I must tell you first of all that before I had the Micro Nikkor 60mm f/2.8G lens, I have always used the bigger and heavier big brother – the Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G Macro. While this article will be about what I think of the 60mm, I feel I must also compare it with the 105mm as I have used both.
Let’s start with the basic similarities: both are prime lenses with an f/2.8 maximum aperture and f/32 minimum aperture, have the same number of diaphragm blades and both rounded blades. Both are autofocus, and being G lenses, have an internal ultrasonic motor type.
In terms of differences, the 105mm has vibration reduction while the 60mm hasn’t. The 105mm weighs in at 720g, much heavier due to the size and optics with 14 elements compared to the 60mm at 425g with 12 elements. Interestingly, both have the same filter thread size at 62mm which I found handy when changing filters.
The main difference, however, for me (and the most crucial one of all) is the focusing distance, which is roughly 6 inches for the 60mm and double that for the 105mm at 12 inches. Why does this difference matter to me?
With the 60mm, I need to be really close to the subject to fill the frame. It can get quite tricky when being so close and sometimes I revert to manually focusing the lens. When photographing rings, to get a really great shot, you have to be extremely close for the ring to take up a lot of the frame. As I usually prop both the ring and lens on a steady surface, I can take my time to focus and get really close.
However, because it’s a wider lens than the 105, sometimes I just can’t fill the frame enough with very tiny objects. I then resort to cropping in post-production for these instances.
The 105mm lens with it’s narrower field of view means I don’t have to get as close to the subject and still can get close enough to fill the frame with it. I find there is less need for cropping in post-production too. Because I am usually photographing still life objects such as rings, movement isn’t an issue. However, this becomes one if you were photographing, say insects, where you can’t be close enough otherwise you disturb them and lose the insects as well as your shot.
When I use these lenses
Generally, and as a rule, when I’m doing smaller and shorter shoots like an engagement session, I bring three lenses – wide, medium and long. Because my shoots are mostly on location and often we walk around quite a lot, I try to pack as lightly as possible. For these types of shoots, I use my three prime lenses: a 35mm f/1.4 G, an 85mm f/1.8G, and a 105mm f/2.8 macro. The 105mm here acts as my longer lens and my macro without the bulk of the 70-200mm zoom and another micro lens being the 60mm.
When I do a wedding that only requires a few hours coverage, I also don’t bring my entire arsenal. Instead, I carefully choose my lenses to make sure I have everything covered for those hours. For short weddings, I pack my 24-70mm f/2.8 G, 70-200mm f/2.8G, 85mm f/1.8G, and 60mm f/2.8G. I don’t need the bulk of the 105mm when I cover that focal length with my zoom but I still need a macro, and the 60mm is perfect.
How I use these lenses
I find the Nikkor 60mm Micro Lens is such a versatile focal length and being a micro lens means I do not have to carry my 50mm f/1.4G along with my other lenses anymore. It fulfills both macro capability – mainly for the ring shot and close-up details like food, table setting, and flowers – and a versatile focal length that allows for natural portraits without distortion and those not-so-close-up details.
When using the 60mm for portraits, I am usually shooting with apertures between f/2.8 – f/5.6. When using it as a micro/macro, I am shooting at apertures between f/7.1 – f/11.
The 105mm, as well as being a macro lens, is also perfect for portraits and gives you that creamy bokeh with gorgeous background compression.
When using the 105mm for portraits (which I love doing), I am usually shooting with apertures between f/2.8 – f/4. When using it as a micro/macro, I am shooting at apertures between f/7.1 – f/8. I find that this lens really sings at f/7.1. I have set my camera to 1/3 stops hence the f/7.1.
Both lenses have top specs and perform brilliantly. Generally speaking, I find that when shooting with both lenses, more ambient or available light is required.
Both lenses tend to produce more vignetting than other lenses. However, there is one main difference to the performance of both lenses. Provided there is enough light for the subject matter, the 60mm is faster and quicker to grab focus whereas the 105mm is slower and often hunts for focus. The 60mm works better for moving objects without flash than the 105mm in the same scenario. While the use of artificial light such as electronic flashes does away with this issue, I am mainly speaking about natural or ambient light.
In summary, I highly recommend both lenses both in quality and overall performance. I think there is a lens for each purpose. You just need to analyze which lens you require to achieve your aim. I don’t think there is a one lens for all. My preference is for prime lenses because of their cleanness and sharpness of images, and for me, they perform better.
However, they cannot compare with the zoom lenses when it comes to fast-moving and hectic shoots like weddings where I physically cannot be zooming in and out with my feet all day.
If you are looking for a prime that gives you the flexibility to shoot portraits and macro, then the 105mm is your lens. However, if you are after more of a travel, photojournalistic, natural view type of images and need a micro, then the 60mm would be my suggestion.
On family holidays, I used to carry my 50mm f/1.4 G. You can read here an article I have written on 5 creative uses of the 50mm. But that was during my pre-60mm days. Since then, my 60mm has replaced my 50mm for these occasions. If I am only allowed one lens for family holidays and travel, I go for the 60mm. I may have lost the wider aperture of the 50mm f/1.4 G, but as holidays are usually during the summer when light is abundant, the difference it makes is not an issue.
I hope you found this helpful. Do let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.