Nikon 105mm Macro F/2.8
Today we're looking at the Nikon 105mm Macro F/2.8 IF-ED!
I love glass, and Nikon makes some sweet glass. This round we're taking a look at a lens with macro capabilities at a relatively longer focal length. Let's see how it stacks up for wedding and photojournalistic purposes!
Single Sentence Summary
Great at macro, and sharp otherwise, but one I'd get only if you specifically need a macro lens.
Why I Bought It
Ring shots. I'm a wedding photographer, and rings are naturally a part of the territory. In many cases you really need to be able to fill the frame with the subject matter, and in the case of rings that means you need something that can focus super close with a longer focal length.
What I Like
The biggest thing I like about this lens is the sharpness. There's no question, when this bad boy hits the focus it REALLY nails it. Also, and I can't say this enough, the Vibration Reduction (VR) is an amazing addition. I've tried freehand with a 60mm macro, and it's way more difficult in some instances because of the lack of VR. This lens stabilizes nicely, and in my experience it rarely lets me down.
Conveniently, it's also a pretty decent portrait lens. Generally When I try to get a few shots of the rings and details ("Something old, something new...") when the bride is getting ready, but because I'm in the room with the bride I like to keep an eye out for anything that may be candidly happening. In a pinch it's easy to swing up from a macro shot and grab a portrait with this lens. It's also fairly affordable. Most of the other high-end prime lenses in this focal length cost twice the price for their widest apertures, and don't feature VR. This lens really does give you bang for your buck.
What I Don't
How F/2.8 is a bit deceiving. It's only F/2.8 if you're a certain distance from the subject. Granted, the minimum focus distance is substantially less, so you REALLY don't find yourself too pressed for shallow depth of field, but admittedly I didn't realize that was how the lens functioned. I also find it a bit bulky. It's a heavy lens to play with, particularly when you're trying to hold it steady to focus on details that are sometimes less than a millimeter wide.
Strangely the focal length annoys me. I have too many primes as it is, I wish Nikon could have simply designed my 200mm F/2 or my 85mm F/1.4 with a shorter focal length. Having to carry an extra lens, and sometimes more importantly having to risk damaging/losing an extra lens, isn't something I like being forced into. It's also a bit slow to focus at times. Due to it's decreased minimum focus distance it now has a longer range to sweep through when it's hunting for focus. This adds to the time. Lots of other lenses feature a selective autofocs range from 5m-infinity (take the 70-200mm F/2.8 for instance), I wish this lens had a minimum focus distance short range, so it wouldn't waste time trying to focus to infinity when I'm going for a ring shot.
It can be useful creatively in a photojournalistic sense, but unfortunately I would almost never even consider bringing it into a conflict zone. My two de facto primes for deployments would be the 35mm and 85mm F/1.4, and unfortunately the 105mm is just too close to the 85mm length for me to think it's worth bearing the weight. Plus, the way I shoot I only want one lens in a pocket when I'm sprinting and dropping to the ground. That way I know that I have one side of my body that I can throw myself down onto without smashing a lens.
This lens is great at what it does greatly. It really delivers well for its cost point, and it is a very sharp lens that can be used for more than just macro. It does have its drawbacks, like weight and focus time, but overall it's worth owning if you're a wedding photographer.
I take pride in not being sponsored. I'm not trying to sell you or swing you one way or another, and how I shoot will probably never match how you will, so take this review for what it is: biased.