Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review
This lens review of the Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 applies to more than this lens. The lens was made by Kino Precision in the 1980s and the lens was rebadged and sold under several brand names.
Other than some cosmetic differences a Kiron 105mm f/2.8 Macro review would be identical to this one. That’s because Kiron was the brand Kino Precision used for their own lenses.
What makes the Lester Dine lens interesting is that it was sold as a bundle with a camera and ring flash. I do not know if other accessories were offered for the Nikon camera it was sold with.
Through the 1990s praise for the lens grew as it is capable of capturing photos with incredible sharpness. Today, it is a bit of a cult classic macro lens.
Minolta MD and Canon FD versions will be cheaper if available. These can be good buys if you are going to adapt the lens to a mirrorless system.
As of November 2018, prices of sold lenses range from $100-$200 on eBay. Prices will vary over time with supply, so you’ll want to check eBay to see what kind of deal you can get.
I don’t expect there to be buyers are that price. This is a lens where patience and a broad search can save $50-$100.
Deals show up every few weeks. If you want a copy of this lens, check the listings a few times a week. Within a month or two a copy in good condition should show up, or you’ll be able to win an auction.
Drop the “A” and search for “Lester Dine 105mm.” Lazy sellers get lower prices. Not including the “A” will result in more lenses showing up in search. The lens was also sold by Kiron under Kino Precision and Vivitar rebadged copies of the lens.
Kino Precision, also known by the brand name Kiron, was the company that manufactured the lens. As with many third-party manufacturers, the lens is sold under several different brand names, with small cosmetic changes.
Over time the lens has built up a reputation for high-quality optical performance and build quality.
When compared to other macro lenses from the same era, the lens is sharper, very usable, but suffers from chromatic aberration in the corners. With some post-processing, the lens will give modern macro lenses a run for their money.
Lester A. Dine invented the ring flash in 1952. He named the company after himself and marketed the flash to dentists.
When I purchased the lens it came with the original receipt. It was sold in a bundle with a Nikon N6006 and ring flash for $1,350. The N6006 was a top SLR model at that time, hence the high price for the equipment bundle.
The Lester A. Dine company is still around, selling macro gear to dentists who need to capture photos of teeth.
|Version||Lester A. Dine|
|Elements Groups||6 ele. 6 gr.|
|# Aperture Blades||6|
|Aperture Control||Manual, Auto Diaphragm|
|Hard Infinity Stop||Yes|
|Minimum Focus Distance||34.7cm (13.7”)|
|Working Distance||5-5/8" (14.3cm)|
|Dimensions||⌀72mm x 124mm (2.8" x 4.875")|
*The price is for the Kiron version of the macro lens from a 1985 Competitive Camera Corp catalogue. In 1986, the price went up to $199.95.
I also have an original Lester Dine invoice from 1995 with a price of $1,350.00 for a camera bundle. The invoice price lumps together the Nikon N6006 and all the accessories, including, the macro lens, ring flash, carrying case, and stainless retractors.
A ring flash with point flash was included with the lens. My knowledge of the flash is limited to the Nikon version.
The ring flash screws onto the 52mm front filter threads of the lens. A cable goes from the flash tubes to the main body of the flash mounted in the hot shoe on top of the camera. The flash is powered by 4x AA batteries.
Manual control is limited to being able to select between the ring and point flashes.
There is no way to manually control the power output, so the flash is not useful on a DSLR. The Nikon TTL protocol for film cameras is different from the early digital D-TTL and current i-TTL.
There is one version available in several lens mounts and brand names. Kino Precision sold the lens under its’ own brand name Kiron.
Vivitar and Ricoh also sold copies of the lens. All the versions have the same optical design with minor cosmetic differences. Photo sharpness will be the same with any version of the lens.
The Lester Dine version is most likely going to have a Nikon F-mount as they did not sell copies of the lens with a different mount, such as Canon FD.
- Lester A Dine 105mm Macro f/2.8
- Kiron 105mm Macro f/2.8
- Vivitar Series 1 105mm Macro f/2.5
- Vivitar 100mm Macro f/2.8
- Ricoh Rikenon 105mm f/2.8
The lens is heavier than all the other 90-105mm macro lenses I have used. That’s not without merit, as the lens looks and feels very well made.
If you are looking to adapt this lens to a mirrorless body, a tripod collar is going to be needed for use on a tripod.
The front element is not recessed into the lens. This is great for working distance and not an issue with a ring flash.
The instructions for the Lester A. Dine lens claim there is a built-in retractable lens hood, but it is not present on my lens. The retractable lens hood can be seen on lenses that have branding other than Lester A. Dine.
My guess is that the lens hood was not built into the lens to give more room to mount the ring flash. A lens hood (52mm) is likely going to be needed often enough that having one is a good idea.
There is a dental chart along with magnification markings and instructions on the lens. You can view the chart as the lens is extended towards life size magnification.
The dental chart assumes that the ring flash, which was one of the accessories bundled with the lens, will be in use.
It is very clear that the macro lens was marketed by Lest Dine to dentists. The TTL capabilities of the camera and flash are great features that make macro photography easy.
The camera will set the shutter speed to the flash sync speed which will sharpness is not ruined in pictures from motion blur.
The focus ring is smooth and feels great on my copy. This is always a point of worry with vintage macro lenses. Grease dries out and the cost to service the lens will be more than the lens is worth.
The aperture ring is clicky and has half stops. I believe there might be a scale on the barrel of the lens for focus adjustments, but it is covered up by the dental chart.
Test shots were taken with a Nikon D750. The lens also worked well adapted to a Sony A7. Weighting and overall balance felt great on the D750.
The lighter weight of the A7 plus the extension from the adapter causes the setup to be front heavy. I wish I had a battery grip for the A7.
Working distance at 1:1 magnification is 5.5" (14.3cm). Because the front element is positioned so far forward, a lens hood might be needed.
Since the versions of the lens with different branding contain a built-in lens hood, those should be considered more desirable.
Despite the lens being 24 years old, the focus ring is still smooth. There are no signs that the grease in the helicoid is breaking down. The total travel distance for the focus ring is approximately 675 degrees. Precision focusing is easy, but switching between near and far subjects is slow.
Chromatic aberration shows up in all the images. Stopping down eliminates most of it, but it does linger in the corners.
- f/2.8 - Not sharp and purple fringing is noticeable across the entire image.
- f/4 - Improved sharpness in the center. Edges of the images are still soft with purple fringing.
- f/5.6 - More improvement. Softness and CA are reduced and only visible along the sides of the image.
- f/8 - Very sharp in the center. There is stills some lingering softness and CA along the edges.
- f/11 - Very sharp. There is a small amount of CA in the outer parts of the corners.
- f/16, f/22, f/32 - Diffraction eliminates detail and dust shows up.
Diffraction sets in at wider f-stops due to lens extension. f/5.6 and f/8 are the only apertures that produce sharp results. Chromatic aberration did not show up like in the test shots from further away.
Despite the chromatic aberration, the Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 Macro is my second favorite manual focus macro lens.
The Vivitar 90mm f/2.8 macro lens is my favorite. Nikon and Canon’s manual focus macro offerings are not as sharp.
Being available in several different mounts means it is possible to pick up native mounts for Nikon and Pentax. Minolta MD and Olympus OM mounts are less expensive choices for adapting to a mirrorless camera, or if you shoot film.
Not having the built-in lens hood is a drawback from the Lester A. Dine version. I would rather have the Kiron, Vivitar, or Ricoh version of the lens.
Newer lenses are sharper and have more usable apertures. That does come at an increase in price.
The Tamron AF SP Di 90mm f/2.8 will give sharper images for ~$140-$220. The Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X M100 AF Pro D is another highly regarded option for ~$260.
To learn more about macro, have a look at the Beginner’s Guide to Macro Photography.