I recently had the chance to shoot with the Nikon’s new 105mm f/1.4 prime lens (or the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED, if you want to get technical). Their other 105mm, the f/2.8 micro, is a lens I use a lot, so I was interested to see how this one compared, especially with such a fast wide aperture. (Both of the lenses I’m referring to are in Nikon’s F-mount range; they have different models for Z-mount, but both of these can be used on Z-mount mirrorless bodies with an FTZ adapter.)
I’ll be comparing them directly in a separate review. These sample images go along with that side-by-side review as well as give a sense of how the lens performs in real-world shooting. I’ve put the emphasis here on the large apertures that are the headline features of this lens, so many of the shots were taken in low light, as well as many that make use of the narrow depth of field at f/1.4. All of these were shot hand-held (there’s no VR on this lens, unlike the f/2.8 version).
This lens is aimed primarily at portrait photography. It’s squarely in the range of ideal focal lengths for portrait photography, and the wide maximum aperture makes it easy to blur the background into silky softness.
But I was intrigued by its possibilities for general travel photography, with using the combination of wide aperture and medium telephoto focal length to both draw out details and work well in low light.
As you’d expect from a high-end and, let’s face it, expensive lens like this, and especially coming from Nikon, the optical quality is excellent. As usual, it’s sharpest a few stops up from wide open, but even wide open at f/1.4 and f/1.8, it is very sharp.
Autofocusing, when mounted on a Nikon D810, was accurate and quick. And while the lens itself is a bit bigger and heavier than its f/2.8 sibling, it’s still very portable. Bokeh is one of those very subjective things, but I was very happy with what this lens delivered. I found nothing to complain about in terms of chromatic aberration or lens flare, even when pointing it right at the sun.
I was using it right around the time that I had several early mornings down near Washington DC’s Tidal Basin and Lincoln Memorial, so many of the shots were from there.
I’ve processed these lightly in Lightroom but have only adjusted things like exposure and contrast. I haven’t applied any lens corrections such as distortion correction or removing lens vignetting. I’ve included the aperture each was taken with in the captions below. You can click on each photo to open a full-size version if you want to take a closer look.
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED Sample Images
Optical Correction Tools
I deliberately haven’t applied extensive corrections to these images. And the general rule of thumb in photography is that it’s better to get the shot right at the time of capture rather than trying to fix it after. That’s a great aspiration, but it’s not always possible to do if you’re bumping up against limitations or flaws in gear, conditions, or technique.
But it’s worth mentioning that there are some excellent tools available to help address common issues with lenses, such as distortion, chromatic aberration, and lens vignetting when editing the images. All-round image processing apps like Lightroom Classic and Capture One have solid tools built in already that often cater to specific lens profiles (or you can make your own).
Some more specialized tools can take it even further. DxO, in particular, sets the gold standard. Their software is built on the foundation of their incredibly deep archive of data from their extensive lab testing of the optical performance of lenses and cameras. But there are some other excellent specialized tools available. These are well worth a look (and have free trials):
- DxO Pure RAW (for a suite of automatic RAW file corrections enhancement)
- DxO ViewPoint (correcting for distortion and geometry)
- Topaz Labs Sharpen AI (in addition to standard unsharp tools, includes focus correction and shake reduction)
- On1 NoNoise (includes Tack Sharp AI, which applies sharpening)
Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED Price & Availability
When I first tested this lens, it was newly released. It has now been out for some time, and used copies are coming available as well.
Check the current price and availability at:
Accessories for the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 105mm f/1.4E ED Lens
Lens Hood. It comes with a lens hood. If you’re after a replacement, it’s model number HB-79.
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