48 comments on “Lens Review–Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series-E

  1. Thank you so much for this excellent review. i am retuning to real photography after 20 years of mostly point and shoot photos of my kids growing up and have chosen the NEX 7 as the vehicle. The Canon EOS film camera was my last serious camera – I greatly enjoyed spending time outdoors shooting flowers, bugs, landscapes, sunsets, etc — activities that I really didn’t have time for while raising and educating my boys.

    I have been waffling between the Nikon 100mm E and the Tamron SP 90mm f/2.5 (52B) macro as my NEX’s multipurpose long lens. Any comparative thoughts??

    Thank you.

    • Hey there Randy, glad you liked the review, and I’m happy for your return to “real” photography (if there is such a thing, I’m assuming you’re speaking of the artsy-fartsy kind, haha).

      As to your question, I did a bit of research on that lens and from what I can tell, your decision will all depend on what exactly you are wanting. However, from what I’ve read on the Tamron 90mm 52B so far, here’s what I can tell you:

      The Nikon 100mm E is cheaper (~$80-100 in good to mint condition) than the Tamron (the three last-sold ones on eBay in “okay” condition went from $80-160, and the only one on there right now is listed at $350). The Nikon is also a bit shorter, a bit skinnier, and 1/2 the weight of the Tamron, an important thing to consider, as I laid out in the review. Since the Nikon is 10mm longer in FL, the depth of field separation difference between the f/2.5 of the Tamron and f/2.8 of the Nikon is negligible (if any).

      The Tamron is a macro (duh, hehe), meaning it is for sure corrected to work close-up, but may not keep all of its optical qualities as focus distance increases (obviously that is a rough assumption, since I don’t have that lens). From what you could see in the review, the Nikon is consistent at f/8 throughout the focus range. However, the Tamron being a macro means you can obviously get much closer (1:2 ratio) than the Nikon. Of course, I’ve seen that with the cropability of the NEX-7’s sensor, faking a macro with a sharp lens is doable.

      Let’s assume you REALLY want to get into macro (as well as general photography). I believe you would be best suited getting the 100mm E, along with a separate 200mm macro lens. With the 100mm E, you’ll likely take your camera out more due to the absence of the weight and size of everything, and when you really want to do macro, you’ll have a dedicated set-up with a more versatile 300mm equivalent field of view allowing you to photograph insects and other flitting things from a greater distance (won’t scare them off). I for one will at least start out with something like the 105mm Micro-Nikkor (aperture not decided), rather than get a shorter FL.

      Think about it though, wouldn’t you rather photograph a bumblebee on a flower from 10 feet away rather than 2 feet away? 😉

  2. Good job – I really enjoy reading your reviews.

    I hope you were not effected to badly by the storms.

    • Thanks Eths, always good to see you dropping by here as well.

      And whew, don’t get me started on those storms. 🙂 Most everything is fine, though.

  3. Thanks to you, I’m now a proud owner of a 100mm E series Nikon in near-perfect condition. It’s aperture was stuck, so I got it for £25 (about $40) from eBay. After a little tinkering it’s in perfect working order.

    A nice match for my E-M5 and quite usable with our older D200 too.

  4. I had a Series E 100mm, and sold it when I “upgraded” to a 70-200 zoom…
    Regretting badly, as a small light inconspicous lens with the same (or better) IQ, costing “nothing” would definately be nice to have for candid streetphoto! I will get one again ASAP!

    • The few times I’ve used it for street photography it really is amazing. In many ways I miss this “street sniper” lens (coined from a friend of mine), and I almost wish I didn’t sell it. Definitely enjoy your copy when you get it. 🙂

  5. Very much enjoyed your comprehensive review, Matt! I kept the lens’s 2nd version (originally acquired used way back in 1986) when recently I transitioned from an old Nikon FE2 film camera to the Olympus OM-D EM-5. Its a joy to work with as a snub-nosed full frame equivalent 200mm. The EM-5’s in-body stabilization makes it easy to use to about 1/15th of a second. Great lens when you need a bit more image scale than the Olympus 45mm 1.8 provides.

    • Absolutely, John! The 100mm f/2.8 pairs great on a m4/3 body with its small size and long reach. Glad you liked the review! Apologies for not posting anything lately, higher obligations have been taking up all of my time.

  6. Dear Matthew,
    thanks alot for your excellent review of the 100mm 2.8 Series E Nikon!
    I recieved this lens today from a dealer of classic Nikonlenses and -cameras and ebay made my day providing an unused and boxed original lens hood for 7€. On my D7000 this lens is looking really good and it feels much better than any of the new AF-S plastik Nikkors from China. There is no other 100mm lens out there as lightweighted and small as this little gem.

    • Glad you liked the review, Stephan, and great to hear you are loving your copy! The only equivalent is canon’s own fd 100mm f/2.8, but, like you say, I think the Nikon is still smaller and lighter!

  7. Thank you for this review. It’s a great source of information – so much so that I’ve just bought the 100mm lens from ebay 🙂

  8. Great blog Matthew, i got a this lens for 60€ after reading about it here and im very pleased to say you nailed every aspect!

    I began using E series because my father had the 50mm one with his old Nikon FM and just have fallen in love with the focus ring smoothness. I find them far more usable than modern lenses for amateur photography such as mine!

    • Great to hear Emanuel, and thanks for your words. Nikon really nailed the price/performance aspect of these lenses so well, it’s so great they do great work even to this day (still holding onto my tiny 50mm f/1.8 E!).

  9. Great review, Matthew. I am new to the a6000, and I am lens searching. I have the Zeiss 24mm 1.8 and the 55-210. But I really wanted the 16-70 to be the killer, though at the price it really isn’t. So I am messing with my Nikon lenses on a metabones, and coincidentally today I tried my 100mm for the first time on this camera. You nailed the review, but I actually prefer using the lens at f4 and f5.6 most of the time. As you say, it is plenty sharp at any aperture in the center. Wow, it is really nice on the a6000, and I find focus peaking gets me in focus as quickly as I can manage with my Df. I have a number of other Ai and Ais lenses that I need to try, and I will start by checking out your other reviews. Thanks for this one.

    • Great to hear, Roy! I actually regret selling that lens out after I got done with the review, as now when I reach for the 100mm focal length, I’m stuck with the big-ole’ heavy 105mm f/1.8 AI-s! Haha.

      • There is a lot to what you say about weight. I have a like-new 200mm f4 that I really love, but it just isn’t comfortable on this little camera, shooting handheld. I suppose it would be okay on a tripod, but the lens doesn’t have a tripod collar, so that’s out. Your 180mm is the ticket for that, I think. I have thought about getting one, or even an old 300mm f4.5.

      • Just so you know, the 180mm f/2.8 AI-s is half a pound heavier than the 200mm f/4. And, it still doesn’t have a tripod collar. 😦

        Check out my 180mm f/2.8 AI-s review to learn more. Also, a 300mm f/4.5 will also be noticeably heavier.

  10. hi , excellent review!
    i wanted to know how my 100mm f 2.8 E serie will work with macro extension tubes on my nikon d5300…and how many mm of extension tubes i really needs for real macro 1:1 ratio?
    thanks a lot anyway!

    • Hey there Thomas, sorry for not getting back with you, I was gone for a few months. The 100mm f/2.8 shows excellent sharpness characteristics that I’m sure could translate well to extension tubes. As to attaining true 1:1 macro, I do not know the actual amount. That said, give multiple combinations a shot and see what works for you! Once you get within a few inches, you are working within 1:1 magnification.

  11. Matthew, I really like your reviews and professional judgements. I would like to have your opinion about three issues: (1) I have been using the Nikkor 24mm 2.8 AIS on a sony alpha 6000. the colours come out kind of flat and the sharpness of the images is way behind my sigma 19mm. i had big hopes but am disappointed now. Do you have any experience with this combination? (2) Have you tested he Nikkor 105 2.5 on the Sony? (3) I am using a Novoflex adapter. What do you think about this? Thank younfor your reply. Best regards Ralf Baron, Düsseldorf, Germany

    • Hello there Ralf, sorry for the late response. I do not have much experience with that lens, though I do know the older wide AI-s lenses do suffer from relatively flat images without much micro contrast and also exhibit noticeable veiling haze until stopped down. I believe the only exception is the 28mm f/2.8, which still fetches for a large amount of money on eBay, but I have not tested that lens. I have also only tested the big brother to the 105 2.5, the 1.8. It’s a fantastic lens, and from every story I’ve read about the 2.5, it doesn’t disappoint either. The novoflex adapter is also a good one. I haven’t heard many reports of decentering on that one, compared to much cheaper models.

  12. Thanks for doing this write up. I know something like this can take a bit of time to put together.

    I agree with what you wrote here. I have both the 100mm (later version) and a 105mm f/2.5 Ai-S. I bought the 100mm as a travel lens for a two-week trip to Vietnam a few months ago as it is half the weight of my f/2.5.

    Looking through the film scans now I can’t see too much of a difference between the two lenses, and I much enjoyed the weight savings. (However, my copy of the 105mm has seen a lot of use over the years and is filled with dust.)

    I was shooting a Nikon FM3A and almost only Tri-X at box speed. The other two lenses I took was the 28mm f/2 which is a splendid lens and the Voigtlander 58mm f/1.4. I found the 28-58-100 to be a good set up that allows me to cover almost all the conditions that I encountered. Sometimes I wanted something a bit longer, but there aren’t really any lightweight 135mm Nikon lenses out there. And after carrying my small kit for up to 18 hours a day, I wasn’t looking for anything heavier.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Thanks Zach! Wish I had more time to do these more frequently, my 400mm f/2.8 has been itching for a review for well over a year now. Glad the 100mm E works well for your film use, it really was a great performer for me even on digital. Only reason I sold it was because the 50mm E made for a better run-about lens for my uses.

      I have the same problem with weight and size, though on the wider end of the spectrum. For 90% of my photo outings nowadays, I find myself bringing my 15mm f/2, 50mm f/1.8 E, and 105mm f/2 STF, the last of which is the only “big” lens. Anything longer telephoto wise just gets too heavy for long outings.

      The 135mm Series E is a decent lens as well, but it too starts to get on the heavy side compared to what lenses you list in your post.

  13. Excellent review…thanks for sharing! I added the Nikon 100 series e lens to my collection and discovered similar results with a comparison to the 105 f1.8….pretty impressed with the much smaller and cheaper 100.

    • Glad you liked it Andy. The 100mm E really does punch above its weight class, and part of me does regret selling it off. The Laowa 100mm f/2 has been great, and is a much better lens overall, but it is of course much heavier and bulkier to boot.

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