Author Topic: Thoughts regarding 105mm, 135mm and other Nikkors of the Manual Focus Era.  (Read 624 times)

David H. Hartman

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The Nikon Gear: Choosing between 10.5/2.5 and 135/2.8 Q got me started on this topic but I didn’t want to bomb that thread hence this one...

In a choice between 105mm and 135mm the working distance for a given subject type should be a major factor. It is the working distance, the distance from the subject to the lens that determines the perspective in the image. When one moves towards the subject, a shorter working distance, the subject will look more intimate until it appears distorted, e.g. the nose looks too large compared to the ears. As one moves way from the subject the image will look more aloof until it can look a bit voyeuristic as with a model on a cat walk. This is set by social norms. The perspective subconsciously affects our reaction to the subject.

The classic recommendation for portrait lenses are 85mm for 3/4 length portrait, 105mm for head and shoulders and 135mm for a tight head shot. These aren’t hard rules, a photographer can use any focal length lens that suites their purpose but in many situation these are good choices. The photographer can present any perspective they like but the photographer can not control the emotional reaction of the viewer.

If I can only have one medium focal length telephoto my choice is a 105mm lens. In the early Nikon AF era this presented a problem. I did not like the bokeh rendition of the 105/2.8 AF Micro-Nikkor and Nikon did not offer a small, light AF counterpart to the 105/2.8 AIS. I finally compromised for the AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED. It’s too damned big and too heavy. It offers VR which is useful when a tripod is not allowed or practical. It has optical aberrations that can largely be corrected in software but must be done each time an NEF file is developed. The AF-S VR 105/2.8 Micro-Nikkor is an imperfect solution.

Back to manual focus short telephotos. I see no problem with owning several lenses. I find the 105/2.5 AIS and 135/2.8 AIS Nikkors particularly useful options. They offer similar optical qualities and are quite inexpensive on the used market. I do not care for the built in hoods of ether lens and use a Nikon HS-8 or HS-14 hood instead. I never reverse these hoods but cap them with Tupperware Tumbler lids. All of the Nikkor 105/2.5  lenses are worth contenders. Also the 135mm f/3.5 group of Nikkors are probably under rated and very worth contenders.

I started two Nikon systems in the manual focus, film era. The first was in 1970 with a Nikkormat FTn, 55/3.5 Micro Nikkor-P, 105/2.5 Nikkor-P and a 24/2.8 Nikkor-N. In 1976 I started a second Nikon system with a Nikon F2As, 55/2.8 AI Nikkor, 105/2.5 AI Nikkor and 24/2.8 AI Nikkor. I’m pretty consistent: I like the normal, double and half set of prime lenses. When I created my first Nikon system I skipped the 200/4.0 Nikkor-Q and instead opted for the 80~200/4.5 Nikkor. For my second Nikon system I chose the 180/2.8 AIS Nikkor and later added an 80~200/4.0 AIS Nikkor.

If you read this far thank you for indulging me. I hope someone finds this thread useful.

Best,

Dave Hartman
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golunvolo

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Thanks for your thoughts and experience. I have a similar choices in digital era of primes: 28, 55 and 105mm and now the Z system is here with all the new possibilities and I have to rethink, weight and calculate the changes or additions.

 

MILLIREHM

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Just my 2 cents
Changing focal length does not change the perspective, just the angle of view/crop

Although 105 mm is one of the focal lengths used for portraits it is very different what you get when using a 105 mm Micro NIkkor or the 105 mm f/2,5 for portrait. I would not consider Micro Nikkors to be first choice for this.
Wolfgang Rehm

longzoom

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The 105/2 AF is a greatly underrated lens, with its soft-bokeh abilities. LZ

Matthew Currie

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Just my 2 cents
Changing focal length does not change the perspective, just the angle of view/crop

Although 105 mm is one of the focal lengths used for portraits it is very different what you get when using a 105 mm Micro NIkkor or the 105 mm f/2,5 for portrait. I would not consider Micro Nikkors to be first choice for this.

True, but if you're going to keep the same subject size, then you must change your distance and then you do get a perspective change.  It's one of those issues where a thing that technically doesn't exist ends up making a difference, I think, depending on how you talk about it. 

In theory since perspective remains the same, if you had infinite resolution and could stand anywhere, you'd only need one wide angle lens to get everything.  Just shoot and crop as needed.   In the real world,  hough, where resolution is limited and it's advisable not to step into traffic or fall off cliffs, I think perspective change is a reasonable thing to talk about.

e.t.a. I do agree on the 105/2.5 though.  It's yummy.  Since I am using DX I use mine less often now,  and prefer the 85/1.8, but that's a different matter.


David H. Hartman

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The 105/2 AF is a greatly underrated lens, with its soft-bokeh abilities. LZ

In the day the drawback for this lens for me was the price. I just checked KEH.com (2020-11-21 as I type). For an EX rated AF-D 105/2.0 DC the price today is $705.33. If the finances were there when this lens was selling new I'd own one today.

Dave
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David H. Hartman

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The 105/2.8 AIS Micro-Nikkor performs very nicely as a portrait lens, great boken, etc. For me it can take the place of a 105/2.5 AIS in the bag if action photography isn't anticipated. Rapid manual focus is going to be difficult with 105/2.8 AIS Micro-Nikkor so photographing active children, for example, will be easier with the 105/2.5 AIS.

Dave
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Zang

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I got a 105/2.5 AIS in pristine condition. The pictures look OK, but I never observed its legendary quality. I would say it produces pictures with comparable sharpness and contrast as my old 85mm f2 AI. My theory is, either the legend was exaggerated or Nikon production was not consistent. Does any one have the same experience?

Cheers,
Zang

Airy

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Well, I got a 105/2.5 AIS just after having bought a Zeiss 135/2 APO and was positively surprized, to the point that, if I had known the 105 earlier, I might not have bought the super-expensive Zeiss. Of course the Zeiss is superior in every respect, but the old lens is still impressive.

Then I bought a 105/2.5 AI and noticed a small improvement in bokeh. The rounded blades, it seems.

Much later I bought a 105/1.8 and noticed a small, but significant, improvement in field flatness (and some deterioration in bokeh). Not so good wide open, but at equal apertures, it is at least as good as the others.

I did not find any of these three lenses (all bought second-hand since 2013 I guess) being noticeably "inferior" to the other two; there seems to be no "lemon" in this set. Maybe I had a lucky draw.



Airy Magnien

Birna Rørslett

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My opinion is the 105/2.5 AI represented the pinnacle of the 105 class optics. The late K model with multicoating seems to be more or less identical to the AI, but f/32 should be avoided. The forerunner(s) developed from the early '50s rangefinder 10.5cm f/2.5 Nikkor was good too, but lack the impact of the AI. The AIS always struck me as a slight disappointment as its rendition is occasionally harsher and the pleasantness of the AI tends to disappear.

Roland Vink

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I often used the series-E 75-150/3.5 as it covers 85, 105 and 135mm focal lengths in one lens. The f/3.5 aperture is fast enough for most purposes, the lens is relatively light and unobtrusive, and inexpensive.

The AIS 105/2.8 micro is surprisingly good, the background bokeh is relatively smooth - not quite as smooth as the 105/2.5 but not harsh like the AF 105 micro. I was pleasantly surprised when I first tried it as macro lenses are highly corrected and often don't have good bokeh. It does have straight-edge aperture blades so the blurs are not nicely rounded like the AI 105/2.5.

Roland Vink

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I got a 105/2.5 AIS in pristine condition. The pictures look OK, but I never observed its legendary quality. I would say it produces pictures with comparable sharpness and contrast as my old 85mm f2 AI. My theory is, either the legend was exaggerated or Nikon production was not consistent. Does any one have the same experience?
The AI 85/2 has a reputation for low contrast, which may a design feature for its intended purpose as a portrait lens. As far as I know the AIS version has the same optics but maybe the coatings were changed to make it better as a general purpose lens as my AIS 85/2 seems to have sharpness, colours and contrast as good as other similar AI and AIS lenses.

David H. Hartman

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According to NIKKOR - The Thousand and One Nights No.5: AI Nikkor 105mm F2.5 the 105mm f/2.5 Xenotar-type (1971-2005) ...

"The lens also has characteristics of spherical aberration and coma. Basically close-range aberration variation is small, but at portrait distances the correction for aberration seems to be slightly insufficient. The insufficiency as far as spherical aberration in particular is what makes defocus background appeared beautiful. The aberration balance has been calculated carefully for use in portraits. When the aperture is open contrast is good, and delineation is soft."

So at portrait distance (2m give or take) if you want beautifully smooth blurred backgrounds shoot at maximum aperture or near. The image will be sharp but some image sharpness is traded for beautiful bokeh. If you want maximum sharpness at portrait distance in particular and any difference in general shop down to f/5.6.

In general if you want maximum center sharpness stop down to f/5.6 and for some lens as little as f/4.5 to f/5.0. For additional edge sharpness stop down to f/5.6 to f/8.0. A best compromise between sharpness and DoF is probably about f/11. Image sharpness declines at f/16 and below for 24x36mm format. I find image sharpness at f/22 on 24x36mm to be pretty much in the ditch.

I did some rather exhaustive image sharpness tests on my lenses on Kodak Technical Pan. After gaining knowledge from these tests I lost my near obsession with lens sharpness.

In David Ruether's SUBJECTIVE Lens Evaluations he notes that the 105/2.5 later versions, "...performance declines at wide stops near minimum focus (both conditions together), otherwise this lens is excellent even wide open." It all fits together. The105/2.5 Xenotar-type was designed with portraiture in mind. David Ruether makes similar observations about image sharpness declining at near distance and wide open for the 85/2.0 and 135/2.8 (compact). I believe this is because Nikon tweaked these lenses for portraiture. David Ruether's and Grover Larkins' Subjective Lens Evaluations

While I'm stumping for other far more knowledgeable photographers I can't ignore Nærfoto Bjørn Rørslett. Please see Lenses: Lens Survey And Subjective Evaluations. Please see 105 mm f/2.5 Nikkor-P·C (Gauss Type) at  Medium Long Lenses For Nikon 'F' Mount

Dave Hartman

PS: David Ruether's and Bjørn Rørslett's sites may throw non-HTTPS// site warning in your browser. I found these sites safe in the day and I'm sure they are now so I click through.
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David H. Hartman

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Akira

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I briefly had a very early version of 105/2.5 with the 9-blade aperture which forms beautifully rounded opening at any settings.  I also had the L39 mount version when I used Leica M3 and loved its endearing rendition.

Now that I use SIGMA fp, I may want to try the rangefinder versions of 105/2.5 or 85/2.0.
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