous control of element position, and not simply linear control as a helicoid does. These cams will rattle a lot more then helicoids, and the 105 AF Micro has several cams:
A.) Look in the back
of the lens and look inside as you focus manually from infinity to 1:1.
The rear element stays put, while:
B.) look into the
front of the lens as you focus from infinity to 1:1. You'll see:
In other words, there is a whole lot going on inside this lens to assure top quality at all distances, and the sound of stuff rattling is all the separate free groups of elements rattling. Cams have more play than helicoids, and allow more freedom to design the lens for optimal performance at all distances. I'm very impressed at the advanced lens design Nikon did and didn't even brag about. The filter ring on mine has visible play, but less then 1mm. This is typical for AF lenses.
As a traditional AF lens, the Nikon 105mm AF Micro works on a broader range of Nikon cameras than any other kind of lens. Except that it won't autofocus on the D40, D40x, or D60, and that you'll have to add an AI coupling prong to the aperture ring for coupled metering with Nikons before 1977, this lens just works perfectly with every Nikon ever made over the past 30 years, film and digital, auto and manual focus.
See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details on your camera. Read down the "AF, AF-D (screw)" column for this lens.
Nikon made a manual focus 105mm f/4 micro.
Nikon still makes an f/2.8 manual focus AI-s micro.
Nikon sells the original AF (non-D) version of this 105mm.
Nikon updates the first 105mm f/2.8 AF with the "D" feature which couples focused distance to the flash exposure system. It sold new for $700 in 2006.
Nikon replaces this lens with the AF-S VR version.
Nikon 105mm f/2.8 AF Macro. enlarge.
Nikon calls this the Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8D
9 elements in 8 groups.
It has a seven-bladed diaphragm that stops down to f/32 at infinity.
It would be better if it had a nine-bladed diaphragm since there so often are out-of-focus highlights that would look better as nine-sided polygons instead of seven-sided ones.
The 52mm filter thread is solid metal.
There is a second 62mm thread at the focusing ring. This is where you mount the hood. The lens effectively pops out of the hood as one focuses closer, which is when the hood would tend to get in the way.
You can forget about the hood anyway.
19.837 oz. (562.4g), measured.
Bokeh: See my Bokeh Comparisons page for examples.
Nikon is big in the microscope and scientific world. They don't mess around when it comes to macro lenses! This baby is just about perfect optically and pretty well made mechanically for an AF lens.
It has a tiny bit of axial secondary chromatic aberration.
Hand held at far distances my 80-200 AFS is almost a little bit sharper. I attribute this to the heavy weight of the AFS which tends to attenuate my F100's vibration.
Macro lenses focus close enough that the effective aperture changes as you get closer. The TTL meter for available light and flash exposure compensates for this. The F100, unless you change this in a custom function, will read and set the true effective f/stop regardless of distance. That means that at infinity the f/stop range is from f/2.8 through f/32, but at 1:1 the effective range is f/5 through f/57.
AF Speed is very fast for regular use: one full turn of the AF screw brings you from infinity to 10 feet, which is faster than any of the 70-210, 80-200, 75-300 or 70-300mm lenses.
Here are the maximum effective apertures at different focus scale settings, as indicated on my F100:
For hand held available light shooting, exactly what the macro lens was not intended for, it's sharp on my F100 50% of the time at 1/60.
For macro work I prefer to illuminate the subject entirely with flash and forget about ambient light. This allows me to pummel the subject with enough light to shoot at f/32 and not have to worry about long shutter speeds.
I prefer f/32 as set on the F100. Smaller apertures may also work great; you are dealing with the effects of diffraction as you get to f/32 and smaller, and nonexistent depth-of-field as you get bigger.
Here's how I photograph little critters:
Set the F100 to manual exposure mode, 1/250 shutter, f/32. This puts the flash exposure system to conventional TTL mode. Set the flash compensation to +1. That's the best for Velvia, since the F100 has a design flaw that tends to underexpose TTL macro flash shots regardless of how many and what sorts of flash you use. Use whatever sorts of Nikon flashes (oops, speedlights) you want and couple them however you want. I usually hold one SB28 off the the side with an SC-17, or if I'm feeling fancy I'll have one SB-28 on the shoe of the F100 and a second SB-28 with either an SU-4 or an SC-18 plugged into both SB-28s The Nikon flash system is so complex it would take me three websites to explain it all. If I really want to get fancy I'll screw with my annoying dual-flash macro bracket.
You can cheat and just use a camera-mounted flash. It looks nowhere near as awful as it would for conventional photography.
This is art, so different flash setups give different looks. Ring lights tend to be a little too flat for bugs. For bugs many people prefer dual flashes to keep things sharp and snappy. One light close works better than you'd think. When it's close it acts like a big soft box. Starting with an SC-17 cord to allow you to bring the flash you already have closer and seeing what happens is best. I do have the Lepp bracket and two SB28s. It's such a pain I never use it. Pro photogs (a friend of mine bags a lot of Ranger Rick bug covers) uses three flashes: two up front and one for the background. Start simple first.
Here's the success I get with a single camera-mounted flash at different distances, listed as the magnification ratios marked in orange on the focus scale. The reason you see different flashes listed at different distances is because that's what I happened to be screwing around with at Zion one day in 1999 while waiting for the light. It has nothing to do with some flashes being exclusive to different reproduction ratios.
OK, prefer -7 degree setting on head. The SB-23 is OK
For whatever it's worth, I and other noted and published nature photographers focus this lens manually when photographing little bugs and critters. It's a lot faster and more convenient than AF. You can focus the lens with one finger while holding the camera in one hand, saving the other hand for holding your second flash while out photographing cute little animals in the muck.
Use a common TC-200 or TC-201 teleconverter to make this a 210mm f/5.6 macro lens with continuous focusing from infinity to twice life size. This combination works great with the TTL flash systems of manual and AF cameras.
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2008, July 2010