Anything better than the Nikon 105 AF-D micro?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by wildflower art, Dec 14, 2009.

  1. Hello,
    I am hoping for suggestions to improve my photography.
    As a seasoned macro shooter, I have used the 105 AF-D macro for probably 80 percent or more of my shoots, though that number is going down as I use more wide-angles and try to add telephoto to my art. I have recently discovered medium format.
    I seriosly have bags of boxes of "unsheathed" slides, just sitting in their cardboard.
    And so know I'm thinking about how to keep my photography from growing stale.
    I need advice about other macro lenses in this range.
    I have recently bought a 105 4.0 AIS macro which I hear is legendary for quality.
    I'm thinking since I take so many shoots with 100, I should look into:
    Nikon micro 70-180 (which I imagine needs a tripod)
    Zeiss 100 2.0 macro (maybe wait for chipping)
    Nikon 105 2.8 VR (which I heard is more of a jack of all trades lens)
    Nikon 80-400 VR with canon 500D
    and possibly a sigma 150 2.8
    I have heard of a voigth 125 but have no hope of finding one.
    I already have a selection of zooms which can be used with diopters.
    I just need a 100x micro with legendary "pop," to keep me from going one lens stale or photo blind.
    Thanks for your opinions.
  2. The 70-180 will give you no additional working distance over the 105 you already have - it is easily hand-holdable though. Prices for this lens have sky-rocketed - not sure I would be willing to spend more than $1600 for a used one. 80-400 with 500D works in a pinch, but will never compare well with what you already have. One lens that is missing from your list is the Leica 100/2.8 APO - which can easily be adapted to a Nikon via the Leitax Nikon F-mount; used lenses are available in the $1000-1500 range. Stop-down metering is a bit of a pain though. I do have the Sigma 150/2.8 and am very happy with it - I purchased it mostly for the additional working distance over my 70-180 and to use wide-open as a medium tele.
  3. If you can't find the Voigtlander 125/2.5 APO in Nikon F-mount, you can put that money toward a Zeiss 100/2 ZF. Still have cash left over? Get the micro Nikkor 200/4 AF ED/IF too.
  4. Thanks.
    I have the 200 4.0.
    I just need pop and pizase as a macro shooter.
    What 105x matches best to digital?
  5. The 200mm should give you that. I have the 55, 105, and 200. The length I use least is the 105.
  6. If the Nikkor won't do it, I don't know what can.
  7. I am not sure what you expect to achieve by getting another 100mm or so macro lens that you can't do already. The 100mm ZF is outstanding as it is very fast, is sharp across the frame wide open and has very shallow and smooth bokeh. But even then the difference in performance between the ZF and the 105mm VR is not going to be night and day - just night and twilight!
  8. I know people who are photo blind, and own every lens you can think of.
    I agree with James, a different lens in the same focal range isn't going to change very much (at all).
    The 85mm f2.8 PC or a Nikon 20mm f3.5 and slim extension ring can offer new ways to see things.
  9. Matthew, seems like you are looking for a new lens in order to keep from going "photo stale". Instead of a new lens, what about investing in lighting kit instead?
    Dragonfly Nymph Shell
    Plant of some sort?
    PS: Please ignore the borders... they are shot on my d200.
  10. Hands down the Zeiss 100mm f/2 macro, it is one of the best performing lenses available for an slr ever made.
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I am hoping for suggestions to improve my photography.​
    Matthew, I took a quick look at your web site listed under your membership page:
    I know the same comment can be made on any portfolio, but I think there is clearly room for your images to improve. If you really want to get better, post some of your favorite images for critique and let people give you honest feedback on how they can be better. That is how you learn and improve.
    Another way to broaden your photography is to start shooting something other than (flower) macros. If you like nature, there is landscape, there is wildlife ....
    The last thing you want is another 105mm macro lens. I don't care how sharp the Zeiss 100mm/f2 macro lens is; you'll only be carrying more dead weight into the field. By far the majority of macro shots are captured at small apertures to gain depth of field. Think about whether you really need f2 for macro. I know it is very easy to come up with justifications such as "f2 will give me a brighter viewfinder image for focusing." All of us need to improve our technique; another similar lens is simply not the answer. You already have very fine macros lenses.
    A very common problem for macro shots is a cluttered and distracting background. That is a very good starting point to improve anybody's macro photography.
  12. I much prefer my Nikon 200mm f 4.0 AF macro lens to my 105 f 2.8 AF D macro lens in that it gives me greater working distance from the subject and more control over backgrounds. It also has a tripod collar mount which the 105mm macro lens lacks. Use of a tripod is one way to improve your images. I use the 200mm lens in manual focus mode. Joe Smith
  13. SCL


    You could get a Kiron 105/2.8 in a Nikon mount or the Leica with a Leitax mentioned above , which IMHO is a little better than than the Nikkor, but it won't improve your shooting. Only work, work, and more work...a little photo education, and experimenting will do that.
  14. Like Shun, I had a quick look at your web page, and reached similar conclusions. A lot can be gained by fine-tuning your technique and the way you "see" and isolate your subjects. Plus, sunshine isn't best for close-ups of most flowers. Since flowers tend to be a small subject in the greater setting of nature, it's fairly easy to arrange your own lighting of them to achieve more pleasing results too.
    However, the assertion that is is typical for "macro" shots to be shot at small apertures need to be challenged. In fact, close-ups of these subjects can be done in any fashion you can imagine, with any lens, and at any aperture setting. I've used fisheyes, ultra-wide, zoom lenses, superlong lenses, f/0.7 to f/256 apertures, in short, use the imagination and don't let your shooting be boxed in by preconceived rules.
  15. The 70-180 Nikkor zoom is a nice lens. It is the only real macro zoom available and very helpful if you shoot fast moving small animals like this one:
    I got many shots like that in the near range and down to macro range that I would have missed without the very rapid change in focal length and focus.
    The image quality however, is not better than any of the mentioned lenses. Actually wide open it is not as good as a dedicated prime macro lens. But as Shun already pointed out above most beginners macro shots are shot at small apertures and beyond f 11 all macro lenses are alike^^ (a crude generalization but close to the truth).
    So looking at the plant images in your portfolio I guess the zoom would be convenient but not really necessary.
    In your case I would check if all the accessories for macro are available. A good tripod that can be used near ground, ground covers for wet soil and some folding light reflectors and perhaps two flashes and / or a ring-flash.
    Practicing composition would also help more than a new lens.
  16. Matt,
    After looking at your portfolio, I agree with the excellent advice from Shun and Bjorn. Investment in lighting is likely to lead to most improvement. Also more interest in and reading about macro composition.
  17. Since the subject of your website has come up, I will venture an opinion. You used the word, "pop". Several of you images could be made to pop with proper adjustments in software such as lightroom 2. I cannot agree with Bjorn at all about sunlight. I would like to see some examples of how artificial lighting is superior to sunlight.
    Please don't get mad at me for saying so, but I think you should go back to the drawing board a little bit. I like flowers, and I think you need to improve your presentation of them before spending money in an area where returns will be slight at best.
  18. I'm a little suprised nobody has given much notice to the Tamron 90mm.2.5 adaptall lens,a truly great lens!!
  19. Oh before I forget you should be able to pick up the Tamron 90mm.for a very reasonable price in the used market, say around 250$got mine for 50$
  20. I didn't say anything about artificial light, only that few flowers are best to shoot in direct sunlight. That's a world of difference.
  21. One way to clean cluttered backgrounds is to use a larger aperture; the other is to use a longer macro lens (with its narrower angle of view the background is easier to control and simplify). The 100/2 ZF is excellent at wide apertures and with a bit of experimentation it's not difficult to make visually attractive close-ups with shallow DOF. An added benefit is the increased shutter speed which helps with flowers when there are slight traces of wind. The 105 AF (D) is somewhat difficult to focus precisely as the MF ring is geared too fast. It is good stopped down to f/8- f/11 but at wider apertures it was quite far from what the 100mm can do in my brief comparative testing. The wider the aperture and the bigger the magnification (and the further away from center of frame you look) the more obvious the differences. For f/11 shooting the 105 AF D Micro is a nice lens certainly. But if you want to experiment with wider apertures (or if you're like me and frustrated with focusing the AF D lens) then there exist some lenses that solve these issues.
  22. I upgraded from the Nikkor you ask about to the Zeiss ZF 100mm Makro Planar f/2.0
    It's 3.5x the price and just a beautiful lens. If you never upgrade, you'll never notice the difference. that one you have is damn near perfect. if you want to sell it on Ebay and plunk another $1000 down, get the Zeiss. Wait for the Chip. Or have only one AIS lens.
  23. I second Joe Smith. I have the 60/2.8 AFS, 105 VR and 200/4 AF. Get the 200 and a really good tripod and use the tripod. You may not get a higher percentage of good shots, but the good ones will be better. I still use all three, and sometime use the 70-300 VR zoom at 300mm since it focuses to 4.9 feet for 1:4 reproduction ratio. I find each lens has its own attributes and all are optically excellent.
  24. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Please re-read what the OP wrote:
    I have the 200 4.0.​
    I am not sure exactly which version, but he already has the 200mm/f4 macro.
  25. As others have said, you may want to refine your technique before looking at more gear... BUT, if you want to consider other gear:
    1) Macro, IN GENERAL BUT NOT ALWAYS, is about balancing sufficient DOF and sufficient light; the problem, is, once you stop down and things get dark, you need to supply the light. Now the fun begins, since there are many ways to do that in many combinations: Myself, I use a combination of Nikon R1 and SB-R200's, and sometimes add in an SB-800. mirrors, diffusers, and whatever else is handy.
    2) Macro is about being steady - so, IMHO, a very good tripod is a MUST.
    3) Lens options - as mentioned, the Nikon 60, 105 and 200 should pretty much cover all your needs. If you want to try non-Nikons, the Kiron 105/2.8 tops the list (this is only macro lens that I have kept), as well as Tamron, Tokina, Sigma, Vivitar, etc..., mostly in 90mm or 105mm.
    4) You can also try reversing lenses from >1:1 magnifications
    5) The Nikon 20/3.5 AIS AND a K1 extension ring gives you a wide angle macro (interesting effect), but at very close range.
    And, granted, while I myself should take my own advice and improve my own technique, here are a couple of sample macros and close-up's.
  26. I agree with others about ways to make your images sharper and more dramatic. I don't know much about the Nikon 105 since I use the Canon 100 f2.0 macro, but before I'd buy a new lens try these suggestions if you haven't already: 1) use a sturdy tripod so your camera has no motion whatsoever; 2) make sure there is no wind; bring your subject inside (if possible) or shoot when there is no subject motion; 3) use your lens at it's sharpest point or nearby (probably between f4- f11); 4) use mirror lock-up and the 2-second timer; 5) use manual focus; 6) use live-view to focus if your camera has this capability; 7) set camera to ISO 200 or below and 8) use software (such as Lightroom or similar) to a) sharper further; b) add contrast; c) make the darks darker; d) add a little more saturation and clarity.
    You may also want to try getting up and out around sunrise to get your best light and colors. Flowers make great subjects, but I would also look for other things to shoot as well to make your site more variable.
  27. After reading your message a little more carefully, i suspect you are probably a film shooter, so I apologize for including some digital suggestions in the list.
  28. Dear photo.netters,
    Thank you for your comments.
    I did not expect criticisms of my website and photography, which has won me awards, publication credits, the satisfaction of educating others about wildflowers, has brought the ill health (a small volunteer project), as well as being personally very fulfilling.
    My website has many unpublished internal links to some of my more recent photos (I made that site with my college work). Please ask if you want to critize my art more.
    I have thousands of slides of hundreds of plants. I photograph the same plants as they bloom annually and so must find ways to keep my passion "blooming" (pun playfully intended). I noticed that my 105 2.8 AF-D is so well used that I should possibly research anything better. So your notes are appreciated. (A small step up with this lens could means a huge leap forward).
    Some of your ideas are not new. I have the 20 3.5 and K1, as well as a voigthlander 20 3.5 which focuses just as close.
    I have a very dated tripod (read: not Gitzo) that is great for low angle work and a low-angle tripod head that causes me headaches because tripod plates are now impossible to find. The item is bomb proof.
    I think the reason my 105 is so well used is because:
    It is handholdable
    It focuses to 1:1,
    It generates a pleasing background blur (better than a 60 macro)
    To go to a 200 micro (which I have) to get the flowers I walk to would be backbreaking, but I've done it. I find the tripod and 200mm angle limiting (too far from the subject), except when I need to concentrate.
    So work with a new lighting set-up? This is an excellent suggestion. But I will have to stop using my favorite camera, the Kodak SLR/n (this is from the SB-80 days), and my velvia 100 film is very fussy.
    Perhaps your suggestion is to scan better work, that would consume me because Nikon discontinues their scanners faster than I can buy them...
    I could probably scan a picture I have to please any critic (or post a digital capture).
    I practically use my pictures as research botany projects, so I don't think I need new subjects. In fact, I have gotten the beast of a macro system, the Rollei SL66, once called "the best macro camera [system] on the planet." To get a new impression on my annual wildflower pilgramages.
    I was once a published photojournalist, on the smallest scale possible, and have a small collection of photographs of tropical leaves for use in my (paper-based, drawing) art.
    This is what I want and I want to improve it, so I'm asking if there's a better lens than my most loved and used.
    If your criticsms of my dated website is to "do it better," I would start arguing with you that my flowers are not as photogenic as yours IMHO LOL. ha ha ha/
    I do know to photograph flowers that are not in the sun, or to at least use flash to cut shadows. But I do not have an assistant to hold an umbrella.
    Thank you, (I'm sure there are others who take critism better than me).
    The Zeiss 100 2.0 sounds like a great suggestion with great reviews.
    Matthew Smith
  29. Sometimes I do wonder why we even bother to answer questions.
  30. Bjorn in the end we learn by getting comments to our answers :)
    Matthew I think we all tried in good spirit to help out. So please be not offended. I am not the greatest photographer in the world but know the difference a better lens makes and what to expect from a workflow and the way of shooting.
    Along this line: if you take so many macro fotos you really should consider going digital. You loose more IQ by scanning than what you get from a better lens. The expense for a new body is repaid by not spending for film and development/scanning in a year or so. The immediate evaluation of the image can be extremely useful if you shoot rare wildflowers. I do documentation of plants and would not want to miss the immediate feedback.
  31. Matthew I have am no champion but your work is average. If you don't want others to view dont add the link to your page. Your question was well answered by some expert photographers and there time seems to be wasted. If you want praise just ask you wife. If you want advise and real opinions you will get them here. If your happy with your work thats all that counts. when I view it I am not inspired.
  32. How about the 85mm f2.8 PC? I've experimented with tilt/shift using a PB-4 bellows--but it was too much work for use in the field.
  33. New member, long-time viewer. Shun and Bjorn, please know that all answers are greatly appreciated by a lot of us. I have learned much from all the posters and moderators.
    Happy Holidays
  34. The answer is not another's giving thought to composition, light, and technique. You can buy another lens if you want to, but that won't improve your photography. Don't just "hear"..."listen."
  35. This is a joke right?
    The critiquers themselves can't take being critized?
    I asked a specific question about a specific lens and someone google stalked me and then posted that link. (Thanks Shun for looking me up! Any publicity is good)
    I am particularly saddened that Dr. Rorslett doesn't like my photography because he has been my idol for some time.
    I haven't even begun to prepare for a portofolio competition.
    In case you are keeping score, I do use digital extensively and have a kodak slr/n. It is a fantastic camera but to use the I-TTL I will not only need to buy a D700, but also an F6!
    I guess my question may have universal appeal in that "when you use only one lens" how do you make it better or "when you do you max out on quality."
    I use a lot I've learned at and from studing macro photography pricesly. I don't know anyone else who knows what polaroid MP-4 is!
    I enjoy mixed technique with medium format and digital and film.
    If I were to spend money to have someone critise my photography, I hope they would say "display, display, display!" Hand coding a 3x3 frame loses dynamism, but all my work is honest.
    Otherwise, how do you prepare a jpeg for the web, I simply store it at medium resolution and size 300x 200 pixels?
    Speaking of my wife and praise, a collection of my new work is at:
    Don't tell her I said so.
    P.S I loved your comments and critisms but I think some of my "average" work would be stellar with the right development and display.
  36. Hold on now. You said, "I am hoping for suggestions to improve my photography." That's what you wanted right? Well, lenses aren't going to do it. Exposure, mastering your depth of field (not necessarily maximizing it), understanding the flow and placement in your composition...those things will improve your photography (based upon what I opinion of course). If you are happy with what you shoot then that is great because that is all that really matters in the end, and photography is art...not a competition (art "contests" are something I have never understood...but I'm weird and I know it). But...since you're asking for the advice of trained eyes, we will tell you what we think. What you do with that input is up to you, haven't "maxed-out on quality" with your current lenses and new ones won't make you a better photographer, and that's what you indicated you wanted advice about. Incidentally, I do a lot of wildflower/woodland plant photography...I can definitely use your site for ID assistance...thank you...that's cool for me!
  37. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I should point out that Matthew Smith, the OP, did not ask for critique of his web site, although his question might have shifted since his original post.
    Whenever someone asks for equipment advice, I typically would like to see his/her portfolio to get an idea of their photography interest so that we can provide more appropriate suggestions. As I pointed out earlier, the OP's web site is clearly listed under his membership page. I certainly did not use any search engine to locate it.
    Personally, I am a firm believer that generally speaking, the photographer is the main limitation, not the equipment. I am sure most of you have seen this current thread about what is limiting one's photography, and I posted the first answer pointing out that I myself is the primary limitation:
    I believe that is true for by far the majority of us here, and everybody should focus on improving his/her photo skills first and worry about equipment second. In particular, the OP already owns some very fine macro lenses.
    However, apparently Matthew is happy with his flower photography, and since he did not ask for critiques, I would appreciate that if we can all stop criticizing his images; I am afraid that has not been helpful.
  38. This thread has really turned into a trainwreck. The OP asked for suggestions on how to improve his photography (it's right in the first post), but seems to only want gear suggestions.
    There has been a lot of great advice in this thread as I'm also starting to experiment with macro photography, keep it coming as I will continue to try and improve my craft beyond simply buying new stuff, so thank you to the contributors.
  39. Like mathematics, photography builds on axioms. Unless you accept them, you're getting nowhere. However, unlike mathematics, photographic axioms are very simple and easy to understand.
    The one relevant for this thread is "The photographer takes the picture". Understanding what this entails will show you the direction to follow.
  40. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    I should point out again nobody here is suggesting that "camera/equipment does not matter." A better camera, a different lens can potentially make a difference in your photography, but that is, at best, a secondary factor.
    By far the most important factor is the person behind the camera. And regardless how great a photographer you may already be, there is always room for improvement.
  41. I have some comments, about how the photo.neters are getting defensive over me getting defensive, and about how I will try to improve my craft and share my vision.
    I know photography is often about making do with what you have, a huge portion of photography is enjoying yourself within limitations.
    I am trying to do something very simple but to me powerful, elevate the picture of the flower to art. There are more than just axioms, things like the rule of thirds which is a powerful ally to the plant photographer. Centering a plant portrait can ruin it.
    So many of my photographer colleges are just flower documenters, their pictures just wind up in fieldguides at best. So many of my competitors on the web and in galleries do not know the subitites of the plant's physique, or its name, or the rules of photography. (Go to an ag fair and judge the flower pictures you see there!) Some of my scientist colleges just snap away like daytrippers, failing to see beauty in what they do.
    It is strange that in this post someone said "stop taking pictures of flowers." That would be like telling a young Ansel Adams to stop taking lanscapes! (were I to compare myself to Ansel Adams.
    I don't know if over using a lens can limit your vision, but I see room to improve.
    I am not trying to make a living from plant photography, but I find it artisticly expressive. Taking more than one picture, sometimes a whole roll on a flower, shows me what I would be missing if I was just a botanist. Photographing wildflowers shows me what I would be missing if I were only thinking about someone else's goals.
    If you were to get inside and outside the mind of a flower, how would it be seen? How do you take a picture of the plants that grow outside your door and make it into a scene that you would like to remember? How do you go to the same spot year after year to the very same plants and keep the photography dynamic and inspirational?
    These are the issues I'm addressing, and I find it very enjoyable, if not expensive and filled with the pitfall that every shot brings the desire for more equipment.
    What would be more enjoyable then dedicating yourself to a craft that you can always be shown room for improvement?
    I have all the books, all the macro and flower photography guides, and sometimes I find them manipulated and benign, but the rules are always useful.
    There's more to photography then technical precision.
    I guess you're telling me my next book should be "the business of nature photography" by John Shaw so that I can be tested by commercial success. I think that would ruin me because I can't see selling a picture for $150, even if that fee would just cover the frame or matting. I would be selling my soul to go to a stock agency.
    So I'm stuck trying to show myself how midatlantic wildflowers are some of the most beautiful. The scenes I most love are fields of flowers, but those are rare in my developed region of the world.
    Could you buy a lens for a single shot? Sometimes this is what I think about. I sometimes find myself using a similar item to take a picture that I wanted a lens that costs three times as much to do. The results are often worth it.
    I guess you're telling me you can never be good at what you do. In art's eyes that goes with luster, but not subject and craft.
    Thank you! I enjoyed your reviews of the Zeiss 100 2.0.

Share This Page