When I got the new Nikkor 105mm f/1.4 from Nikon Switzerland for testing, I was looking forward to it like a little child to christmas. When it came to our home, I had to go home immediately to unpack it. Sure, it was only borrowed for a week to test it, but the photographer's heart is beating up there of course!
So there it stood, the classic golden Nikon packaging. Of course, I was only interested in the content. The unpacked lens is really a powerful looking part - Filter mount not less than 82mm! With almost 1kg (985g) also no light weight on the body but the optical performance just needs its place. It looks quite big on the camera and that also applies to my D800e including the battery grip.
So a lot of glass! If you look in front you have the feeling that you are looking at a massive, extremely clear block of melted sand. The autofocus is not particularly fast, but who is surprised here? For portrait shots etc. more than sufficient, for sports I would use other lenses. At the beginning I surprisingly had to get used to the 20mm more focal length, you just need a little more space and the distance to the model is a bit longer. The feel is high quality, even though the focus ring is typical of Nikon and runs smoothly and the radius is very small. Nothing for lovers of manual focusing, - for me personally this is not ideal - but I don't want to measure the thing by that, it's about image quality!
So I was already on the topic and no longer want to talk around it (first of all: my experience is based on a practical test and not on laboratory values).
The 105 is tack sharp! Certainly one of the sharpest lenses I've ever had in my hand and that means something! Even with aperture 1.4, the sharpness is better than with some fixed focal length when it is stopped down and from 1.6 it even gains a little tick. I had only minor chromatic aberrations even with an open aperture, nothing that Lightroom couldn't remove with one click, so no issue. However, the 105mm cause the shutter speed to increase accordingly to avoid blurring. Where you can keep still with 85mm, it gets difficult with 105mm.
For me personally, however, something else is much more important than perfect sharpness - bokeh. Not only the type of blurring, but also the course from sharp to blurred is decisive for the effect of an image. Again, I was amazed by the performance of the lens. Nikon really built a great piece! Der Unschärfeverlauf ist gleichmässig und weich, das Bokeh ruhig und cremig. Und ich bin nicht von jeder Nikon Linse restlos begeistert. Ich fotografiere z.B. die meisten meiner Portraits mit dem Leica Summicron-R 50mm f/2 und dem Leica Summicron-R 90mm f/2. Ich würde aber sagen das Bokeh des 105er ist besser als jenes des Nikon 135mm f/2 DC das ja als “cream machine” gilt und das ich früher bereits einmal hatte.
Vignetting is expected to be moderate to strong with wide aperture, but that doesn't bother me at all, it can be easily be removed. I expect Adobe to launch a lens profile for Lightroom / Photoshop soon.
I especially like the color and contrast reproduction. Very pleasant and intense. The light apparently comes very clearly onto the sensor.
Conclusion: One of the best lenses I've ever had in my hand.