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First thing is you're budget how much do you want to spend.
What subjects are you going to use it for?
Are you after AF or MF as you have a fair few to choose from in the Nikon range without any of the third party lens makers.
Until last year I only had the one lens the Nikon AFN 105mm f2.8 micro as this really met all my requirements. Portraits and macro photography.
I then came across a mint used Nikon MF 105mm f2.5 that I had always wanted to use with my MF gear.
I have also added the AFD 105mm F2.0 DC lens I had only ever heard good reports on this lens and thought it would make a good addition for weddings and portraits that I take.
I can't fault any of the three 105s that I own and I have used or owned some 1st class third party lenses in the past so don't rule them out either.
One final question I would ask is do you use film,digital or both if both remember the 1.5x factor you get with digital as 105 becomes closer to 160mm/170mm and this just may prove to be a bit to long for what you wanted originally.
Just let little bit more information about you're needs may be helpful.
I have a Nikon F4e and was looking for a quality portrait lens. I have seen the MF 105mm F2.5 for what seems quite cheap especially when i read peoples reviews of the lens. I wondered the f2.8 was the same in quality for portrais with the added benefit of macro if i wished to use it.
Phil's right, the choice really depends on your photography needs. I think just about all of the Nikkor 105's have good reputations. I have used several and currently own and use the AF Micro 105mm f2.8D and the classic MF 105mm f2.5 AIS. Both are great, but I prefer the f2.5 AIS for portraits and general shooting and mainly use the Micro for close up work. I'm not that happy with the performance of the Micro at or near infinity focus, so I don't use it much for landscapes, for ex&le. The MF Micro f2.8 is much better in this regard and a better all round lens, but perhaps not quite as good as the AF Micro for close ups, in my opinion. The AF Micro really is optimized to go to the 1:1 reproduction ratio. Apparently the MF 105mm f1.8 AIS is good and the new AF DC lens is supposed to be superb. Both are expensive. If you are after something not too expensive and willing to forego close ups, the MF 105mm f2.5 offers superb bang for the buck.
I have just scene a very nice s/h MF 105mm f2.5 sell for only Â£62 on ebay.
If you prefer AF the 105mm f2.8 macro may just be what you are looking for.
As Greg said above its not ideal for landscapes but for macro and portraits I would say its superb.
You are not likely to be taking portraits anywhere near the infinity setting.
I have used mine for over ten years before purchasing the other two lenses last year.(A soft focus filter or difusser of some kind may be useful for portraits though as at the distances you would be working at for portraits will turn in tack sharp images)
I always tend to buy Nikon's own lenses these days as I choose my optics carefully to meet my needs.
But in the event I should decide to trade or upgrade you will find that they hold there value better than third party lenses.
Thanks for the advice. I have a Tokina ATx 28-70 as my main lense which i use for shooting bands without a flash in low light. I was looking for something with a little extra pull, and something that I could use for portraits. The MF 105 is more in my budget especially if I buy from ebay.
I would have to vote for the 105 2.5 AIS lens. It is the sharpest lens in my bag. It's ideal for portraits and as a straight short telephoto. It's bokeh is wonderful. I have all autofocus 24/2.8D, 35-70/2.8D, 180 2.8EDIF, 300/f4EDIF, 50 1.8D. I have not been able to justify parting with this lens because of its superb image quality. Most of the time I can tell which pictures I have shot with this lens. It's that good. It's a classic!
The 105/2,5 is an uncommon lens. In my opinion it should not be put in competition with other lens models.
It is a rather sharp lens when stopped down to f/4 (but for instance the 180/2,8 ED seems sharper to me) but its real specialty is in the extremely, should I say perfectly, smooth gradation from sharp to unsharp areas. This characteristic in my opinion gives a special look to images of tri-dimensional objects, such as portraits and even landscapes. Nice rendition of out-of-focus and nearly-in-focus areas often makes images taken with this lens look sharper, or at least nicer, than images taken with sharper lenses with less good bokeh rendition.
One should try to take portraits with this lens at f/2,8 focousing precisely on one eye of the subject. This will give a sharp, lively eye and brows detail, with soft, silk smooth hair.
Good used 105/2,5 can be easily found and bought for very cheap money. The lens is simple and sturdy, and if choosen with some attention it will probably outlast its buyer. Even bought new the 105/2,5 will provide a super performance, unbeatable in some occasions, for its price.
A 105 micro, or similar lens, with a "soft focus" add on will never replicate this kind of performance. Nor will a more complex "hyper sharp" lens with a less perfect sharpness gradation. Maybe the Nikkor AF 105/2 DC can simulate the performance of its predecessor, but a multiple cost and with much more volume and weight that the slightly higher speed does not compensate.
I also use a 180/2,8 ED, an Elmarit-M 90/2,8 and a Tele-Elmar-M 135/4. Super lenses each of them, superior in some areas, but can not replicate the Nikkor 105/2,5 performance.