Tai Shimizu

iOS & Mac Developer

Creator of the iOS photography apps Gridditor & Filterstorm, the Mac drawing app Inkist, the Mac HDR app Light Compressor, and the experimental web browser Torii.

Follow on Twitter

Follow on ADN

Subscribe via RSS

Contact via email

Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4 AIS Review

Overall: 5 out of 5

Optics: 5

Price on Used Market: ~$150–300 USD

Value at $225 USD: 5

Accessories: Great with PN-11 Extension Tube and TC-200/201 Teleconverters

Introduction

The classic mechanical precision of this AI lens (1977–1981), or the similar AIS (1981–1983), feels great compared to the modern version. The all-metal construction and built-in hood are wonderful things being left behind in today’s AF-S/VR world.

Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4 AI

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 ais thumb.jpg

Taken with Nikkor-Q·C 135mm f/2.8 Pre-AI @f/5.6

Assorted Information

Max Aperture f/4
Min Aperture f/32
Aperture Blades 7
Close Focus .45m/18in
Filter Thread 52mm
Hard Infinity Stop? Yes
Built in Hood? Yes

I’ve shot with Nikon’s current Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AF-S VR, and Canon’s current 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lenses, but not the Nikon AF version, the f/2.8 AIS, or any other Canon 100mm. This is the only one I own due to both cost and satisfaction.

Usage

This lens is supremely sharp, with excellent boke, but has the disadvantage compared to the modern version of only getting you to 1:2 reproduction rather than 1:1. I use either the PN-11 extension tube, or a TC-200 2x Teleconverter to get this to 1:1. Using a teleconverter rather than the extension tube gives this lens a really convenient working distance for 1:1 reproduction, which is useful for anything that might be scared away. Sharpness remains excellent with my TC-200.

Taken with PN-11 Extension Tube @1:1 Reproduction

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 ais new leaf thumb.jpg

Versus

To me, for Macro photography the f/2.8 VR’s only advantages are brighter viewfinder for focusing, and getting to 1:1 without an extension tube. VR is basically useless for macro. On the other hand, the 105mm f/4 macro has the advantage of a superior focusing ring which to me is a big plus as I focus manually for macro shots no matter what.

Versus Canon 100mm USM Macro

http:  taishimizu.com pictures nikon 105 vs canon 100 thumb.jpg

Here are 100% crops of a flower from each lens. The Nikon was taken on a D60, where as the Canon was a 5DMk2. This isn’t the best comparison, since the D60 has more densely packed photosites, and therefore 100% crops will contain more detail. For comparison, look at the originals below. Still, to me it looks to me like the Canon’s lens isn’t delivering as good sharpness per-pixel as the Nikon is at higher density which was quite surprising to me. Click to see 100%.

Nikon 100% crop @f/8 1:1 with PN-11

http:  taishimizu.com pictures nikon 100 percent thumb.jpg

Canon 100% crop @f/8 1:1

http:  taishimizu.com pictures n canon 100 percent thumb.jpg

Here are the full images.

Nikon full image @f/8 1:1 with PN-11

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Nikon macro comparison thumb.jpg

Canon full image @f/8 1:1

http:  taishimizu.com pictures n canon macro comparison thumb.jpg

Here’s a couple more side-by-side comparisons. These were shot 1:1 on the Canon, and slightly less than 1:1 on the Nikon in order for the size of objects when viewed at 100% to look close to identical. Again, the Nikon comes out sharper, but honestly the difference isn’t enough to see unless making huge prints, or cropping massive amounts.

Side by Side @f/4

http:  taishimizu.com pictures 100 percent side by side thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures side by side2 thumb.jpg

Another advantage of the Nikkor is that it reaches 1:1 at 17.5cm (6.95 inches) as opposed to the Canon’s 14.5cm (5.75 inches). Note I measure these distances from the end of the lens rather than the film plane as is standard. The reason for this is distance from the end of the lens is important for shooting animals, especially insects, who can easily get scared away by the lens. Since the 105mm f/4 is not an internal focus design and extends greatly in length as you focus close, it keeps your body farther from the subject, as well.

Final Word

As you can easily find it for under $200, 1/5 the cost of the AF-S version, it’s an easy buy for macro photography. I haven’t used the AF-S version enough to pass judgement on resultant image quality between the two, but I suspect I prefer this lens, and I certainly prefer it as compared to the Canon 100mm USM macro. For more general photography at this focal length, the lens speed, VR, and autofocus of the new version makes it a great purchase, though I’d probably spend a little extra and go for the 105mm DC for purposes other than macro.

More Images with this lens

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 ais young leaf thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures insect flower macro september 2009 nikon 105mm f4 micro ais pn 11 flower volcano thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 ais flower thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 ais moth thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 ais leaf thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 ais fly thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures koyasan mt koya jizo statue nikon micro nikkor 105mm f4 ais thumb.jpg

Images with this lens and PN-11 Ext. Tube

D700 @f/4

http:  taishimizu.com pictures happy thanksgiving nikon 105mm f4 macro ais droplets thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures audubon society macro micro nikkor 105mm f4 pn 11 dragonfly thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures audubon society macro micro nikkor 105mm f4 pn 11 grasshopper grass thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures audubon society macro micro nikkor 105mm f4 pn 11 grasshopper clinging thumb.jpg

http:  www.taishimizu.com pictures audubon society macro micro nikkor 105mm f4 pn 11 bee thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures insect flower macro september 2009 nikon 105mm f4 micro ais pn 11 fly thumb.jpg

Nikon PN-11 Extension Tube

http:  taishimizu.com pictures Nikon pn 11 extension tube review nikon pn11 pn 11 extension tube thumb.jpg

Edit 2012-04-17:

Photos on D7000

These images are from some photos I took to make iPad backgrounds with, you can find that blog entry here.

http:  taishimizu.com pictures  Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 AIS DSC_5229 thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures  Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 AIS DSC_5267 thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures  Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 AIS DSC_5276 thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures  Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 AIS DSC_5280 thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures  Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 AIS DSC_5228 thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures  Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 AIS DSC_5283 thumb.jpg

http:  taishimizu.com pictures  Micro Nikkor 105mm f4 AIS DSC_5222 thumb.jpg

Posted by tai on 2009-05-16 10:59:16. Comments (5) | Tiny link

Previous Entry: History on YouTube

Next Entry: The Big Lens Decision

Comments

using with TC-200

I was very interested to see how using a TC 200 allows you to get to 1:1 as I happen to have one of these and the PN-11 is difficult to find or expensive. I have a 105 f2.8 MF and find this combination works really well. Not sure if there is any noticable loss of image quality using the teleconverter c.f extension rings

Posted by John Violet (anon) on 2011-04-20 08:07:04.

TC-200

Using the PN-11 is certainly better in some respects to using the TC-200. The TC-200 should give you more light loss and could decrease image quality depending on how good your sample’s glass is.

That said, the TC-200 has a couple advantages in that it gives you more working distance at max reproduction, and you can still focus to infinity when using it (though that makes no difference for macro work, obviously). I do sometimes use the TC-200 instead for extra distance.

Posted by tai on 2011-04-20 09:20:58.

Used For Sale

Can you tell me if its worth buying this lens for $250, Thanks

Posted by Manny Mendoza (anon) on 2011-08-23 07:33:49.

Re: Used For Sale

If it’s in good condition, I’d say it’s certainly worth it at $250. KEH has one in EX condition listed right now at $245.

Posted by tai on 2011-08-23 08:39:52.

Lionel Messi (anon)

Thanks!

Posted by Lionel Messi (anon) on 2012-04-22 13:25:26.
All content © Tai Shimizu unless otherwise indicated.