This Nikon AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED lens review is by Bojan Stepančič (website: foto-info.si) and it was originally published here. The post contains also some comparisons with the Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G lens. Additional coverage on the new 105mm f/1.4E lens can be found here. The lens is currently in stock at Amazon, B&H and Adorama:
First, I would like to say, that the Nikon AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED is the best portrait lens, that Nikon has made. I had the opportunity to test it together with the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G.
The lens, compared to the Nikon 85mm f/1.4G is very big and almost twice as heavy and it weighs one kilogram. The difference between the two lenses can be seen in the optical construction. Nikon AF-S 105mm f1.4E ED has 14 lenses in 9 groups, the Nikon AF-S 85mm f1.4 has 10 lenses in 9 groups. On the pictures below you can see a comparison in size between the two lenses.
Build quality and ergonomics
Despite the fact that the Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED is made in China, this does not affect the quality of workmanship and materials. Manufacturing quality is at the level with Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G. In combination with larger DSLR cameras, it is well balanced.
Autofocus - AF
AF compared to the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G the 105mm f/1.4E it is slightly slower, possibly because of the heavy lenses and lens dimensions. However, it is sufficiently fast for photographing moderately fast motifs. Given that this is primarily a portrait lens, it is important that it is accurate in focusing. During the entire test, I had very few photos where the AF missed.
Chromatic aberration - CA
Lenses with a fast maximum aperture are known for being able to have a more chromatic aberration. Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G has in some cases visible chromatic aberration but I can say that Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED is better in this area. On the pictures below you can see, the comparison of chromatic aberration between Nikon AF-S 105mm and Nikon AF-S 85mm.
Vignetting and distortion
As can be seen from the photo below, Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED has a bright spot in picture center and visible vignetting at the edges, but this almost completely disappears when the aperture is closed for one or two stops. Image distortion is perfectly controlled, on the photo below we can see that in this it performs better than the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G.
Bokeh - quality of the blur
Bokeh is the quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image. This is where the portrait lenses truly show off their attributes. Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4 gives very pleasant blur, both in the background and foreground of the photo. As can be seen from the photos below the bokeh is very similar to that given by the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G, which has until now been one of the best lenses in this area.
In certain photos, we can see the specific shape of bright spots in the form of a cat's eye. This specificity is also seen in the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G and is common with fast prime lenses at open aperture.
The difference between the 105mm and 85mm focal length
Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G is considered one of the best portrait lenses. Many photographers who use Nikon equipment swear to this lens when shooting portraits. However, what it is essentially the difference between the focal length 105mm and 85mm for portraits?
Seemingly 20mm does not mean much. For some photographers that extra meter of working space, that the 105mm brings, means a lot in the creative sense. Slightly narrower angle of view by the Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED vs. Nikon 85mm f/1.4G means that we can shoot a little further away from the subject, in some cases, this is welcomed. In particular, It narrows the viewing angle, and further compresses the perspective, thereby helping to ease the isolation of the motif from the background. It means the little difference for the main motif, but when we talk about perspective, the effect can be significant.
The photos below illustrate the difference between background at focal length 105mm and 85mm. At 105mm focal length, perspective is more compressed. The background appears bigger, this could be seen on the blurred entrance in the building, while the main motif is equally big.
On bellow photo, we could see that Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED is sharper then Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G
Sharpness comparison between Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED and Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G
In the end the most technical part of the test. On the pictures below we can see the difference between the both lenses in sharpness and contrast at the center of the image and in the far corner at different apertures.
From these pictures, you can clearly see what I spoke about at the beginning of the article. Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED is sharper and has a little better contrast than Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G at all settings. It is very sharp from f1.4 and further. Corners are just a little less sharp at f1.4.
According to the cost of the lens, we would expect an excellent lens, and this also is the case, despite the fact that it is made in China. Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4G is considered one of the best portrait lenses, that can be bought. From now on Nikon AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED, will take over this role, it has a sharper image, gives better contrast has fewer CA, practically no optical image distortion and provides excellent bokeh. However, I believe that many photographers who have an 85mm portrait lens are more likely to remain with the 85mm lens. Focal length 105mm really shines when we have some more space around, namely, the difference is not large but it can be crucial with shooting indoors, where 85 mm in some cases would be more appropriate. Also, the sheer weight of the 105mm will not be suitable for some photographers, and finally it is a very expensive lens.
Nikon AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED lens gallery: