Nikon 105mm VR 2.8 - stunner!, Jul 13, 2012
By Simon Hunter
I've been a photographer for over 20 years, had a couple of Nikon 301 bodies in case anyone remembers them: still have them as a matter of fact and various manual lenses. Then family came along, life's priorities changed somewhat so I had to let the photography slip for a while. Then circumstances changed in a way that let me get back into photography, so I purchased a Nikon D3100 a couple of years ago. It came with the standard 18-55mm Nikkor lens, which did me for a while but I was yearning for something that would let me work on my real passions - adhoc portraits shots, and macro shots. The 18-55 wouldn't do, it just wouldn't/couldn't give me the results I wanted. For macro I was looking for a really shallow depth of field, and after reading various online reviews and testing it out in my local camera shop in Belfast, I bought one. Definitely not a spur of the moment decision as it costs about £600, plus a 62mm lens filter! I'd compared it to the Tokina 100mm 2.8, and I thought they were worlds apart, in quality and usability.
So, how am I getting on? Well, I've had it about 17 months, and out of the three AF lens I have in my bag (a Sigma 10-20 mm wide angle is my 3rd lens) I'd have to say that it's the lens that is most often on my camera when I'm in project mode. I've really majored in on macro photography and I've been delighted with the results, the bokeh effect is stunning, absolutely stunning and I've done some work which I'm really pleased with. Others have been kind enough to pass favourable comments as well which while nice to hear, makes me feel a little uncomfortable as I think a lot of it is to do with the capability of this lens!
When I'm using it for macro, I mostly use it with tripod, as althought the VR function works quite well, change that to pretty well, as its a comparatively heavy lens I wouldn't recommend doing a lot of macro handheld stuff as it will make you tired. Lotta glass in that lens! But, it's all part and part of the package, and the results are great, the optical quality is sharp, manual focus works very smoothly, all the key parts fall easily to hand. I've found through trial and error that working on f8 through to f11 generally gives the best combo of flexibility, depth of field and picture quality right through to the edges.
When I'm into portraiture, I love this lens, the main reason being the distance you have to maintain distance between yourself and your subject. Why do I like this? Well, I think the distance is comfortable for shooter and subject, you're not crowding the subject and making them feel uncomfortable, so you get them into a more relaxed way of things quicker, if you see what I mean. Sharpness is still great, and you still get that wonderful bokeh effect! If you think I'm droning on about this bokeh effect just fo onto to flickr and type in bokeh, you'll see what I mean!
One nice feature on this lens is the ability to turn the VR off when I don't want it. Useful sometimes, but generally when you are using it in handheld mode.The VR mode lets you take handheld shots at approx 4 stops slower than is possible with a non-VR lens, which can be great in low light conditions. Useful, but I leave it turned off a lot. Another feature I like is the focusing limit switch, which comes with two ranges: full, or infinity to 0.5m. Just adds a bit of flexibility say if someone/something wanders across your shot at the wrong time! Also depends on how you like to work your camera.
Handling wise, I can't really fault it. Manual(M) or Manual/Autofocus(M/A) switch is ready to hand and can be done by touch after you are familiar with the layout of the camera. The VR option is a little out of the way, but I stress little. There's a nice big focusing ring, which is smooth and well-geared, if that's the right term. I haven't used flash with this lens when shooting macro, no need to as of yet as I generally shoot outdoors anyway.
To sum up, do I like this lens? Yes, love it to death. My sister is buying one after I loaned it to her. The ultimate test is to ask myself the question 'If I lost this lens, would I replace it with the same?' the answer would be a definite YES!!