In need of a macro lens? You’re in the right place! Here’s a practical lens review of the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR macro.

It’s no secret that I absolutely love shooting prime lenses.  In fact, when I first started Cole’s Classroom, the first video that I recorded was our “Must Have Wedding Equipment.” In that video, I mentioned that we shot just about the entire 2012 wedding season with only three prime lenses. That season included the Nikon 28mm 1.8G, 50mm 1.4G and 85mm 1.8G.  It is without a doubt our favorite way to shoot! It allows us to pack light and lets us shoot in very low light. The best part is that we can document the day with very shallow depth of field shots as well.  That is by far the best way to isolate your subjects and deliver amazing photos. Try it!

With that said, despite us being able to shoot 90% of the wedding day with these three lenses, I wanted to add some “specialty” lenses to our bag.  The three lenses that we added were the Nikon 105mm 2.8 VR macro, 70-200mm 2.8 VRII, and the 16-35 f/4.  With these three new additions, we are now able to add versatility to our imagery while still using our  three standard primes for the bulk of our photos. You can find a ton of different uses for a macro lens!

Let’s get started!!

Today, I want to give you my assessment of the Nikon 105mm 2.8 VR macro.  Just as with all of our Cole’s Classroom gear reviews, this review is not meant to show you graphs and diagrams showcasing the technical aspects of the lens. This review is rather meant to give real life and practical insight into the lenses that we actually use every single day. We are giving our thoughts on their strong points and their weaknesses, and provide comparisons to other similar lens options. Our goal is that  you can make an informed decision with real life data and content that makes sense to you.

105 macro

Why we love this lens! Pro’s of the Nikon 105mm!

As I mention in the video at the bottom, our favorite things about the Nikon 105mm 2.8 VR are:

    1. Vibration reduction (VR)  Having VR on this lens comes into handy so often that I couldn’t imaging doing macro type shots at a wedding without it.  With the VR technology I am able to get a sharp photo even at 1/8th of a second!
    2. AF Speed – Of all of the Nikon AF-S lenses, we have this lens focuses super fast. In our tests, the only lens that seems to focus faster is our 70-200 f/2.8.
    3. Portraits and Macro – This lens can double as a great lens for portraits too, not only macro type work.
    4. Wide Open Sharpness – Super sharp even when shooting at f/2.8.
    5. Color and Contrast – As with all of my Nikon “G” series lenses, the color and contrast is awesome.
    6. Bokeh and Close Focusing – This lens can focus very close to your object or subject and if shooting wide open at f/1.8. You can easily see the gorgeous smooth bokeh with this lens.

Who is this lens for?

    • Nikon photographers looking for a macro lens with exceptional attributes like: smooth & creamy bokeh, awesome wide-open lens sharpness, and vibration reduction.
    • Photographers who want to add a longer than 85mm focal length prime lens to their kit to use for portraits as well as macro photography.

Who is this lens not for?

    • Photographers looking for a “do-it-all” type lens.
    • Crop sensor (DX) camera users may find the 105mm field of view to be too long.  If so, the Nikon 60mm f/2.8 or 85mm f/3.5 may be better alternatives at a lower price point.

Key Considerations and Noteworthy Info…

    • Effective aperture changes – The maximum effective aperture of this lens changes with focus distance so you will only get f/2.8 when focusing at or near infinity.  As you focusing closer, the aperture will increase up to f/3.5 or higher at the closest distance. This is perfectly normal and found on most internal focus macro lenses.  In fact, when you are that close to our subject anyway, the depth of field would be so shallow that most of the image would be out of focus. In that case, stopping down the aperture is very much needed.
    • Manual focus for true macro work – When doing true macro work up close, especially true with diamond rings and jewelry, you can’t rely on the lens’ auto-focusing. You should take advantage of the easy manual override on the lens and manual focus for true focus precision, which is crucial when working so close up and with shallow depth of field.

What do we use this lens primarily for?

At weddings, our primary use for the Nikon 105mm is the ring shots and any other close up photos of details and decor.  However, if you are a wedding photographer and do not own a 85 prime, or a 70-200 2.8 VR I’d recommend you consider this Nikon 105mm. It’s a really great option based on its focal length, sharpness wide open at f/2.8 and having VR (which will help tremendously in low-light situations).

Price comparison to other similar lens alternatives (Prices shown taken from Amazon.com @ time of publishing).

Some of my favorite images with the Nikon 105mm 2.8 G lens…

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Final Thoughts…

As always, I hope this lens review gives you some practical insight into how this lens performs for us in our day to day photography. We also hope it helps you decide if this lens would be a useful asset to your lens collection!  If do you want to get yourself a Nikon 105mm macro lens, you can help support Cole’s Classroom by purchasing the lens right here at this link on Amazon, my favorite online retailer for my camera gear!

In closing, have you been considering adding a macro lens to your kit?  Or do you already have a macro lens?  Let me know down below, I’d love to hear from ya!

Cole