Nikon Micro 105mm f2.8G VR review
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Nikon’s Micro-Nikkor 105/2.8 is a very good macro lens: it delivers great performance near and far on both FX and DX-format bodies, and enjoys the benefit of Vibration Reduction to minimise shake.

The working distance at 1:1 is 15cm which may not be far enough for nervous critters but at least gives you enough room for proper lighting. With a 105mm focal length the lens also has a clear advantage over shorter models with subject isolation from the background, whether you’re shooting close-ups, or simply using the lens as a standard telephoto.

Technically speaking the 105mm is very strong, but you’ll pay for this performance with a lens that’s bigger, heavier and more expensive than the DX 85mm and DX 40mm options.

Nikkor AF-S MICRO 105mm f2.8G

Compared to Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 40mm f/2.8G

The 40mm Micro Nikkor is an appealing alternative for DX-owners due to its much lower price, but this results in a number of key disadvantages compared to the 105mm. Most obviously its shorter focal length means you need to get closer to your subject to achieve the same magnification – and at 1:1 it’ll need to be just 3cm from the front of the lens compared to 15cm on the 105mm. This makes it very hard to get your subject properly lit on the 40mm and the background-isolation also suffers.

The 40mm also doesn’t have VR image-stabilization so you need quicker shutter-speeds than with the 105/2.8G VR when shooting handheld. But of course that doesn’t matter if you’re working from a tripod.

Comparing image quality between both lenses on DX bodies is surprisingly tough though as the differences are actually pretty small: at normal shooting distances the 40/2.8G has a slight advantage with very high contrast from f2.8 onwards but at closer working-distances the 105mm lens pulls slightly ahead. So this one is hard to decide.

Naturally price, size and weight speak for the 40/2.8G. So you really have to think very carefully what you want from a macro-lens with the 105mm macro offering VR, support for the FX image circle and of course more comfortable distances when shooting at high magnifications. But then the 40mm is less than one third the price.

See my Nikon 40mm Micro Nikkor review for more information.

Compared to Nikon AF-S DX Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/3.5G ED VR

The more affordable 85mm Micro Nikkor looks and feels like a DX version of the 105mm: it shares similar design, similar performance, image stabilization, and an almost identical working distance at 1:1 of 14cm.

But there are clear differences besides the 85mm only being corrected for DX-bodies: It’s almost half the price, half the weight, noticeably smaller, has a 2/3 of a stop slower aperture and misses nano-coating.

Regarding image quality the 105mm has a better contrast wide-open at normal working distances plus better corners up to (and including) f5.6. But the 85mm performs on a par at close-up ranges even with a slight advantage for the 85mm in the corners. So in the end you have to decide whether you pay almost double for a full-frame image circle, a slightly larger aperture, and better contrast.

See my Nikon 85mm Micro Nikkor review for more information.

Nikon 105mm Micro Nikkor final verdict

To sum it all up, the AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED is a very good lens with professional build. The VR image-stabilization works well even at larger magnifications and it comes at an appropriate price for this degree of performance. This earns it a Highly recommended, although if you’re a confirmed DX-owner who doesn’t need full-frame compatibility, you can save quite a bit by going for the 85mm Micro Nikkor without sacrificing any significant performance.


Good points
Image quality is very good.
Good close-up performance.
Image stabilization.
Quiet, quick and reliable AF operation.
Covers FX image circle.

Bad points
Just a bit soft wide open.
If you have any questions or comments regarding the review head over here. A selection of my shots with this lens can be found there.
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