Lester A. Dine 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: April 20, 2019
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Lester A Dine 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

Made by Kino Precision in the 1980's the lens was rebadged and sold under several brand names. Lester A. Dine put their name on the lens to be paired with their ring flash and sold to dentists.

Through the 1990's praise for the optical quality and usability of the lens grew. Today, it is considered a cult classic macro lens.

Lester A. Dine?

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 camera and other gear for $1,350.

The Lester A. Dine company is still around, selling macro gear to dentists.

Kino Precision (Kiron)

Kino Precision, also known by the brand anme Kiron, was the company that manufactured the lens. As with many third party manufactures, 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.

Lens Specs

ManufactureKino Precision
Made inJapan
Year Released19??
Original Price$179.95*
VersionLester A. Dine
Elements Groups6 ele. 6 gr.
Focal Length55mm
Aperturef/3.5-32
# Aperture Blades6
Aperture ControlManual, Auto Diaphragm
Focus TypeManual
Hard Infinity StopYes
Magnification1:1
Minimum Focus Distance34.7cm (13.7”)
Working Distance5-5/8" (14.3cm)
Filter Threads52mm
Weight650g (22.75oz)
Dimensions⌀72mm x 124mm (2.8" x 4.875")

The price is for the Kiron version of the lens from a 1985 Competive Camera Corp catalogue. In 1986, the price went up to $199.95.

I also have an original invoice from 1995 with a price of $1,350.00. The invoice price lumps together a Nikon N6006, the lens, ring flash, carrying case, and stainless retractors.

Accessories

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 other part of the flash mounted to the hot shoe and containing 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.

Lens Versions

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 optics with minor cosmetic differences.

  • 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
Lens Barrel Showing Aperture Ring, Focus Ring, and Focus Distance Scale.

Build Quality, Design, and Sample Variation

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.

Lens Hood?

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 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.

Dental Chart

There is a dental chart along with magnification markings and instructions on the lens. There is no mistaking the lens was marketed to dentists.

Focus Distance Scale With Lester Dine Dental Chart.

Focus Ring

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.

Usage & Working Distance

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 cause 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. Total travel distance for the focus ring is approximately 675 degrees. Precision focusing is easy, but switching between near and far subjects is slow.

Camera Lens Fully Extended Showing Length at Life Size Magnification.

Test Shot Sharpness Comparison

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.
Test Image Corner Crop f/2.8
100% Corner Crop at f/2.8.
Sample Image Corner Crop f/8
100% Corner Crop at f/8.

Other Test Shots

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.

Sample Image Center Crop
100% Crop at f/5.6.

Used prices on eBay

Prices vary based on the lens mount and badging. Nikon F and Pentax K mounts cost the most. This is because these lenses can be used on modern DSLRs with the need for an adapter.

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.

Pro eBay Tip

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.

Comparable Lenses

Conclusion

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 mount 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 a 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.

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