Saturday, April 2, 2016

105mm Bokeh/Sharpness Showdown

Before we kick off, just like to clear that in the beginning that this blog for Nikon Lenses. So if you are any other brand user, you are still more then welcome and skip to the last to get some new to learn about lenses.

Recently i have an old vintage 105mm lens with some really top notch bokeh capability so i thought let me compare it with the rest of the 105mm i have. So here are the list of the 4 x 105 lenses from Nikon from old AI-S to the master of Bokeh.

1- AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor105mm f/2.8G IF-ED ($800)

2- Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 AI-S ($250-$300 at ebay depending on condition)

3- Nikkor 105mm f/1.8 AI-S ($400 - $550 at ebay depending on condition)

4- Nikkor 105mm f/2 DC ($1000 - $1200 depending from where you buying it)

In this blog i am trying to show you all the native sharpness and BOKEH capability of all 4 above lenses. I have used the Nikon D700 to get the sample shots with following parameters.

- The distance of the subject i shot was fixed which was 1 meter to have one reference distance for all. In this way, we can compare the Bokeh size and quality as well. 

- The white balance was fixed which was dialed in Kelvin "K" with value "5560". There is a specific reason why this value is dialed which we will discus later in future blogs.

- Shutter speed & ISO was fixed which was 1/160 & 6400 respectively.

- I used live view mode and used digital zoom to zoom in and then "manually focused" the subject. Reason is because out of 4, 2 lenses are manual focus mode so all have to be manual focused to eliminate the Auto Focus error when it comes to sharpness.

Now lets see the examples from STRAIGHT from the Camera. No post editing or retouching was done.

1- AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor105mm f/2.8G IF-ED (14 glass elements in 12 groups)

2- Nikkor 105mm f/2.5 AI-S (5 glass elements in 4 groups)

3- Nikkor 105mm f/1.8 AI-S (5 glass elements in 5 groups)

4- Nikkor 105mm f/2 DC (6 glass elements in 6 groups)

Ok guys .... all four examples are about Bokeh & Sharpness. All four shots were taken under ideal condition and circumstances. But why all 4 are different. Specially 2 are shinning and popping out from the screen .... and i am talking about f/2.5 AI-S & f/2 DC version. Frankly speaking, i am not happy at all with f/1.8 AI-S version at all. Its not as good as f/2.5 AI-S or f/2 DC.

But the question is why the very first 105mm f/2.8 Macro VR lens is not good as the others. And the answer is .... excessive glass elements inside the lens. Check the total number of glass elements of all the four lenses above so you will understand what i am going to talk next.

Remember .... GLASS IS EVIL.. The more the glass you have in the lens, the more "FLAT" image you will have. Its going to be like some one just iron the image and make it flat. There wont be good color rendition, color saturation, rendered depth and many other parameters will be missing because as know that light is composed of different wavelength of color (remember that prism-rainbow experiment of Physics in High School) ..... and these wavelengths gets effects when they go through more glass. Take it in this way ..... imagine what happened to your head when you hit it 14 times to a wall trying to get through it. You will be loosing your ability on every single hit and barely survive at the 14th wall. Same happens with light. Glass is "DI-Electric" capacitor which stops certain wavelengths of lights which ultimately loosing the quality of the image.

That's why i prefer to use old manual focus lenses which came with less number of glass and still producing some stunning images even on high resolution sensors. Now some of you will say .... what about Carl Ziess OTUS series. First off, its not available in 105mm focal length. The closes is 85mm which is also consist of 11 elements in 9 groups (still less then Nikon 105/2.8 VR Macro).

Lets cut to the chase ..... so who is the winner for the Bokeh and Sharpness???

My winners are

Sharpness: 105mm f/2.5 AI-S (BTW .... that's the same lens which took the famous Afghan Girl image by Steve McCurry for National Geographic)

Bokeh: 105mm f/2 DC (Sharpness is almost close to the 105/2.5 AI-S)

If you want both Sharpness and Bokeh in one package then 105mm f/1.8 AI-S is your lens. 

You can look above the high-res images of the all four lenses and decide by yourself which is right for you keeping Bokeh & Sharpness in mind. My purpose by sharing this blog is to share with you  There is a reason which i state above which is not only technical true but also economical at the same time. 105/2.5 AI-S is answer of it. If you want best Bokeh with AF and money is not a problem, then 105/2 DC is the answer. But if you want extreme Bokeh with sharpness which is kind a hard to attain in manual focus lens when shooting in close proximity then 105mm f/1.8 AI-S is the answer (Condition provided if you get a clean copy of it).

In the end, thanks for stopping by at my blog.

Happy learning guys.

Babar Swaleheen
Flickr 500px Youpic


  1. Undoubtedly a great read! Thanks baber for sharing such stuff!!

  2. You haven’t include 105 1.4 ?? Any reason