20mm f/2.8 AI-s - obscure elderly kit question of the day

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by Andrew Garrard, Oct 11, 2017.

  1. :) Thanks, Dieter.

    Come on then, Nikon: a Df2 with:
    • A flip-up aperture tab for pre-AI
    • A retractable feeler pin for the pre-AI bunny ears
    • A motorized drive for the auto-aperture nubbin (okay, optional but cool)
    • Automatic stop-down metering with AI lenses (not "set the aperture twice")
    • AI-S detector pin allowing open loop aperture setting with AI-S lenses
    • Lens maximum speed post detector
    • Lens length detector for P mode
    • Screw drive for AF lenses
    • Electronic contacts capable of F3AF and current AF, including high power pins
    • E aperture and AF-P support
    • A full-time mirror flip-up (like the F5) for compatibility with intrusive fish-eyes
    • Bonus: Incremental read of a few sensor sites to allow the use of old flash guns
    I'm not quite sure what the problem is with the PC 35mm f/3.5, the reflex 1000mm f/6.3 and the AU-1, but bonus marks for making them work. I gather the K2 extension ring tends to wedge, so that might be a big ask.

    Put all that in and I might actually buy one, so long as it's not priced like a D5. (Maximum compatibility is why I got an F5 instead of an F100 - along with the better meter. Not that I have any pre-AI lenses, but I like the idea.)
  2. At current prices, there's no reason to not have both :)

    I love the F5 for what it is, but I admit that it's enough of a beast that mine rarely gets used. My F100 gets a LOT more use.

    The F4 has the lens compatibility advantage, though.

    While we're at it, is there a camera with a lens mount as "busy" as the F4? Not only do you have the legacy connectors like the flip-up aperture tab and stop down lever, but also the AI-s feeler, max aperture feeler, focal length feeler, focus screwdriver, and THEN electronic contacts(that will do everything but activate VR and control AF-P and E lenses).
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  3. OK, just $4500. Make sure it has a focusing screen that makes manual focusing easier. And make it look good, not like DaFrankenstein. But at that discounted price, it will have only the AF module of the F5. OK, the one from the F6. Or did you think they add the D5 module at that cheap a price? Seriously?

    And to please everybody (or nobody), make the entire back with the sensor removable and replaceable with a film back. After all, you asked for maximum compatibility. I'd also like the option of a monochrome sensor. And an optional EVF.

    I know I would not. I have absolutely zero interest to go back to any kind of manual focus lens, be it pre-Ai, Ai, Ai-S, or Ai-P.
  4. > I know I would not.

    :) I never said anyone else would. I'm allowed to like the idea of a pure act of technical whimsy, and I think a few collectors might be interested (it would allow Gray's of Westmister to show off their wares much more easily), but I absolutely don't think it would make money. Still, if Leica can sell preposterous low-production items...

    I don't particularly have an interest in pre-AI-P lenses either (though I have a 135 f/2.8 AI-S which doesn't really have an autofocus equivalent with its degree of portability, and a 200 f/4 AI-S bought because I wanted a telephoto on which I can fit a strong light pollution filter - they only go up to 52mm, although I belatedly realised the size of the rear filter on my 200mm f/2...) but it would make me happy to know that the flexibility was there.

    My complaints about the "retro" nature and compatibility capabilities of the Df have nothing to do with the desire to implement it, just way they did it. But I never expected that to sell in large quantities either!
  5. The more I look back at Nikon's history since 1977 (which is incidentally when my interest in photography arose), the more evident are the wrong turns Nikon took. What was the point in changing from Ai to Ai-S if only a few cameras made use of the additional features? Most lenses didn't change their optical formula in that transition and quite a few became harder to focus precisely because the focus throw was often significantly shortened. The FA and F-501 seem to be the only cameras that made full use of the Ai-S features - though the aperture control linearization continues into the AF era. Not a single camera that is fully compatible with all the lenses made over the years - how much good did it to maintain "F-mount" compatibility when Nikon choose to cripple the cameras behind it?
  6. I know I've mentioned this and been flamed a bit for it, but in a lot of ways I think Canon did it right. When the FD mount was introduced in 1973, it was already "future proof" and supported features that cameras could not-at that time-take advantage of. I have a very early FD mount 35mm f/2(thorium) that even lacks a lock on the "A" position(or green circle at the time) but my T90 uses it just as if it were late model lens. Simultaneously, on the first series of FD cameras, FL lenses continued to operate exactly as they had on FL cameras, and were only marginally inconvenient on later cameras(they still worked).

    When Canon "cut the cord" so to speak, they designed a lens mount that continues to serve them well after 30 years. Leaving EF-S lenses out of the equation(which is another discussion), every EF lens works on every EF body. There are no caveats or asterics to it-put the latest stepper motor IS lens on an EOS 600 series body from the 1980s and it works perfectly. Take your kit lens off that same body and stick it on a Digital Rebel or the current 1DS camera and it all works. By contrast, Nikon seems to just add new features as they need to, and the forward consideration when a feature is implemented seems minimal. The last few lenses Nikon has introduced will only work on a NIkon F-or even F6 for that matter-if you are content with them at full aperture and infinity focus. I don't consider my D800 that outdated, but even it has some caveats with AF-P lenses(I understand that they will work, but can be fussy and there's also no way to turn off VR).
  7. At the time, I would have been pretty upset had I gone with my initial first choice, a Canon A1, just to see the entire line go obsolete in the blink of an eye. In hindsight, it would actually have not been such a great deal - at about the same time, I was purchasing two AF lenses to be used on my manual focus Nikon cameras and could have easily replaced those cameras with AF bodies (either Nikon or Canon). And whatever "older" cameras or lenses I still owned would have continued to work just fine - until it was time for "out with the old, in with the new". Once I had those AF zooms, my manual focus Nikkors pretty much lingered in the closet unused.

    When I purchased my first camera in 1979, I already considered the non-Ai (or pre-Ai) cameras and lenses obsolete and wouldn't have purchased any; there was plenty of new stuff to go around and the older wasn't even that much of a bargain.

    Canon certainly made the better forward-looking move when they introduced a new mount with the arrival of AF on the scene. 30 years later, Nikon still hasn't completed that transition fully. Backward compatibility is a nice thing to have, but as Nikon's example amply demonstrates, it can also be a rather expensive legacy to hang on to. Just like with Leica (but certainly not at the same level), some customer demands/expectations put those companies between a rock and hard place.
  8. I know Canon created a lot of hard feelings with the clean break, but at the same time I think history has shown that it was the right move for them to make. We see now that, 30 years down the road, Nikon has essentially implemented all the features of the EF mount although done in it step wise fashion and, as you mention, often at the expense of maintaining backward compatibility. I have mentioned this a few times, but if there is still a market for low-end DSLRs in 5 years, I suspect that Nikon will have eliminated the aperture lever from the D3000 series(or its successor) but then. I suspect the aperture lever, screwdriver, and aperture follower will stick around on the flagship body and other high end models for a while, but it's also not far fetched to think that at least the screwdriver will be gone in 20 years.

    Also, again I'm not trying to make this a C vs. N argument(I'm a Nikon guy now after a long time as a Canon guy), but the F mount also remains inherently handicapped in that-if I'm not mistaken-it's the smallest diameter SLR mount in use. The R/FL/FD mount and EOS mount are both significantly larger. I suspect the mount diameter is a lot of the reason why Canon can make a f/1 50mm lens and a handful of f/1.2 lenses at a variety of focal lengths while Nikon has only managed f/1.2 in a "normal" lens.

    BTW, in 2005, nearly 20 years after the "clean break" this young photographer was able to build an outstanding kit starting with an A-1 and 50mm 1.8 but eventually progressing out all over the place both in body and lens quality for a fraction of even a comparable manual focus Nikon kit and on a high school student's budget. So, there again, in retrospect I was very glad for the change. Granted, I think my early photographic exposure also leads to my accumulation tendencies and reluctance to buy ANYTHING new :) . There again, the former may be due to an inherent collector "bug" that bleeds into anything else in which I take an interest-American pocket watches, Smith and Wesson/Colt revolvers(and Winchester rifles), MGs, and too many other things. Of course, the appeal with Nikons is that I can walk into my local camera store and buy new lenses off the shelf that I can stick on my earliest F(from 1962) and it will work perfectly-and even give me metering if I use the pilot nubs already on the aperture ring to add a metering fork.
  9. Now you confused me - a G lens is pretty much useless on an F.

    Glad I am not affected:D

    I had a brief period which started with my discovery of ebay around 2000 and during which I rid myself of my FM and two FM2 bodies as well as most of the lenses and acquired a second F3, two FA with MD-15 drives, three F4 and ultimately an F5 alongside quite a few lenses. None of these acquisitions is still around and the only items that survived from my early film days is an F3/MD4 with 105/2.5 Ai.
  10. Admittedly they're not new designs, but Nikon still makes a fair few non-G lenses. The 35mm f/2 and 135mm f/2 DC come immediately to mind.
  11. Here's another interesting(to me) and marginally relevant item to the discussion-the FG has program AE and has the maximum aperture sensor.

    It does NOT have an AI-s feeler. Presumably program mode works on the same type of closed-loop system as the FA-in other words it picks an aperture, stops down to about where it should be, and then takes another meter reading to set the shutter speed based on the actual aperture.

    Although the FA will give correct exposures in P and S modes with AI lenses, I generally only use S(I generally only set cameras to P when I'm handing them off to someone else) with AI-s lenses since I WANT the actual speed and aperture the camera says.
  12. I owned a F-501/N2020 for some time - strictly for use with a Novoflex 400mm rapid-focus lens. I have forgotten how that camera (and it's non-AF brethern F-301/N2000) worked with Ai/Ai-S lenses but believe it was similar to what the FG did. Both the F-301 and F-501 do have the Ai-S feeler. The nice thing I remember about the F-501 was that the focusing screen was interchangeable (it wasn't in the F-301) and that with a different base-plate AA batteries could be used to power the camera.
  13. My initial understanding of how AI lenses auto-metered on the older cameras was that the meter was continuously reading, and the aperture lever just moved slowly until the reading matched sensible exposure for the shutter speed selected (stop-down metering with variable stops). It's only recently that I've understood that it has a "safety shift" and changes the shutter speed as well. I'm not very impressed by that, although I suppose it's faster; I guess both behaviours have their uses, depending on whether the timing of the shutter is critical.

    Nikon's "all lenses work" thing sounds appealing (it attracted me when I switched), although "...if you adapt them, with some bodies, a bit" does take the edge off it. And it's true that you can buy old, cheap F-mount lenses (although to be honest the EF mount has now been around long enough that you can get those cheap too). The number of older lenses you actually want to use on a modern high-res sensor is another matter - although there are a few that meet the "small and portable" requirement better than AF Nikkors do.

    I'll pay a small premium for retaining AI lens compatibility (though I could probably live with stop-down metering); I don't have many AF-but-not-AF-S lenses (Sigma 8mm, 28-80 f/3.5..5.6, TC-16A) and I'm tempted to replace the 8mm with an 8-15mm anyway when I can afford it, so losing the screwdriver would be annoying but not the end of the world. I'd like a Nikon body that supports absolutely everything to exist; I don't know that it needs to be in the next general-purpose body I want to buy, since I'd rather have a smaller size and better weather sealing.

    In the 90s, Canon lenses were more expensive because they had motors in them and Nikkors just had a screwdriver gear, but it meant the body could be cheaper (or at least, cost less to the manufacturer). While there's a small marketing advantage to being able to assert that adding lenses to your system cost less (at least for cheap lenses), it's never struck me as a good design move: it's always better to make entry to a system cheap, and then milk people for money once they're locked in. Everyone from games console manufacturers to cellphone companies knows this! Coming from Canon, the aperture lever mechanism always astonished me that it works at all, especially seeing it flap around in a teleconverter. Having seen Canon extension tubes (that are a tube with a few wires connecting the contacts) and the engineering required to make the same work in Nikon, and after Canon very early on demonstrated that tilt-shift is only really practical with electronic aperture, I'm glad Nikon finally woke up to that.

    I'm a little less sure about the merits of AF-P, though. But I don't own one.
  14. Not only is the lens-in-motor system more elegant, but there's a very real advantage in that you can match the motor to the size of the lens. You don't need a lot of torque to focus a 50mm 1.8, for example, while you need a lot to focus a 80-200 2.8 or 300 2.8. In fact, Nikon realized this pretty early on since I think all the AF super-teles have always had their own focus motors.

    In any case, put a 50mm 1.8 on an F5 and you'll feel like camera is going to rip the lens off the mount. At the same time, the 80-200 focuses fast and sure on the F5. The F5 is actually an interesting camera when it comes to screwdriver focusing-you can actually feel a physical sort of twist or vibration in the lens(screwdriver lenses at least) when the camera locks focus and I suspect that's from the focus motor no longer cranking.

    By contrast, try the same combo on an N8008 or especially some of the 90s low end film bodies. A 50mm 1.8 will focus plenty fast(albeit loudly) on those cameras. Put an 80-200 on them, however, and not only does the camera sound like a cheap battery operated toy that's about to break but it also takes FOREVER to lock focus.

    Nikon and Canon both used in-lens motors in their first half-baked AF attempts-Nikon with the F3AF and Canon with the T80. Both of those used what I'm guessing was probably a standard DC can motor that resulted in a tumor on the side of the lens. Fortunately both of those implementations were dead ends, although the F4 can focus F3AF lenses.

    As a side note, Vivitar also made AF lenses presumably for every manual focus mount. The ones I've seen use an ultrasonic rangefinder-they have a small speaker and microphone on the front like 70s and 80s AF Polaroids. I've never used one, but have played with them in the store. They work well enough, although with the usual issues(and advantages) that come with active AF.
  15. > In any case, put a 50mm 1.8 on an F5 and you'll feel like camera is going to rip the lens off the mount.

    Yes - one reason I got an F5 is to annoy someone who kept boasting about how fast their Olympus E1 would focus things. With a 28-80 G lens on it (a lens which is literally taped together) AF is pretty much instant. Of course the result still may not be all that sharp, because the lens isn't all that good, but...

    And yes, I've tried to autofocus a mk1 AF 80-200 f/2.8 on a D700, and went and got a cup of tea. Although I've seen Sigma lenses make plenty of noise and focus very slowly on an Eos body, too.

    I look forward to seeing whether the D850 battery grip powers the high voltage lens inputs. (IIRC the D300's battery grip didn't, but the D700's did.)

    I don't think I knew about Vivitar. I did recall external focus confirmation on some Nikkor lenses, unless I'm misremembering - almost as exciting as the Sony A DSLR-to-mirrorless lens adaptor with an AF module in it. I'll stick to my modded TC-16A for this kind of oddity, although a shout out to the Contax AX's way of doing things. I do think I still have a Polaroid with an ultrasonic AF module on it, though!

    Anyway, Nikon seem to have got there in the end. Now if they'd just make some affordable pancakes like Pentax and some STF APD lenses like Sony/Fuji (don't get me started on DC)...

    Meant to say from earlier: someone (KR?) tried to disabuse the F mount diameter issue with fast lenses, but I wasn't sold by his argument. I suspect the f/1.2 was never made AF because there's effectively no room for the AF contacts, although I could be wrong. Nikon are also disadvantaged by having a relatively long flange-to-focal-plane distance, making it impossible to adapt lenses from most other formats - although F mount lenses are popular enough when adapted the other way, and also benefit from relatively simple ways to make aperture setting work. It's like Nikon wanted their customers with big lens selections to jump ship to a new system!
  16. Yeah-the F mount is in some ways a bit of an industrial standard. I had an Olympus microscope kicking around my office that had a proprietary Oly rangefinder-like camera on it(albeit with no viewfinder), but I also had an F-mount adapter for it. High end microscopes went digital a while ago(the last one we bought in my lab had a Raman spectophotometer mounted on top of a Nikon scope, but had a couple of high-resolution CCDs (Raman shifts can be in the near or mid-IR IR range depending on the laser used, and near-IR lasers are often used for fluorescence suppression despite the lower Raman efficiency, but a CCD is ideal for seeing things in everything from the IR to UV range) but a lot of labs kept their older film microscopes around as curiosities or display pieces. Most DO have a dedicated camera, but in addition to Olympus I've seen Nikon(of course) and Leitz pieces with F mounts.

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