The best 105mm lenses for Speed, Macro or Zoom

Tips & Techniques

One of the great things about photography is the wide range of available equipment. Particularly with lenses.  But this can also leave people wondering what might be right for them, particularly as they can often overlap in many ways.

To help, we take a closer at three lenses that can all shoot at 105mm: a fast prime, macro, and a zoom.

The first thing anyone will notice about these three lenses is the size and weight difference.

This makes the 105mm f2.8 Macro less than half the weight and almost half as wide as the 105mm f1.4 Art. This makes it a much easier lens to carry and use. The 70-200 Sports lens is the largest and heaviest of them all, which is fair considering it offers a 3x zoom range.

Shooting

While these lenses’ size and weight might be different, they all share one thing in common: The ability to shoot at the same focal length of 105mm.
This makes them really nice for shooting portraiture, so I took a similar shot of my son using all three lenses to see how they compare.

First up is the 105 f2.8 Macro


Even though it’s a Macro lens, it works really well here, giving nice subject isolation and nice Bokeh.  Next is the 70-200mm f2.8 Sport at 105mm

The 70-200 is offering pretty much the same image as the Macro, being at the same focal length and aperture. Let’s check out the Bokeh Master… the 105mm f1.4 Art.


That large front element and f1.4 aperture really goes to work here, allowing the 105 f1.4 Art lens to turn the background into smooth bokeh while keeping my son nice and sharp. It also has the benefit of two more stops of light hitting your sensor for faster shutter speeds or lower ISO.

Are the extra size and weight of the 105mm f1.4 art worth it for this use?  That’s really down to personal preference unless you need that extra light, as the other two lenses still deliver great results.

Close focus

While all these lenses can shoot at the same focal length, they have one major difference, their close focus ability.  So I tested this on some snow-covered grass.

First up is the 105mm F1.4 Art.


With its minimum focus distance of 1 Meter, it can’t really get into all the little details but still offers nice subject isolation. Let’s look at the 70-200mm f2.8

While the 70-200mm f2.8 Sport has a longer minimum focus of 1.2Meters, it can zoom to 200mm, allowing it to get closer to a subject than the 105 Art, offering more versatility.  But what about the Macro?

And this is where the 105mm f2.8 Macro Art lens excels. Its ability to focus at just 0.3meter from the front element lets you get right into small details of the world if you desire.

That Zoom

One thing though that the 70-200mm f2.8 Sport offers over both the 105mm prime lens is the ability to change focal length.  Allowing you to go from this 70mm image.

To this image at 200mm without moving.

The real unique feature of a zoom lens, though, is to control perspective by combining a change in position and focal length to keep your main subject the same size in the frame.

Conclusion

What lens is better really depends on the needs of the individual photographer.

The 105mm f1.4 Art offers much more light coming into the camera for better subject isolation and faster shutter speeds in low light situations. It is a large lens that can feel front heavy on smaller camera bodies, but people who love Bokeh will really enjoy what it offers.

The 70-200 f2.8 Sport offers the most versatility, with its zoom giving you a wider range of shooting options and perspective control.

Lastly, the 70mm f2.8 Macro is a nice all-around lens. Its biggest benefit is being smaller,  lighter, and cheaper than the others here.  It still offers enough subject isolation for portraiture shots and the ability to pick up fine details.

While we focused here on lenses that can shoot 105mm,  the same principles still apply to lenses of other focal lengths and from other manufactures.  Hopefully, this post will help people make a more informed decision on what will work best for them.

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