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Nikon Lenses FAQ

Vintage Nikkor (Nikon) non-Ai, Ai and Ai-S lenses are cosiderably more expensive than most of other vintage lenses for two reasons:<br>- Nikon has never changed its F-bayonet mount<br>- Nikon has never changed the flange focal distance of its F-mount lenses<br>Regarding the fact that Nikon's flange-to-film distance with its 46,5mm is longer than by most of other brands, Nikkor lenses are perfectly adaptable to many camera bodies with simple mechanical F to x-mount ring adapters.

The third reason why Nikon is more expensive is of course high quality of many their lenses. There are fortunatelly many good reviews regarding ald Nikkor lenses, and it very important here, because not all Nikkors are top quality in terms of optical performance. Their producing line offers lenses for everybody: from consumers to high-end pros. But when you know which lens to buy and if you're lucky to get good sample, you've got a high-end quality for bargain price if compared to Leica or some other brands who offer the lenses in this quality range.

I've been using Nikon and Nikkor lenses since mid '80-ies and as rule of thumb I would just say: Nikkors reach their full quality when stopped down: on FF or APS-C sensor or film, the best results are around f/8 to even f/11 for slower lenses but on the µFT sensors use only 1-2 stops as after 3rd stop the diffraction will start to be visible due to physical limitation of the µFT sensor. For videos, even 4 stops work fine, but your exposure and ISO will have to be adjusted to light loss. Here are some of the Nikkors I know really well:

  • Nikkor 28mm f/2.0: beautifull lens, superb IQ, sharp and wonderfull bokeh. Bit of barrel distortion and vignetting which won't bother on the µFT sensor, but mind that this lens has coma which doesn't disappear even when stopped down to f/5.6, so be careful in the night shooting with street-lights etc.<br>
  • Nikkor 28mm 2.8: (only the very last Ai-S model): superb lens, tremendous sharpness and no distortions, can be used almost like macro with amazing results and usable DOF. It is still produced, costs ca $500 new. In terms of optical quality, all earlier 28mm f/2.8 models by Nikkor are inferior to the Ai-S one<br>
  • Nikkor 35mm 2.0: superb lens, image excellent even open, on the µ4/3 performs as good as much more expensive, famous f/1.4 variant. This lens has great bokeh behind the focus and is nearly free of coma. Stopped down just a bit, in-focus light spots are getting a star-form<br>
  • Nikkor 50mm 1.4: there are 28 (!!!) pre-AF 50mm f/1.4 models, all are OK or good on the µ4/3 in focus, but none of those lenses is great, IMPO. The bokeh makes big difference: try before you buy. At f/1.4 IQ is miserable, full of flare, unsharp and blurred all over. From f/2.8 onwards gets excellent for video. Personally, I don't like any of the 50mm Nikkors faster than f/1.8 as they are full of flaws, distortions and they have some breathing<br>
  • Nikkor lenses 50mm f/1.8 and f/2.0 are in general much better. They are sharp on the µFT senors and even sharper on bigger sensors. From f/2.8 onwards those lenses beat the performance of all 1.2 and 1.4 Nikkors and one can have them used for bargain price. By f/1.8 go for earliest Ai-S samples and by f/2 mind its cheap 6-bladed diaphragm so void to use it where ghosting could occur (like strong light spots behind your subject), but otherwise is is a fantastic lens, possible best Nikkor's 50mm in terms of contrast, corner-to-corner sharpness and it is free of CAs and flare<br>
  • Nikkor Zoom 50-135 f/3.5: rare and nearly unknown excellent zoom lens with sharp and contrasty image, excellent IQ from f/4.5 onwards, parfocal (one-ring zoom, though)<br>
  • Nikkor 55mm 3.5 Micro Auto (non Ai): one of best macro lenses for close-ups I know. Less good for distant objects. Doesn't work on newer Nikon bodies, but it still does work on all µFT cameras. Actual Nikon's model 60mm f/2.8 ED G N is Nikon's best macro lens I ever tried and one of overall greatest Nikon's lenses- I use it as standard lens on the D800<br>
  • Nikkor Zoom 80-200 f/4.5: excellent lens, much cheaper than Canon FD 80-200 4.0 L but I can sign it performs as good on the µFT sensors. This legendary lens was one of first zoom lenses which performed as good as the primes. Crispy and contrasty even wide open, parfocal (one-ring, though…). The ring gets too loose with time, but it can be easily repaired in the service<br>
  • Nikkor 85mm f/1.4: now it gets very serious: this is a dream lens by all means: straight from f/1.4 onwards it has wonderful IQ, it is sharp and contrasty and the bokeh is… a dream! Its bokeh is as creamy like legendary Rokkor 58mm but optical performance is overall much better: unbeaten. Ai-S was excellent, “D” even better, but the best of all of them is actual “G” variant, it is optically even improved and has no coma at all, even widely open. This is a *perfect* lens, I don't know what else to say about it. It is not cheap, but its price is a real bargain for what it offers.
  • Nikkor 105mm 2.5: legendary, Nikon's classic- one of the greatest ever produced IMO. It has excellent IQ even wide open, and from f/4 onwards it is just perfect: wonderfull bokeh, tremendous sharpness and colors performance and no flaws<br>
  • Nikkors 135mm: all are really good, f/2.0 is allegedly a dream lens, but it is scary big and heavy, so the f/2.8 is probably better option for the µFT cameras. Mind that f/3.5 variant of 135mm Nikkors performs on the µFT about as good as f/2 or f/2.8 but it costs next to nothing<br>
  • Nikkor 180mm ED f/2.8: truly superb lens, it is one of the very best tele lenses I ever tried, tremendous sharpness on all cameras where I used it, great contrast and no distortions, free of CAs straight from f/2.8 onwards<br>
  • Nikkor 200mm 4.0: late models without letter “Q” are amazing lenses, great IQ even when wide open, just beasty at f/5.6, this is a dream lens<br>
  • Nikkor 300mm 4.5: ver.”H” is unpopular tele lens, Nikon ceirtanly made better tele primes than this one, but this is probably the best deal you can have for less than 100$ in this focal length, turns to excellent outdoor lens stopped down a bit. Its IQ (use tripod, it has excellent collar) IMO performs nicer than the Panny 100-300 at its long end. Version “ED” of this Nikkor has first-class optics, if you find one in good shape.
camera-usage/nikon-lenses-faq.1364686889.txt.gz · Last modified: 2013/03/30 23:41 by tetakpatak