Nikkor 105mm micro – 2 months in

Back in May when Paula and I were state-side for her graduation we picked up a couple of presents for ourselves: a Nikon D40X for Paula and a Nikon 105mm macro lens for me.  Like most photographers with a new lens I have spent most of the past couple months shooting almost exclusively with my new toy.

What’s the dealeo?

Early in 2006 Nikon updated their popular 105mm Macro lens with the addition of their VRII vibration reduction system.  Used by many as a multi-purpose lens, Nikon’s 105 produces roughly a 1:1 reproduction ratio when used for Macro photography and the shallow depth of field make for a passable portrait lens.  While I’ve found I can use it for a lot of different types of photography, I must state: it’s not quite a Swiss Army lens… and it certainly won’t fit in your pocket.

VR on macro lenses?  Genius

Well, perhaps “obvious” is more apt than “genius”.  Having the image stabilization functionality for close up photography is really a bit of a forehead slapper.  Why hasn’t anyone done this before? 

Our backyard has some wonderful flowering bushes which draw in a happy little cloud of bees.  Having the VR allowed me to grab my camera out of my bag and hand-hold some close-ups of the bees with their pollen saddlebags, something for which I would certainly have needed a tripod.  Electronic Quaaludes… nice.

Say cheese… okay, again… wait…

Macro lenses can be roped into duty as a portrait lens, their shallow depth of field providing wonderful blurring of background elements.  There is, however, a catch: their focus is manageable when tight into subjects but getting a subject properly focused at 10 yards away can be a touchy operation.

That said, it still does a decent job in the role of a portrait lens.  As your lens collection grows you’ll want to have both portrait and macro lenses (I assume).  My priority was macro first, portrait second… and I’ll be able to press this lens into portrait service until Santa brings me one of those 30mm f1.4 lenses Rob’s been raving about.

So, what is it? Whine or roses?

I love the lens, but there are a couple things to note: the touchy focus I’ve mentioned and the size.  The addition of the VR mechanism has turned the 105 into a beefy lens.  The barrel is thicker and the weight has gone up over 30%.  It’s a good thing they added the VR, your arms may get shaky after shooting with this beast all day.

Break it down for me

Pros: great optics, VR
Cons: touchy focal throw at distance, hefty

Bottom line: get one

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