Monday, May 11, 2015

Nikon Nikkor AF-D 28-105mm f/3.5-f/4.5

Regular readers might remember that I generally don't like zooms, and I generally don't like midrange zooms. This is an entirely subjective opinion, related to my own photographic needs and uses (and even so, sometimes a midrange zoom is preferable). Today I'm offering the review of the Nikon Nikkor AFD 28-105mm f/3.5-f/4.5 midrange zoom. I think you might find my conclusions interesting, so read on!

+ optically superb, far exceeding what one would expect. Distortion, resolution, and bokeh are way better than what its specs suggest.
+ f/4.5 instead of f/5.6 on the long end is always nice.
+ 1:2 macro reproduction ratio! Better still, it's optically great also in macro range, yeah!

- to get 1:2 you need to move a switch (which can happen only between 50-105mm, and then to go back to normal use you need to focus further away to disengage the limiter clutch)
- slightly susceptible to flare (and the ugly hood doesn't help either)
- no AF motor means you can't have autofocus with entry-level digital bodies (then again, this lens doesn't make much sense in DX either)

There's absolutely nothing to complain about in regard to image quality...

Intended Users
Great for:
  • FX users looking for a truly all-around solution (including very decent 1:2 macro) 
  • particularly if you have other cameras (e.g. older film camera), it has an aperture ring, so compatibility is guaranteed.
  • weddings, occasions, casual walk-around lens in general. Superb optically, fast enough (in terms of aperture), and very useful 28-105 range. It's a winner!

...with flare being one minor exception.

Not for:
  • DX. It doesn't make much sense there. Just grab a 18-55 if you want good macro qualities, or any longer lens for more reach.
  • 28mm is wide enough for a general-purpose lens, but the difference to, say, 20mm is very obvious
  • if you'll be shooting so that the sun will be in the frame much of the time, be prepared for flare

Final Verdict
Zooms are about convenience, and midrange zooms even more so. I got this lens more out of curiosity, thinking I'd review it and then sell it forward, but I decided to keep it. It's superb optically (I'd place it about on the same level as the excellent AF-S 24-85), small and light, and very, very handy. Although the macro "mode" takes a bit of familiarization (regarding the clutch use), it's a true macro mode - in other words, it gets you very close and it's optically just as great as the rest of the range. Frankly, I don't know how Nikon did it - and I wish they gave us more modern lenses like this. Let's compare it to some other midrange lenses, to show you what I mean:

Superb macro? Check!

vs any other older AF midrange zoom:
The 28-105 is clearly superior to everything else. The 28-70 and the 28-85 are good optically, but no macro mode and shorter. The rest of the lenses are not as great optically. The 35-70 f/2.8 is, but too short range and double the price (we're talking used here, always).

vs third parties:
The only one I've liked is the old Tokina 28-70 f/2.8. But shorter range for about a stop? And no macro? Nah...

vs modern AF-S lenses:
Now, here is when things get interesting. Modern lenses such as the AF-S VR 24-85mm f/3.5-f/4.5 or the AF-S VR 24-120mm f/4 have better autofocus characteristics (silent, MF override) and VR. Optically, there will be people who will try to convince you the 24-120mm f/4 is some sort of miracle lens. I challenge those people to take a dozen real-life photos with the 24-120, another dozen with the 28-105, mix them, then show them to random viewers. Provided the comparison is a fair one (e.g. no handheld shots with VR on at 1/15), few would notice any significant difference in image quality. Both lenses (as well as the 24-85) will give very good results, with individual differences in individual circumstances - for instance, the 28-105 will have an advantage if straight lines are involved, the 24-85 in flare-risky situations. That the 28-105 has 1:2 macro and is several hundred $$$ cheaper, is yet another element that should make you question whether you truly need the modern lens. Not to mention, I like my lenses with aperture ring, thank you.

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