Reviews |Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S Review

Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S
Review

Price when reviewed

£999

$999
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Our Verdict

The Nikon Z-series lens line-up now has two macro lenses and they’re both very good, but the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S has a few refinements that make it worth the extra money over the Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8. The 105mm lens is also incredibly sharp across the frame and is untroubled by optical flaws.

For

  • 1:1 Magnification
  • VR Image Stabilization
  • OLED Lens Information Panel

Against

  • Aperture range varies with focus distance
  • About 1.5x the price of the Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8

What is the Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S?

Nikon announced the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S at the same time as the Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8, thus proving that Nikon Z-mount macro lens are like buses and Nikon photographers with a mirrorless camera have a choice of two macro lenses.

While the excellent Nikon Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is aimed at novice macro photographers, the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S is designed for professional use and has a host of luxury features including weather-sealing.

Both Nikon Z-mount macro lenses are full-frame optics and offer 1:1 (life-size) reproduction at their closest focusing distances. That’s 29cm with the Nikon Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S and 16cm with the 50mm f/2.8 lens.

You can find the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Specification

  • Product type: Mid-telephoto macro lens
  • Mount: Nikon Z
  • Format: Full-frame
  • Focal length: 105mm
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8
  • Minimum aperture: f/32
  • Aperture range: Focused at infinity: f/2.8 to 32, at closest focusing point: f/4.5 to 51
  • Construction: 16 elements 11 groups (including 3 ED lens elements and 1 aspherical element)
  • Coatings: Nano Crystal and ARNEO coats, plus fluorine coating on the front lens element
  • Focusing system: Dual STM stepping motors
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.29m
  • Stabilisation: Yes, 4.5 stops VR
  • Number of diaphragm blades: 9
  • Filter size: 62mm
  • Weight: 630g
  • Diameter x length (extension from lens mount): 85 x 140mm
Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Features

A focal length of 105mm is popular for macro photography, but it’s also well-suited to other types of photography, especially portraiture.

While the Nikon Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is an excellent lens, the Nikon Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S is a more premium optic and it has an optical construction to reflect that. Inside its weather-sealed barrel there are 16 elements arranged in 11 groups with three ED (extra-low dispersion) elements and an aspherical element. The ED glass reduces chromatic aberration while the aspherical element combats aberrations such as coma distortion and helps to maintain image quality towards the edges of the frame.

There are also elements with Nikon’s Nano Crystal and ARNEO anti-reflection coats to combat flare and ghosting by reducing reflections across a range of light wavelengths.

In addition, the front element of the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S has a fluorine coating to help it shed water droplets, dust and fingerprints.

Unlike the Z MC 50mm lens, the Nikon Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S has an internal focusing system that’s driven by two stepping motors (STM). This means that the focusing is quiet and the lens doesn’t extend during focusing. There’s also full-time manual override of the focusing, meaning that even in autofocus mode, the focusing can be tweaked manually.

As a true macro lens, the Z MC 105mm delivers life size, 1:1, reproduction at its closest focusing point of 29cm from the focal plane (ie the sensor). This equates to a working distance of around 13cm between the point of focus and the front element of the lens.

In addition to the broad focus ring, the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S has a dedicated control ring that can be set to adjust the aperture, ISO or exposure compensation, leaving the focusing ring free to adjust the focus.

There’s also a small OLED screen that can display key information such as the focus distance and aperture. This springs to life after the nearby ‘DISP’ button is pressed.

Below the DISP button, there’s a customisable lens function (L-Fn) that can assigned one of a long list of function’s via the ‘Controls’ section of the camera’s Custom Setting Menu.

There are two switches on the lens barrel, the first is the usual A/M button to swap between auto and manual focusing while the second is a focus limiter switch. This has two settings, full and 0.5m-0.29m. With the latter selected, the lens will only focus on a subject at between 50cm and the closest focusing point.

The VR in the lens’ name denotes that it has Nikon’s vibration reduction image stabilisation system on board. It works in partnership with the stabilisation systems in most of Nikon’s Z-series cameras including the Nikon Z7 II and Nikon Z6 II. The lens’ VR is claimed to offer 4.5EV of shutter speed compensation.

Although the lens is marked as having a maximum aperture of f/2.8, the focusing distance has an impact upon it’s effective aperture. As a result, when the Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S is focused at infinity, the aperture range is f/2.8 to 32  and when it’s focussed at its closest point, it’s f/4.5 to 51.

Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Build and handling

At 630g, the Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S feels quite light for its size and its weight distribution changes a little as the focusing group moves, but it feels well-made and up to the standard we usually expect from the Nikon S range of Z-mount lenses.

Both the rings move smoothly and easily, requiring just the right amount of effort. I experimented with different options for the control ring. I usually opt for either exposure compensation, or with very fast lenses like the Nikon Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.2 S, I go for aperture control. However, the Zoom on/off option is especially useful with a macro lens when focusing is critical.

The broad focusing ring is the natural resting place for your left hand, but further forward towards the front element, there’s a rubberised grip which comes in handy occasionally.

On other Nikon Z S-Line lenses, the control ring is around the narrowest part of the lens, near the camera. On the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S, however, it’s a little further forward where the barrel becomes wider. I find this a little easier or more comfortable to reach but it means that there’s slight variation between the optics, which might give some photographers a minor issue.

Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

The focus ring has a long throw, which means you can be very precise with adjustments. As usual with a modern electronic focusing system, there are no physical end points to the focusing, but the display in the viewfinder or on the screen makes it clear at which end of the range the focusing is at and which way it’s being adjusted.

Nikon photographers with full-frame cameras introduced from October 2020, so for now the Z7 II and Z6 II but not the Nikon Z fc, have the option to reverse the direction of the focusing.

Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Performance

When Nikon introduced its first full-frame mirrorless cameras, the Z7 and Z6, it also revealed a new lens mount. At 55mm in diameter, the Nikon Z-mount is 8mm wider than the Nikon F-mount that has been around since 1959. It was introduced to give Nikon’s optical designers more freedom to produce faster, better optics. Since then we’ve seen a succession of excellent optics arrive and the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S fits right in. Basically, it does just about everything that Nikon claims.

I tested the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S on the 45Mp Nikon Z7 II and together they capture an impressive level of detail with excellent sharpness across the frame – even when the aperture is wide open. Nevertheless, diffraction is an unavoidable physical phenomenon that bends light at small apertures, causing softening. While the  Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S produces very good results at small apertures, if sharpness is absolutely critical, it’s better to shoot at f/32 rather than f/45 or f/51.

Curvilinear distortion isn’t an issue, nor is chromatic aberration.

Without the in-camera correction profile, there’s slight vignetting visible in images shot at f/2.8. Closing down to f/4 makes it almost negligible and it’s gone by f/5.6. Setting the in-camera Vignette Control to ‘Normal’ reduces the amount of corner shading visible in some f/2.8 images to the point that its not visible in most ‘real world’ images.

At ‘normal’ focusing distances, the Nikon Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S focuses quickly and very quietly. It’s also good with closer subjects, especially when the focus limiter is set to 50-29cm to prevent it from being distracted by objects in the background. However, the manual override comes in handy for making sure that the focus is exactly where you want it or for getting the autofocus system in the right zone.

Out of focus areas are smooth and creamy with circular small highlights towards the centre of the frame. As is often the case, pinpoint highlights nearer the edges of the frame can take on a ‘cat’s eye’ shape, but there are no obvious onion-ring or chromatic aberrations.

Nikon’s in-camera image stabilisation system has proved itself effective and it’s no different with the Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S mounted on the Z7 II. However, at very close focusing distances, minuscule movements become significant and it’s advisable to use a tripod. That said, at the closest focus point, I was able to get the odd sharp hand-held shot at 1/4sec which is around 4.5EV slower than you’d normally expect. Shooting at 1/15sec, around 50% of my images were sharp, which is a compensation factor of around 2.5EV.

Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S sample images

Follow the link to browse and download full-resolution images from the Nikon Z7 II with the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S

Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S image gallery

Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S price and availability

The Nikon Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S went on sale on 24th June for £999/$999.

You can order the Nikkor Z MC 105mm F2.8 VR S from Wex Photo Video in the UK and Adorama in the USA. The Nikkor Z MC 50mm F2.8 is also available  to order from Wex Photo Video and Adorama.

You can find the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Verdict

The Nikkor Z MC 50mm f/2.8 is an excellent macro lens and a versatile standard optic but it has a very close working distance at the closest focusing point and doesn’t have refinements such as the weather-proofing, OLED screen, dedicated control ring and customisable lens function button that grace the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S.

A 50% increase in the price accompanies these advantages to the Nikkor Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S, but if you’re an enthusiast or professional macro photographer, they’re worth paying for and the optical quality will not disappoint.

It’s great that Nikon has given Z photographers a choice of macro lenses and both are worthy additions to the lens line up, but if you want the best, the Z MC 105mm f/2.8 VR S is the one to go for.

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