I am thinking of buying my first macro/micro lens and I'd like some advice. From what I can gather, the Nikon 105f2.8VR and the Sigma OS version of the same are well reviewed. But can someone give me some practical advice?
I am an amateur but would prefer to get good lens even if it costs a bit more.
Most macro lenses are very good. I have used the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X Pro D Macro for many years. This lens is very sharp and only costs $400. I sold this lens and replaced it with the Zeiss zf 100/2.0 Makro Planar. The Zeiss lens is the only macro lens with f/2.0, it has manual focus and only goes to 1:2 magnification - and it costs about four times as much as the Tokina. However, the Zeiss 100/2 is the best lens I have ever used. Aside for macro, I use this lens for portraits and for general photography. Resolution, micro contrast, color and bokeh are quite spectacular. To make proper use of the potential of your D800, you might want to try out this lens. IMHO, vr is not needed in a macro lens, nor is AF. You get much sharper focus with an MF lens and LiveView at high mag.
The advantage of the 105 VR Micro is that it doubles nicely as a portrait lens (even though it's quite right that for macro work, VR isn't that useful) ! In fact I think I use it more as an everyday prime then for true macro...
I'm having a hard time thinking of a macro lens in the 85-105mm range that isn't at least excellent, so my advice is going to be fairly boring. If at all possible, get to a camera store, try both, and decide if the Nikon is worth the difference in price (~$120) to you. You may even prefer the feel of the Sigma regardless of price.
I bought my 105mm VR long before the current Sigma lens came out, so I don't have any experience with it. I do own a Sigma 180mm f/3.5, though, which is excellent if a bit bulky and slow focusing.
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
I currently own both the 105mm VR and the Sigma 150mm OS. Both are very nice lenses, and you would be quite happy with either. The Nikon does focus slightly faster, and if you are using continuous focus to track a flower, bug leaf that is swaying in the wind it does a slightly better job. The Sigma has a longer working distance than the 105mm which is nice for critters, but it is quite a bit heavier especially with the tripod collar on it. I liked this lens better on the Canon system than I do the Nikon system but still makes great images.
Depending on what you are shooting the Nikon 60mm is quite stunning. Very fast focus and tracking and tack sharp if you don't need the working distance.
I have the D800 as well, have a 40mm, 60mm micro, but the best of all is the Sigma 180mm f3.5 not too slow, but i get a treat working distance if you are planing on shooting animals, insects give's you good room to stay out harms way. Sharp sharp, good luck