Monday, October 24, 2016

Review of the Nikon Nikkor AI-S 105mm f/1.8

Yet another fast, dependable portrait lens from the older times of photography. Typically, old AI-S lenses are characterized by superb image quality, stunning build quality, a weight penalty, and great prices. Does the Nikon Nikkor AIS 105mm f/1.8 deliver? Read on to find out.

+ I'm sorry, there just isn't a comparison. Modern lenses feel like toys when it comes to comparing build quality...
+ ...and manual focus feel. Perhaps understandably, since it's a manual-focus lens.
+ unsurprisingly, optical quality is super, with one tiny footnote (read below)

- again unsurprisingly, there is falloff that goes away by f/4
- heavy, it will feel a bit out of balance with a small and light camera.
- prices can be high, even used.

Intended Users
Great for:
  • Looking for a >100mm and <f/2 lens? You don't have many options, and this is probably the cheapest.
  • Portraits are a very obvious application of this lens.
  • I've found it surprisingly sharp at close distances. If you put an extension right behind it, it would be a reasonably good macro lens.

Not for:
  • Anything moving. Manual focus can be frustrating in that case.
  • Entry-level cameras. No metering and small viewfinders will increase your frustration.
  • Ideally, you should use a lens like this with a split-screen viewfinder. It's usable on your standard FX viewfinder, but remember that these are optimized for f/2.8 lenses (in other words, you will have focus issues)

Final Verdict

It's about value (have you gotten bored of me saying this yet?) in the end. Even though the Nikon Nikkor AI-S 105mm f/1.8 is an old lens, it still sells (used, of course) for quite high prices - certainly compared to something like the E Series 100mm f/2.8. Then again, it's far cheaper than the new Nikon Nikkor AF-S 105mm f/1.4.Considering the intended application (portraiture), perhaps this old AI-S workhorse deserves at least a look.

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