UPDATE: Full Review up and viewable HERE.
Though I have had this lens for well over a couple of weeks now, I never have really taken it out with the purpose of using it to its fullest, until yesterday. This is why these “first impressions” are coming so late, and the technical review to follow sometime later as well.
Part of the AI-s manual focus Nikkor lens family that Nikon produces (yes, you can still get some AI-s lenses–such as the 50mm f/1.2–brand new from Nikon), the 105mm f/1.8 is something of a gem. Taking into account just what it is–a short super fast telephoto on APS-C cameras–the 105mm is tiny. However, like all other AI-s lenses the 105mm is all metal and glass, built to an extremely high standard. It is quality and craftsmanship that has to be felt to believe. Though it is indeed heavy–coming in at about 20 ounces–unlike some of the plastic barreled lenses common today, there is something to be said to pick up a camera and be greeted by cold metal both on the camera (magnesium alloy) and the lens. Manual focus is smooth and dampened better than most lenses I have handled, and it better, since obviously this is a manual focus only lens!
How it feels and looks are important, but the key thing here is how well does it take pictures? Where does a 152.5mm f/2.5 (in 35mm frame equivalency used on an APS-C size sensor) fit for photography? It is a fast tele, for sure, but it is not particularly long enough for most sports–provided you can’t get close–nor is it wide enough for typical “portrait” lengths, such as an 85mm-135mm equivalency. I’m not particularly too sure about what sort of use this lens has as far as to fitting into a “standard” category, so why don’t I just try using it for something? This is exactly what I did at the Holi-Day celebration yesterday! After getting familiar with the field of view with this lens, as well as the fantastic depth of field control that the fast maximum aperture provides, I found that it works particularly well for close up portraits at portrait distance (~15 feet). In landscape orientation at this distance, the subjects’ upper bodies and heads will tend to be in the frame, such as below:
Whereas at closer distances (5-10 feet), a much tighter view will result, typically with only the head in the frame. In combination with the angle of view, the distance, as well as the fast aperture, there is essentially no background to speak of.
While in this one, even the person to the left of the frame is unrecognizable and non-distracting to the subject.
Finally, though real technical aspects will be discussed further in the full, technical review of this lens, I’m pleasantly surprised to see how useable the 105mm f/1.8 is as the aperture opens up. When I got it I just knew that the maximum f/1.8 aperture would be all but useless. I told myself “It won’t be sharp, there’ll be too many CA’s, bokeh (the character of out of focus backgrounds) will be too distracting” just so I didn’t get my hopes up. Lucky for me this lens is useable–and then some–in the “fast” range of f/1.8-2.8. Though not clinically sharp at the pixel level, photographs on the whole are nice and sharp at f/1.8-2. The only real difference between the small click is at f/2 there is slightly less purple fringing (trivial to remove in Lightroom 4 anyway), bokeh even wide open is very smooth as long as there are few point sources of light in the frame. The real kicker is that at f/2.8, the lens is as sharp (though not at peak sharpness, of course) as I will ever really need it. Purple fringing is all but gone and pixel-level detail is strong. In other words, I am one happy camper. This is one lens that I’m going to keep for a long, long time!
Always more to come, and until then, have a great one!