I do macro photography once in a while and have tried various lenses. One of my favorites is Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AI-s. Nikon calls its macro lenses as ‘micro’. Its specifications are easily available on internet. Nikon introduced this lens in 1983 and was based on their similar micro-Nikkors of varying speeds. It is a manual focus lens.
(Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 AI-s)
First of let me clear some facts about macro photography. Vibration Reduction is usually not useful because the movement that usually occurs is front-back and not up-down or sideways. Using VR is further counter-productive while using a tripod. In my opinion VR on macro/micro lenses just adds to the total weight of the lens. If however one was planning to use the lens for other kinds of photography (portraits for example) then VR can be considered.
Auto-focus also is not very good for macro. My usual method for focusing while doing macro is to set the focus my rotating the focusing ring and then fine tune the focus while moving myself a little closer or away from the subject. I do not know how others focus or use their cameras but this is what I do and almost all the photographers who have done photo-walks with me find this method very easy. Auto-focus on the other hand can scare off the small insects, is too noisy and sometimes can takes ages to focus. I have seen one photographer use it in AF-C mode (continuous autofocus) while doing macro work but even that is not too comfortable for me to rely on.
Coming back to my favorite macro/micro lens. It is small with solid built, in all metal body. Focusing is smooth and can be done surprisingly fast. It also has a focus locking screw which can dampen the focusing if required or even can be locked. Locking the focusing ring is quite useful while photographing while pointing the lens down or up.
It does upto 1:2 so for purists it is not exactly a true macro lens but in my experience I have never felt the need to go to 1:1. 1:2 works fine for me. With the close-up extension tubes (Nikon PN-11 for example), it goes down to 1:1. However the focusing distance chart also goes for a toss once an extension tube steps in with further problems at wide open apertures. I never bother with extension tubes.
Bellows however can be a good option with a non-macro lens if they permit tilt and shift movements too. These non-standard movements can be a great help in doing macro photography in studio.
The included hood has a different kind of bayonet mount but I got used to it after using it for a couple of times. Initially I had tried a rubber hood with a screw mount but now I use the hood included with the lens.
The images produced are very sharp even at wide open apertures and the bokeh are pleasing to look at. I use this lens for both macro as well as portraits. Sometimes the portraits come out too sharp and even small skin flaws become obvious. Overall a very good lens and in my opinion a far better option than the new micro-Nikkors.