Mmm, pancakes

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by fluppeteer, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. Hi all. A quick question, while I'm musing on the subject.
    I've indicated in the past that I'd like a pancake lens. My D700 is never going to be all that portable, but not having even a 50mm f/1.8 sticking out the front of it might be the difference between a coat pocket and leaving it behind. I'm quite tempted by a 45mm f/2.8 AI-p, but they're probably more money than they're currently worth to me.
    It recently came to my attention that the series E 50mm f/1.8 lenses seem to be appreciably shorter than the AF version - I've always thought that the AF lens's design of having the front element so inset was harming the ergonomics for me, and the series E seems to solve that.
    While it's not as short as the 45mm, and I have to treat it as an AI lens (which is fine - I'm often in aperture priority or manual anyway and I've got on okay with a 135mm f/2.8 AI), one could argue that the optics are better, at least in terms of sharpness, than the official pancake - although I appreciate the bokeh suffers. It's a shame it won't meter on a lightweight camera like an F75, should I get one, but I can live with that.
    I would expect behaviour very similar to the f/1.8 AF-D (lousy bokeh, not very good wide open, very sharp stopped down) since I gather the optics are almost identical. At some point I may get a 50mm f/1.8 AF-S for its optical advances, but I accept the size compromises when I do so. I expect maybe a little more ghosting and less contrast from the E-series, if its coatings aren't up to snuff, but I'd hope this would be a minor issue.
    So, for a cheap alternative to the 45mm Ai-P, am I mad to consider one?
    Cheers for any thoughts.
  2. The near-pancake Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AI-S is a very decent performer, actually, and you can get them very cheaply. I'm not sure whether it is exactly the same as the Series E version (perhaps the build quality was upgraded a bit when the Nikkor version came out? I don't know, not having used the Series E lens), but they are at least very, very similar -- in a photo you can only tell the difference by the wording on the front. (But bear in mind that there are two 50mm f/1.8 AI-S lenses -- the first looks more like the older AI lens, about the same size as a 50mm f/1.4, while the later one is the near-pancake version.)
    Another (rather more expensive) near-normal pancake to consider at this point is the Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f/2 SL II, which has been getting very favorable reviews.
  3. " I mad to consider one?"
    No, but look for the second Mk.II "chrome ring" version. These humble little lenses are actually very well made, actually of better construction materials in some areas than the last version of the AiS 50/1.8 Nikkor.
  4. I have one of the E-flavor 50's, and it is indeed a dainty little girl, in the scheme of things. But I don't think it's enough smaller than the D version to make the difference you're looking for. But it's certainly small enought to dismount and put in your other coat pocket, leaving just the D700 with a body cap in the other. I've been known to do that with the not-much-smaller D300.
  5. "perhaps the build quality was upgraded a bit when the Nikkor version came out? I don't know, not having used the Series E lens"
    Other way around actually. The Nikkor has more plastic parts than the chrome ring Series E that preceded it. But the Nikkor does have full NIC multi-coatings, whereas the Series E has simple coatings.
  6. What kind of coat will you be wearing that could hold a D700 even without a lens? Have you considered a micro 4/3s camera with a Lumix 20mm f1.7 pancake lens?
  7. Thanks, everyone. Actually, I thought the chrome ring E-series looked bigger than its predecessor, but I'll investigate specifications further. I may have been under the impression that the Nikkor AI-S lens was nearer in size to the AF versions than it actually is. I'll research that too.

    Elliot - actually, it's usually a case of having it in a rucksack and it not getting caught up on everything in there, but I've been known to wear a coat in snowy conditions (I carry enough insulation that I'm not much of a coat person the rest of the year), and I think the pockets would fit the D700 - although probably not my F5. I have considered a micro 4/3, especially the EP3, as much because my other half wants a camera to carry around and to have an adaptor to use while I'm carrying a huge lens selection - but I'm saving up (for that and an 80-200), whereas a series E is at the less painful end of NAS. :) (The Voigtlander has slightly mixed reviews and is also a bit pricier than I'd like for a minimal improvement in portability. But I'll think further on it.)

    Thanks again, all.
  8. pge


    The near-pancake Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AI-S that Craig refers to is the one I would try if I were you. It is really small, I disagree with Matt here, I think it is much smaller than the D. It is dead sharp, and as for the out of focus area formerly know as bokeh, pay $60 for the lens and try for yourself, personally I like it.
  9. Actually, I thought the chrome ring E-series looked bigger than its predecessor...
    It is, by a whopping 3.5mm (1/8th inch) in length and 0.5mm (2/100th inch) in diameter. ;-)
    The near-pancake 50/1.8 Nikkor shares identical dimensions to the chrome-ring Series E, and both to me are noticeably smaller than the AF/AF-D 50mm. Not that the autofocus lens is exactly "overwhelming" in size. :)
  10. Andrew,
    Most older 50s are so inexpensive that you can buy and try them out for yourself. Hard to advise otherwise, we all have different coats an pockets.
  11. If you can live without AF, then I'd recommend either the short or "long" version of 50mm f/1.8 Ai-S Nikkor. Compared to the plastic AF versions, the MF lenses are optically superior if my samples are typical, although the optical diagram for all of Nikon's f/1.8 50mm lenses, including the series E, looks identical. I wouldn't worry too much about the lack of NIC coating on the series E lens either, and certainly wouldn't rule it out on that account.
    Andrew, my own sentiment is that the D700 is never going to be a shirt-pocket camera (not unless you wear extremely large shirts with a reinforced pocket!) and almost any 50mm Nikkor ever made will look a bit dwarfed by it, as well as pretty much overshadowed by its pentaprism. I have to look quite hard to see if I've got the f/1.8 or f/1.4 Ai-S 50mm lens attached, since I really can't see much difference at a sideways glance, and the weight difference is dwarfed by that of the body.
  12. The AFD is leaps better than the series E... no CA and sharper. But a D700 in ones pockets... I've tried, but even after adding or deleting zeroes, it doesn't fit !!
  13. I don't think it is a good idea to force a D700 in your pocket ... Get a micro four thirds camera and the panasonic
  14. Thanks, everyone. Sounds like my best bet is to spend some time lurking in used camera stores next time I'm in London. I probably shoudn't internet shop, but at least I get the fun of rummaging.

    For the record: not a shirt pocket (even for me)! I'm thinking coats, or bags. While nothing's going to make a D700 short or narrow, being thin front-to-back can make the difference between fitting in somewhere and not (there are a lot of pockets that are quite wide and deep, but can't stick out that much, for example). A D700 is allegedly 77mm deep, and the sensor mount is not at the front of that. A thin (24mm from the mount, for the series E) lens won't add much to that, and I think I can get a 3" by 5" rectangle into some of my coat pockets. If not, there's always the camera on my cellphone. :)

    Indraneel: Does that mean you tried a D70 and a D7000? Good effort with the research, if so. :)
  15. ;) yeah
    And the rectangle is 6 x 5
  16. When you sit down at a cafe, will you remember to take the d700 out of the coat pocket before it bangs into
  17. Phil is right, and I completely apologize - I had my recollection and nomenclature exactly, precisely backwards. To make up for it, I hereby post a photo of actual pancakes, created a couple of weeks ago, using a 50mm lens:


    Which, of course, doesn't really propel the conversation forward in any way, I'm afraid. Sorry about that!
  18. I absolutely love my 45mm f/2.8 GN. It is solid construction and wonderful optics. I like it for the exact reason you mention: I can throw it on a D200 or D700, and it takes up very little space. Surprisingly, they are not that much money (more than a 50mm f/1.8 though).
  19. A few 50mm lenses and how much they stick out (focused at infinity).
    The 50/1.8 AI-S has the 4000001 serialnumber series, called Ai-S, 50/1.8 New, MIJ, 3+,plastic focus, focus to 0.6m here:
    I think it would be ergonomically hard to have a more compact lens than that one, if you want to be able to reach the aperture ring and focus manually.
  20. If you can adapt M42 (and perhaps M39), some of the Industars from the Soviet Union are inexpensive "pancake" alternatives to the more expensive and harder-to-find Tessars and such.
    I don't know if they were ever made in the Soviet version of the Nikon F bayonet mount.
    There is a T-mount "pinhole with optics" that is one of the flattest lenses ever offered:
  21. actual pancakes, created a couple of weeks ago, using a 50mm lens​
    I see no evidence of any 50mm lens... made using a fry pan perhaps?
  22. There have been 6 versions of the Nikon manual focus 50mm f/1.8, including another "pancake" version that has not been previously mentioned here ... the Mk.II AiS 2xxxxxx s/n series that focused to 0.45m and was originally distributed only in Japan. It is a handsomely made lens both internally and externally (all metal parts) and it is unfortunate that Nikon did not continue manufacturing it after dropping the "long nose" AiS and export it worldwide instead of the Mk.III successor (0.6m) with many plastic parts. It's much harder to find (although not impossible) than the other 50's as it was only made for a couple of years.
    A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to have 5 of the 6 in my possession at one time, and did take a series of thoroughly unscientific test shots in the close-up range to see how they compared. Suffice it to say if I had not taken notes to mark which shot was taken with which lens, I would have had difficulty matching the photo to the corresponding lens. I don't think you can really go wrong with any of them.
    Since Indraneel asked for evidence of any 50mm lens, I present to you ... pick a 50, any 50. :)
  23. Thanks again everyone (especially for the pancakes).

    Indraneel - terminology failure, sorry. My concern is fitting the camera in the aperture for my pocket (my pockets generally expand a bit inside the coat), so I care about the shorter two dimensions - I'm assuming that my pocket is more than 6" deep, so I need to get a 5" by 3"-plus-lens-length shape through the hole. Hence caring about the lens size. Ilkka - this is likely to be a front pocket, so I'd just castrate myself with the camera, not damage it.

    Pete/Michael F - thank you very much for the images - people who lurk on this forum are truly remarkable sources of information. Michael - you early on recommend the mk2 E-series. Given that it's slightly bigger, can I ask why? I don't really care whether the mounting ring is metal, but 3.5mm may be the difference between fitting in a pocket and not!

    JDM - thanks, but I don't keep my sensor clean enough to shoot at f/40. :)

    Michael A - sadly, they seem to be going for around 200ukp, not far off a used Ai-P - and at that price I'd probably prioritise an f/1.8 AF-S - I don't wear coats that much! They also seem a bit rare. I'll keep an eye out, though. Incidentally, while checking on prices, I notice it looks like Aperture UK have sold their 300mm f/2 - a shame from my perspective of enjoying gawping at exotica, but I hope they got a good deal for it.
  24. Michael - you early on recommend the mk2 E-series. Given that it's slightly bigger, can I ask why? I don't really care whether the mounting ring is metal, but 3.5mm may be the difference between fitting in a pocket and not!
    They all have metal F-mounts. Although I have never had both the 50mm Mk.I and Mk.II "chrome ring" Series E in my possession together at the same time for a direct comparison, it is apparent when comparing this photo to this photo that the Mk.II version has a slightly longer nose piece / inner barrel. Note the sloping inner nose cone leading to the front element in both lenses and you can see that on the chrome ring lens it is slightly deeper (presumably 3.5mm deeper) with a few more stepped ridges.
    The reason that I recommend the Mk.II 50/1.8E over the original all-black Mk.I 50/1.8E is that the focusing ring is metal, the build quality is better, and the design is less prone to getting grit behind the focusing ring and into the focus helicoid threads. That open "distance scale window" in the all-black Mk.I 50/1.8E and all of the other Series E primes, including both chrome ring and all-black versions of the 28/2.8E, 35/2.5E, 100/2.8E and 135/2.8E, is an entry point for dirt and grit if you are careless with how you use these lenses. Several years ago I serviced a Mk.II 28/2.8E that apparently had been rather carelessly used at the beach. I must have flushed close to 50 particles of fine table salt sized sand/grit from the focusing helicoids. Needless to say it focused a lot smoother after service than before. :)
    The "chrome ring" 50mm is the only Series E prime with an aluminum focusing ring that fits over the rear chassis of the lens. All of the other Series E primes have plastic focusing rings that sleeve into the inside the rear chassis. Not that it makes much if any difference in the greater scheme of things, as they are all attached by screws to an aluminum focusing helicoid.
  25. Thanks, Michael. (I should have been clear, by "mounting ring" I meant "ring you hold while mounting the lens", not the mount itself - but thanks for the elaboration.) The inner nose cone is what made me twig that these lenses are so shallow: this section is, to me, inexplicably deep on the AF lenses (and also 90mm Tamron, for what it's worth). I can't think they really need to be that deep just for ergonomics, and if I want a hood, I'll use a hood!

    I was going to say that the different distance scale arrangement was irrelevant to me, but then I remembered how much tissue fluff tends to live in my pockets! You make a good point; thanks for the advice and explanation. Now, about that trip to London... :)
  26. "...another "pancake" version that has not been previously mentioned here ... the Mk.II AiS 2xxxxxx s/n series that focused to 0.45m and was originally distributed only in Japan"
    I also have a copy of this version. It works very well with My D700.
    In terms of being 'compact', this combination is about as good as it gets!
  27. Thanks, Steve. I think at this point I'll have to see what I can find at a reasonable price in person - I don't fancy talking on-line retailers through identifying different versions of their lenses again; I did that with an 80-200 a few weeks ago...
  28. I don't fancy talking on-line retailers through identifying different versions of their lenses...​
    That's just too complicated. Ask for the serialnumber instead and then check what version it is on Roland Vinks site:
  29. Would you consider Voigtlander 40mm f/2? It is a true pancake lens and got good review.
  30. Pete: Yes, that's probably a good idea next time. It conflicts with my innate desire to educate, though. :)

    Shiang: I would, but it seems to be very expensive (similar to the 45mm Ai-P, much more than the lenses we're discussing here), and the bokeh - at least as shown in photozone's review - is hideous. I'm sure it's sharper wide open than the f/1.8s, though. I don't think I could justify it on price/performance - I have too much glass to lust after!
  31. The main reason I like my 45/2.8 Ai-P is image quality and bokeh. The bokeh is way better than any 50 Nikkor or 40/2 Ultron. If not that important, than the Ultron is best due to edge to edge sharpness, but the 45/2.8 comes closest in IQ to the last 50/2.8 Elmar-M or late Zeiss Tessar designs. The chipped design means no fuss metering with my D700 although one can manually input the information with an Ai lens too.

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