The Nikon 105 AF-D Micro lens is one of my oldest lenses and I purchased it when I started photography and was shooting transparency film. I use it as a general purpose telephoto lens, but more frequently, it is on my camera because it is a macro lens for close-up photography. Note that Nikon calls all of its macro lenses micro-Nikkors (I have no idea why they use the term “micro”).
The lens achieves to 1:1 magnification without any extension tubes. What this means is that if the object is 10mm in length, it will appear 10mm long on the film frame or sensor. Most lenses cannot achieve this magnification unaided, for example, my general purpose wide-angle to telephoto zoom can only reach a ratio of about 1:4.
Physically, the lens is about 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches long. It weighs 1.2 lbs and uses a 52mm filter thread. The metal lens hood clips on to the front of the lens and can be reversed for compact storage. Figure 1 shows the lens mounted on a Nikon D700 camera.
The lens was introduced in 1993 and was later replaced with the 105mm AF-s VR micro-Nikkor lens in 2006.
To evaluate the sharpness of the lens, I selected an architectural column of Stanford University’s Quad (Figure 2) as a test subject and took photos at varying aperture. I used a Nikon D700 camera, tripod, and remote release. The camera was mounted with a RRS L-plate in the vertical orientation and the camera was leveled with a hotshoe bubble level.
Figure 3 shows pixel level detail from f/2.8 to f/5.6 from various crops across the frame. At f/2.8 the image is slightly soft in the extreme corner but otherwise the picture is very good. By f/5.6 even the corners are sharp. Figure 4 shows the same crops except at f/8 and f/11.
|Figure 3. Performance at f/2.8 to f/5.6: pixel level detail from crops shown at 100% magnification.|
|Figure 4. Performance at f/8 and f/11: pixel level detail from crops shown at 100% magnification.|
Although this 105mm AF-D makes a great general purpose lens, the real reason to get this lens is for macro shooting. Figure 5 shows some example close-up shots that I have taken with this lens. Note that in macro shooting I am usually shooting stopped down to get enough depth of field.
In macro shooting, corner performance is a non-issue. As most subjects will not fall into a flat plane, much of the periphery of the subject will be naturally out of focus.
Even wide open, vignetting is mild on this lens. Figure 5a shows the lens at f/2.8 and Figure 5b shows a version corrected by ACR 4.4.
- With a 50mm and 24mm lens, this lens makes a nice travel kit.
- The front lens element is deeply recessed when shooting at non-macro distances. In such situations I often do not bother to use a lens hood.
- There is a limiter switch on the lens so set AF to track only near or far objects. Generally, I do not use this since AF is only problem at macro distances and for that I use manual focussing.
- The lens uses Nikon’s older autofocus system which is based on a mechanical linkage. The focus speed is quite reasonable although not as quiet as an AF-S lens.
- When doing macro photography with flash, I often set the focus ring to provide a fixed magnification. I then move the camera body until the subject pops into focus. At that time I trip the shutter and flash.
- At 1:1 magnification there is about 5 inches of working space between the front of the lens and the subject.
I don’t think it gets any better than this. Even though this is an older and discontinued lens my version is sharp across the entire frame even wide open at f/2.8. The lack of AF-S and VR is a complete non-issue as I do not use these features in macro shooting.