Nikkor 18-105 kit lens vs Tokina AT-X Pro D 100mm Macro lens

I started out with the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR kit lens – it’s called a ‘kit lens’ because it sometimes comes prepackaged with the Nikon DX cameras. It came with my  Nikon D7100. I see a lot of negative commentary about this lens, and some people will say you can only get a good shot from a good prime. I generally disagree with those who put down the 18-105 lens as an underperforming lens, because I know from experience it is absolutely capable of producing great shots — if you know how to use it. I have seen some very successful landscape photographers use it, and I have seen very successful portrait photographers shooting with it. I still shoot with the 18-105. It is a fantastic all-around lens.

However…(!) I decided to run a test comparing the 18-105 kit lens and the Tokina 100mm macro lens this weekend. I set up my shot, zoomed the 18-105 as close to 100mm as I could get it (I only managed to get it to 98mm, but that’s close enough for my test), and took the same shot. I mounted the camera on a tripod, and set up my lighting and subject. The only thing that changed between shots was the lens.

Most lenses have a ‘sweet spot’, or aperture range in which they’ll take the best photos with the least amount of fringing, distortion or vignetting. That range is usually somewhere between f5.6-f9 or so. I took these 2 shots outside of that ‘sweet spot’ range, and these were my results. You can see a very obvious difference and that the Tokina way outperformed the Nikkor kit lens. I have cropped each photo so that I could show you a 1:1 magnification section of each. The crops are slightly different because of the 2mm difference in zoom.

You can see in this photo, the focus is soft. While you can see the details in the stem and flower, they are not crisp and sharp.
Lens: Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR kit lens (VR off because I was using a tripod)
Exposure: 4s
Aperture: f13
Focal length: 98mm
ISO 100
Continuous lighting, camera right
White reflector, camera left

lens-comparison-nikkor18-105

 

Here’s the same exact shot, same lighting and settings, with the Tokina 100mm f2.8 macro lens.
Lens: Tokina AT-X 100mm f/2.8 PRO D Macro Lens
Exposure: 4s
Aperture: f13
Focal length: 100mm
ISO 100
Continuous lighting, camera right
White reflector, camera left

lens-comparison-tokina100mm

You can find the final photo “Orchids” in my gallery. Can you guess which version I chose? 🙂

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