The different Nikon micro lenses
I've been looking into the various Nikon micro lenses (to use on my FE2) and it seems they're made in a variety of focal lengths (55mm, 60mm, 105mm that I've found) and I'm a bit confused.
Which one will offer the largest magnification, and (quite possibly a silly question, so I apologise) can they be used as a normal lens at their particular focal length, or is their performance compromised because they are specifically designed for macro work.
I'd also appreciate comments on which one offers the best value for money.
I can only talk about the MF 55mm:
The old f/3.5 was more optimised for macro use. Some quality loss at infinity.
The 55mm f/2.8 is more of an all-round lens. Good at infinity and also good (though not quite as good as the 3.5) close up.
If you want bigger magnifications than 1:1, you'll need a special lens for best results.
M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa
I believe that you cannot get 1:1 with the 55 f/3.5 with out the extension tube. I have the newer AF 105 f/2.8 micro. It doesn't work well on my Fe2, but it will work. It will not do 1:1.
I bought my FE2 in 1983 or therabouts, in the next two years I purchased some Nikkor lenses, one of which was the Micro Nikkor 55 f/2.8 with the extension tube.
This is the Nikon Micro Nikkor lens, that was designed with your camera in mind.
As a stand alone single lens to do everything it will do the job, just. Having said that it was the only lens I used for about 1½ years.
It works to ½ life size on the film, but when you are at that setting, the subject is about 15mm away from the end of the lens.
I would say the lens works best from about ¼ life size up to about 5 metres away. Infinity is acceptable, more than acceptable all things considered, but the standard 50 f/1.8 is a far better lens for that focal length.
It works brilliantly at copying slides, or working on bellows or reversed.
It takes very good pictures of people, scary sharp in fact, if they are within the 3 to 7 metres distance from the lens.
I have the 55 f3.5 AI'd. Great lens. incredibly sharp, nice working range in the macro realm and does a wonderful job as an all around lens as long as you're not in low light.
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All three can be used as a "normal" lens at their respective focal length.
As above you need an extension tube with the 55mm and working distance isn't very much.
The 60mm will go to 1:1 without a tube but distance is still a factor. The 105mm goes 1:2
without a tube and will go 1:1 with. It gives a greater, IMO more comfortable working range.
There's also a 200mm Micro-Nikkor that gives 1:2 with an even greater working distance.
The greater working distance is nice if you're trying to light a subject. And again IMO the quality at infinity vs closeup is negligible to the point where some people don't notice it at all.
Of the four lenses I think the most universal would be the 60mm. Again, that's an opinion.
The answers here are very subjective, but my personal preference is to use a 105mm macro. I find that focal length to be much more useful in the field, where I do most of my macrophotography.
In the studio, I think the 55 would be a better choice. I concede that I have not done much studio macrophotography, but I have a 55/3.5 kicking around in case I get the itch (I got it for free).
The 105/4 Micro goes down to 1:2 (the AF f/2.8 goes to 1:1). I find it to be good for normal photography but f/4 is quite slow for a 105mm, so I have a 105/2.5 AI that I prefer to use at longer distances.
The best overall Micro-Nikkor has to be the 55/2.8, but it has a reputation for developing oil on its aperture blades. If stored vertically it tends to do better.
Jim MacKenzie - Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
A bunch of Nikons; Feds, Zorkis and a Kiev; Pentax 67-II (inherited from my deceased father-in-law); Bronica SQ-A; and a nice Shen Hao 4x5 field camera with 3 decent lenses that needs to be taken outside more. Oh, and as of mid-2012, one of those bodies we don't talk about here.
Favourite film: do I need to pick only one?
Nobody has mentioned the old Micro-Nikkor 200mm f/4. I've had one for many years and it still works well for it's intended purpose. I also have a 55mm f/3.5 and a 105mm f/3.5