Nathan Griffin Photographs

nikon 105mm f2.8 macro review

Sample picture taken with Nikon 105mm f2.8 ais lens

I have always loved macro photography. The ability to take vivid images of small objects opens up a whole new world of photography. On days when the sky doesn't cooperate with capturing landscape images, you can often get out the macro lens and concentrate on what is at your feet.

picture of three nikon lenses including the 105mm f2.8 ais

For those wanting to get an introduction to close-up photography there are screw on lenses that will allow your regular lens to focus close. I decided that I would use a macro lens enough to justify getting a lens dedicated for the job. My search landed me a Nikon 105mm f2.8 Macro. I love it! It is super sharp and has allowed me to capture many enjoyable images.

Sample flower picture taken with the Nikon 105mm f2.8 lens

Macro lenses from most manufacturers come in prime focal lengths only and usually in around three ranges: 50-60mm, 100-105mm, and 180-200mm. My experience will lead most people away from the 55mm macro lens. The short focal length means that you are often so close to your subject that you end up casting a shadow on your image. Not good! I have had this happen to me with a 105mm lens and I am sure it would be a real problem at 55mm.

The advantage of getting more space between you and your subject is especially important if you are photographing critters. They tend to get scared if you get close, so you will have an advantage if you can use as long a focal length as possible. I wanted the 105mm lens over the 180mm as it would double as a portrait lens and it seemed like a logical step to complement my other Nikon prime lenses. The Nikon 105mm is a nice compromise for a macro lens - long enough to separate yourself from your subject, but still reasonably small and light.

Nikon's 105mm f2.8 AI lens is very well built. Operating the focus ring is extremely smooth and deliberate. The focus ring features a locking screw to set the focus - a handy feature when you want to set the focus perfectly and ensure a bump doesn't change your settings.

Sharpness is fantastic - it is what sets the lens apart and makes it great not only for macro work, but also for portraits and tight landscape work. The picture below was taken with at 105mm and shows that you don't have to only use a wide angle lens for landscape photography.

Landscape Photography example picture taken with Nikon 105mm f2.8 macro lens

Sample picture for landscape photography taken with the Nikon 105mm f2.8 AIs macro lens.

The only frustrations with this lens deals with the inherent challenges of macro photography. Three words - depth of field! When you focus closer, your depth of field vanishes to nothing. Try to pick compositions where all parts of your subject are perpendicular to the axis of your lens - you will be able to keep all parts on the same focal plane. The other tip is to reduce the size of your aperture. This results in longer exposure times - get the tripod handy! If you are trying to do all of this outdoors with wind . . . good luck and welcome to macro photography.

One pitfall to the Nikon 105mm f2.8 is that the focus throw (how much the focus changes with a given twist of the barrel) is very quick when used at longer subject distances - this is a byproduct of the macro design. With such a sensitive focus throw, I have a hard time accurately focusing on peoples faces when using as a portrait lens. Despite this difficulty, the Nikon 105mm macro is a great lens and comes highly recommended.

I used this lens on my Nikon FE2; however, it would work great on a modern digital Nikon SLR such as the D200 / D300 or even the D3. The only thing you would loose compared to a modern equivalent is autofocus. Autofocus is not that important to have when focusing close-up as you would probably switch to manual focus anyway to gain control on a macro subject. The optical characteristics would be every bit as good as a more expensive autofocus lens.

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