Convert this lens? 55mm/f3.5 micro-nikkor P

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jeff_moag|1, Sep 18, 2006.

  1. My fellow Nikon aficionados,

    Ever since going digital my old MF Nikkor glass has been gathering dust. Now
    I'm starting convert some of the pre-AI lenses so they will fit on my D70 and
    film bodies newer than my F2.

    I was getting ready to send my 55 mm f/3.5 micro-nikkor P to be converted, and
    in the process looked up this lens on Bjorn Rorslett's page. It seems it's a
    fairly rare early version, with close-up performance that rates a 5 on Bjorn's
    scale. (Text from Bjorn's page below).

    My question: Should I go ahead and convert this lens, or would it be better to
    keep it intact to retain whatever collector's value it might have. I'd rate
    it's condition about 8 on a scale of 1-10.


    From Bjorn's page:

    "The modified Micro-Nikkor from the mid '60 had much flatter image field than
    the first version of 1961, and gave close-ups with tremendous sharpness.
    Despite its single-layer coating, the deeply recessed front element ensured
    flare problems were minimised. This lens had an outstanding feature directed at
    the non-TTL light meters of its era, viz. an aperture that changed f/numbers by
    itself as the lens was focused closer. This meant the photographer could
    measure exposure the usual way and let the lens take care of the adjustment
    needed by the close-focus extension. Really neat if you didn't use TTL (I did
    TTL, however, with my Nikon F Photomic of these halcyon days, and the aperture
    re-re-adjustment was cumbersome indeed - I ended up doing stopped-down metering
    with it). The 55 mm Micro was optimised for close-ups with peak performance at
    1:10 magnification, and the image quality suffered when it was used for
    landscape shots. For close-up work, peak performance was between f/5.6 and f/8.
    The near symmetrical design ensured that it performed well when reversed onto a
    bellows or extension tubes. I have used it this way successfully for shooting
    macro images on 6x9 cm and 4x5" formats.

    "Some confusion exists as to which Micro-Nikkor is the one with adjusting
    aperture. Partly this is due to the term "Micro-Nikkor P" used in Nikon
    literature, whilst the lens itself only is engraved "Auto". At least my sample
    is. Since there is an immediate successor without the compensating feature,
    but "P" designation, identifying this model is not easy. However, a lens with
    chrome barrel, magnification factors printed in light blue, and hill-and-dale
    focusing and aperture collars likely is the real thing."
  2. Jeff I think the collectors value might not be as high a the value you get from using it. I am probably the wrong person here to comment because I never fancy collecting lenses and rather use my equipment :p But you will get more opinions. I am still looking to get your version and I would just stick it in front of a bellows because it shines in the real close range. I got other macro lenses to take care of the not so close macro range. If you have a medium format camera you could try to get it fitted to a bellows there - then the value would be really high.
  3. Jeff:

    I have the same lens & many years ago had it ai'd at Nikon before others started doing it.

    It's a great lens & I would not worry about losing any value as the value is more with using the lens.

    Good Luck
  4. “My question: Should I go ahead and convert this lens, or would it be better to keep it intact to retain whatever collector's value it might have. I'd rate it's condition about 8 on a scale of 1-10.” -- Jeff Moag

    Is your lens a 55/3.5 Micro-Nikkor-P Auto lens from 1968 to 1977? per Roland Vink’s website? ...

    ...if so you can have it converted but it’s not the lens Bjorn Rorslett prefers. To be sure focus the lens to 1:2. Look at the internal aperture control. Is the grove straight? It’s not a compensating aperture lens. Is it slanted? It is a compensating aperture lens. This is the acid test.

    Is your lens a 55/3.5 Micro-Nikkor Auto lens from 1963 to 1969 per Roland Vink’s website? ...

    Look at the side of the barrel in the photograph at lower left. Do you see light blue markings on chrome? ...

    ...If so it’s a compensating aperture version...

    ABSOLUTELY NOT: the typical non-Nikon AI conversion will NOT remove the Compensating Aperture Feature so when used on ANY AI type camera including the Nikon F100, F5, F6, D200, D2H(s) and D2X(s) the partly and incorrectly covered lens will give you erroneous meter readings. Depending on the focus rings position you can have up to one full f/stop of over-exposure. If you are shooting slides or digital this will cause lost images. With a Nikon F3/F3HP or F4 you can disable AI and use stop down metering for accurate metering. Cameras such as the F100, D200, D2H(s) and D2X(s) do not allow traditional Nikon stop-down metering via the DOF preview button.

    If your lens qualifies and if you can find a genuine Nikon AI conversion kit specific to it conversion is possible. Look for a replacement piece for the part of the aperture control linkage that has a straight grove rather than a slanted grove found in the original part. This piece is probably about 60mm long and 25mm wide and curved to fit in the barrel of the lens. It’s the part that actually manipulates the iris of the lens.

    Another consideration is you camera does not meter with this lens even if converted so the compensating aperture feature is valuable to you if you use either the histogram or an external meter for exposure measurement. The compensating aperture feature is also valuable if you use non-TTL flash such as a studio strobe system.

    My recommendation is buy a used Nikon PK-11a extension tube and remove the meter coupling linkage. If you save the parts they can be reinstalled (with difficulty). There are six tiny ball bearing that will easily be lost. Take the tube apart in a shallow box so they can’t roll away. If you never install an AF lens on the tube you can use a PK-11 tube which should be cheaper.

    The PK-11(a) tube will yield an image scale of 0.15x to 0.65x with your 55/3.5 Micro-Nikkor Auto. There is no real advantage to shooting at infinity with this lens as it’s a dog at infinity anyway. For image scales of 0.5x to 1.0x you can use the M Tube, a supplied (no extra cost) accessory for this lens. If you do not have and can’t find an M Tube you can use an M2 tube which is identical excepting the lack of a secondary aperture scale. These tubes will fit every AI type Nikon body with a fix aperture coupling lever that I’ve tested including the FE2, FM2n, F100, F5 and D2H.

    Here is what is happening. The simple aperture coupling lever and ridge system has no way of knowing that the lens is an aperture compensating lens. The aperture coupling feature does not work correctly unless the lens is stopped down one full stop. The meter will measure the light through the maximum aperture of f/3.5. As the lens is focused closer the effective maximum aperture falls up to 1.0~1.17 stops. The meter will compensate for the loss of effective aperture. When photograph is taken at a setting of f/5.0 or less the compensating aperture feature will also compensate and you will get double compensation and over-exposure. In between f/3.5 and f/5.0 you will get a varying degree of error.

    I hope this helps.


    Dave Hartman.

    PS: unless the lens is absolutely mint I would not worry about collector value. Sorry I don’t have time to proof this so you many find cut & paste/word use/grammar errors. The message is still the same: if your lens is a CAV lens don’t do it.
  5. Great info David

    The lens I have was given to me by my late father years ago & it was my first real lens besides the 105 2.5 he gave me as well.

    It's serial #252140 & is the compensating version - I had it ai'd at Nikon in the early 80's.

    After this post I was just checking it out & it's intermittantly stiff to focus - smooth as butter one minute - binds up the next - any tips or a recommended repair place or simply send to Nikon?
  6. Isn't it easier and cheaper(and less disfiguring) to find a M2 tube? These seem to clear the AI posts on many bodies and, like virtually all AI-AIS optics(P lenses aside)lack any form of electronic connection, so why not on a Nikon DSLR?
  7. David,

    Thanks for the very comprehensive answer to my question. It looks as if I've got the non-compensating lens, though I must shamefully admit that I couldn't figure out how to administer the "acid test." Anyway, serial number 616573 indicates it's the non-compensating. Here's what threw me though: The light blue lettering on the barrel is absolutely identical to that in the photo of the compensating lens (, although the diamond textured focus grip clearly belongs to the later, non-compensating version. Maybe the blue lettering is a poor litmus test.

    In any case, I'm intrigued by Gary and some others' suggestion to use an extension tube instead of converting. I would only use this lens for macro work, so the lack of infinite focus is no bother. And since I'll be metering by guess plus histogram, I don't see a downside. Is there one?

  8. What's the cost of the AI conversion these days? Compare that to the cost of the current 60/2.8 less selling the 55/3.5. The 60mm goes to 1:1 without extensions, easily flips between manual and auto focus, and focuses like a dream in manual. It also makes a lovely portrait lens with the 1.5 crop factor, especially if you flip the switch to limit the autofocus seek range (speeds autofocus up if you aren't working too close).

    I probably should sell my 55/2.8 as I have better MF macro glass for film (Vivitar Series One 90/2.5 and Kiron 105/2.8) and the 60/2.8 for AF, but I haven't gotten to that point yet.

  9. Jeff, I doubt that this lens is too collectable. They go for $60-$120 on eBay. I have a compensating version in my hand that I bought for about $70 recently. It's about EX+ in quality and came with a matching M tube and the original plastic bubble case.

    Van, conversion prices are $25-$35. See .

    Dave Hartman, thanks for the comprehensive info on this lens! I really appreciate knowing the acid test. I presumed that I had a compensating version due to the scalloped focus ring, blue magnification scale, Roland Vink?s list of serial numbers, and that it is a 'Micro-Nikkor,' not a 'Micro-NIKKOR-P.' Now I *know* that I have one. BTW, there are two grooves inside the lens. The slanted one is opposite the aperture lever.
  10. Here's a pic I took with a KEH 'UG' grade Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 P*C: , S/N 740260. This lens was converted to AI with factory parts -- that's why I bought it from KEH for $40 or so ...

    I also have an earlier, compensating version of the lens. It is even sharper in thr 1:2 to 1:1 range.
  11. I'm no fan of the various Dremel AI jobs available. Either track down the proper kit or simply get a cheap Nikon body with a flip-up AI tab--how pricey are clean FE bodies these days?! The M2 tube seems to clear every AI tab I've seen. They're cheap and seem to work on D70 bodies where metering is a histogram matter with all manual lenses anyway.
  12. The at home "dremel" tool conversions sprang up long ago because many real old Nikkors were orphaned, ie NO factory AI conversion kits were made AT ALL.<BR><BR> Some of us who have worked in camera repair just modified our orphan lenses, this was when NO chaps were doing this. I AI modified my ancient 5.8cm F1.4 in the late 1970's, I bought it used in 1962.<BR><BR>The Orphan Nikkors sank to real low prices in the late 1970's and early 1980's, orphaned old serial blocks of Nikon F nikkors with no AI conversion rings available. <BR><BR>Over the last several decades aftermarket non Nikon conversions have sprang up, plus many new old stock unused AI conversion kits on Ebay for non orphans.<BR><BR>
  13. I have also read, many times, that the older compensating lens is sharper in the 1:2 to 1:1 range. I have never seen any proof of this other than the statement that the later 55/3.5 models were optimized for 1:10 magnification and therefore couldn't be as good for closer work. Starting with the P model the 55/3.5 was changed from 5 elements in 3 groups to 5 elements in 4 groups. This was to improve the sharpness for more distant subjects. The earlier lens is supposed to have poor performance for distant subjects and I have read that this is true even for the more recent 60/2.8 AF lens. I rarely use a macro lens in the 50-55 range at 1:1 because I like the extra working distance of a longer lens. I have done very nice work with the P lens for both near and far subjects. I have two P lenses in plain F mount and a PC with factory AI conversion. My interest in the AI mount lenses is for using them on Nikkormat FT3 and N2020 bodies, not for later DSLR cameras. John White did an AI conversion of a 200/4 Nikkor Q for me. The work was very nice and I wouldn't hesitate to have him convert a 55/3.5 if I did not already have one.

    I am still relatively new to Nikon equipment but I can say that in the manual focus area Nikon is not the only company to make a good 50-55 macro lens. I have the 50/3.5 Zuiko with floating elements, the 50/3.5 Canon New FD and Minolta 50/3.5 Celtic, both 6 element 4 group designs, the Konica 55/3.5 Hexanon and Vivitar 55/2.8s in various mounts. I wonder how other people thnk these compare with the different 55/3.5 Micro Nikkors.
  14. Hi,

    To distinguish the 55 micro versions:

    Compensating - metal hill-and-dale focus ring, engraved "Micro-NIKKOR"

    Non-Compensating - diamond rubber grip on focus ring, engraved "Micro-NIKKOR-P"

    I have instruction manuals for both versions. Both state the lens is optimised for 1:10, and both have 5 elements in 4 groups, not 5/3 as stated above. There is a very slight adjustment to the optics between these versions which might explain the different performance at infinity and close range - but that suggests they are optimised for different distances. Maybe the differences noted are more due to sample variation. I wouldn't get too caught up in which is the "best", as all Nikon 55 micros are excellent.

    Having said that, the compensating version may be a better option for the D70. Non compensating 55 micros loose 1 stop in speed going from infinity to 1:2, so you would need to adjust the exposure each time you changed the focus point significantly.

    Compensating lenses were designed for cameras without TTL meters so the exposure remains constant regardless of the focus distance. The TTL meter of the D70 does not work with manual lenses, so it's a good candidate for the compensating micro. Once you have set the aperture and found the correct shutter speed, the exposures will stay correct regardless of focus distance (assuming the light remains constant).

    The compensating micro is a pain to use on cameras with TTL meters, since the TTL meter already compensates for the reduction in speed as you focus close, so you need to counter-compensate. They were a good idea in the early 1960s when few cameras had TTL meters, but when TTL meters became common in the late 1960s, they were replaced by the non compensating version. It seems we have come full circle with modern cameras which don't meter with manual lenses.
  15. Gary: The factory conversion kits for the 55mm micro disappeared a long time ago, so do-it-yourself or pay someone to do it are really the only options (or buy a converted lens for cheap like I did, just for the factory AI ring).

    There's an abundance of some kits still available (e.g. see what Pacific Rim Camera has in stock), but the kits for the more "desirable" lenses have pretty much all gone, though some do occasionally crop up on eBay.

    I've had non-factory conversions done and was suitably unimpressed. In fact, in all my various camer-repair and camera-modification dealings, the only individual whose work has impressed me is Sover Wong and his F2 repair service. For everything else I am resigned to having to do it myself.

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