Nikon 105VR: Initial Impressions [22]

Started Jun 19, 2006 | Discussions Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
Nikon 105VR: Initial Impressions [22]

Nikon 105VR: Initial Impressions [22]

As the owner of four macro lenses (albeit only two distinct optical designs... don't ask ;), the Nikon 105VR marks my first modern macro lens. And not just modern, but cutting edge.

The lens features essentially the whole alphabet soup in Nikon's current bag of tricks, incorporating no less than AF-S, VR, G, IF-ED, and Nano crystal coating. The question is, does the lens live up to this impressive roll call of technology?

I've had the opportunity to audition the lens for the last two weeks and thought I'd give my cursory impressions of the lens, as well as share some images. The format will be as follows:

01 -- The Images [13]
02 -- Balance and Usability
03 -- Focus Ring
04 -- Construction, Fit & Feel
05 -- Hood
06 -- AF Performance
07 -- VR
08 -- Image Quality & Sharpness
09 -- Color, Contrast & Character
10 -- Closing thoughts

If you have the 105VR, please feel free to add your own thoughts on the lens. To those interested in the optic, feel free to ask questions.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
01 -- The Images [13]

01 -- The Images

As they say, talk is cheap.














OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
02 -- Balance and Usability

02 -- Balance and Usability:

On the D2X, the lens feels solid. The combination seems to speak to one singular objective: getting the job done. The stout barrel of the 105VR matches well with the beefy D2 body and overall the balance feels great.

Many people will no doubt consider the lens large and bulky, especially for a prime of this focal length. Despite its size, the lens handles well.

The wide barrel and thick, well positioned focus ring make for great usability. Coming from manual focus macro lenses, the full-time manual override AF-S provides is a natural extension of the tools I've used to. The toggles on the lens all feel well-positioned, particularly the VR-button, which sits in perfect reach of the thumb.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
03 -- Focus Ring

03 -- Focus Ring:

An essential point for any macro and/or portrait lens, the focus ring of the 105VR has the same fairly dry, hollow feel of my other AF-S lenses. I'd the action somewhere in between the easier-moving focus ring of the 70-200VR and the weather-sealed stiffness of the 17-55's focus ring. The action of the focus rings seems a marked improvement over that of most geared, screw-driven lenses, but not quite as nice as that of a dedicated manual lens.

In use, I missed the silky and sure drag of my manual focus glass for precision close-focusing. A more greased and more finely damped focus feeling would definitely be appreciated. Still, the action is adequate and probably as nice as any other AF Nikkor available, and not so course that it should really impede precise manual focus. Focusing and shooting technique will probably prove more of an issue for most shooters than the mechanics of the lens itself.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
04 -- Construction, Fit & Feel

04 -- Construction, Fit & Feel:

The lens is undeniably solid. No wiggle here. The action of all the buttons is positive and the focus ring is smooth. My only complaint would be with the VR button, which is noticeably more "hollow" in its locking action than the other buttons on the lens and also compared to the VR switch on my 70-200VR. The finish of the lens is fine, matching that of the my more modern Nikon gear of this new millennium, the D70, D2X, 17-55, and 70-200VR.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
05 -- Hood

05 -- Hood:

The hood snaps securely in the bayonet system and stays put in once locked, active and stored. Out of all the bayonet hoods I've used, I prefer the very solid push-button locking mechanism of the 17-55 best, and wish Nikon had employed a similar system for the 105VR. Regardless, the locking mechanism feels solid enough and generally much more secure than that of my 70-200VR. Unlike that design, the hood of the 105VR seems quite secure when locked and likely to be resistant to casual twisting while loading or unloading the lens.

The hood features only the most minute amount of taper in its design, making it fairly streamlined when stored in the backwards position. Still, the hood only adds to the undeniable native width of the lens, which may make it a snug fit in your bag.

Due the design and depth of the hood, no controls are accessible when the lens hood locked in the reversed position. The VR, focus limiter, and AF/MF switch are all effectively shielded by the hood, which makes perfect sense for storage. Of course, this means the hood must be removed or attached in the active position to utilize any of the controls of the lens.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
06 -- AF Performance

06 -- AF Performance:

At conventional distances, AF is positive and snappy --the silent wave motor works as promised -- quick and fast. The AF performance seems about on par with the 70-200VR from casual use.

At close focusing, AF performance declines in effectiveness as the magnification ratio increases, though this should not really deter would-be buyers -- if your eyes are up to the task of manual focus. I would say AF performance at macro distances is marginal at best, largely hit-or-miss depending on the contrast of the subject.

As I use manual focus exclusively for close ups, the only real grievous inefficiency of AF for me occurred when the magnitude of focus changes dramatically. Given the very large range of focus, the lens can hunt when asked to switch focus between conventional distances and those used for close up work.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
07 -- VR

07 -- VR:

It really does work. Casual testing indicates that once again VR is magic, and does indeed work in the lens as promised. However, just as with AF performance, the effectiveness of VR declines as the magnification ratio increases.

As Vibration Reduction is not a 100% effective solution all the time, and as translation becomes an increasing problem at high magnification, one must assume that using VR with macro is inconstant at best, though the adventurous and persistent will no doubt be rewarded.

My own use of the lens has proven VR to be useful and generally convenient up to magnification up to and around 1:2, with acceptable results as low as 1/60 second handheld. The patient photographer may find functionality beyond that, but for close up work, I wouldn't consider pushing VR further than that as anything approaching utility. One might note that the word patience has its root in the Latin pati, to suffer.

Regardless, with enough discipline and perseverance, it seems VR can be an interesting and even surprisingly functional asset for close up photography, and not to be dismissed outright.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
08 -- Image Quality & Sharpness

08 -- Image Quality & Sharpness:

As one would expect from a Micro Nikkor, the new 105VR is an exceedingly sharp lens, not only for close up work, but at a distance as well. Given the stigma attached to some of Nikon's older Micro Nikkors, this may come as a pleasant surprise to some.

At infinity, sharpness appears quite good from my testing, even wide open. Center sharpness is virtually identical throughout the aperture range from f/2.8 to f/11, while the edges improve in consistency as the lens is stopped down. Following a fairly standard performance curve, initial use indicates the lens renders optimal image quality between f/5.6 and f/8.

Color shifts appear largely controlled in the 105VR, though the lens can display purple fringing for highly reflective subjects like metal and other high contrast areas. At conventional distances, this fringing decreases toward f/5.6 until it is all but eliminated at f/8. Aside from this fringing, the lens appears very well controlled for aberrations.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
09 -- Color, Contrast & Character

09 -- Color, Contrast & Character:

The ED elements and Nano Crystal Coating seem to do the job -- images have great color and a pleasing snap. Contrast appears strong and crisp.

The images rendered by the lens appear pleasingly smooth -- at least as nicely as those from the 70-200VR. From what I've seen from Nikon's other AF lenses designed for close up work, the 105VR is easily the smoothest of the shorter Micro Nikkor primes. Transitions and gradations of focus appear surprisingly smooth as well.

As per the mounting concerns of professional photographers everywhere, and in keeping with their other recent lens releases, Nikon has dropped in a diaphragm assembly with beautifully rounded aperture blades. Surely to the satisfaction of all invested parties, the lens delivers nicely circular specular highlights.


OP Veteran Member • Posts: 5,632
10 -- Closing thoughts

10 -- Closing thoughts:

The 105VR Micro Nikkor is a very, very solid tool. It performs capably and without complaint, rendering excellent performance with ease.

While seemingly optimized for close up work, as the Micro Nikkor designation would have us believe, the new 105VR is anything but a one-trick pony. Performance across the range of focus is excellent, offering a highly functional option to photographers looking to maximize utility in their kit.

For those who are interested in a lens that can serve a triple threat as a single tool for close up work, short tele duty, and as a portrait lens, I think Nikon may have delivered just the product.



JoshuaMB Regular Member • Posts: 382
Thank you! and....

Thank you for that critique, that does answer some questions for me...

I have the 105 2.8 D, actually I will have it for only about 6 more hours before it sells on ebay.

I think I may have been hasty and put it up there before doing my research on the 105 VR that I hope to replace it with...
My main problem is where to the the 105 VR...!?

I would really rather not be without the Macro lens for too long of a time and no one seems to be stocking the 105 VR, everyone is on backorder!

Does anyone know why this lens is so scarce and why no one has any in stock right now???

sfried Contributing Member • Posts: 602
Re: Nikon 105VR: Initial Impressions [22]

What a great post! I just received a long-awaited (3 months) 18-200 VR last Friday, but after reconsidering, I decided to keep my 18-70 / 70-300 combo and go for some professional glass and my first Micro.

I sold my 18-200 on ebay over the weekend ($230.00 profit), and purchased the 105 today from sanjosecamera (in stock at $799.00).

You review really cemented my confidence in that purchase. I hope with my D70 and lots of practice I will see great results.

Thanks again.

-- hide signature --

D70 SB800 18-70 50mm/f1.8 70-300ED/f4

 sfried's gear list:sfried's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR +2 more
sfried Contributing Member • Posts: 602
Re: Thank you! and....

See my post below. I just got it today at sanjosecamera for $799.00 in stock! They are very reputable.

I suggest you purchase by phone, since I was able to get a much better price on shipping then what was offered on-line.

-- hide signature --

D70 SB800 18-70 50mm/f1.8 70-300ED/f4

 sfried's gear list:sfried's gear list
Nikon D7100 Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8D Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Nikon AF-S Micro-Nikkor 105mm F2.8G IF-ED VR +2 more
ChefZiggy Veteran Member • Posts: 5,855
Thanks Todd...Once again...

You have proven your merit. Otstanding shots and an excellent breakdown on the lens.

My biggest problem taking shots like yours is that, around here, plants are almost never perfectly still. I've about decided God is worried about His copyright and keeps a slight breeze going just to mess me up. grin

That combined with the narrow DOF with macro lenses means I can almost never get what I want in focus even with a tripod.

-- hide signature --
Kaj E Forum Pro • Posts: 10,225
Thank you Todd...

...for the thorough review. Very interesting lens due to its versatility as you said from macro to portraits and more distant shots. Could be a good companion to the 17-55 for a two lens versatile travel pack (despite the bulk).

PS. Very nice pictures.

-- hide signature --

Kind regards
WSSA member

Emil Varadi
Emil Varadi Senior Member • Posts: 1,521
Todd, you are torturing us...

Wonderful marcros.
But my lens lust is now runnig amock ...

 Emil Varadi's gear list:Emil Varadi's gear list
Ricoh GR Ricoh GR III Nikon D850
Seiji Senior Member • Posts: 2,707
Very well thought out. Beautiful Pictures.

I enjoy your beautiful photos and find them inspiring. Your knowledge and well composed "First Impression" article has strong credibility. I find the information concise, relevant, measurable, and replicable. I hope to benefit more from your articles.
Lens Speed Enables.

arkoc Contributing Member • Posts: 572
Great review, beware my wife!

Thank you for the wonderful review. Mine is on its way.

Be careful if you ever see my wife - she may attack you. She says you're a bad influence and that I can't see you anymore.

AlbieSky Veteran Member • Posts: 3,338
I like my 105vr

I bought it as an incentive to get interested in macro, but I seem to be using it more as a portrait lens. I have not been disappointed with the color, contrast and sharpness. Is there is difference in the VR in the 18-200vr and the 105vr? To me the VR in the 105 seems to work better than my 18-200.

-- hide signature --

D 7 0 + 1 8 - 7 0, 5 0 f 1.4, 1 0 5 mm V R, S B 6 0 0
1 8 - 2 0 0 V R, N V, N C, P S E 4

 AlbieSky's gear list:AlbieSky's gear list
Nikon 1 J1 Nikon 1 V2 Fujifilm X-T1 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm F1.4G Nikon AF-S Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR +10 more
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