Nikon 105mm VR Micro - worth the money?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Ian Rance, Dec 8, 2009.

  1. I enjoy using my 60mm AF-S Micro-Nikkor, and was wanting a longer lens for insects, butterflies, portraits and scenics. I have the 105mm f2.5 K manual lens and like the focal length, but it stops at 3 feet, which is a bind sometimes.
    The 105mm VR has been wowing me for some time with the online reviews and glowing comments (and chatting to happy users), BUT it is expensive and therefore I would appreciate your input on some points please.
    Firstly, is it really better than the Sigma and original Nikon 105mm D Micro lens apart from the VR?
    Secondly, does the lens balance well on the camera (it sounds rather heavy).
    Thirdly, Is it worth that much money or is it rather overpriced for what it offers?
    Fourth, I can find no comments about it's use with film. I would be using it with 200 and 400 speed colour negative film (Fuju Superia and Kodak Max) so 'direct output quality' is very important. How is it with film (important point)?
    Also, any other comments welcome. If anyone has regrets after buying this lens, please do tell me and on the other hand, if anyone has been thrilled and pleased by it do tell also!
    Thank you, Ian
  2. I don't shoot the 105 with film, rather I use a D90. I have all three micro lenses, the 60, 105 and 200. While the 105 is bulky, it's my favorite of the three lenses overall. The 200/4 is too heavy for all-day use hand held, the 60 just too short. The only times I now carry the 60 is when I don't think I'll need a macro lens and appreciated it's smaller size in my camera bag. While I never use VR when shooting macro, it's handy to have for other uses. Regarding the price, well, you get what you pay for. The Zeiss 100/2 (my next macro lens, when the new version becomes available in April) is 50% more expensive.
  3. Ian, tests indicate the 105 VR is an excellent lens. But why only list a Sigma as alternative? The usual mentioned "competitors" are the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 and Tokina 100mm f/2.8. Both also tested as being pretty excellent. Why not check one of those? They're way cheaper and both work on film as well.
    If you insist on a Nikon, I would go for the AF-D myself; I do not see VR and AF-S as big advantages for a macro lens so I rather save some money there.
    (Note: I have the Tokina, only used on DX digital, very happy with it and built like the proverbial tank)
  4. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Ian, the 105mm VR macro is a G lens. For all practical purposes it cannot be used on manual-focus Nikon film bodies as you'll have no way to control the aperture.
  5. Thanks Ted for the thumbs up. Wouter, for my next macro lens I really want >100mm as I already have the 60mm and 90mm is not really a big enough jump to justify. Not sure about the Tokina - not heard of that one. I will take a look. The old 105mm is a great lens, but I was not sure how it stacked up against the new VR version.
    Shun, yes, the G design precludes its use on my FM3a and F3, but I do have F80 and F6 cameras that allow use of G design lenses. My Pronea APS cameras also allow G lenses to be used (in half stops on those models).
  6. Ian, no input on using a lens with film since I shoot with a D90, but a few months ago, I had the same type of question. I ended up buying the Sigma 150mm and am VERY happy with my choice. That extra reach is crucial to skittish insects, and at times still wish for a longer reach. The Sigma 150mm also works well as a telephoto lens. My shot in this past week's Wednesday thread was taken with it. Again, not sure how any of them would perform on your camera, but don't think you can go wrong with any that have been mentioned. Macro lenses tend to be pretty good no matter the brand, so look at your needs first and then go from there. (good advice given to me to help me decide)
  7. Ian,
    At risk of going above and beyond (in terms of cost) what you have asked for in this thread one of my more recent acquisitions is the Carl Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar. Sure it is very expensive but it has to be one of the few best lenses I have ever used if not the best. It is razor sharp with excellent contrast into the corners (on fXand film) even wide open at f2 - one stop faster than the Nikon or Canon equivalents.
    Well worth saving up for...
    PS And it has an aperture ring!
  8. SCL


    There have been a lot of threads in the last year discussing the VR version of the 105, and the audience seems split whether or not it is "better" than or "worth more than" the earlier version. I use the earlier version and don't personally think the VR is worth changing fact I mostly use it handheld and in manual mode. I also use the Tamron 90, and think its chief value is its ability, via the Adaptall system, to be used on almost any SLR/DSLR...its sharpness clearly matches the Nikon 105. My favorite, although I only have it in a Canon FD mount, is the Kiron 105/2.8. This coming spring I'll probably do a head-to-head comparison with the Nikon 105, and I think the Kiron will win out. It is available in Nikon mounts, but too expensive considering I already have the Nikon and Tamron in that focal length.
  9. The 105 did not give me the working distance increase I had been looking for (I have the 70-180 Micro Nikkor zoom and the 105 gives about the same distance as the zoom at 180mm) - so I went with the Sigma 150/2.8; no regrets and a lot of money saved. Don't really see the point of VR on that lens - it's efficiency goes down with increase in magnification and IMHO isn't really needed for the other uses. The lack of a tripod collar can be a serious handicap - not that IF macro lenses are fun to work with on a tripod to begin with - changes in focus distance result in a change in focal length - and hence the framing.
    Looks like NAS strikes again...
  10. I use the 105VR with a D300 primarily for photographing butterflies. I have not used the other lenses you discuss although I did use 50mm macros in my film days. AF-S and VR are very useful for chasing butterflies, and would strongly recommend the lens for that purpose. You will still have to get close if you want to fill the frame. If you do not need to work fast, or will primarily use a tripod, AF-S and VR will be less relevant for you, and although it is still a good lens, so are others.
  11. I am different than Ted. I have a 55, a 105, and a 200mm micro. The one that gets used the least is the 105mm. I find that focal length to be a tweener. I much prefer the longer focal length for image quality and the extra opportunities I get with it. However, if VR works for you, that would be a reason.
  12. I too have all three focal length macro lenses. The one I use the least is my 105mm f 2.8 AF. The one is use the most is my Nikon 200mm f 4.0 AF because it has a tripod collar mount and because its longer focal length allows me more control over backgrounds and greater shooting distance from the subjects.
    If you really want a 105, get a used Nikon 105 f 2.8 AF D macro lens. if you cannot afford the 200mm f 4.0 AF macro , get a used Nikon 200mm f 4.0 micro-Nikkor IF-AIS. You can find them on ebay for about $400-500. They come with a tripod collar mount that can be removed. (Many on ebay may not even have the tripod collar mount any more.) The lens has a reproduction ratio of .5 to 1. It takes Nikon teleconverters, the TC 14B and TC 301.
    I see no reason to own the 105 VR version for macro work even if you had a camera that would work with it. It is a G lens; does not accept Nikon ext tubes; does not have a tripod collar mount; and is heavier than the 105 AF version making it difficult for the camera/lens to be mounted to a tripod safely. Others may disagree.
    Joe Smith
  13. I don't understand why anyone would not want to use VR when doing macro. I know nothing beats tripod for a steady shot but wouldn't a tripod + VR produce better results especially for macro which requires very precise focusing? Correct me if I'm wrong. I'm just a curious newbie. :)
  14. Hi Ian, i am using the 105 VR for 1 and a half years now. I must say, it is worth every single penny. I do sports photography as well, so the fast AFs is very usefull. On FX it is a very good portrait lens. For macro, the 105 mm give you a good working distance, the VR surely helps even at 1:1, it allows you to close the aperture even more. It is the most valuable lens in my bag and it has beem the only reason for wich i remained a nikon user.
    Best if luck, Costel.
  15. VR and a sturdy tripod is a recipe for unsharp images. Even with my $10.000 tripod setup.
  16. Thank you all for the comments. I will take my time and look over the options (and try them if I can). I will be getting one of them in the near future and will report back when I do (will be in the New year). There is more to it than I thought for sure.
  17. The Nikon 105 VR lens manual, page 21, states that when the lens is mounted to a tripod, the VR ON/OFF switch should be set to the OFF position. When used on a monopod, or when using a tripod without securing the tripod head, the switch should be set to the ON position.
    No explanation is given for this in the manual. Here is my take on it based on my use of my copy of the Nikon 70-200mm f 2.8 VR lens that has a similar statement in its manual. When the lens is firmly mounted to a tripod and VR is turned ON, movement/motion is generated by the VR function that causes the camera to vibrate resulting in unsharp images. To avoid this problem, turn this VR lens switch to OFF when the VR lens is mounted to a tripod. When the lens is off the tripod, turn the VR switch back to the ON position and all is OK again.
    The 105 VR manual also states on page 20 that the effect of VR decreases as the reproduction ratio increases from 1/30x. So for many macro applications, 1/2 or greater reproduction, I really wonder how much benefit is really gained from the VR function.
    As a general use 105mm tele lens the 105 VR might be a great lens. My comments are strictly focused on its use as a macro lens.
    Joe Smith
  18. So VR actually generates vibration to cancel out handshake? Interesting. Thanks for the reply Joseph.

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