hard to find a list of manual focus primes

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by clive_murray_white, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. Hi all,
    Yesterday I had some time on my hands so I thought I'd go looking for interesting Nikon mount manual focus primes, mainly from 50mm to 135mm range, having come from Leica and Fourthirds finding lists of similar usable lenses was very easy indeed. I went through every listing in this category and nothing really covered it.
    Quite by accident I found things like Dreamagons and Portragons, mention of soft focus lenses but before you get a handle on it someone always said don't bother go and buy a new zoom. So please - can we stick to Manual Focus Third Party Primes between 50mm and 135mm only. Thank you
  2. http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/companies/nikon/nikkoresources/50mmnikkor/index.htm
    And scroll thru the bottom links for other focal lengths ..
  3. Thanks Ray - I'll have a good look at that site - but didn't see anything about third party/non Nikon made lenses at first glance
  4. Oops. Sorry that site doesnt have 3rd parties. Missed your last sentence.
    Hopefully this link works, via B&H search engine this is all the Nikon mount lenses they sell that are between 50-135mm and only in manual focus.
  5. That's OK Ray,
    You gave me a clue then so I went to KEH
    B&H seemed to be all brand new but now I'm seeing Vivitar and a few others - thanks
  6. Ray, the OP has specified 3rd party MF primes.
    Clive, I really don't see why you've found it difficult to find these. Samyang and Zeiss both make a range of MF primes in Nikon fit, although at the moment the only Samyang in your specified FL range is the 85mm f/1.4. Rumour has it that a 50mm is on the way though.
    Open your horizons up to older Nikkor lenses and there's much more choice. 50mm, 55mm and 58mm lenses are available in f/1.2, f/1.4, f/1.8 and f/2 variations. There are also 85mm, 105mm and 135mm Nikkor primes in a variety of apertures. My own favourite is the impressively large 105mm f/1.8 Ai-S Nikkor - a lens that will easily stand up to close scrutiny on the D800. Add a Dandelion chip conversion to the above lenses and you have a thoroughly updated lens equivalent to anything in Zeissina's ZF2 range.
    Soft focus? There's always Photoshop for that.
    Edit: Crossed posts prevented me from seeing the latest additions to this thread. So if you're looking for older, used MF lenses Clive, there are stacks of them. Tokina, Vivitar, Sigma, Tamron (via Adaptall 2), Mitsuki, Kiron and a whole host of other spurious manufacturers all made lenses in Nikon fit. However for most Nikon users the whole point of buying into the Nikon system was to have access to Nikkor lenses. Most 3rd party lenses aren't really up to that standard, and so the "best buy" or recommended lists won't have many 3rd party also-rans among them.
  7. I don't think there's a breakdown of what mounts existed, but there was, for some time, a wonderful web resource dedicated to medium format cameras, that included a huge list of third party lenses and their focal lengths. Fortunately, though defunct, the site has been preserved on "the Wayback Machine" and you can get the index here: http://web.archive.org/web/20021001122829/medfmt.8k.com/third/index.html
    You'll find a long list of third party lenses arranged by focal length and manufacturer, among other goodies, and that will at least give you a clue on where to start looking, if you're seeking some particular length.
  8. Thanks Rodeo Joe, I had found Samyang, Rokinon? and Zeiss, I suspect there's a bunch of Russian lenses too.
    I've found manual focus on D800 remarkably easy through the view finder, even though my Voigtlander 58/1.4 has focus confirmation I rarely bother to look at it. Much of the work I do can be done live view magnified on a tripod.
    I've also got a PC-E 45 an absolutely fantastic lens but so clean and crisp that I often makes me think of something that draws in a very different way.
    Not a big fan of Photoshop soft focus, mainly because you can control it, the really interesting lenses surprise you with a view of your subject that you hadn't thought of - I like that. I could be temped with the Petzval:
    but I suspect I'd get grumpy with it because it seems to force you to centralize your image
  9. Thanks Matthew - now that does look promising! could get lost in there for weeks maybe some forum members have got their own favourites or views about some of the options.
  10. Ah! I'd forgotten about the Russian (or rather Ukranian) offerings, but unfortunately my experiences with former USSR made Nikon-fit lenses weren't good ones. The Mir-24N 35mm f/2 lens isn't too bad optically, but the clarity of glass, and hence colour rendering, varies wildly between samples. The 200mm f/3.5 offering (can't remember it's designation) is frankly optically quite dreadful, but thankfully also quite rare - don't touch one at any price, even if you can find one!
  11. The "cult classics" listed on Monaghan's old site is the place to start. They were cult classics for a reason and many can still be found inexpensively. The early Kiron and Vivitar Series 1 lenses made by Kiron were quite good. I still have the Kiron 105mm f/2.8 macro lens and the VS1 28-90mm zoom. Both very good. See my post on the zoom HERE and the Kiron macro lens HERE. Angenieux is another high-end third party lens producer also on that list. See my post HERE.
  12. Sorry Clive, apparently the Angeniex 45-90mm was not commonly available in Nikon mount.
  13. Thanks Louis- nothing like first hand information, Angeniex were very pricey so I wouldn't have looked too hard :)
  14. Add two Steinheil lenses, made (formerly) in Nikon mount
    • Steinheil München Auto Tele Quinar 135mm f/2.8
    • Steinheil München Tele Quinar 200mm f/4
  15. Thanks Luke, while checking out your Steinheil Munchen suggestions I found this link - http://allphotolenses.com/lenses/systems/c_20/p_1.html
  16. Soft focus T-mount lenses - need a Nikon adapter:
    The Spiratone Portragon (center) is surprisingly good.
    Another soft-focus lens is the Sima soft-focus lens (left), a plastic wonder which can often be found on eBay. It has a series of different stops that give effects very like some of the old 19th c. and earlier 20th c. lenses.
    The screw-in Vignetar on the right is what it sounds like, not soft-focus, but is useful for other effects.
  17. There was Spiratone Portragon sold very recently post to US only - so that counts me out, but they do look very interesting and priced to enjoy - I'm not as impressed with the sima results.
    This crazy one-off the Dreamagon can make some wild images http://www.shutterbug.com/content/who%E2%80%99s-big-softie-deliberately-spoiling-definition-your-pictures
  18. The Spiratone 400mm f/6.3 preset lens is definitely one to avoid, unless you need a paperweight.
  19. Luke there are many paperweights - fortunately I'm not really looking at the longer end of telephoto which has many dogs - 105 mm - 135 mm or thereabouts is looking like the most interesting length for me - I think quite few manufacturers did quite a good job at that size.
  20. " ..impressively large 105mm f/1.8 Ai-S Nikkor.. "
    its also impressively sharp, the bigger and better brother of the 85/1.4
  21. You know Clive, although it isn't a prime, the Nikon 75-150 f/3.5 E is one of the best lenses I've ever had. It's look is magic. It was made by Kiron (and very well indeed). And it's the cheapest thing. All you have to do is fix the floppy zoom ring.
  22. Thanks again Luke, without first hand knowledge I would have never have looked at anything like that - there's heaps of them for sale in the US but none here in Oz but I'll keep an eye out - thanks - Clive
  23. In the short-to-medium telephoto range, look for some Sears, JC Penney and other seemingly improbable brands. Occasionally those were department store marque versions of some good lenses sold under the Vivitar marque. So far I haven't found a Sears or Penney's duplicate of a Vivitar Series 1 lens, but I have found -- mostly in pawn shops -- duplicate lenses in the 100-135mm focal lengths labeled Vivitar on one and Sears on another. They seemed fine on my D2H when I tried 'em in various pawn shops years ago, but I never bought one to keep. If I'm recalling correctly there was a 135mm f/2 Sears that was very tempting, only $15 or so, but I already had a 135/3.5 Lentar T-mount portrait lens that I was happy with. No auto diaphragm, but a really nice, simple tele for portraits, with excellent bokeh - due as much to the simple optical design as to the rounded diaphragm.
    There were also some decent duplicate lenses marketed by Soligor and a hodgepodge of other names. Soligor C/D lenses were pretty good. Some say the C/D lenses were comparable to Vivitar's Series 1. I've found only a couple of C/D lenses and while they seemed okay when I tested 'em in the store on my dSLR, none impressed me enough to buy one. The other non-C/D Soligors I've tried were mediocre.
    Kiron made some very good primes in the typical wide angle to short tele range, 28mm up to around 135mm, if I'm recalling correctly. And some very good zooms up to the 80-200 range. Kiron was a marque of Kino optical, one of the companies that manufactured Series 1 lenses to Vivitar specs.
    If you don't mind dealing with adapters, it's hard to beat Tamron Adaptalls. Every Adaptall I've tried or owned was at least good, and some are very good to excellent for that era of manual focus lenses. The only functional Adaptall I have at the moment is a 24/2.5, which is very good to excellent. The 17/3.5 Adaptall with built-in filters was also very good - wish I'd kept that one. I had a couple of variable aperture midrange and short tele zooms but all died of fungus schmumph in non-air conditioned storage. They were good, if not quite a match for Vivitar Series 1 midrange zooms. Anyway, I haven't tried any Adaptall primes in the 50mm to 135mm range, but based on experience with the other Adaptalls I'd say they're a safe bet.
  24. Incidentally, the Spiratone Portragon mentioned earlier is a gem if you like the soft focus effect. Tons of chromatic aberration too, and the CA varies quite a bit depending on the light, contrast, and whether you're shooting color film or digital. I see much more purplish fringing and broader outlines of CA with my D2H than I did with color film. CA can be "fixed" in software but to me it's a feature, not a problem that needs to be fixed. You'll see a similar effect in the movie "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" in scenes using the "Deakinizer" effect modified lenses. However those were wider angle cine lenses with modified elements added to achieve the effect.
    The downside to using the Portragon on a DX sensor dSLR is that you lose most of the softest periphery to cropping. But in the right light with the right subject matter it's lovely.
    I find it works best in contrasty lighting, especially backlighting, in early morning or late afternoon/evening, with subjects having lots of fine lines or edges - utility lines, tree limbs, etc. In low contrast situations or undefined backgrounds the effect appears mushy and less interesting.
    Spiratone Portragon 100/4 on DX sensor D2H. JPEG straight from the camera.
  25. The Potragon is pretty wild isn't it? as are anamorphic effects - as this little search goes on I realise that you do keep coming back to Nikon originals, I'm wondering how many of the independent lens makers actually made things that really stood up to a Nikon 135/3.5
  26. A 135mm f/3.5 was pretty easy to make pretty well. Almost any f/3.5 prime is easy to make well. Even my $15 Lentar T-mount 135mm f/3.5 preset lens is pretty darned good. It mostly lacked the sophisticated multicoatings to minimize flare, can't quite compete with current lenses in minimizing chromatic aberration in high contrast scenarios, and obviously lacked auto-diaphragm convenience. But it's remarkably sharp even wide open, with better bokeh than most 1970s-'80s era Nikkors (Nikkors of that era tended to show somewhat harsh nisen-bokeh, while favoring higher contrast and better apparent sharpness).
    The main obstacle third party makers faced was competing on price.
    Years ago Herbert Keppler wrote an article for Pop Photo about the making of the Vivitar Series 1 lenses, which was confirmed via a mail list group in the 1990s by a fellow who worked for Vivitar in the U.S. Apparently Vivitar designed the original specifications for the Series 1 lenses without regard to cost. Then they consulted with manufacturers and marketing gurus to determine a realistic selling price for such a lens and how the manufacturers could build a lens to that price point without sacrificing too much on the original lens specs.
    Lens makers also competed by fudging on the admittedly loose standards for determining maximum aperture. Hence the 24mm Tamron Adaptall's nominal f/2.5 maximum aperture. Or some of the nominal f/3.8 rather than f/4 lenses. Is it really f/2.5? Is there any real advantage over a Canikolympentolta 24mm f/2.8 prime. Who knows? But marketers know some customers will fall for a $9.95 price when they'll hesitate to spend ten bucks.
  27. Hi Lex,
    Clearly you have an almost encyclopedic old lenses knowledge, it is extremely helpful and has reminded me just how easy it is to get sucked in to the syndrome of believing that lens Eldorado may just be round the next corner - I've been there before, and maybe old habits die hard.
    Back in my Four Thirds days I scoured the internet and bought copious quantities of M42, C/Y, Minolta and a few Leica R lenses - rarely did anything match or even come remotely close to Oly's very humble little kit cheapy 40-150. Some lenses were outstanding or matched my taste, a couple of Ziess T* and Leica Rs, and a Helios 40 - 85/1.5 (I think) - in kit below.
    Buy of the century - brand new, still in original packaging, keys still on a bit of string etc etc Zenit Photokomplekt top of the range kit for about $AU30. Some of these lenses were great.
    I suspect it was given to someone by his/her workmates as a parting gift before leaving USSR for a new life in Aus.
  28. Just had to add this one - that I accidentally stood in http://dogschidtoptiks.co.uk/
  29. Oh dear............this little search has produced an unexpected outcome, I had assumed that a characterful lens, between my 85/1.8g and 180/2.8 was what I may be looking for, I had ignored advice that much of what I may be wanting to achieve could be done in Photoshop/Lightroom. I could even admit to becoming complacent with the advancement of my PS skills or seeing what the newer plugins were offering these days. But as I wandered randomly through Google I stumbled on Alien Skin Bokeh 2 which I think I may get instead of a bunch of old 135s.

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