I really miss the old days of Nikkor lenses.

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by chuck_t, Feb 11, 2009.

  1. I found my an old Nikon FE folding booklet under the drawer. No, it's not a instruction booklet. It's a booklet showing all the great Nikkor prime lenses. Eg. For a 50mm standard lens, there are the f1.2, f1.4 and f1.8. Three choices to choose from depend on your need and budget. For 28mm wide angle lens, there are f2, f2.8 and f3.5 to choose from. For the wide angle 35mm lens, there are f1.4, f2 and f2.8 to select. Now for the tele 105mm lens, there are f1.8, f2.5 and f3.5 for photographers to choose.
    I could go on forever, because the booklet is loaded with prime lenses with few zoom lenses like enter in Matrix with all kind of weapons to choose from.
    From what I see on their new 50mm and 35mm DX lens, I got very disappointed. They have great digital DSLR, but their prime lenses are not even close to "serious". I really don't care how great their zoom lenses are, because landscape or studio photographers are still preferred to use prime lenses for lighter weight with minimize barrel distortion. The first impression when I hold the Nikkor AF-S 50mm lens, I ask myself "Is this a joke"? Even the Sigma 50mm is sharper with better construction and it is "Made in Japan".
    Let's fast forward and look at the Leica S2 for comparsion. They have 9 professional primes lenses to begin with the new digital camera and four of them are leaf shutter lenses for studio use that is capable to have the max shutter speed with studio flash. Their constuction are Aluminium plus ASPH design that is tack sharp even on wide open. (I know there is no test sample yet, but I know Leica ASPH M-lenses are really sharp even on wide open and the bokeh are far better than the Nikkor.)
    However, the price on Leica S2 with one standard lens is "Ouch", but the Leica did their homework.
    Leica offer a complete system, Nikon is customize "only" with limited choices.
  2. Chuck, thankfully we still have access to those lenses in your FE book. I have found for my style of photography they are still the best. When I hold a slide show, I do not want to keep creating excuses for bent horizions and missed focus. I find lenses like the 105mm f2.5, 28mm f3.5 and 200mm f4 allow me to use them freely without even thinking about distortion and other issues. I am supporting Nikon by purchacing the new 50mm AF-S and hope that we will have more primes in the future. Concerning zooms, they are built for convenience mainly. Whilst they have good image quality, the distortion on my Kodachromes is not acceptable. 24mm seems to be a problem at the moment in all of the zoom ranges (apart from the 17-35 which is discontinued).
    I am happy to live in the past and use MF, but others are not and I think Nikon knows this and will fill the gaps soon.
  3. Except for long teles, Nikon must sell many more zooms than primes. Their average customer perceives a zoom as better than a prime, so they make what they can sell. Proper lens change on a digi slr is a pain so another reason for a zoom.
    Leicas sophisticated customers already know zooms have limitations and know how to exploit the virtues of the lens on the camera. The targeted use of the camera will not be PJ work or work in bad conditions, so some quality primes are all that is required. Can you imagine how large a fast zoom for a big sensor camera would be and the cost? The target use is Hasselblad territory and Hassy went decades without a zoom in the catalog. The lenses are necessarily slower for MF and a zoom would have to be slower yet. I really don`t think they woud sell many 100/200 5.6 zooms for $20,000.
    I would suggest you find some older Nikkor primes and use them on the current digitals. Mine seem to work quite well. But do try some quality pro zooms as they have now become very good. They are not like the old days. In fact you will find the 14/24 out performs the primes considerably. It is big and expensive and I don`t use many wide shots, so I am using the 24,28, 35 primes. If I did a lot of wide work, I would definately own the 14/24 before a prime.
    What Nikon does need is a 70/200 that works on FX right into the corners at the long end. I would suggest a different zoom or prime for FX. My 80/200 4.0 is good. So are the Ais primes from 85 to 200, take your pick.
  4. Hmmm, don`t know what to think... wonderful lenses like the current M `luxes f1.4 offer (21/1.4, 24/1.4), Noctilux 50/0.95... the cheapest near $5000... to be used on a M8...

    With my F6 and a dirty cheap 50/1.8AFD I get far more keepers than with a M6TTL with a `cron 35 ASPH (probably 10:1 rate on chromes). And this Leica lens beats almost everything, I think. But this is not as simpley. Many other issues are involved. Horses for courses.

    I like Leica a lot. I love to use Leica gear (almost exclusively for b&w work).

    Let Nikon to sell lenses at the same price and we`d speak...
  5. "The first impression when I hold the Nikkor AF-S 50mm lens I ask myself "Is this a joke?"
    I find it to be a superb lens. Perhaps you should put it on your camera instead of in your hand and judge the picture quality it gives the photographer.
    "From what I see on their new 50mm and 35mm DX lens, I got very disappointed"
    All the old lenses you desire are probably available on eBay and elsewhere. No one is stopping you from buying them.
    "Even the Sigma 50mm is sharper '(than Nikon's 50mm AF-S)' "
    Have you tested both of them yourself? How do you know for sure that the Sigma is sharper than the Nikon? If you need a fast 50mm autofocus lens, you can and perhaps you should buy the Sigma over the Nikon!
    "Nikon is customize "only" with limited choices"
    If you really feel this is true, perhaps you should consider another brand of camera and lenses. You are not 'stuck' with Nikon if you don't want to be.
  6. "From what I see on their new 50mm and 35mm DX lens, I got very disappointed. They have great digital DSLR, but their prime lenses are not even close to "serious"."
    Nikon's new prime lenses are excellent if you're mainly worried about taking photos. And if you don't like the newer lenses, thhen buy the old classics. They work just fine on the new cameras.
  7. All my nikon primes and zooms work quite well for me.
  8. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Interestingly, the very first Nikkor lens I bought was a zoom, which were not nearly as common as they are now. Back in 1977, I bought a 43-86mm/f3.5 AI, which I still own today. By all counts it is a soft lens and is nowhere as good as today's lenses.
    In 32 years, I have never bought a 50mm lens. Today, I have all sorts of 14-24mm/f2.8, 200-400mm/f4, 24mm tilt/shift lens, etc. etc. that never existed 3 decades ago. Although I don't have them, lenses such as the 18-200 DX and 16-85 DX are highly popular and convenient. If you ask me, today there are far more choices and they are a lot more versatile.
  9. Of my seven primes six are older manaul focus lenses. Only one was a new purchase. I use them on my D700. I also have two zooms but one is a manual focus. IMHO there are enough Nikkors around to satisfy most photographers.
  10. Interesting. I get tired of my AF-S 80-200/2.8 ED heavy lens, sold for C$1500.00 and recently I bought a old AF 70-210/4-5.6 lens like new for 100 bucks. I started taking images, with it (D700) and also the 24-70/2.8 and the 105/2.8 micro on the D300. Compared the images on a screen 100%,( 24" LaCie, ) taken with the cheep 100 dollar 70-210 lens and the super 24-70 (at 70) and the 105/2.8 micro, I hardly seen a different. Only at the corner, but not so mach. I bet, if I make a print 12x16, nobody going to tell me, which print was taken with witch lens. I also using old AI converted 50/2 lens, and super sharp on the D300 or The D700. The new AF 50/1.4 I own, is not sharper. I own a 14-24 & 24-70 used most of the time, but I wish to have (because the bulkiness and weight) a prime 14(exist. But I wouldn't mind if it is not 2.8 just f4 and smaller ) ) and a good 16/2.8 or 18/2.8 (the 18/2.8 exist as used, but I don't like to get it on eBay, U used have it. Lots of reflection if a bright light was in the image. Nikon haw to re design the discontinued 18/2.8) prime, then a zoom what I have all ready the 24-70.
  11. The new Nikon af-s 50/1.4 is a superb lens,you're barking at the wrong tree.
  12. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    Bruce, multiple souces have confirmed that manufacturing for the 17-35mm/f2.8 has stopped several months ago. Thom Hogan pointed that out to me a few months ago, and my local Nikon sale rep gave me that same information last November.
    Whether Nikon stops making the 17-35 in favor of the 14-24mm/f2.8 or they will introduce something else similar to Canon's 16-35mm/f2.8 is not known at this point. There is also a chance that they will resume production. However, it is not officially "discontinued" and there is still plenty of stock although the new price is quite high now.
  13. Bruce, AP magazine (a UK publication) mentioned it as discontinued, but they are known to be wrong so sorry for any confusion. I hope it keeps going for a while longer - it is a lovely lens.
  14. Chuck, I have to respectfully disagree. The current pro-grade Nikkors are better then ever. I, for one, have no desire to harken back to the Ai-S days.
  15. Chuck:
    I think the most important part of your rant was the word "ouch" when describing the prices of your Leica gear. There is some question, however, how much of the "ouch" is for sharpness and how much is for snob appeal.
  16. I also still shoot slide film with manual focus NIkkors and other lenses. When it comes to seeing distortion in projected slide this may have more to do with the projector and screen. The projector and screen must be carefully aligned to avoid the distortion you describe. For making prints there can be an endless discussion of the differences between film and digital systems but so far no digital image/projector combination can duplicate the look of a projected slide.
    The only modern Nikkors I have are the IX lenses for my Pronea cameras. I consider the 20-60 IX Nikkor to be excellent. I wish I could use it on other cameras.
  17. Jeff,
    Quite right, no digital technology can replicate the beauty of a projected slide. I stopped shooting slide film in 2007 when my local lab stopped operations on Saturdays. I used to be able to go out in the morning, shoot a roll of slide film, then bomb down to the lab and drop it off for 60 minute processing for around $7.25. Those days are gone, and just as well, as my closet is full with Kodak carousels and I have more plastic boxes full of slides to scan on my desk at this moment. I'm buried in slides and negs to scan and process, it's best that I stick with digital from now on.
    But my old Nikkors are still outstanding performers when used with my D700.
  18. I started out with a Nikkormat in 1972 with a 50mm f2 lens. Added a 105mm and 28mm shortly thereafter. These served me extremely well over the years. The were all converted to AI and I use them on my D300. As others have noted they work wonderfully and focus well on the D300 screen. Manually setting the aperture is not a big deal at all. I also have the 16-85mm DX VR zoom which is fine for roaming around with as well as the 24mm D AF which were purchased with the D300. I see no need for any other lenses. The old Nikkors are blazing sharp with the D300.
  19. The reason there were so many primes available in the '60's, 70's, and 80's is that the zoom lenses available were not very good as they were time consuming to design and difficult to manufacture. Today, with computer design, ED glass, aspherical elements, computerized lens grinding, and multi-coating - zooms perform better than the older primes.
    I have a case full of Nikkor lenses from the late '60's; and the 1998 models of the 35-70ED, and 80-200ED will out perform any of the older lenses. I don't miss the "old days" at all.
  20. However, the price on Leica S2 with one standard lens is "Ouch",
    I think the most important part of your rant was the word "ouch" when describing the prices of your Leica gear. There is some question, however, how much of the "ouch" is for sharpness and how much is for snob appeal.​
    If you read his post carefully, he was talking about the S2 and NOT his equipment. The "ouch" factor with the S2 is that it is a 37 MP camera that has a sensor 56% larger than full-frame 35mm - and will be priced like a medium format digital camera.
    But, I can tell you the difference between Leica lenses and other lenses is contrast + color rendering - and not necessarily absolute sharpness. Leica often trades off ultimate resolution for better contrast; as edge definition and better MTF function gives the visual appearance of being sharper.
  21. I had a number of beautiful circa 1970 non-AI lenses -- some of which were converted. I've sold most, recently, though I kept a couple....I'm not sure why. Probably because they're worth so little. And there's a reason for that.
    I find them hard to focus on the D90 -- this bothers me far, far more than the lack of metering. The focus confirmation light can get very squirrely.
    I don't know about the "G", or "VR" but for sure I like "AF" and especially "AF-S", and the "ED" seems really, really nice, too.
  22. Chuck:
    I will certainly agree with the purity of the old 105mm f/2.5 that is still,one of my treasures but I will not agree with some of your views on the 50mm flavors. I will put my 50mm f/1.4 up against anything Sigma has to offer. it is the G variety AF and its quality will stand against even the old dogs.
  23. Chuck:
    I lied. Mine is a D and not a G. My bad.
  24. I thought I would stop using my nice AI-s lenses when I got my D300. But I find that the images from these older manual lenses are much nicer than from the affordable DX zooms. I have these and would not sell any of them.
    28 2.8
    35 2.0
    50 1.8
    105 2.5
    70-210 4.0.
    I don't think I paid more than $300 for any of them, along with each of the FM2N, FE2 and F4s.
    Using them in my opinion is second only to handling an M Leica and its range of lovely lenses.
    So, I am going to dive into the D300 manual and load them all up in the computer so they will meter off the D300, and leave the wiz bang auto focus learning curve alone. I still go out with the FE2 and use the D300 as the worlds most expensive light meter. One day, when everyone is on FX digital except for the point and shoots, Nikon may reinvest in FX primes...its starting, but the 35 1.8 AFS is a dx only lens.
  25. Even when Nikon does come out with fast proper format primes, I doubt I will get any of them since I prefer manual focus for what is does for optical alignment longevity and size. The exception to this is my Carl Zeiss 35 F/2 ZF, it is big. But it is insanely sharp even wide open.
    Last Summer, I did a remote journey into the wilderness for an article. I brought just a D700 and a 28mm F/2. It did fantastic.
  26. jbm


    Some of the Nikkor zooms are just astoundingly good. Even my modestly priced 16-85 VR for DX on my D300 is incredibly sharp (well, less so since I dropped it from a huge height onto concrete...but that's a different story). I still enjoy using a prime though, not because of differences in image quality, but because with a zoom you tend to forget about perpective and just "fill the frame" at a convenient distance. What a bummer.
    I do have to echo the comment that projected slides are amazing. My Dad recently enearthed old Kodachromes from my Grandfather's honeymoon where he and Gram drove across the American West. They are 60 years old, taken with a Kodak rangefinder. They are all ASA 12, so even in bright light there is motion blur of moving cars...but my goodness there is nothing like looking at landscapes that way. They are totally surreal with a color palette I have yet to see replicated. A projection screen of a digital image totally pales in comparison.
    To the OP, keep shooting the primes, if you like 'em. They are all over eBay.
  27. Ian Rance .... good picture.
  28. Back in the day, Nikon offered what people wanted, as they do today. Seriously, one doesn't need a choice of three different lenses for the same focal length, e.g. the difference between 2.8 and 3.5 is small. Today, Nikon offers a large selection of normal DX zooms and f2.8 pro zooms from 14 mm to 200 mm. Naturally there are many lenses that are lacking from Nikon's lineup (say pro quality slower and smaller zooms), but OTOH there are positive developments like the new PC lenses.
    And I consider that serious lenses are made in West-Germany ;-)
  29. The nice thing about the older MF Nikkors (especially from the 60's through the early 80's) is that they were so plentiful that today they can be purchased for a song as can most of the MF Canon FD series, both of which were built to take a hard pro use unlike some of the lighter duty AF lenses offered today. Both lines currently offer some lenses equal in build quality to their older sibling and the lighter duty comments mostly apply to some of their lenses designed with a price point. The biggest difference however applies to Nikon's or Canon's approach many years ago when trying to reach out to those with thin wallets. Economically priced lenses like the 28/3.5, 35/2.8, 50/2 and 135/3.5 sacrificed nothing in build quality against their more expensive siblings and when a lens was given the Nikkor label, it always meant that it could hold up to harsh pro treatment. Not every Nikkor was optically the top dog (some were just fair) but they were among the best built Japanese lenses. Now if you really want an example of superior lens build quality, consider the Leica R series lenses.
  30. I have a Nikon 50mm f/1.8AF N-series that I got for $30 dollars on Craig's list. A kid had inherited it from his father, who had used it (barely) on a Nikon film body. The kid wanted to get a Canon DSLR so he was liquidating the Nikon gear. It's almost my sharpest lens, sharper than my very sharp Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 but slightly less sharp than the legendary and ridiculously sharp 105mmf/2.5AIS that I just picked up, and its contrast and color rendition are extremely good with almost no distortion. And, it has food bokeh.
    The IQ of the Nikon 50mm lenses is excellent, just read the professional reviews. The build quality of the AF lenses isn't so great, but as Ken Rockwell, who actually make a lot of sense sometimes, says, the lens may not feel substantial but it makes great pictures and it only cost $100 new.
    The picture was shot handheld at 1/125 sec, after a big cup of coffee, and my daughter was not staying still. And, I'm not very steady. It looks fairly sharp to me (at the point of focus - aperture is almost wide open in this shot) with good contrast and color. (I boosted the saturation in PP to a high level). For $100 or so dollars it's a fabulous lens and does things that only much more expensive lenses can do.
    another example:
  31. I would not say that I am actually getting sick of Nikons AF lenses but here's the thing. I only own on DX lens - the Nikkor 18-70 AF which is pretty good as a kit lens but plasticy and wobbly as all get out.
    I am taking more and more photos with my MF Nikkor lenses including several pre AI converted ones.
    And when I am using AF lenses most are those from the early to mid 1990's. I like the build quality of that era of AF lenses. Despite the criticism of the day that they are plasticy and weak compared to traditional MF Nikkors, they are robust and substantial compared to today's "plastic fantastics".
    And ....What about those MF Nikkors!!!!! They are just superb. I cannot get enough of them. They are beautifully made pieces of industrial art if I can call them that. Moreover apart from the joy of ownership, as I use them more and more, especially the prime lenses I find that this is making me rethink my photography. I get up off my backside and walk around rather than standing there, zooming in and snapping a picture that as we say in Australia "the drover's dog" could have taken.

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