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Lens Reviews

The AF-S Nikkor 105mm f/1.4E ED IF – User Review

Glenn Koury (Glenn_K)

Keywords: nikon, nikkor, portrait, lens, glenn, k

I have officially joined the “Out of Focus Nose and Ear Club” by acquiring the 105mm f/1.4E.

I have been shooting with a D750 for the past two years, having moved up from my D200 after more than eight years (I’m a slow upgrader) and was wanting an excellent portrait lens. Over the past eight months, I rented the 85mm 1.4G twice and was about to get it when the 105mm f/1.4E was introduced, so I held off. I rented the new 105 about a month ago and decided to get it.


105mm f/1.4E ED IF AF-S Nikkor


I am presenting some quick images here. Nothing spectacular, but they show some of what this lens can accomplish. The first two are the equivalent of those posts from excited Nikonians who open their new lens box and take pictures of the backyard bird feeder or barbeque grill, except I opened my lens at the office. Here are some of such pictures:

1 – My office building in downtown Dallas (Trammell Crow Center) is surrounded by an Asian sculpture garden. The picture below is a close up of a warrior sculpture just to show the rendering of the bushes located about 10-12 feet behind the subject.  Almost a painterly effect. Creamy bokeh.

Warrior sculpture
Nikon D750, 105mm f/1.4E @ f/1.4, 1/250s, ISO 360
Click for an enlargement


2 – A Christmas tree in my building lobby with the light from another tree in the background. Blue is from the outside daylight coming into the image that was more or less balanced for the tungsten light on the tree. Love those bokeh balls.

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Gary Marshall (gtm) on July 24, 2018

I’ve debated on getting the 105mm because the chromatic aberration from the 85mm/1.4 is horrible. I’d sell my 85mm today if the 105mm was better designed in CA avoidance. Still debating.....

Donald Muttillo (donfl904) on February 24, 2017

Well I waited a bit longer and I bought the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR for my D610 which I love. I can't say enough about this lens it is more then what I expected. I debated between this and the 85mm but the 105 won out hands down. I also have the 60 mm which is about half the size of the 105 both in length and weight, but I have become use to both when I am shooting so is fits like a glove and I would not be without it in my camera bag.

Bill Fleming (Sojerz) on February 9, 2017

Glenn, Thanks for this review. I've been contemplating a 85mm prime (Nikon or Sigma Art f1.4) and your review got me thinking about a longer 105 mm lens. Wondering why you went longer after trying both? Also thinking about the added versatility of a 24-70mm or 24-120mm, even though they are slower? I'm not a professional photographer, but the wheels are turning.) And, lastly, I think you nailed the focus on your Warrior's ears and nose! Take care in Dallas, Bill in NJ

Stuart McClay Smith (StuMcSmith) on February 8, 2017

Thanks for the real world review of this wonderful lens. You have confirmed my observations and added a few as well. This has become my "go to" portrait lens in the studio. Luckily my studio has the depth to be able to back off my subject to avoid the nose / ear focus issues. Backing off that far does present interpersonal hurdles, its more difficult to interact with my models from 20'feet away so I do more tripod and remote shutter release when working with someone new. One pleasant discovery in the studio is the ability to smooth the backdrops with bokeh saving me precious hours in post.

Miguel Lecuona (miguellecuona) on February 8, 2017

Awarded for his generous contributions to Nikonians Articles

Wonderful and helpful article, Glenn. Just enough tech and more than enough real-world grounding to get a sense of how this lens works. I have a D810 with grip, and your observation on DOF is spot-on and a requirement... I owned and loved, and then sold the old 135mm F/2 DC (my first ever tele was a 135mm on an old Pentax I love that focal length). So I was hoping for a new F/1.4 lens, but longer than 85mm. I hear you on the shutter speed settings, that was an issue for the 135mm, I had too many blurry images from poor technique after swapping lenses from VR to the old prime, so I agree with your solutions and can see this 105mm in my future. But, I will need to digest the investment in my 19mm F/4 first, and look to pick up this lens later this year. I think it will make some Autumn and Winter brides very happy!

William Rounds (William Rounds) on February 3, 2017

I also recently purchased this lens, but don't have enough experience with it to provide any pertinent "user reaction". My initial impressions are: 1) at f/1.4 it's comforting to have high shutter speeds, even at ISO 64 on my D810, since there is no VR and I plan to mostly use it in hand-held mode. 2) on a couple of test candid portraits of my wife in the backyard, you really do have to pay attention to the focus point on the nearest eye, or you get more than just the nose and ear out of focus. For full body shots from a greater distance to subject I had no problem. 3) and yes, I don't have any other lens which provides this level of sharpness with such pleasing bokeh. All of sudden I'm paying a lot more attention to backgrounds, hoping to learn to compose for both the isolated subject AND a pleasing background. 4) I haven't yet tested it in backlit situations where chromatic aberration would be most apparent. With my 85mm f/1.8G wide open I have to go beyond the automatic CA correction setting in DxO (especially the purple fringing), but I did find the optimum setting manually and saved it as a preset. I'm sure I'll find it on this lens too.

Frederic Hore (voyageurfred) on February 1, 2017

Hi Glen! Very nice post with some excellent sample photos and a concise, no nonsense review. If I had deeper pockets, I would buy this lens today! Many thanks for sharing, and your short essay and test results. Cheers, Frederic from Montréal.