Review of the Nikon 105mm VR Macro Lens

By Scott Gietler

Review of the Nikon 105mm VR Macro Lens

By Scott Gietler









nikon 105mm vr lens




The Nikon 105mm VR lens is one of my favorite lenses for underwater use, especially when I want photograph small fish, skittish subjects, isolate the subject, blur the background, or shoot supermacro with a wet diopter. The lens is very sharp, with excellent color rendition and contrast at all apertures, from center to the corners. The main downside is that it needs a strong focus light to auto-focus in dim light conditions or on night dives. In these conditions, I prefer using my 60mm lens, often with a 1.4x teleconverter.


Maximum Magnification


  • Minimum width of photo with nikon 105mm VR lens - 23.0mm

nikon 105mm vr test photo

Shot taken in the pool, F16. This is the maximum magnification of the 105mm VR lens on the D300.



Underwater Photos with the Nikon 105mm VR


yellow boxfish, bali

Yellow Boxfish, Bali. Nikon D300, F8, 1/160th, ISO 200. The 105mm is perfect for shy fish.


wire coral goby

Wire coral goby, bali. D300, F20, 1/200th, ISO 320. The 105mm is great for small subjects also, and gives you a little more room than using the 60mm.


Underwater Photography- What's the 105mm lens best used for?

  • Mantis shrimp, gobies, jawfish
  • Juvenile fish
  • Cleaning stations
  • Isolating the macro subject
  • Shooting with a strong diopter
  • Getting a great Bokeh - the 105mm lens blurs the background nicely, especially at F4 - F9.

Better to use the 60mm lens for:

  • Night dives
  • Larger seahorses, frogfish
  • Showing macro subjects in their habitat

Macro Port Sharing


My 105mm lens, 60mm lens, and 60mm lens + 1.4x teleconverter all are useable in my macro port for the 105mm lens. This means I have to travel with less ports, and change ports less often.


Diffraction / Sharpness Tests


OK, Time to do some pixel peeping.


These are 100% crops, taken underwater. Full-size photos are about 48mm across. I took 3 shots at each aperture and chose the best shot. You can see a general loss of sharpness as the aperture gets smaller.


To me, the results look fairly good up to F16, with maximum sharpness at F7 or F8.


F22 is a not as great, where F25 is getting blurry, and F29 is pushing things. Past F29, not good.


The problem with F7-F11, is even though this isn't 1:1 magnification, depth of field is pretty small, so I didn't always get all of the ruler in focus. So even when taking photos of flat or two-dimensional subjects, it might be challenging to get it all in focus when using larger apertures. F14-F16 might be good comprimises. Of course this only applies when taking shots very close up.


Lessons learned?


  • Please don't start shooting all your close-ups at F8! Get the depth of field you need.
  • Shooting at larger apertures blurs the background. Is that what you want? Please keep in mind the background you want!
  • These differences are barely noticeable when you post photos to the web at 800x600 resolution. See the 2 examples at the bottm of the page.
  • Remember - these are all 100% crops! Take this into consideration only when you feel you really need the detail, which probably isn't as often as you think.

























Is the difference noticeable when posting photos to the web?


Let's see. here's 2 photos, one at F11, one at F29. If I look at the large numbers "3" and "4", I can clearly see more detail in the F11 photo. But in general, both photos look good. Actually, the F29 photo looks better, because the background is in focus. Sorry about the exposure difference. My TTl converter tends to underexposure at higher f-stops.






Further Reading

Review: Canon 8-15 mm Fisheye Lens

Understanding aperture and depth of field

Best lenses for underwater photography

Underwater macro photography tutorial

Underwater composition

Supermacro underwater photography

Comparing the 60mm and 100/105mm lens for underwater photography





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