There’s nothing like a lens that can double up and do two things. In this case, it’s the reworked Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8 which is quite happy being an all-around prime lens and micro in one bundle. It’s not a new design, but there’s plenty of quality here to keep up with the current crop of lenses.
Nikon users will be familiar with the lens layout. A solid upfront focus ring, distance scale and a few switches on the side of the lens. Inside there are 14 elements in 12 groups, with ED glass and the addition of nano coating. Inside are nine rounded diaphragm blades, which should provide some nice highlights and background blur. An AF-S focus motor handles all focusing duties and VRII has been added for stabilization. The three switches on the side of lens cover auto or manual focus, focus limiter switch which is either full, Infinity or 0.5M and the VR switch for turning on and off the vibration reduction system.
The are some caveats to using the VR system. There is no second switch for Active versus Normal VR. I get why they have just put on one switch just for simplicity. But also, it may be an idea to switch off the VR when used in macro mode, as it can save on battery life and performance.
The lens can be used on a full FX body or a DX, but on a crop sensor the field of view is more narrow at 12.8 degrees horizontal. The micro ability is 1:1 with the closest focusing distance is 0.314m, which should be great for getting those close details. The filter thread is 62mm, all wrapped up in a package which weighs 720g.
This is quite a chunky lens and definitely feels like top end quality. the focus ring has plenty of rotation to roughly 270 degrees. This gives plenty of travel to get very accurate focusing, especially important for macro work. The HB-38 hood will be one addition you will want to leave on the camera most of the time. The curved front element gets quite close to the filter ring and as with any expensive lens, the inclusion of the hood is always a good idea.
The autofocus system is very fast and accurate. It only starts to hunt a little when going into small subjects, but the usual course of events with macro mode is to use manual focus on a tripod, so this isn’t a big issue. The same goes for the VR system. At normal distances everything works fine, working at a pace you would expect. It’s just when you get down to macro levels the system gets more problematic. In reality, you would simply push the autofocus and VR system to as close as you can, until it starts to trip up. Then it’s into manual mode, which is a given for macro work.
As with many Nikkor lenses, the optical quality is great, with focusing being fast and quiet. There is some internal trickery inside the lens, which allows the 1:1 macro mode. So the lens doesn’t extend in any way, which isn’t exactly needed in macro mode, or the aperture becomes f/4.8 when at 1:1. Not as much of a disadvantage when capturing really small subjects, as it does give a bit of depth of field leeway.
Straight out of the box distortion levels are extremely minimal, with only a minute bit of pincushioning. The same goes for vignetting which across the range from wide open to the smallest aperture is non-existent. As for lens sharpness, there is some softness in the corners when wide open, but this is completely gone by f/8 which is definitely the sharpest area of this lens. Center sharpness is extremely good across the range, with no criticism here. Chromatic aberration is also nearly non-existent, which means that only a small bit of edge softness is the only detractor up to now.
The background blur wide open is as good as you what you can get from any high-end f/2.8 lens. Nice and smooth with good results across the range. Overall, this one produces sharp images, especially the center across the range, with the depths of color and contrast.
How Does It Compare?
The closest comparison is going to be with the previous version of this lens. There have been some good updates to the new version, which will be worth the upgrade, such as the AF-S and VR, but due to the slight edge softness in the newer version the older one is slightly better optically. If ultimate image quality is your primary concern, than the older version comes out on top. If the addition of the AF-S and VR and you can live with the slight edge softness, then the new version could be the winner.
|Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8||Sigma 105mm Macro|
|Elements||14 elements/12 groups||16 elements/11 groups|
Overall, the Nikon AF-S 105mm f/2.8 has a lot going for it. Although it has some age under its belt, its fast focusing and the VR system does what it says on the tin. The lens works great as a medium telephoto and macro lens and for those who don’t have either, this lens can be a great choice. From portraits to bug shots, this lens will serve you well.
The tiniest of distortion
VR not good close up
Limited focus range