The Nikon 105 mm 2.8 VR Macro with image stabilization is the successor to the Nikon 105 mm 2.8 Micro. Strictly speaking, the official name, Nikon AF-S VR Micro 105 mm 2.8G, is incorrect. It is not a micro but a macro lens. The most striking difference with the predecessor is the already mentioned image stabilization that is in the new but not in the old Nikkor. Also, the whole lens is recalculated and the coating is improved in addition. Of the brands not tied to a camera, the Sigma is the only provider of macro lenses with image stabilization; an example of that is the Sigma 105 mm 2.8 Macro OS. A 105 mm nicely fits in the series of 28-50-105 for the lovers of primes. And in the studio too, the Nikon 105 mm 2.8 VR Macro is fully applicable. Originally, we reviewed this lens with a 12 megapixel camera (Nikon D700). But combined with a 36 megapixel Nikon D800E, this lens performs much better (and not only resolution).Nikon 105 mm Micro 2.8G & Nikon D700
Construction and autofocus
As we are used to when it comes to professional Nikon lenses, the construction is of great class. The distance ring is wide and rotates without play. The friction is equal over the entire setting, but could be a tad higher in my opinion. Important to the macro photographer who likes to focus manually, the setting is over 180 degrees and therefore very handy. The filter does not rotate during focusing.
The lens has its own fast and quiet drive. Focusing with the Nikon D700 takes 0.2 seconds for a distance from 15 meters to 1.5 meters. Also at macro photography, for example when the AF point is just wrong and should be focused over a large distance, the camera quickly focuses.
Nikon proudly presents this lens as the world’s first macro-lens with built-in Vibration Reduction (VR). At the moment, Sigma also offers a 105mm macro lens with built-in Image Stabilization. The Nikon 105 mm Micro VR can be used without a tripod with a shutter speed of 1 / 13 seconds. That means a profit of 3 stops. At a short distance the VR does’t have much effect.
The vignetting is heavy, almost 2.5 stops at full aperture with the Nikon D700 ans almost 1 stop using the Nikon D800E with the in-camera vignetting correction set to “Normal”. At macro photography, you will seldom be troubled by it, because you often stop down to get some depth of field. If you use this lens as ‘normal’ lens, you will have to take it into account.
Of the speed of f/2.8, not much remains in the nearby area. When the focal distance is at its smallest, the maximum aperture is a meager f/4.8.
The distortion is low, even in combination with the Nikon D700, a full frame camera. In practice, the distortion will never be distracting.
Nikon 105 mm macro & Nikon D800E
At macro photography, you often have a blurred foreground or background. This is displayed nicely by the Nikon 105 mm VR Macro. In short, a nice bokeh.
Nikon AF-S VR Micro 105 mm 2.8G & Nikon D700 @f/3.0
Despite the use of a nano crystal coating on the lens alements of the Nikon 105mm macro, this oustanding lens performs relatively weak. At a strong, open light source, we see flare and to a small extent, some ghosting.
In combination with a Nikon D800E, the Nikon 105 mm micro lens is one of the sharpest Nikon lenses. The first test camera, a Nikon D700, only had 12 MP, which you immediately see reflected in the graph that represents the resolution. The top can never be very high due to that limitation.
The chromatic aberration is nearly absent at all apertures. This saves additional photo editing. Because of in-camera correction of chromatic aberration in the Nikon D800E jpg files, the Nikon 105 mm performs even better in the current review, compared to our previous review using the Nikon D700.
Conclusion Nikon AF-S VR Micro 105 mm 2.8G review
- Very good center resolution from f/4.0
- Low distortion
- Nice bokeh
- Very fast autofocus
- Decent construction
- High vignetting at full aperture
- Largest aperture only f/4.8 at smallest focal distance
- High purchase price
As clearly shown in the above tables, the Nikon 105mm macro scores – particularly in terms of resolution – better using a Nikon D800E compared to a Nikon D700, which – given the large difference in megapixels- is not surprising. But thanks to in-camera correction of chromatic aberration and vignetting in jpg files, this lens also scores better for these parameters using a Nikon D800E.
The Nikon 105mm VR Macro delivers on a Nikon D800E sharp images from corner to corner at all apertures. The sharpness of this lens is limited by the 12 megapixel Nikon D700 camera body. Given its very high performance, this lens has an attractive price tag.