When I first heard about the new Nikon 105mm f/1.4E, I was fairly excited but careful. I knew it was going to be big, heavy, and costly, but worthwhile? What can I use it all for? Nikon has always had an advantage in regards to camera bodies, but their lenses normally fall behind other brand’s offerings. With this lens they are breaking new ground and taking a big risk. What is the point of this lens when there are different lenses in similar focal lengths which are already fairly excellent? Appears to be a perfect focal length for portraits, or maybe indoor sports? I used to shoot a lot of roller derby, and despite having retired from my regional league this past year, I still think of things in terms of derby. So what else is fast paced, high energy, and very demanding? A wedding!
This picture actually illustrates a couple of things. To begin with, you see it’s big. But second, it’s the same layout and build quality expected in the Nikon prime, with one subtle difference. Like most of the newest Nikon speakers coming out, they’ve included the new digital aperture, and thus don’t expect this lens to work with older Nikon bodies. If you’re shooting an FX body you will have no problems, but you’re going to want to check compatibility with old DX cameras. This past weekend I swapped out the 85 and also took the Nikon 105mm f/1.4E rather, and after using it, that is going to be a permanent substitution. Why is this? Well, because pictures coming from it look like that: You will need to be certain the lens is adjusted correctly to your camera, even however, to take advantage of that sharpness. The depth of field at f/1.4 is quite narrow. It’s even shallower compared to the 85mm f/1.4 in f/1.4 or the 200mm f/2 in f/2, if you’re keeping your framing exactly the same. Understanding how to utilize AF fine tune is vital for this lens and any fast aperture prime (check my blog article about that here). Once it is dialed in, however, WATCH OUT.
I second take for a wedding photographer in town, so those two images are his (thanks, Josh!) .
The only real drawback I can find with the lens would be that AF is rather slow. It is about on par with the Nikon 85mm f/1.4, so it is still very usable for most things.
I thought of comparing it to the old Nikon 105mm f/2 DC, but there is really no point. It’s soft and maybe somewhat fuzzy, and its previous design really doesn’t hold up to present standards. For portraits, I guess it still has its place if you want that dated, soft focus appearance. The new 105 is sharper, quicker to focus, more contrasty, and doesn’t have some gimmicky defocus control to mess with. And what about the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor? It is still great in its own way, but it is created for entirely different purposes. Should you need a macro lens, get a macro lens. But if you’re primarily shooting things in greater than macro distances, then the new 105 is superior in every way, if you don’t have to get a stabilized Sony’s lens.
And I do want this brand new Nikon 105mm f/1.4E’d VR. I would’ve had more dance floor keepers using VR, since those 1/60 shots would have been much easier to maintain steady. That is actually the only thing I can knock this lens for. The price would be more justifiable if they had added that one attribute. Nonetheless, there’s nothing like it anywhere else, and exactly what it was meant to perform, it does extremely well.