Review of Nikkor 28-105mm f3.5-4.5 Zoom

Mark Malkin kindly lent me his Nikkor 28-105mm f3.5-4.5 AF-D lens. This lens is fairly compact (at 28mm... - it grows considerably in length when zoomed to 105mm) and takes 62mm filters. The focus is VERY short-throw (about 1" movement from infinity to 2'), reasonably well damped, and has a "geary" feel. The zoom action is moderately smooth, reasonably tight, and the lens does not "self-zoom" when pointed up or down. The filter ring does not rotate with focus, but rotates some when the lens is zoomed. The macro function locks out focal-lengths shorter than 50mm. There is very little magnification difference at minimum macro focus distance when zooming between 70 and 105mm. Front clearance at closest focus (1:2 at 105mm) is almost nonexistent, making using this lens in macro mode quite unlike using a 105mm macro lens. Macro sharpness away from the center of the frame at 105mm and 1:2 was quite poor at f8 (others report better close-range performance but I didn't see it - and the 1:2 macro mode feature of this lens should not be taken seriously since it is awkward to use and poor in performance in my experience). This lens has VERY low linear distortion, being close to zero from 35-105mm, and very slight at 28mm (very slight barrel at 28mm, VERY slight pincushion at 105mm). For a wide-range zoom, especially one including the wide angle end, linear distortion is unusually low. The viewing image when used with an F3 was rather dark and not particularly crisp-looking, which, combined with the rapid focus, makes accurate manual focusing difficult. This sample showed only very slight optical misalignment except near 105mm, where it was moderate (the right side of the frame was somewhat less sharp than the left, noticeable at 10X enlargement even at f11). Center to corner sharpness uniformity was unusually good for a non-tele-only zoom. At 5' wide-open, sharpness overall was good, with very slightly softer corners at 105mm, and somewhat softer corners at 28-35mm. At infinity wide-open, the image sharpness was good, but slightly diffuse. At marked f5.6, the image improved, lost the diffusion, and was good to the corners except at 28mm, where it was OK in the corners. This is very good performance for this kind of zoom lens. At f11, the image quality improved overall, and was quite good. I compared the 28-105mm with a good-sample 28-70mm f3.5-4.5, and found the two lenses close in performance, but with the 28-70 a bit sharper over all of the frame at f5.6 except at 28mm, where the 28-105 was a bit better at the edges and corners. The differences narrowed at f11, where both were quite good throughout their zoom ranges. (Applied to the above comments should be the observation of the alignment problem found in this sample of the 28-105mm...) Over all, this is a good moderate wide-to-tele zoom, with amazingly low linear distortion and very uniform sharpness everywhere within the frame at normal focus distances and all FLs, from about f5.6 - not bad for a 28-105mm zoom!

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