I'm interested in getting a macro lens and would like to get your opinion regarding these macro lenses. My intended subjects will be mostly flowers and occassionaly some criters.
I will be shooting with a tripod and in MF mode using my D800E.
Image quality, contrast, and bokeh wise, which one would you suggest. Image samples will also be appreciated. I am aware that the Zeiss is about twice as expensive but I am more concern about the overall IQ. I would like to buy it right the first time and avoid any buyer's remorse. I'm sure both are great lenses when it comes to sharpeness department. Thank you.
IQ, contrast, micro-contrast, bokeh - they are all with the Zeiss. Sharpness too. On the other hand, all of these are still good on the 105. The thing about the Nikkor is that it has a LOT more features:
- goes to 1:1 unassisted - can go to 2:1 with the TC-20eIII - I know your intention is MF, but this one is AFS, not just AF - VR can be useful if you're not using it solely as a macro lens - has internal focus and does not extend during focusing
The Zeiss is a full stop faster, again only useful in non-macro situations. It's hard to imagine a way to exploit the nearly non-existent DOF of a macro lens at f/2. I'm sure such things exist, but I struggle with DOF at f/5.6 (ie 200/f4 Micro at 1:1).
To me the thing that suggests the Nikkor is the notion of "critters." The Nikkor is MUCH better suited to them, since (a) it gets in much closer, and (b) is AF (I'm assuming that they're not stuffed and mounted critters).
As noted, the IQ department is clearly a win for the Zeiss, but this really is like comparing a Formula One car to a mere supercar. Sure the F1 is faster (and by a wide margin), but every single supercar is way, way, way fast enough to lose your license on the very first trip around the city...
Don't get me wrong, the Zeiss is a legendary lens and one of the few that has a distinct "signature" look. But it's not really in the same category as the Nikkor when it comes to features and convenience. One might even say "usability." If you're comparing against, say, the 55/f2.8 AIS Micro-Nikkor, it's much more of a fair fight, as they are very similar in usability. (Of course in that case the price differential is more like 16x, not 2x...)
_____ Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member
My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!
I have/use both lenses and agree with Brian's comprehensive evaluation completely. I rarely take Zeiss "outside" and use it only in controlled light/static object environment, while Nikkor is used outside regularly, because of its versatility.
P.S. As a footnote, I would be curious to read a serious comparison of Nikkor 105mm Micro VR vs. Nikkor AF 105mm f/2 D DC, because they IQ's of both are almost identical in every respect to my eye (except for when DC feature is used). But that's an entirely different topic, of course.
Let me sound on negative side, gentlemen. Zeiss is very good in studio, under controlling light. Outside, it is absolutely mushy over, say, 15 meters. It absolutely not working against backlight. Strong flare destroing the image. Very familiar is Zeiss 50 macro. So both of them for studio use, where they show all of great potential. For everyday use Nikkors 105 and 60 are way better. I mean newest ones. It is in my big and long experience, so, do not argue like this: " Test of this man shows blah-blah..." Some/most of testes doesn't cost the paper they written on. Sorry I sound hard I know but that is only MY truth about Macro Zeiss's. Today, at least. Sorry again, Dimitri.
I have been using the Zeiss 100/2 for over three years, but I cannot comment on the Nikon 105/2.8, since I do not own this lens.
The Zeiss lens is sharp from f/2 to about f/16 with my D700 and from close focus to infinity. Manual focus is easier with this lens than with an AF lens, since the focusing ring of the Zeiss has a large "throw" and can be accurately set. I get the sharpest focus with LiveView. The lens performs very well at infinity which is uncommon for a macro lens and has a firm infinity stop. Aside from its sharpness - every good macro lens is sharp - I am especially pleased with the micro contrast and the out of focus rendering by this lens. In fact, the "out of camera results" are generally of a quality which makes PP very often unnecessary. I use this lens as part of my prime lens set for general photography.
The link below gives you an idea of the versatility of the Zeiss lens rather than of my competence as a photographer. Virtually all captures were done hand held. To read the EXIF data, press the "i" of the drop down menu at the upper right hand side of the picture.
Thanks for posting the examples, Tristan. I would agree they show the Zeiss is good at distant subjects as well as at close-ups - which agrees with everything I have read elsewhere.
I chose the Nikkor for reasons of versatility as outlined by Brian and others above - it's a great lens but if I had wanted ultimate quality and didn't need 1:1, VR or AF I would have gone for the Zeiss in a heartbeat
Of course, Brian, of course. You will say that simply because I do say opposite. While images are very good in light and composition, there is not even one image sharp in infinity. Just click on "original" and see. All of them are mushy at distance. Sorry to say that, coz the images are really beautiful. Zeiss 100 is not for landscaping, as well as Zeiss 50 macro. Dimitri. (An image taken with old 105/2.8 manual macro Nikkor, crop of 200%. While is not as sharp and colorful as Zeiss at close objects, old Nikkor is way better at distance)
Would you please post a 100% crop from any part of building? The image has passed (by you) thru PH and LR, with very high final quality, and still looks unsharp, even at f6.3.It is not even unsharp, but really mushy. Snake is very good, coz it is close object.Dimitri.
@ Brian (BLW), thank you for your detailed analysis. I appreciate it a lot and it reflects what I have been thinking as well.
If I wanted to be practical, the Nikon 105mm VR is clearly the right choice for a macro lens based on the features and capabilities of this lens.
The mojority of us here also agrees that the Zeiss 100mm does have a unique look and is just well designed and optically, it performs very well for its intended purpose. One of my friend who owns the Zeiss lens described it as a mini Nikon 200mm f2.
However, it makes me hesitate since the price is around $1,800 for a brand new lens that I will not frequently use. A used lens might be worth considering.
However, reading some of the opinions here led me back to where I started (still undecided).
@Eric- thanks for the link from lensrental.com. It might be worth trying their services just to see which lens to go with. Has anyone tried their services?
I bought my first Nikon in the late 1970s thus I have years of manual focus experience under my belt. However it should be known that modern digital cameras lack the sweet split prism focus screens of times past. Manual focus lens are a pain in the backside when used with modern digital SLRs. Zeiss are very nice but I will never spend my money on them until they learn to autofocus!
I had both and kept the Zeiss. It is a bit of an "unfair" comparison, though. The ZF 100/2 is Zeiss flagship lens, the very best of their lineup, while Nikon's lens is "just" very good. The Zeiss lens at f/2 can render what no other Nikon lens can do, save for the 200/2. Also, it may sound silly (and probably is silly), but I disliked the build of the Nikon lens, with it's oversized barrel that tended to slip from my hand and it's clunky VR mechanism, compared to the elegant Zeiss build. When it comes to macro, especially insects, I prefer my Nikon 200/4 over either one, though.
Why not consider the Nikkor 105 f2.8 AIS? If you comfortable with manual focusing and are planning to use a tripod, VR is not important. I recently sold 105 AIS and replaced it with the newer 105 VR but regret the decision. The older lens was quite a bit smaller and half the price, even if you include adding the PN-11 extension tube to get to full life size. I think the older MF lens may be sharper than the VR version. The issue of "focus breathing" on the 105 VR is driving me crazy compared to the older MF lens when I attempt focus stacking. Dave Jolley
David Jolley Pickerington, Ohio Please visit my Website
I've never tried the Zeiss, and it's been a very long time since I owned a 105mm f/2.8 AI-S. But I do own both the 105mm VR and a Tokina 90mm f/2.5. I bought the latter lens in the 1980's long before it became a "cult classic."
As this site demonstrates, contrast and sharpness are two sides of the same coin. So-called image quality or "IQ" is one current name for that coin.
Of all the current macro lenses in this focal-length range, I can't think of one that isn't at least excellent in the macro range. At any given site, the Nikon or the Zeiss may "win," but for flowers and critters, it's all random noise. The controlling factors for "IQ" will be controlling relative motion (including vibration and wind), focus accuracy, and the tradeoffs of depth of field and diffraction. The 800E doesn't have a split-image finder. KatzEye may produce one eventually, but until they or someone else does the only manual focus aid is the "green dot." That's going to be a limit with any macro lens. I far prefer the manual focus feel of my Tokina to the Nikkor; I would be very surprised if the same wasn't true of the Zeiss.
Bokeh is more subjective. In the near-macro range, I find both my lenses to be very good. In the portrait range, I slightly prefer the look of the Tokina, although the Nikon is no slouch here either.
The Tokina is significantly smaller and lighter than the 105mm VR. The Zeiss falls in between the two, but if you do always use a tripod, that may not matter to you. Because the Zeiss has an aperture ring, it can be used with bellows and Nikon extension tubes; the 105mm VR requires extension tubes with an electrical connection.
I own the 105mm VR because I firmly believe that a) the "IQ" of a missed shot is exactly zero, and b) "convenience" is often the difference between getting a shot and missing one. Adding or removing an extension tube in the field isn't exactly convenient. I haven't gone "critter hunting" with it, but I find that with the 105mm VR I can get handheld shots of larger flowers that I can't get with the 90mm.
My recommendation is that you think about your own photographic style and approach. If you are a fairly deliberate photographer who is willing to invest a lot of time and effort "pre-shot," then the Zeiss is likely to be a great choice. If you prefer a "target of opportunity" style, then the 105mm VR may better fit your style as well as your credit limit.
One of the biggest mistakes a photographer can make is to look at the real world and cling to the vain hope that next time his film will somehow bear a closer resemblance to it. - Galen Rowell
>The 800E doesn't have a split-image finder. >KatzEye may produce one eventually, but until they or someone >else does the only manual focus aid is the "green >dot." That's going to be a limit with any macro lens.
Hi Michael. If I am not in a hurry and would like to get the best possible focus, the use of live view on the D800 is also another feature that can be used to check the focus by pressing the "+" sign.
>Because the Zeiss has an aperture ring, it can be used with bellows >and Nikon extension tubes; the 105mm VR requires extension tubes >with an electrical connection.
At the moment, the closest macro lens that I have is an old Nikkor 135mm f2.8 MF lens that I've attached a PK-13. Not really a dedicated macro lens but its what I have in my other bag. It doesn't really have the bokeh or IQ that I wanted. It is far from what the dedicated macro lens can do.