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Review Nikon 105mm f/2.5 AI

Discussion in 'Reviews, Tests, & Shootouts' started by gryphon1911, Dec 31, 2018.

  1. 04-01-2017_Df_street_DSC_7894.jpg
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    Considered by most Nikon lens aficionados as one of the must have manual focus lenses, I took the leap and snagged this lens up from a local camera store.

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    1/400, f/4, ISO 200 - PEN-F

    This lens covers the FX sensor size. Given that fact you might think that a 105mm f/2.5 lens should be rather on the large size. That is not the case with this lens.

    An all metal build gives the lens some heft to it, but I would not consider the lens to be "heavy".

    Used on the Nikon Df and adapted to the Olympus PEN-F, the balance feels right on either camera, although it is a little more lens heavy on the PEN-F, as one might expect.

    Being an AI (aperture index) lens, setting up the Df in the menus to accept the lens allows the aperture index lever to accurately report the cameras settings in the EXIF data.

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    1/125, f/4, ISO 1000 - PEN-F
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    1/200, f/2.5, ISO 200 - PEN-F

    Image Quality
    Some people think that older lens designs, even prime lenses, are not as good as the modern equivalents. There might be some truth to that statement if we get into a "measurebating" analysis. I, however, do not fully agree. While it might be true that on paper one lens may be sharper than another, there is more to a lens than the overall sharpness. My belief is that there is a threshold of "sharp enough" or acceptable sharpness that is good enough for me. The 105mm/2.5 AI lens certainly falls into that category and then some.

    If we look at the lens at f/2.5, this is probably where the lens is at its weakest. Even with that, the wide open performance is still plenty acceptable. Stopped down even a little bit to f/4 and it is very sharp.

    I find that I like the rendering of the lens as well.

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    1/125, f/2.8, ISO 3200 - PEN-F
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    1/160, f/2.5, ISO 200 - PEN-F

    The focus ring on my copy is very smooth with a hard stop at infinity. I'm able to go from closest focus to infinity with one turn. The front element does move in and out when turning the focus ring.

    The focus throw is great, giving one the ability to be very accurate with minute adjustments.

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    1/125, f/4, ISO 1000 - PEN-F

    Bottom Line
    Having this as my first experience with a manual focus lens was a great choice. It ticked all the boxes for size, portability, image quality and ease of focusing.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Thanks for the write up. My copy is due in a couple of days and I can't wait to try it out.
  3. It is an absolute gem. You'll love it!
  4. I always felt my 105/2.5 was the best Nikon lens circa 1975. I have a late model AI that was converted to AIS by Nikon in the late 70s. Still among Nikon's finest.
  5. Quick cat and wife photos. I like the way the D850 handles a non-cpu lens.

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    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. So out of curiosity what is the camera using to trigger the focus dot when using the viewfinder? Contrast, phase or? It seems fairly accurate but might not be perfect.
  7. As long as you're not in Live View the camera is using Phase Detect.
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
  8. I have one of these in AIS and agree that it is optically excellent and very well made. But I think it's the heaviest of my Nikon MF lenses. Also, the closest focus distance is quite long, and that hinders my use of the lens.
  9. one of many legends.. my recomendatons are -
    18 f 3.5
    55 1.2
    28 f2
    135 f2
    500 f4
    400 2.8
    and the 600 5.6
    85 2.8 PC
    I have all these and can only recommend to get themmif you see a bargain. Perfect fit for the DF. I have adapted those who needed it to AI
  10. if the focus dot is registering, i believe that means the electronic rangefinder is functioning and phase detect is working. Contrast only is in live view mode.
  11. I'll tell you what, on my D850 the dot when looking through the viewfinder is pretty darn accurate. Focus peeking in live view is not reliable at all.
  12. You're absolutely correct. In post #7 I stated exactly the opposite of what I intended, and I've now corrected that.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. I've owned this lens at two different times over the years, but don't have one at the moment. Not sure why I keep selling it, because it truly delivers great results. But seeing this thread makes me think I should buy it a third and final time.
  14. kilofoxtrott

    kilofoxtrott European Ambassador Moderator

    Dec 29, 2011
    Tettnang, Germany
    Refering to your pictures this lens seems to be a true gem.

    Old glass rocks
    • Agree Agree x 3
  15. Ann_JS


    Feb 18, 2015
    New York State
    I have recently converted an Olympus Zuiko 50mm f/3.5 MC Macro to a Nikon F mounting with a Leitax plate and dandelion chip.

    That lens is very small and light; and has a very long built-in extension that gets you very close to the subject.
    The lens is MF but Green-dot focussing works accurately.
    I converted this lens so that I can use the 50mm on PB-4 bellows for greater magnification.

    I also have the Nikon 105mm AF-S Micro f/2.8 which is truly excellent (and has AF and VR) but can't deliver as much magnification as the Zuiko can on bellows.
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