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Review by Markus Stamm, published December 2014
Stabilized macro lenses have become a fairly common thing nowadays, but when the Nikon AF-S 105 f/2.8 VR was announced in 2006, it was the first of its kind. The lens replaced a highly regarded, but somewhat aged design, featuring all the goodies a new lens needed to offer, including a silent-wave autofocus drive, Nano Crystal coating and of course its key feature, the optical stabilization system.
The addition of VR to a macro lens caused a few raised eyebrows back then, questioning the usefulness of this feature in "real" macro shots. However, there's of course a lot more you can do with a macro lens than 1:1 shots, and in most of these situations optical stabilization offers an advantage, either by allowing slower shutter speeds and/or by giving a stable viewfinder image for easier framing of the shot.
Being a little aged itself now, let's have a look at how the lens performs on our current FX test camera, the Nikon D3x.
The lens is rather big and, due to its excellent build quality, also quite heavy for its focal length. The outer barrel is made of metal, as is the mount. The broad, rubberized focus ring operates smoothly, but it is not damped.
The Nikkor is a true IF (internal focusing) design, so its physical length remains constant at any focus setting. The front lens does not rotate, so using a polarizer is no problem. Talking about the front lens: it's smaller than the fat lens barrel suggest, which means that the front filter thread has also a fairly moderate size of 62 mm.
As all macro lenses with F-mount the Nikkor reports the effective aperture to the camera, which decreases from f/2.8 down to f/4.8 at minimum focus distance.
The lens features a Silent Wave ultrasonic drive, allowing for a near-silent autofocus and manual override at all times. The AF speed is quite fast for a macro lens. However, there is a focus limiter switch, and it's a good idea to make use of it in non-macro shots to avoid focus hunting.
The VR II system on this lens is rated by Nikon to offer up to 4 stops of efficiency... an amount we did not reach in the field. 2 to 3 stops, depending on your amount of hand-shake (or your coffeine habits) are a realistic figure to expect.
As almost any current Nikkor lens, the AF-S is unsurprisingly a G-type lens and thus does not feature an aperture ring. It is compatible with all Nikon AF-S teleconverters.
|Optical construction||14 elements in 12 groups, incl. 1 ED and 1 Nano Crystal Coat element|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.314 m (max. magnification ratio 1:1)|
|Dimensions||83 x 116 mm|
|Filter size||62 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||Nikon HB-38, petal-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)|
|Other features||Lens provides distance (D) information to the camera, Silent Wave AF motor, Optical stabilization (VR)|