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Nikon 105mm f/1.4E - A Tale of Brand Loyalty and Superiority (or my excuse to post more sample images)

Nikon 105mm f/1.4E - A Tale of Brand Loyalty and Superiority (or my excuse to post more sample images)

I still have not shot stopped down with the Nikon 105mm f/1.4E. I don't see a point to do that. It's not that the lens cannot stop down. It's just I don't see a reason to do that. Why would you want to? It's sole purpose of existence is to shoot wide open in sub-optimal light. And so far, there is nothing in this world like it - which is a good thing for Nikon photographers. For that band of sorry brothers and sisters, it is time to savor the moment.

You see, for Nikon photographers, they finally have something to brag about to Canon photographers - not that gear loyalty one-upmanship is relevant or important... it's so childish... ehem... But for years, Canon photographers have been dangling the 50mm f/1.2L and the 85mm f/1.2L at Nikon photographers, who had nothing in return to boast.

And don't get me started with the Canon 50mm f/1.0L. Just the thought of it drives Nikon photographers up the wall! 

For years, Nikon photographers have been waiting patiently for something - anything - from Nikon that would put them back into the bragging game - not that it mattered... So when rumors of a Noct-Nikkor update was in the air, Nikon photographers awaited with great anticipation, expecting that they will finally have something that would outdo Canon. But instead of getting an autofocus version of the legendary 58mm f/1.2 AIS lens, Nikon introduced the now rather maligned 58mm f/1.4G that isn't especially exceptional at anything. It was just too much to bear for loyal Nikon photographers. How forsaken they must have felt!

What this lens is made to do. Close up head and shoulder portraitures, with an awful background to render into bokeh.

Pulling out a little more, and the details of the background curtains become more visible.

Many couldn't take it anymore, and surrendered to the lure of the red ring lenses across the aisle. I can't begin to tell you how many switched over just for the opportunity to shoot with those white telephoto lenses arguing that Nikon wasn't serious in recognizing the needs of working professional photographers. It just seemed as if Canon just did everything just a little better. The 1Dx shot more frames per second, the 5D more versatile, and the 5Dr with more megapixels. 

But then, out of nowhere, the 105mm f/1.4E was released.

I might be wrong, but the eyes don't look that sharp here. Either I'm a bad shot, since I had to reframe after autofocusing, or the corners aren't as sharp. I want to believe that it's me, and not the lens.

The lead eye in this image doesn't appear terribly sharp too. Must be user error.

But going this close, and the lead eye sharpens.

Sharper

Sharpest!

The Nikon 105mm f/1.4E is an odd place for Nikon to take a stand in this brand battle for one-upmenship - not that it matters... It's not a particularly popular focal length. And it's definitely not a lens that a photographer would walk around with. It's a somewhat special purpose lens. And that purpose is portraiture. 

Even so, I can't begin to tell you just how much I'm enjoying the Nikon 105mm f/1.4E. I didn't think that anyone could love any focal length other than the 28-35-50mm range, or the 24-70mm zoom for those who cannot optimize framing by walking back and forth. I love it so much that I have this lens permanently mounted on my D800E, seeing that I have no reason to use any other lens that Nikon had ever made. It's just that satisfying.

As I've already said, the Nikon 105mm f/1.4E is sharp. It renders details with so much definition at high resolution. It's sharpness can only be rivaled by Leica's APO 50mm Summicron ASPH and updated 35mm Summicron and 28mm Elmarit (and I suspect 28mm Summicron, which I have yet to try). 

With the head in a 3/4 pose, you can see how shallow the depth of field is, in comparing the lead eye with the recessive eye.

At this extreme closeup, it feels as if only the lead eye is in focus. All the other details seem to just fade away.

And the bokeh. I just can't get over how superbly it renders on this lens. It's as if details in the background just melts away into the scene. As a portrait lens, there's nothing in the world that can touch the Nikon 105mm f/1.4E - not even it's predecessor, the prehistoric Nikon 105mm f/2D DC. At 105mm and f/1.4E, this lens has the optimal balance of focal length and maximum aperture to render the best background blur within a reasonable distance from the subject.

The bokeh is just so good that you'd feel compel to go out of your way to find the most horribly cluttered background, just for the chance to see how it would melt away that clutter into a palette of blurry bliss. 

No awful background here. It has all been blown away by the highlights.

I normally don't like to take vertically oriented images. But the room wasn't long enough for me to shoot horizontally. 

It was very bright outside. Exposure compensation was set at +2. And still I had to push by a stop in post.

It's true. I really REALLY do like the 105mm f/1.4E. And I do mean it that there is nothing in the world quite like it. But in case you're not aware of my writing style, or new to my site (having found this writeup through Googling), I will from time to time write in this fun voice. In this case, I had some additional sample images, and I just figured that I'd have some fun with this narrative. Besides, to be overly obsessive towards any one brand is not healthy. I should know, since I'm overly obsessive with many MANY brands! 

All images in this writeup are full crop. Images have been optimize in Lightroom - however only slightly. All images shot wide open at ISO 800, on a Nikon D800E.

Special thanks to Anna, my new besty! See I told you you'd be seeing more of her!

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