Nikon AF Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review

By Nathaniel Stephan
Last Updated: April 21, 2019
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Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review

The Nikon AF Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 Macro lens would never be my first choice. In terms of price/performance, the lens misses the mark.

The Tamron 90mm SP Di f/2.8 macro lens is less expensive, sharper, lighter, and does not require an in-camera autofocus motor.

Manually controlling the aperture ring isn't good because it sticks. Plus, the reliance on an in-camera body motor for autofocus means manually focusing feels terrible.

Used Price and Where to Buy

Rear Element and Nikon F Lens Mount with CPU Contacts

With the release of Nikon Z-mount cameras, I would expect the price of the lens to fall in the future.

Autofocus will not work on the Z-mount cameras with the OEM adapter. Hopefully, Nikon will release an F-mount adapter that can drive the autofocus of older AF lenses.

Until that happens, the 105mm f/2.8 AF lens will not have autofocus when adapted to the Z-mount. This is why I expect the price of this lens to fall.

Check current prices at Amazon or eBay.

Build Quality & Design

Front Element of Macro Lens Extended with Focus Ring and Limit Switch

Focusing on close objects causes the front element to move forward. At 1:1 magnification the front element is at the front of the lens.

Many lighting situations will require the use of a lens hood. Using a lens hood will reduce the 13.6cm (5-3/8") working distance the lens has at 1:1.

CPU contacts allow the lens to have the aperture controlled by the camera. The barrel of the lens is wider than the aperture ring. Reaching the aperture ring is difficult. The ring feels tight when selecting an aperture.

A screw drive motor in the camera body drives the lens autofocus. Nikon has been phasing out screw drive motors in DX cameras. The lens can be manually focused on a camera that does not have a screw drive motor.

Auto or manual focus set by a ring on the barrel of the lens. I found the lock to be difficult to locate without being able to see it.

I am a much larger fan of the clutch style selector found on the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 and Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8.

A limit switch can set the minimum focus distance to ~45cm (1.5ft). Removing the close focusing ability will speed up autofocus. At close distances, the depth of field is small. Small movements can cause the autofocus to miss and hunt around.

Focus Distance Scale, Aperture Ring, and Manual Focus Autofocus Selector

Usage & Working Distance

Testing was done on a Nikon D750. The D750 has an AF screw drive motor so the autofocus works. I also adapted the lens to a Sony A7.

Autofocus is slow on all macro lenses. Elements have to travel farther and the extension to get to 1:1 magnification adds weight.

Screw drive autofocus is slower than lenses with built-in autofocus motors. As a result, autofocus performance is poor even for a macro lens.

Slow autofocus is not a problem for macro work. I set the magnification I want and move the camera to focus.

The focus ring has mechanical feedback and the focus throw is only 200 degrees. All the other macro lenses I have tested have had longer focus throws and felt smoother.

I did not like the lens on the Sony A7. The aperture ring feels tight and sticks in place making it difficult to change. Manually focusing is not enjoyable either. I would rather use a different lens.

At 574g (1lb 4.3oz), the lens has an average weight and size among the comparable lenses. The lens is front heavy, especially when focused to 1:1. On the D750 the AF Nikkor 105mm was not as comfortable to hold as the Lester A. Dine 105mm or Tarmon 90mm Sp Di.

There is 5.25" of working distance when focused at 1:1. Using a lens hood will reduce that distance. I prefer macro lenses with a recessed front element. I don't want carry a lens hood around or worry about damaging the front element.

Focus Limit Switch

Test Shot Sharpness Comparison

Nikon cameras display the effective aperture of lenses. This is helpful because exposure compensation does not need to be calculated. The lens was not focused at infinity for the test shots. The small amount of lens extension to focus made the widest aperture effectively f/3.

  • f/3 - The entire image is soft.
  • f/5.6 - The center is sharp. Edges and corners are soft.
  • f/8 - The entire image is sharp.
  • f/11 - Almost the same as f/8.
  • f/16, f/22, f/32, f/36 - Increasing amounts of diffraction make these apertures useless.
Sample Image Corner Crop f/3
100% Corner Crop at f/3.
Test Image Corner Crop f/8
100% Corner Crop at f/8.

Macro Test Shots

Life Size 1:1 Magnification Center Crop
100% Crop at 1:1 Magnification at f/8.

Comparable Lenses

Lens Versions

  1. Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 - 1984
  2. AF Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AF Macro - 1990
  3. AF Micro Nikkor D 105mm f/2.8 AF Macro D Series

Reference Sources

The Complete Nikon System by Peter Braczko

Lens Specifications

ManufactureNikon
Made inJapan
Year Released1990
Original Price$???.??
Elements Groups10 ele. 9 gr.
Focal Length105mm
Aperturef/2.8-32
# Aperture Blades7
Aperture ControlManual, Auto Diaphragm
Focus TypeManual
Hard Infinity StopYes
Magnification1:1
Minimum Focus Distance?cm (?”)
Working Distance13.6cm (5-3/8")
Filter Threads52mm
Weight574g (1lb 14.3oz)
Dimensions⌀127mm x mm (3" x 5")

Accessories

Lens Hood

The Nikon product number for the lens hood is HS-14. You can substitute a screw in lens hood with a 52mm filter size.

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