Information on Nikkor 105mm f/1.8 & f/2.5 Lenses

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A popular focal length to take an entry into telephotography

I am sure some of you who have also taken a painful path similar like me relates to how to built a lens system from scratch around the first SLR camera you owned. Those days, zoom lenses were not that well received as today, so, most of the first time buyer of a 35mm SLR camera will usually ended up buying a camera body first and possibly a standard lens was bought to complete a "standard package for newbie" in a new SLR package. Very naturally, after the initial first few months of soul searching with only a "normal" picture angle a typical standard lens will provide, it can be quite likely a telephoto lens was a second purchase.

WHY ? Probably, most of time we would try out a camera by just shooting things or normal events happened around us; naturally, human figures will be the most used photographic subject for a new kid on the block. The question always faced by a new SLR camera user is often relates to HOW to get pictures that can be eye arresting - especially those shots with attractive blur out effect and drawing viewers' attention to main subject of interest - a feat seems only a telephoto lens does best.105mm telephoto lenses falls into the category of shortest range of the medium telephoto, with the focal length being double that of the standard lens, the size of the image on film is considerably larger than that of a 50mm lens. Its angle of view is about half of that too. The 105mm. therefore will fill a 35mm frame with one quarter of the area that would be included in the same scene made with a 50mm lens.

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One of the most interesting aspects of the 105mm lens is the ability it gives you to control sharpness in both foreground and background. This can be particularly effective and useful when you apply these optical characteristic in photographing people. By making only the central part of the image sharp, you direct the viewer to the important area of the picture. In addition, photographers favor the 105mm for commercial shooting not only in the studio but on location as well. The ability to fill the frame and the pleasing perspective are important advantages with the 105mm where subjects are small and have a lot of details.
The 105mm focal length is also a fine snapshot lens because it allows the photographer to keep a comfortable distance between himself and the subject in order to retain the natural facial expression. And while depth-of-field is shallow enough for special effects, it is not so shallow that focus is absolutely critical. With virtually endless versatilities, therefore - it is ideally an good choice lens to handle a multitude of subjects - sports, scenics, nature and people photography.

The is perhaps the first telephoto where the difference in image size on film becomes apparent. While there is some perspective compression, it's not overpowering. And that could be the reason why for a photographer who is so used to the 'ordinary' view of a 50mm focal length, can be so attracted to such focal length. If you so used images produced by a normal 50m lens, by simply take a view through the eyepiece through the lens for the first time can be very appealing to any new photographer who never had such an exotic viual experience. However, since depth-of-field of the 105mm lens is substantially less than that of the 50mm lens at the same focusing distance and aperture which contributes to a very pleasing visual when compared with lenses of standard focal lengths. This focal length is a basic telephoto that will produce strong images of a wide variety of subjects and is a good choice as a first telephoto lens. While careful focusing is always important, the depth-of-field of the 105mm lens at smaller apertures helps overcome minor focusing errors - particularly important when shooting fast action where most of the time higher shutter speed settings are required (unless you wish to use slower speed to portray a sense of motion). That has made telephoto lenses sold so well over the years. Further, alternatives high performance zoom lenses were not available in many quantity during those days (neither they are cheap if it has). Strangely, the most popular telephoto lenses were between the focal length of 80-135mm - probably price and portability were two key decisive factors that could affect any buying decision for these optic.

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<<<--- Credit: Images courtesy of "khO kiNG, kOh" <> who also developed a local forum/ site on his own called Photo Malaysia where you can take a visit to join the forum. Image copyright © 2002 All rights reserved.

I am not too sure WHY And HOW it originates with 105mm focal length being used for the Nikkor whereas virtually all other manufacturers are providing a fixed 100mm as the "default" focal length in their telephoto. So the 105mm becomes very "distinctive" Nikon offering and it was almost made synonymous with a Nikon and Nikkor. (The only 100mm length telephoto lens was a Nikon Series E 100mm f2.8 lens - take a note, it is called a 'Nikon' lens and not a 'Nikkor' lens). Anyway, for many Nikon faithful, this 105mm lens carries a lot of sentiment with its rich and colorful background, where it has enabled quality of Nikkor lenses caught the attention of western media during the Korean War and thus creating market opening to enable Japanese optical products to be able to expose to the rest of the world.

How good it the lens ?

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The early optical design used in the RF 10.5cm f/2.5 and early F-mount (LEFT); the right shown was the current design which remains until today.

Well, the original 10.5cm f/2.5 Nikkor-P designed for the rangefinder Nikon was introduced as early as in 1948. The lens was almost a replica of the Sonnar design in a 5 elements 3 groups optical design; the lens carried over to the initial F-mount and finally went throughout another round of upgrade in 1971 by renown Nikkor optical designer, SHIMIZU, Yoshiyuki. The revised optical formula is a 5 elements in 4 group design which was used until today in the Nikkor 105mm f/2.5s. The amazing thing is, the design has literally remained unchanged all these years as Nikon thought such "perfect "optical formula needs not be revamp at all. IS that good enough ? I thought so and I always tell many Nikon users that lens is really one hell of a lens - combining a economical, extremely high built quality and a world beater in its optical performance. However, with the convenience zoom lenses provide today, too often, many users choose to ignore my recommendation.

Scenic and plants ..
Credit: Image courtesy of Vieri John Terenzio, who maintains an online PORTFOLIO on his own. Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

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At this specific focal length, Nikon easily has the most extensive selection and "varieties" - with options of varying lens speed, type and budget to fit any photographers' need. Here, within the MF/AF Nikkor lens family, there is a high speed Nikkor 105mm f/1.8s, an evergreen classic Nikkor 105mm f/2.5, a special portrait lens which can manupulate depth of field AF-DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2.0D; another special and rare UV-Nikkor 105mm f4.0s; two extremely sharp lenses specifically designed for close up - the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4.0s and Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8s. You may also count in the Nikon Series-E 100mm f/2.8s and as well as the current AF-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 (AF & AF-D).

Photo: Copyright-free images collection © 2001, 

The above listing does not even covered another special application lense, the Bellow-Nikkor 10.5cm f/4.0 Preset introduced back in 1969 which originally designed to supplement the Nikon Below Unit PB-4 and PB-5 (another rare piece was a Nikkor-T 10.5cm f/4.0 Preset which was originally designed for the rangefinder Nikons but usable on the early reflex Nikon). What a great selection, Huh ?

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Nikon could have concluded that primary objective for most people purchasing their 105mm lenses now is solely meant for portraiture; it added a new member in '93 with a lens that enables user to adjust depth of field which obviously took the idea from the original AF-D Nikkor 135mm f2.0 DC. The AF-D Nikkor 105mm f/2.0DC lens permits a photographer to have some form of control over the 'blur' in depth of field for portraiture. Naturally, the lens is an autofocus version and you can use either manual focus or AF depends on your hardware configuration and personal preferences. However, the lens was short lived with its weak commercial response and thus, has been discontinued a few years ago. COMPARING the AF-D Nikkor 135mm f/2.0DC

Among all the available versions and types at this specific 105mm focal length, the most unusual application optic is the 105mm f/4.0s UV-Nikkor lens - as the name implies, it is a special application lens that is used to handle photography at the invisible spectrum of ultra-violet. A user claimed himself as a detective mailed me and said he used the lens to detect and verify finger prints (uh ?); while another user claimed he needed it for inspecting industrial machinery in his factory etc. I am not so sure about the true applications of this lens, but Nikon has actually redesigned a special dedicated flash unit just for this lens based on their powerful handle flash Nikon SB-14 - they renamed the special order flash as Nikon SB-140 UV-IR. Anyway, if your priority is on optical quality, I don't think any of these lenses mentioned here will ever disappoint you (Saved one - other than the UV lens which I have not actually used before myself...). As some of these lenses will be featured in sections where it relates, we will just concentrate on the two manual focus prime Nikkor telephoto lenses.

* I have used and owned quite a number of the versions over the years. From a non-AI auto Nikkor, an AI-Modified Auto Nikkor, an AI version which came with a reverse lens hood HS-8, an AI version with a built-in telescopic hood and an Ai-S version which also has a same design where it has the lens hood built-in. I have also own and used with an older AI -spec Micro-Nikkor 105mm f4, an Ai-S f2.8 and even used the current AF Micro-Nikkor 105mm f2.8 D for quite a while (But I gave away all of them and retained only two 105mm f2.5 AIS Nikkor) So may be I can safely shared more of my experience with you here. Any regrets ? May be, I should have keep the Micro-Nikkor 105mm f4 which I think was a damn sharp optic ...and keep only one 105mm f2.5 instead of two.

South African Kid, by Simon Wakelin
" .. all taken on one day in the townships of south africa on kodak e100vs film... was the only lens I had that day.... demonstrates the great use of the 105mm lens for portraits..." - Simon- Credit: Image courtesy of Vieri SIMON Wakelin® associated editior of Digital Photo Pro & Editor of HDVideoPro, who is also an active outdoor photographer himself. Simon also maintains an online PORTFOLIO on his own. Image copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

In choosing between the two standard Nikkor 105mm telephoto lenses of varying maximum aperture at /f1.8 & f/2.5; it relates directly to price versus performance ratio and the type of photography you often engaged yourself with. The f/1.8 version has a faster lens speed but costs almost double that of the f2.5 in price. The bonus that came with the f/1.8 lens is , you will have greater control over depth-of-field control plus a slight advantage for those who often has to handle dimly lit available light in their photography with its faster maximum aperture. However, with today's fine grain high speed film to compensate such shortfall, I think a doubling of the cost needs some justification unless the extra stop gain in lens speed is essential and frequently being used. Secondly, for those who is always on the move, factors like compactness, lightweight and ability to share many standard 52mm lens accessories could make the f/2.5 lens a more attractive alternative to f/1.8 lens.

Both of these Nikkor lenses are extremely sharp optic and have a top quality physical construction. Both of the later Ai-S version have been designed with a handy built-in telescopic lens hood. The lens coating for Ai-S version displays a distinctive pinkish colour where older Ai version has a differing greenish lens coating. Other than some older non-AI Nikkor lenses, many of these lenses surfaced at online sales outlets can still fetch a very good premium which reflects how users value performance of these lenses. Personally, without any form of hesitation I can comfortably recommend any of both Nikkor lenses to anyone who needs to add a good telephoto lens to their current AF zoom lens collection.

105mm f/1.8

105mm f/2.5

MORE... : The Nikkor 105mm f/1.8s was introduced only in 1982 and it was introduced as a raw Ai-S native lens. Whereas the old classic Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 lens has a history which can actually traced back more than half a century ago. Even if mesures by such standard where an optical product can survice for that long - It can't go wrong, right ?

MF Nikkor Lenses at 105mm focal length : Early non-Ai versions | Pre-Ai Versions | Ai Nikkor105mm f/2.5 | Ai-S Nikkor 105mm f/2.5s | Nikkor105mm f/4.0s UV | Nikkor105mm f/1.8s Ai & Ai-S | Relative: Non-Ai Nikkor-T 105mm f/4.0 Preset(new upload); Bellows-Nikkor 105mm f/4.0; Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4.0s; Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8s| Bookmark the autofocus main index page for future uploads

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Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
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Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
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Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

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Credit: MCLau®, who has helped to rewrite some of the content appeared this site. Chuck Hester® who has been helping me all along with the development of all these Nikon websites; Lars Holst Hansen, 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion I have; Ms Rissa, Sales manager from Nikon Corporation Malaysia for granting permission to use some of the official content; Ted Wengelaar, Holland who has helped to provide many useful input relating to older Nikkor lenses; Some of the references on production serial numbers used in this site were extracted from Roland Vink's website; Hiura Shinsaku from Nikomat Club Japan. Lastly, to all the good people who has contributed their own expeience, resources or kind enough granted permission to use their images of their respective optic in this site. It is also a site to remember a long lost friend on the Net. Note:certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets & brochures published by Nikon and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for may discrepancies arise from such dispute except rectifying them after verification. "Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Site made with an Apple IMac.