AF DC Nikkor 105mm f/2D

indexThere’s something about older lenses, their sold build and lack of plastic make them just a pleasure to use and admire. Unfortunately nowadays this craftsmanship is disappearing fast with only the traditional companies like Zeiss, Voigtländer and Leica still making beautiful machined handcrafted lenses. For the Nikon system all the older manual lenses still work perfectly on the more pro DSLR’s like D750, D810 and Df, but for some a manual focus lenses can be a challenge. In the Nikkor line up there’s still a few hidden gems left, these are lenses I used to own back in the days of film but I let them go around the introduction of the D3X. Silly me as now I’ve just recently gone back to them after a long absence with a rekindled love of the classic Dc or Defocus Control lenses, especially on the retro classic – Df.

DC105Introduced in 1993 the DC 105mm f2 is truly one of the most unique lenses produced by Nikon. Its traditional old school build quality of machined metals, crinkle surface finish and manual aperture control feels just inspiring in your hand, this unfortunately is something that lacks in the feel quality of today’s modern lenses

The DC 105mm perspective is a sight to behold, combined with an incredible shallow depth of field at f2 the images you can achieve are simply stunning. What this lens is really about is the stunning bokeh that can be achieved due to the telephoto design that compresses the background and the f2 ability combined with the DC or “Defocus Control” dial located on the lens.

Right – The AF DC-Nikkor 105mm f/2D is one of the few classic designed lenses still available for the F mount. Its classic build style matches perfectly with the Nikon Df.

Nikon make two DC lenses, 105 and 135mm, both allow you to control the degree of spherical aberrations i.e. you can emphasize the degree of foreground or background blur or “bokeh” beyond the normal potential of a large aperture lens, this is ideal for still-life and portrait photography.

To use the Defocus effect, the lens features a dedicated control ring similar to the aperture ring. The DC control has a neutral setting, behaving just like telephoto lenses. You can rotate the ring either to emphasize the foreground (F=FOREGROUND) or background (R = REAR) blur. The ring locks at apertures between f/2 and f/5.6, these correspond to the aperture settings. Turning the ring beyond the aperture lets you create a soft-focus effect, perfect for dreamy effects. For maximum performance, focus first on the subject, and dial in your speed/aperture, once set then dial in the required DC setting, I also recommended keeping the DC setting at a lower number compared to the aperture i.e. set the aperture to f5.6 and keep the DC setting at 2.8 or 4, this will smooth out the defocused areas without affecting the subject in focus. The effects of this defocus control are very subtle, it’s not noticeable through your viewfinder. When used properly, the 105 DC turns backgrounds into the smoothest creamiest colors you’ve ever seen.

Left – Traditionally the DC lens were made for portrait photography. Though Ive always used them as a travel and short telephoto lens for outdoor images, its always worth using this lens for its original intended purpose. Though its over twenty years old it still hold its own if not still beats the modern lenses at rendering detail and of course bokeh. Wide open bokeh is amazing but even stopped down to f5.6 it produces creamy backgrounds with circular highlghts.

Traditionally this lens is used by many as a telephoto portrait lens, which it excels, but I loved to use it as one of my go to travel lenses especially for street shooting.  Its relatively compact design, at only 111mm’s long and 79mm’s wide, isn’t confronting or obtrusive to people but its reach, as a mid telephoto is perfect for this job.  Despite being a screw drive lens, it snaps into focus quickly, not really fast enough for action sports shots but in the streets its ideal especially if you want to isolate your subject from busy backgrounds.

The DC lenses have always been one of my favorite lenses to use, their beautiful creamy images evoke an emotion that can rarely be achieved from any other lens. Often difficult to obtain, it attains some high prices on auction sites, especially when little or no stock available due to low quantity manufacturing of this lens. This is one lens you should a have in your bag if you travel a lot or want to take stunning portraits with Nikon’s FX format cameras.