Big Ol 105

105mm Micro Nikkor VR f/2.8

105mm Micro Nikkor VR f/2.8

That’s Nikon’s 105mm f/2D AF DC Nikkor Micro Lens.

What can I say, you want specs and shots of brick walls and focus charts you have come to the wrong place . . . others have given you all this and more . . . so why am I writing about this lens.  Macro lenses come in many focal lengths from 35mm to 200mm and each have their place and use,  Nikon chose to use “MICRO” to  indicate macro type lenses.  In Today’s post I hope to share some insight about this lens and why I chose to purchase it and how I use it.  Why 105mm (medium telephoto focal length)? I like the compression of space you get when using a telephoto lens and this is a fast f/2.8 lens. The 105mm Micro Nikkor has been around for awhile in Nikons stable of lenses and this one is an update of the 105 D f/2.8 – AF version which is just as good.  Let’s talk real quick about Macro photography and Auto Focus (AF), trying to use AF while chasing a bug at high magnification is an act in futility, but it does have its place as this lens is a supreme portrait lens as well.  What? portraits! with a macro lens? yup, you see the best portrait lens focal lengths fall between 75mm and 135mm in length, it has to do with DOF , and the compression of space it has on the human face.  It’s as much about how close you are to your subject, as the perspective you get, and a 105mm usually gives a comfortable working distance from subject to photographer.  For DX users if you use something in the neighborhood of 70mm you get the same angle of view (like the new 60mm or the 85mm micro nikkors).   Back to that AF feature, when in close in the Macro ranges shooting a moving target AF fails us dramatically.  Our camera is looking at contrast to maintain focus and often will miss the point of focus we wanted on our subject due to the shallow DOF we are dealing with.   So turn AF off when in tight working at extreme close up shots and use a technique called “rocking focus“(I’ll explain more about this technique later in this post) to keep your subject in the plane of focus.  You’ll get more keeper shots.  When using the lens for other then Macro then turn your AF back on as it is very fast and accurate.

How I use this lens, first off with a close focusing distance of 1 foot and a working distance of 6″ it is kind of like a run & gun lens for Macro which can get just to the magical 1:1 ratio which is just starting at the true MACRO range (sorry I will leave that debate to the Macro purists as I am not interested in a which came first chicken or egg debate) .  I tend to shoot more close-up shots with minor cropping then true macro and for that style shooting you can’t go wrong with this lens, which I like to say is the Swiss Army Knife of macro lenses.

The lens is FAT . . . but its weight is comfortable although it looks huge on most consumer cameras (check your cameras manual for compatibility) as this is a G series lens, that means it is neutered and does not have an aperture ring which eliminates some tricks like reverse mounting as you cannot control the aperture manually. Also it has plastic filter treads so be careful if you try lens stacking techniques. Here is a photo of it mounted on my old D200 which is a good body size as it is well balanced and the lens fits the palm of ones hand well.

lens mounted on a D200

lens mounted on a D200

That’s a big tater . . . but as awkward as it might look it is really a pleasure to shoot with.  I enjoy chasing butterflies and dragonflies on cool mornings as well as other macro & close-up shooting.

here’s a few shots of the lens.

a lot of contacts to convey a lot of info & control

a lot of contacts to convey a lot of info & control

Note: there is a lot of info and control going back & forth between the lens and the camera.  Also note the rubber seal around the rim of the flange.

Front of lens 62mm filter size

Front of lens 62mm filter size

62 MM filter threads (PLASTIC)

62 MM filter threads (PLASTIC)

it's a hefty 1.6 pounds or 26.515 ounces (BIG TATER)

it’s a hefty 1.6 pounds or 26.515 ounces (it’s a BIG TATER)

here's a size comparison, that's a 24mm on the left

here’s a size comparison, that’s a 24mm on the left which is the same size as a 50mm 1.4

You can see the plastic lens hood that comes with it, and yes it can interfere with the working distance of 6″ . . . also this lens works ok with tele converters and extension tubes as well as close-up filters.  Here are a few real world shots using the lens hand held with AF & VR functions on.

handheld with VR on and using AF, Sand dollar is the size of a quarter

handheld with VR on and using AF, Sand dollar is the size of a quarter

sea urchin close up

sea urchin close up, hand held

Sand dollar, note shallow DOF

Sand dollar, note shallow DOF f/7.1 @ 1/200 sec

Note: The lens breaths when refocused, which means the subject will change size as the lens is focused, this is not good if you plan on doing focus stacking techniques or want to use it for videography, but for most of us this shouldn’t prove a problem.  On another note, VR will only help with YOU and the camera movement, it cannot stabilize the subject, so please don’t fool yourself thinking this will get you sharper pics, use a tripod for serious MACRO work and us VR to steady your camera shake when hand holding and doing close-up to normal shooting.  I wont go into the physics of the working Aperture and how magnification changes it, but be aware like any lens this one is subject to diffusion like any normal lens as the aperture gets smaller (like at f/32 diffusion is at its greatest).

Nikkor 105 macro

Nikkor 105 macro

So is it a worth while purchase? my answer is Yes.  It is an all around general purpose macro / portrait lens.  that’s it for my basic rundown on this fantastic lens.  There are tons of technical sites where you can get all geeked up, but if you want just the answer is it worth it, then yep. . . can’t afford this then get the micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 D, it is just as good but doesn’t have VR . . . and you can get it used and save a few dollars.

Don’t need a Macro lens . . . then check out the Nikon 105mm f/2D AF DC Nikkor , I’ll do a write up on this fantastic lens later 😉

rocking focus : a technique used were you lock focus (manual mode) and rock your body back and forth to control what part of the subject is in the plain of focus, usually done with the camera on a mono-pod or using a stick, pole or any other support. Easiest to learn using an old ski pole.  Practice on a flower, get in close and focus, now observe what drifts in and out of the focus plain as you slowly lean towards or away from the flower, you will get very efficient at this and it is helpful when tracking a moving bug and keeping it in focus (like the head or eyes).

That’s it boys & girls . . . now get off your duff and go “shoot some pix”, “burn some photo cells”, “collect some binary code” . . . “1001101110010010101010010101010101010111111111110000”

 

 

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