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Thread: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

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    A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Hello all,

    I was doing a quick comparison of R lenses to Nikon lenses for my own edification. I just switched to Nikon for the D3, and one of my concerns was that the lenses would not compare well to what I was used to. It has turned out that this is a mixed bag. Some of the lenses compare very well, and some appear not to. I went ahead and tested some of the lenses using film, so that I could get a fair comparison, without any of the digital differences coming into play. In all, I just did a quick test using the R9 and the F6, two rolls of Astia 100 and several different lenses. I scanned these at 3200dpi on an Imacon 646. I will post some from the other lenses later (they were the 28-90 versus the 24-70, the 19mm versus the 17-35, and the 50mm f/1.4 E60 versus the 50mm f/1.4 AFD).

    In this test, I compared the 100mm f/2.8 APO to the 105mm f/2 DC. There are some obvious differences here, notably that the 100mm Leica is an APO macro lens, while the 105mm Nikon is a f/2 portrait lens. That said, the 105mm has a reputation for being quite sharp. The 100mm Leica's reputation is for outstanding performance at all distances and apertures.

    I was expecting the Leica to best the Nikon, but for the differences to fall away at middle apertures. I was honestly surprised to see the results -- the Leica truly obliterated the Nikon. The Nikon appears to be in proper focus and I could find no sharper area of the image, so I don't believe that it is misfocused. I am willing to concede that my copy may not be in optimal shape (though it is cosmetically flawless), so I believe I will send it to Nikon to make sure it all checks out. It may be, however, that the Leica is simply as good as it's reputation. I have had this lens for years and have always been shocked at how good the performance is. It does everything right.

    Lest everyone think that I am simply a Leica fanboy skewing the results, I should say that the Nikon lenses did not all fair poorly. I will post the images later, but the 24-70 did quite well against the 28-90 (perhaps better...I will have to go over the results), and the other lenses seemed to be reasonably close as well.

    A quick note on the images. I was interested in seeing how the cameras differed as well, so I should note that I left the cameras to expose as they saw fit. Overall, the Nikon gave a bit more exposure than the Leica. Both were more or less accurate, but I found that the Nikon tended to give a better exposure, only just. Please disregard any minor color variations here as I did not make an attempt to balance them perfectly. On the light table, the Nikon lenses had a more magenta balance to them...a bit cooler as well. The Leica lenses gave a slightly warmer, but also greener color balance. Both were quite acceptable. I tested on a tripod, and did not move the tripod for the test. Any slight difference in framing comes from the difference in location of the tripod bracket. It is interesting to note that the 5mm difference in focal length does not seem to be visible...either that, or the Nikon is a 100mm or the Leica is a 105mm!
    With all that preamble, here are some of the images.

    Leica 100mm at f/2.8


    Nikon 105mm f/2.8


    Leica f/2.8 center crop:


    Nikon f/2.8 center crop:


    Leica f/2.8 lower left corner:


    Nikon f/2.8 lower left corner:



    I will not bother posting the Leica at f/8 or f/4, as it is very close to f/2.8. At f/4, the Leica gets even crisper on center and slightly better in the corners. Overall, it improves, but not very much. f/8 is microscopically better than f/4, but it may just be the depth of field. Overall, from 2.8 to 8, it improves the tiniest bit, the biggest improvement being from f/2.8 to f/4. That said, there is nothing you could shoot that would not be rendered superbly at f/2.8. I see no reason to stop this lens down at all, other than for depth of field.

    Here is the Nikon at f/8. It improves noticeably.


    Here it is at f/8, center crop:

    And in the lower left:

    While the Nikon is now performing very well, it still does not appear to be as sharp in the center, or across the frame at f/8 as is the Leica at f/2.8. I find this astonishing, and it is what makes me question the alignment of the lens. I wish I had another copy to test, just to make sure it is accurate.
    Please refrain from posting for a minute or two, and I will post the second comparison -- flare resistance and bokeh.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Here is the quick second comparison. This is more focused on flare resistance and bokeh than on sharpness, but I will include crops. Remember, the difference in exposure is from each camera's idea of how to expose this scene.

    Leica at f/2.8



    Nikon at f/2.8



    And the crops...Leica crop:


    Nikon crop:


    Bokeh with both lenses appears to be essentially identical...good in both cases. Nikon appears to have exposed a bit less here. The same sharpness relationship appears between the two lenses here as well. The Leica is noticeably sharper. The focus point was the rivet in the guard rail. This was more or less into the sun...it was right out of the frame. Both lenses dealt with the flare very well.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Well I am certainly not surprised as we all know this is one of Leica's best R lenses to date and really not sure much could top it in this focal length but the Nikon did a good job. I would think there new 105 macro maybe even better in the results and maybe more in-line with Leica with there new design and coatings
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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    I think you are right Guy. I would be particularly interested to see how the Zeiss ZF 100 compares...that is what I think would be closest in performance and character to the Leica. In the Leica world, I would think that the 90mm f/2 Summicron pre-asph would probably be closest in character and use to the 105mm f/2 DC...they are both high speed, geared towards portraits more than macro. Despite the difference in focal length, it seems like they would be deployed similarly.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    I agree i think the new Zeiss 100mm F2 macro and Nikons new 105 macro are better designed for this type of comparison against the famed leica and i think you will see things a lot closer . The lens you have is more general purpose or portrait style lens although a very good one but would compare much better against a 90mm Leica pre-asph. But it still is nice to see comparisons of lenses even they don't match up exactly . Just gives you a good idea what a lens does.
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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Hi Stuart - Great work, good comparison.

    I'd love to see how the Zeiss 100 and the nikkor 105 compare with the Leica. There's only one solution . . . . . you'll have to buy both of them!

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Don't tempt me Jono! I am already looking pretty hard at the 100/2 ZF. I wish someone in New York had one that I could check out.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Stuart - the issue is NOT optical IQ re lenses - it is about how much less IQ a person is prepared to forgo for the benefit of autofocus and VR. This is the decision - not image quality..because regarding image 'quality' there is no doubt who wins.
    but you already know this...

    yep I am happy with my D3 with a 28-70, a Zeiss 28 and a 105 VR with the excellent flash tech of Nikon - it is a great happy snaps shooter.

    thank you for the comparisons though - and also as an aside - the Imacon rocks does it not?

    Pete

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    yes, the Imacon rocks.

    I agree with your point in theory, but it is not entirely the case. In this comparison, yes, the Leica was clearly better than the Nikon. But I just finished comparing the 28-90mm Leica zoom to the 24-70mm nikon zoom, and I dare say that the Nikon fares better, at least in the 24-70 range. It is not sharper in every case, but it is in some, and it has the notable advantages of being wider, autofocus and a constant f/2.8 throughout the zoom range. In any case, it is very close. The same for the 17-35mm zoom versus the 19mm elmarit. While I expected the 19mm to run rings around the 17-35, it did not. It was better in the corners wide open and had slightly higher resolution, but it had much more vignetting and worse flare resistance (at least with my fairly dusty version of the 19mm). I am not saying my tests are the be all and end all, but they are certainly interesting for me, because they demonstrate the real world practical differences for my style of photography. And yes, at this point the F6 with its AF, spot on exposures, exposure information written on the film, better ergonomics (for me), quieter shutter, and automatic film advance really makes the R9 feel a bit outclassed. If only the Leica 35/1.4, 50/1.4, 100/2.8 and 180/2.8 apo fit on there, I would be set!

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Yes - i too wish I could hang some of my Leica R glass off the Nikon back! Regarding the R 19mm - I will never sell it - bought it new a couple of months ago and it is pretty much glued on as my walk around lens on the DMR - vignetting issues are ( again as you know) easily fixed in one or two seconds...by software. I do think comparisons are interesting..but when comparing cross platform - ummm...wel..I will leave it at that.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    If the 19mm is a ROM version, the vignette correction is done by the camera if shooting it on a DMR.

    At f2.8, the 19mm will vignette on film, but it isn't that bad. I have never noticed the 19mm to flare. Are you using the latest version with the built in filter turrett?

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Great comparison Stuart. The Nikon performance here is surprisingly weak.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Thanks Amin.

    Rob -- the 19mm is the latest version with the turret, but it is not ROM. I tested on slide film, which is more susceptible to vignetting than negative film. I agree that it is not that bad, but it was worse than with the Nikon. This makes sense, as the Nikon is a highly retrofocus zoom, while the 19mm Leica, while retrofocus, is not AS retrofocus. An interesting side note, both the Mamiya 7 43mm and the Schneider 40mm are so much better than either, that it is amazing. Both those lenses are just sharp sharp sharp, even in the corners, particularly the 43mm. The small format lenses cannot compete on this front.
    In any case, I will post the results in a new thread tonight, so that people can look at them. And please, do not take this as any sort of definitive testing, it is just what I noted with my lenses and my camera, testing on my own. I don't make any claims as to the rigor of my testing. I was as consistent as I could be, but I was not going to take 4 focus bracketed shots of every scene to cover every eventuality -- I shot it as if I were going to shoot it in a real world situation.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Quote Originally Posted by asabet View Post
    Great comparison Stuart. The Nikon performance here is surprisingly weak.
    Why suprisingly weak? The Nikon is not an APO lens and cost 75% less than the Leica. If it was a squeeky close call, that would be bad news for Leica ... it darn well better be better. What suprises me is that the R100 isn't even "more better."

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    focus (or is it motion blur?) seems off in both.

    better not to use a flat surface, since small DOF changes are exaggerated.

    A scene with some depth would solve that.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Why suprisingly weak? The Nikon is not an APO lens and cost 75% less than the Leica. If it was a squeeky close call, that would be bad news for Leica ... it darn well better be better. What suprises me is that the R100 isn't even "more better."

    Well, I will argue with that a little. The Nikon is not a cheap consumer lens. It is around 900 dollars new, and the used ones I found were between 650-750 dollars. The Leica does indeed cost a lot new, but I bought mine in mint condition with ROM for 1500 dollars, so that is a real consideration.

    As for the focal point, I am fairly certain it is correct. In the second image, there was plenty of non-flat surfaces, and the same relationship held up. I specifically looked for other sharper areas of the image, and there were none. Part of the apparent softness you may be noticing is from film. This was scanned at very high resolution (3200 does not sound like much, but on the imacon, it is a true resolution), and at this point, film goes slightly mushy. Camera shake is possible, I suppose, but I was using a tripod and mirror lock up on both cameras.

    Do not fear, however, because Bondo kindly offered me the chance to borrow his brand new ZF 100/2, so I will be able to compare all three again. I will also specifically compare the ZF to the Nikon on the D3. I will also see if any of the New York shops rent the 105mm f/2.8 VR, so I can add that to the mix. The D3 will help as its live view and contrast detect AF will help insure absolute spot on results.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    To me, the first Nikon image looks a little out of focus and overexposed. I like the exposure better on the Leica. I'm thinking that lens is a little out of adjustment and would have expected better. Maybe being a DC lens makes it more prone to that. Have you tried the fine focus adjustment on that lens with the D3? Although not apples to apples, it would be interesting to see a shot with the D3 in a comparison to see if it focuses better than the F6.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    The exposure may be your monitor versus mine...on the slides, the Nikon is the more accurate exposure, though both are perfectly acceptable.

    On the D3, the lens is not perfect, but close enough for good sharpness in normal use. The AF fine tune does not seem to work to correct it completely. Contrast detect AF in live view does however focus it perfectly, so I can use that for fine comparison. But I should stress, that in the images I posted, there were no sharper areas that I could find...I believe there were sufficient closer areas visible (on the ground) and behind the focal point (the door...the mail focal point was the wall, the door was several inches behind...). Anyway, I will be testing again, so I can confirm the performance again, along with a baseline from the contrast detect and live view. I would go there and do it again right now, but it is pouring outside.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    If I'm not mistaken, the 105 has a stellar reputation. I've heard the fine tune focus adjustment isn't good for all distances, which is unfortunate. If that's true, then sending it to Nikon would make sense, especially if it would work better on the F6.

    Found the thread:
    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/639482
    Last edited by gromitspapa; 9th May 2008 at 18:51.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Quote Originally Posted by Stuart Richardson View Post
    Well, I will argue with that a little. The Nikon is not a cheap consumer lens. It is around 900 dollars new, and the used ones I found were between 650-750 dollars. The Leica does indeed cost a lot new, but I bought mine in mint condition with ROM for 1500 dollars, so that is a real consideration.

    As for the focal point, I am fairly certain it is correct. In the second image, there was plenty of non-flat surfaces, and the same relationship held up. I specifically looked for other sharper areas of the image, and there were none. Part of the apparent softness you may be noticing is from film. This was scanned at very high resolution (3200 does not sound like much, but on the imacon, it is a true resolution), and at this point, film goes slightly mushy. Camera shake is possible, I suppose, but I was using a tripod and mirror lock up on both cameras.

    Do not fear, however, because Bondo kindly offered me the chance to borrow his brand new ZF 100/2, so I will be able to compare all three again. I will also specifically compare the ZF to the Nikon on the D3. I will also see if any of the New York shops rent the 105mm f/2.8 VR, so I can add that to the mix. The D3 will help as its live view and contrast detect AF will help insure absolute spot on results.
    Well, you are one lucky guy to find a R100/2.8 APO ROM in mint condition for $1,500. is all I can say. The Leica R 100/2.8 Macro ROM is $4,300. new, the Nikon 105/2DC is $925. new ... which better reflects the cost to produce than the vagaries of used prices do.

    I've found that a tripod and mirror lock-up isn't enough when "testing" anything that is suppose to be viewed as "definitive". You may not intend this to be "definitive", but it apparently is being taken that way and discussed as such. A cable release is also a minimum requirement ... a fact I learned the hard way while shooting pin registered images for animation. Just the pressure of my finger on the shutter button showed movement.

    I also question the use of 3200 for the scans. Yes, there is a bit of dimminishing returns when scanning certain films, but with fine grain films I've found that even 8000 on my Imacon 949 yeilds some additional visable results with certain APO Leica optics and their Microcontrast detail ... same for some high resolution Zeiss lenses.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Quote Originally Posted by gromitspapa View Post
    To me, the first Nikon image looks a little out of focus and overexposed. I like the exposure better on the Leica. I'm thinking that lens is a little out of adjustment and would have expected better. Maybe being a DC lens makes it more prone to that. Have you tried the fine focus adjustment on that lens with the D3? Although not apples to apples, it would be interesting to see a shot with the D3 in a comparison to see if it focuses better than the F6.
    The DC should have nothing to do with anything. If set to zero, the lens is a straight optic. I have the Nikon 135/2DC and the same holds true with that lens also.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    I see a significant difference between the two lens besides resolution.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Seriously, comparing a f/2.8 macro lens at $4K+ to a f/2.0 variable-bokeh lens at $1K? Apples and oranges. I fail to see the relevance.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    I am sorry it was not helpful to you. It was relevant to me because I own both lenses. I don't really see them as apples and oranges either -- both are approximately the same focal length, they are only one stop different, and I use both of them as general purpose lenses. In any case, I think I am going to have to do the test again, as the 105mm does not appear to be autofocusing correctly. It front focuses slightly, so that may have harmed its sharpness.
    As for the price, I will agree that new there is a large difference. But the 100mm APO macro has been around for years, and there are many on the used market which are priced very reasonably. I got mine (a rom version) as a demo for around 1500 dollars a few years ago, but I was looking at KEH last week and they had an EX copy of the 3 cam version for 1300 dollars. It appears like someone bought it...it was a good deal.

    But anyway, it was and is relevant for me, because I was comparing how the 100-105mm lenses compared between the two systems. I am in the process of switching from Leica R to Nikon, so I need to figure out the different capabilities of the equipment I use if I am going to use it to best effect.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Marc -- I am sorry if people are interpreting it as definitive, but there is really nothing I can do to control that. I said that it was just a quick comparison and I thought I would share it with the rest of you. I didn't claim to be an expert then, and I don't claim that now.

    I appreciate the advice about the cable release and the scans, however. I would have used one, but the Nikons don't accept normal cable releases and I don't have their 60 dollar one yet...and don't really feel like paying 60 bucks for a cable release. I suppose I will use the self timer. I will try to scan at least the crop areas at 6300 dpi, but I don't think I will see much of a difference. The reason I did not do it is because it would have taken me hours and hours to do it, as well as taking up much more space. Anyway, it is what it is. People need to decide for themselves, but for me, given my workflow and my use, I found it a useful comparison.

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Stuart

    Maybe my comment came across as harsh, didn't mean it that way, sorry about that.

    I think that rather than the price differential, it's the 2.0 vs 2.8 brightness that makes these two lenses different beasts. "Only one stop" means twice the front lens surface - that's a lot of glass, and I imagine that f/2 would require different optical compromises than f/2.8. Would you compare a 50 f/1.0 to a f/1.4 and expect no compromises on the brighter lens? (admittedly not the same thing, but a relevant analogy)

    Another thing re macro lenses is that they are often designed for reproduction work (at least in the large format world) so resolution and flat field become design priorities in quite a different way than in a portrait lens.

    Another comment re the DC-Nikkors: They are mechanically complex and therefore a bit fragile. Make sure you treat yours as such. I had my 135 DC serviced at great expense because I had been sloppy. The lens had been bumped and the defocusing helicoid was misaligned and jammed.

    Now, if you could find a 105/2.8 Micro-Nikkor, that would be an interesting comparison. I sold mine (first AFD generation) because it was too sharp and contrasty.

    Lars

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Just found this thread.....slightly off topic question, but does anyone know if there is a signficant difference (optically) between the ROM and 3 cam versions of the Leica 100mm APO macro Elmarit lens? I've got a line on a EX+ condition 3 cam version which I'm thinking of using with my R8.

    Gary

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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    Hi Gary -- as far as I know, they are no changes in the optical formula of the 100mm APO elmarit R.
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    Senior Member bensonga's Avatar
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    Re: A quick comparison of the 105mm f/2 DC and the 100mm f/2.8 APO Elmarit R

    From your comparison and other things I've read.....the 100 APO macro it looks very good! I've really been enjoying my feeble attempts at macro photography lately.

    Of course, my wife would say....just what I need....another lens.

    Gary

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