AF DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2D vs. AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by raczoliver, Oct 10, 2014.

  1. I recently set up a studio at home and started shooting portraits. I do mostly head shots and head and shoulder type portraits, and find myself wanting something in the 105mm range. I currently do have a 85mm f/1.8G and a 135mm f/2 DC and love both, but I feel that the 105 would get me just at the right distance from the subject. I can't decide between the 105 DC lens and the 105 Micro-Nikkor.
    I would use this lens for studio portraits, and will be using it mostly between f/5.6-11. In this case I care for the DC feature just as little as the macro. I mostly read that the Micro-Nikkor is ever so slightly sharper than the DC, and since I already have the 135 DC lens, I would be leaning towards the Micro-Nikkor, but I do have a couple of concerns:
    I have used a macro lens for portraits before, and it didn't work for me, because there was too much hunting. However, that was a much cheaper lens, an old version of the Sigma 105 macro, but I am still concerned that macro lenses in general do that. Has anyone used this lens for portraits? I'd also like to hear more comments on their sharpness. Some say they are the same, most say the Micro-Nikkor is a little better, and I also read one or two comments that said the DC was nicer. I love the 135 DC, so I know I can't really go wrong with its little brother, but then the Micro-Nikkor is a much newer design, and I'm pretty sure it's also a stellar performer. So I guess it mostly comes down to its focus accuracy and amount of hunting at portrait shooting distances.
    Right now I am using a D700, but I would also like to hear thoughts on using them on a higher resolution camera.
    Any comments are welcome. Thanks!
  2. By my very unscientific test, the difference between 105mm and 135mm at head and shoulder portrait distance amounts to about 50cm of camera movement to capture the same FOV.
    Since you love your 135mm, just take a small step back and carry on using it. The perspective changes are absolutely minimal. 85mm from 135mm, maybe, but 135mm to 105mm, nah.

    Nearly all 105mm macros such as the Nikon or Sigma start getting softer from 5.6 onwards. Even the 100mm and 135mm f2 Zeiss's peak at f4! So whatever lens you choose, you'll be playing the DoF v Sharpness compromise.

    For info, my 105mm VR Micro doesn't hunt at-all on either my D5300 or D700. I'd expect it to be quite happy on a D810.

    In terms of overall resolution or sharpness the D700 and it's strong AA filter are the limiting step involved here. In DxO's rather quirky way to determine sharpness the 105mm DC goes from a mediocre 10P-mPix on the D700 to a splendid 23P-mPix on the D800E.
  3. I have used both for studio portraits and didn't experience any autofocus hunting that I can remember in this
    environment (modeling light gives some light to the subject). If anything the 105 VR Micro is a bit more precise in focusing
    as it is an AF-S lens. I prefer the rendering of the 105 DC for human subjects, the 105 Micro for nature/landscape. To me
    135mm is a bit too long for a comfortable distance to the subject but this is subjective and the practicality of its use depends on your lighting configuration and how you like to communicate. I think for head and shoulders, 105mm
    is the easiest to work with.
  4. In general i find the DC lenses and the 85 f/1.4 versions giving me a more pleasing portrait than most of the Macro lenses.
    The latter were designed to show every little detail which requires ,more work in post to smooth out small skin imperfections, where the 85 F/1.4 and the DC lenses are better at producing a "creamy Skin effect" out of the camera when the right lighting is provided for obviously...
    THere is one little Gem lens which is also excelent for portraiting , if you are prepared to do manual focussing that is, and you can have it dirt cheap from fleebay too.. it's a 100mm E F/2.8 nikkor . This little lens beats many other lenses for portraiting i think...
  5. There is another choice - the Nikon 105 f/2.5 AIS manual focus lens. It was designed as a portrait lens and was one of Nikons best. The AIS version is the latest optical formula for this lens. KEH is selling this lens in EX condition for under $250.
    Since you are shooting in a studio, the lack of autofocus should not be a problem. The lens will meter with your D700 and even the D810.
    I do not have a DSLR to try my older version on, but on my F100 using Pan F developed in Rodinal, it is tack sharp. Bjorn Rorslett gives it very high marks on the DSLRs he tested it on.
  6. I was going to mention the 105/2.5 also. I have used it on DX format digital, and it's just as good there as anywhere. Mine is a pre-AI "gauss" type, similar to the AI. A wee bit long on the DX, and lacking close focus, but super when the length is suitable.
  7. I had the 105 f/2.5 AIS in mind, but I'm a little hesitant to do manual focus for portraits, although in this case I would not be using large apertures. I do have a Voigtlander 40mm f/2 lens that I use for landscapes mostly, but when I take pictures of people with that lens, focus is a hit or miss, and I know it's not the lense's fault, but rather my inability to focus it precisely on the D700, so I would probably also have to get a custom focusing screen if I go that route.
  8. Ii think if AF is a necessity you will be giving up very little with the 105/2.8 micro Nikkor. My wife has the older D version of this, and although I think my old 2.5 may be a little sharper when it's right in the zone, the 2.8 is awfully good. On that one, you can lock out the macro mode for normal use. It snaps into focus pretty well even on my F4 in dim light.
  9. I am not familiar with the Voigtlander lens, but landscapes are usually shot at a distance while portraits are usually shot close. It is quite possible the lens performs well at a distance but not as a close focus lens.
    I have no problems focusing the 105mm f/2.5 using the focus indicator, the "Green Ball", on my F100 - even with my 70-year old eyes. Yes, I would like a split level finder screen, but ... For a studio setting where your subject is stationary, assuming you are using a tripod, I believe you can use Live View for a focus aid and magnify for fine focus. That should solve the problem.
  10. I have both the AFS VR 105/2.8 and 105 DC. I have a slight preference for the 105DC for people, but the VR micro is probably the more versatile lens and is good for people, also.
    As to the bang for buck great lenses, the 105/2.5 is great as others have mentioned, the 75-150E seems to render very nicely, as well. My experience is that the limiting factor is achieving perfect focus on D800 and D600 bodies.
    Someday, I plan to do a "shootout" between the 75-150, 80-200/4.5, and 50-135 zooms I have. All seem to be overachievers, IMO.
  11. I'm not sure if this is outside the parameters of what you're looking for, but have you considered the 80-200/2.8 AFS? It is a big beast of a lens, but mine is terrifically sharp--over most of its range, particularly that 105 sweet spot you're looking at, it's got to be as good (or better) than most primes, at least when stopped down to F8 or so. I've got both the 105/2.8 AF-D and 105/2.5 AIS lenses to compare it to, and it's as sharp or sharper than either at portrait distances. (You might well get better wide-open or near maximum aperture performance from a prime, but as I normally shoot with flash at around F8, I've not really critically tested my zoom at wider apertures for portrait shoots.)
    As these are two generations before the current one, they are generally found pretty reasonably priced. Mine focuses rapidly and accurately on eyes. And this lens has another advantage in that you can cover all the focal ranges you like--and even more. The biggest drawback is, of course, size and weight compared to the other lenses you're looking at and which have been recommended, but I don't find mine to be a strain to work with during a session. (It also won't focus quite as closely as the primes--but that hasn't proven a handicap as fas as I'm concerned.) I shoot mine on a D700 with MB-D10 grip, and it's my favourite lens for head shots and tight portraits.
  12. Honestly, I did not consider the 80-200 f/2.8, simply because of its size and weight. I think if I buy a zoom lens in this range, it's going to be the 70-200 f/4, because that would be something I could use for travel photogrpahy as well. Now that I think of it, that may also be a viable option in the studio as well.
    It seems like the 105 DC is the most suitable for my purpose, but it just feels like a bit of a waste to not get something more versatile, since I already have the 135 DC, which is pretty much identical apart from the small difference in focal length.
  13. The 105 DC is sharper, lighter and less prone to flare than the 135 DC. It is not just a difference in focal length.

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