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Nikon’s new 105mm f/1.4 is a stellar performer, according to LensRentals test

Nikon wowed the photography world with the introduction of a 105mm f/1.4 portrait lens earlier this year. The first lens of its type, it combines the flattering compression effect of a telephoto with the super-shallow depth of field of an f/1.4 aperture. And now, thanks to testing from LensRentals, we know that it’s an objectively great performer.

“I don’t get blown away very often,” writes LensRentals’ Roger Cicala in a blog post. “Well, I’m blown away. From an MTF standpoint, this is the sharpest f/1.4 lens Nikon has made. It may be the sharpest f/1.4 lens, period.”

MTF stands for modular transfer function, and an MTF test basically reveals how sharp a lens is by measuring its effectiveness at different resolutions measured in line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm). It also measures sharpness from the center out to the periphery of a lens. Therefore, if a lens is very sharp in the center, but suffers in the corners, the MTF chart will illustrate this with a drop in the graph.

With Nikon’s 105mm f/1.4, however, that graph remains almost perfectly straight at 10 lp/mm. And at all resolutions, it outperforms even Nikon’s own 85mm f/1.4G, which is itself a highly regarded portrait lens. Even compared to the older 105mm f/2.8 Micro, which should have a leg up with its smaller maximum aperture, the new 105mm f/1.4 comes out ahead.

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Cicala continues: “This is a spectacular performance, especially for a lens type which hasn’t been available previously in any major mount.”

He goes on to pit it against the venerable Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 and Canon’s excellent 100mm f/2.8L Macro. Here, the Nikon holds its own, remaining neck-and-neck with others despite being half the cost of the Zeiss and having an aperture two stops brighter than the Canon.

This is great news especially for Nikon D810 shooters, as the new 105mm f/1.4 should provide ample resolution to meet the demands of that camera’s 36-megapixel full-frame sensor. It’s also great for low light and portraits, where users won’t have to worry about sacrificing sharpness to shoot at a wide aperture. At $2,200, one would certainly hope for superior performance, and the test results show that this lens delivers very respectable results for the price.