I’ve always been a prime lens user, but my re-entry into Minolta (especially autofocus) and purchasing the D750 have made me appreciate a good zoom lens. I can’t recall where I got the idea to pick this particular lens up, but I’m going to assume that it was back during the infamous CCR episode “Zooming Right Along.” where James Lee spoke about the Nikkor 28-80mm kit lens, so I went onto B&H and looked for that lens. Not finding it, I found something that was a bit longer, a one-and-done lens, the 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5D. And this lens has been a helpful tool to carry around on my 35mm and digital cameras. And makes for a solid choice when you want to run with only one lens that will perform well in most situations, especially when size and weight are significant factors.
Model: AF Nikkor 28-105mm 1:3.5-4.5D
Focal Length: 28 – 105mm
Focal Range: ∞ – 0.5m (0.22m at 105mm /w MACRO)
Aperture: f/3.5 – f/22 (28mm), f/4.5 – f/22 (100mm) 9 Blades
Structure: 16 Elements in 12 Groups (1 Aspherical Element)
If there’s one thing that Nikon does well is good build quality. Even though this is not a professional-grade lens, the build quality is excellent. It’s not too heavy but certainly works on large and small cameras. I can easily switch this between my D750, F5, and F65 without worrying too much about how much weight it will add, and it balances on a camera with or without a grip. While the external housing of the lens is plastic, the critical parts are metal, including the lens mount. The checked patterns of the zoom and focusing rings are different, so you can tell without having to take your eyes away from the viewfinder. The zoom ring is the largest of the two, and you can move quickly from 28 to 105mm, and both rings move smoothly with enough resistance, so you know what you’re doing. As a D-Type lens, you still have a physical aperture ring with a lock to use the lens on both mechanical and electronic cameras. The toggle switch for macro mode is a bit stiff, but that could be due to age; make sure you set the lens past the 50mm focal length before toggling between normal and macro mode. The one thing that might be an issue for some is that the lens’s front element rotates and telescopes out when zooming. This will only be an issue when using a CPOL or graduated filter; you may have to readjust. The front filter ring is plastic but seems solid, and there is also a plastic bayonet mount for an optional hood. While this certainly isn’t a lens you can knock about without a care, you can give it some punishment without worrying it will crack open.
The one thing that stands out with the 28-105 is the solid optical performance of the lens. It’s nothing special, but it does that well. But it’s far from perfect in optical performance. At 28mm, there is significant distortion, but nothing that cannot be fixed in post-processing. Both Photoshop and Lightroom have presets for automatically fixing the lens. The distortion is less at 105mm, but there is a bit of pinching again, which is easily fixed in post-processing. There is no fall-off or vignetting when shooting wide open, and the sharpness is excellent, even at f/3.5 and f/4.5. However, there is some ghosting around the edges in the out-of-focus areas, which is gone as soon as you stop down by one and completely gone by f/8. There is a tendency to flare on this lens, and in my copy made worse by some scratches on the front lens element (which came that way), so adding a hood (Nikon HB-18) is a good idea. The one thing that surprises me the most about this lens is how sharp my images are, usually when you’re working with a lens of this type, you are going to have some softness around your edges, and while that does happen, that’s only in the background, anything that is in focus will be sharp. And the ability to stop down to f/22 (f/29) makes sure you have a lot of depth for your images, and even with that 105mm, you can get excellent subject separation simultaneously.
This lens can be described as a jack of all trades, master of none, but better than being the master of one. This is probably the best bang for your buck if you want to carry only a single lens with your full-frame Nikon. This elevated kit lens is compatible with almost every Nikon SLR out there. As a D-Type lens, you still have that aperture ring, so you can use it on any Nikon camera that supports AI or AI-S manual focus lenses. Of course, you will need to focus the lens manually, but it will work from the Nikkormat FT3 to modern SLRs. And you can use the FTZ adapter to use it on the Nikon Z-Series mirrorless. Of course, your SLR has to support lenses that require in-body autofocus, so some early entry-level DSLRs might not be the best choice. I use this lens on three cameras, the F65, F5, and D750. But it also fits well with an F4 and F90 or any similar AF SLR. This lens is great for travel when you only have room for a single lens in your bag; while not the best for indoor work, at least you can open up to f/3.5 at the 28mm mark, which isn’t too bad. And even at 105mm and that f/4.5, you can get some good subject separation if you’re doing portraits, even if it is quick and candid work. As a Macro lens, it is okay, not the best, but it works when it’s all you have to work with. I love this lens for video work; 90% of my work is done with this lens. It gives me the range to get wide shots and get in close.
The Low Down
If you’re looking for a solid one-lens kit choice for your AF Nikon kit, this might be the lens you’re looking for. It can give you a powerful set of focal lengths and decent speed on the aperture and does it all without breaking the bank. While it’s not perfect for low-light work, interior work is possible, provided you can bump up your ISO or push your film, and the area is decently lit. This wouldn’t be my first lens choice for a wedding shoot, but I would probably use this lens as a guest. It also makes for a wicked travel lens option when kit size is an issue, as it doesn’t add much to your camera weight. And doesn’t add too much to a camera bag, so that you might get away with a couple of fast prime lenses for extra power in your kit. They can be pricey on the used market but won’t break the bank. On average, a lens in good condition costs around 100$. They all don’t have a lens hood, but you can pick up a third-party option for under 20$. So if you’re ready to get away from your 28-80mm, then a second look at the 28-105mm is worth your while.
Don’t just take my view on the Nikkor 28-105/3.5-4.5D; check out these other reviews.
Imaging Resource – Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5D AF Nikkor
Ken Rockwell – Nikon 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 AF-D NIKKOR (1998-2006)
Fredrik Boving – Review: Nikon AF-D 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 lens
Maps And Cameras – Nikon 28-105mm AF-D Macro – Cheap Lens Review