Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S review
Written by Thomas
The Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S is a macro lens with excellent performance at infinity or 1:1 magnification. It offers a rich feature set including fast autofocus making focus shift shooting on a Nikon Z camera a breeze, full weather sealing and fluorine-coating, ARNEO plus Nano anti-reflex coating to preserve high contrast even under adverse contra-light situations, an additional function button, plus an OLED display which can not only indicate aperture or focusing distance and depth-of-field, but also magnification. Optically the lens is very sharp across the full frame, has a nice Bokeh, and is practically free of colour aberrations or field-curvature which is important when reproducing flat objects. Another bonus is the optical image stabilization of the lens. Macro photography is a field where shake can easily ruin a shot as the effect of camera shake increases with magnification. That’s why you should use a tripod whenever you can. But if a tripod is not available every bit of image stabilization helps.
What’s not to like? Well, I have really only one gripe: The lens does not go beyond 1:1 (1x) magnification. It does not even allow the use of teleconverters to achieve larger magnifications. I think that Nikon might have missed a trend in the market: Laowa is offering macro lenses that go down to 2x magnification, the new Canon RF 100mm f2.8L Macro IS goes to 1.4x and Sigma has teleconverters to use with their 105mm f2.8 DG DN Macro Art to achieve 1.4x and 2x. Yes, you can use bellows or extension tubes, but Nikon does not (yet) offer any for Z mount, and third-party solutions often limit the functionality of the lens.
Let’s put this into perspective and have a closer look at how the Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S compares to Nikon’s Z MC 50mm f2.8, Laowa’s 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO, or the Sigma 105mm f2.8 DG DN Macro Art which is currently only available in Sony E-mount and Leica L-mount.
Compared to Nikon Z MC 50mm f2.8
From my initial testing Nikon’s other macro lens for Z mount, the Z MC 50mm f2.8, looks like a good performer albeit not on the same level as the Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S. The 50mm macro certainly has the advantage of being smaller, lighter, and more affordable than its longer sibling. And the missing optical image stabilization may not be a major drawback as 50mm focal length is easier to stabilize by the body-based stabilization on Nikon’s full-frame Z cameras alone. But keep in mind that the shorter focal length of the 50mm Z-Nikkor means that you have only half of the working distance of the 105mm Z-Nikkor for any given magnification. This might scare small critters away more easily. But if this is not your concern and you prefer small and light equipment then the Z MC 50mm f2.8 looks like a good alternative to the Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S.
For more details see my Nikon Z MC 50mm f2.8 preview which I’ll soon expand into a full review.
Compared to Laowa 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO
Laowa’s 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO is a good macro lens which also doubles up as a light telephoto. It produces images only slightly softer than from the Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S with very little field-curvature, pretty soft Bokeh, and almost no colour aberrations. But its major attraction is being able to focus from infinity down to 2x magnification without any additional gear – and that it comes at half the price of the 105mm Z-Nikkor. Its major drawbacks like the manual focus and aperture operation or even the vulnerability to flare and glare might not bother the hardened macro photographer working from a tripod and a focus rail. So if you want to go beyond 1:1 magnification and are on a tight budget, the Laowa is an interesting alternative.
For more details see my Laowa 100mm f2.8 2x Macro APO review where it earned a recommendation.
Compared to Sigma 105mm f2.8 DG DN Macro Art
The 105mm f2.8 DG DN Macro Art is an excellent lens, its performance matching that of the Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S. It also has a very good feature set but misses out on optical image stabilization and an OLED display. But it can be used with Sigma’s teleconverters to get to 1.4x or 2x magnification plus you can get the lens-mount swapped (at a cost). Currently the lens is available in Sony FE- and Leica L-mount only, so it’s not really an alternative to Nikon’s new macro lenses – unless you want to dabble with E-to-Z mount converters. But I’d expect Sigma is working on versions for Z- and RF-mount too.
For more details see my Sigma 105mm f2.8 DG DN Macro Art review where it came Highly Recommended.
Nikon Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S final verdict
Nikon’s Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S is a very good macro lens which also doubles up as a light telephoto. It produces very sharp images with almost no field-curvature or colour aberrations and can confidently be used wide open and in challenging contra-light situations. Its Bokeh is nice and the optical image stabilization should prove helpful with the extra challenges of close-up shooting. So the Z MC 105mm f2.8 VR S certainly earns a Highly Recommended. I only regret that Nikon missed the opportunity to go beyond 1x magnification.
- Excellent resolution and contrast at all object distances.
- No longitudinal colour aberrations or purple fringing.
- Only little vignetting and mild distortions – even without lens-profile.
- Very little field-curvature.
- Nice Bokeh.
- Optical image stabilization.
- Weather sealing, multi function ring, OLED display, function button, focus limiter.
- Cannot use teleconverters
- Focus breathing could be lower.