The Nikon 105mm f/2.8 macro lens has been a real pleasant surprise to me lately. I've been using it on the Nikon D600 which I bought this last December and have found it to be an exceptional pairing....after I adjusted the AF (Auto Focus) fine tune to -20. Before getting the D600 I used it on the D7000 and found autofocus to be hit/miss, and more miss than hit....despite having the AF fine tune adjusted to -19 on that camera. Note: I use LensAlign Mkll for calibrating and then shoot real world photos for verification, so these adjustments were not mere guesses.
I almost stopped using it altogether and was seriously thinking of selling it before trying it on the D600. Mounted on the D7000 the misses were many. Now, I know this is macro lens meant to take pictures of small things up close but I was sure it should perform really well at distance too. Trouble was, a lot of pictures left the subject a total blur but the area right behind the subject was sharp and in focus. I tried manual focus but my eyes are just not what they used to be, so that wasn't much better. Not to mention, manual focusing was too slow for subjects such as birds that move very quickly.
So anyway, I wanted to give this lens a try mounted on a full-frame (F/F) camera - it is made for F/F after all. After calibrating the 105mm on the D600 I saw a Cardinal in our backyard tree as I passed by the window and quickly fired a shot. The Cardinals are very skittish around our house so I didn't dare try to open the window or he'd be gone. The picture below is the result of that moment. Be sure to click on the pictures for a larger view.
I immediately uploaded the picture to the computer because I wanted to see the result on the big screen and I was impressed. The combination of D600 and 105mm nailed the little guy in back of the tree among the branches. I can't tell you how many times this scenario has resulted in a miss with the lens mounted on my D7000. Now, the D7000 is a fantastic camera so that was never a question in my mind. The fact that I had to AF adjust it to -19 for the 105mm, on the other hand, together with too many missed shots made me seriously question the lens.
On the one hand, I shouldn't have to dial in so much AF compensation to reliably nail my subject. On the other, I do have the ability to make that adjustment and out of over 300 shots these last couple of weeks with it mounted on the D600 I've not experienced even a single miss. The result is one killer combination and a very happy camper.
Check out the lead goose. You can see its tongue between its open beak. Sweet.