Nikkor manual lenses...

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by hjoseph7, Jul 5, 2020.

  1. I decided to try out a bunch of my old Nikkor lenses that were sitting in a bag in my closet today . The good thing about Digital is that you get instant feed back, no need to wait excruciating hours to get your film back. The camera used was a Nikon D7100. I didn't do any pixel peeping, or shoot any charts, just wanted to get a general idea on how the lenses operated on a Digital camera.

    Nikon 43-86mm f3.5 = OK a little soft at all focal lengths (The first mass produced Nikon Zoom)
    Nikon 28mm f2.8 = Great colors, contrast and sharp
    Nikon 35mm f2.8 = Great colors, contrast and very sharp (surprising since I only spent $75 on it !)
    Nikon 50mm f2.8 (pancake) = Great colors, contrast and sharp (no surprises here)
    Nikon 85mm f2 = A little pastel, lack of contrast, but pretty sharp( disappointed since this was one of my favorite film lens)
    Nikon 55mm f2.8 Macro = Sharp (nothing to write home about)
    Nikon 105mm f2.5 = Great colors, contrast and sharp (no surprises here)
    Nikon 180mm f2.8 ED = Great colors, contrast and very sharp ( hard to handle without a tripod)
    mag_miksch and Sanford like this.
  2. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The 43-86mm/f3.5 was the very first Nikon lens I bought, back in 1977 so that it was the AI version. I still own it today, but IMO it is fairly soft all around. I am keeping just for personal history.
  3. Most of my lenses are manual focus Nikkors. The 43-86 was never Nikons best but I carry the 85, 105 and 180 that you mentioned and use them on both film and digital. I think all are quite good but the 105 and 180 are superb.

    Rick H.
    robert_bowring likes this.
  4. I have a fair number of manual Nikkors, but not all in your list. I've shot mine on film (of course) and a D3 and D750. I'm rather surprised by your assessment of the 85 f2 and 55 f2.8 as on my cameras both are exceptional (nothing pastel of lacking on contrast in my 85) and the 55 2.8 is outrageously fine - far more resolution than either of my bodies, really contrasty and no visible distortion - probably the best 35mm lens I own.
    chulster likes this.
  5. Do a penlight test on your lenses. They may look clear on casual inspection, but if you shine a small light up through from the back you'll see any haze build-up. Ignore dust as it doesn't matter. I'm surprised at your results for the 55mm Micro Nikkor as it should be the best of the group. There's also the issue of focus, which has to be spot on for this sort of test. I've got a 85 f/2 here for cleaning right now and am anxious to try it, as it seems like it would be a handy lens.
    chulster and Fiddlefye like this.
  6. It's interesting, after all the hype in the early days of digital about needing to go out and spent a fortune on special digital lenses with dedicated coatings etc, people are finding these old film lenses give superb results, even on high MP bodies. Pretty much all the lenses I use on DSLR's are film era.
    danstates and Fiddlefye like this.
  7. Generally agree with the OP's findings, except that several copies of 35/2.8 I have tried (old and AIS) were not so good.

    Back when I tested with slide film, the older 85/1.8MF I had seemed better than my neighbor's 85/2.

    Most older wide angles I have need a little stopping down to look good on high resolution bodies.

    Newer lenses are generally better, but not as much as the manufacturers would have you believe.
  8. Here is a couple I took with the infamous 43-86mm f3.5(3rd edition). Not bad considering the era. One thing though, this lens is a little heavy. After about 5 minutes with the camera and lens hanging from my neck I started feeling it ! Sorry for the boring content on these shots. NIK_5297_w.jpg NIK_5303_w.jpg NIK_5305_w.jpg
    chulster likes this.
  9. I've found many of those old lenses quite nice on the D7100. Even if they don't test as sharp as some, they seem to make really nice pictures, which I figure is sort of the point. The pre-AI lenses are converted to AI.

    Among my favorites: The 35/2.8 PC. Mine from the early 70's, neither the first nor last. Decently sharp, very well behaved, this is my usual "normal" lens on DX. It's hard to put one's finger on why it just always seems to do the job well. And I like the shift for dealing with shadows and reflections.

    35/2.8K. This is the late pre-AI 35, a lackadaisical performer in full frame, better on DX. Very tough, very cheap, and easy to take apart and clean inside, I often take this as a fall-back lens traveling, since it will work with anything and never fails. I don't use it often at home.

    105/2.5. A late pre-AI, lovely all around. A little long on the D7100, but there's a reason everyone loves these.

    85/1.8 pre AI. Not bleeding-edge sharp, but lovely bokeh, and it just looks luscious. I use this seldom but it's very nice.

    55/3.5 micro late pre-AI. Outstandingly sharp, great to use. I use it a lot.

    A couple of sleepers: the very old (1961 or so) 200/4 Q. This clunky old lens, which does not focus close at all, is comfortable with ridiculous amounts of extension, making it a surprisingly good one for shooting insects from a distance. For reasons not clear, it's fairly easy to focus and hold. Only passably sharp, but great bokeh and the images pop. I bought mine beat up and home converted by someone with maybe a dull hatchet or a kitchen knife. Bought for $5, the quality is good enough to forgive the butchery.

    And another very old 28/3.5. An alternate for travel backup, this lens was a dud with film on full frame, but on DX it looks fairly sharp, it's a good focal length, and it handles flare and such very well. And it's essentially indestructible. If you got stuck in East Nowhere with nothing but this lens or the 35 K and still had some sort of camera that works, you'd still come home with a bunch of good shots.

    I have a few others as well, which are OK, but not so likely to be used. I think all are at least good, and some very very good, but not special enough to use routinely.
  10. The sea change for lenses corresponds to the introduction of mirrorless digital cameras. Their resolution starts where DSLRs left off, 24 MP and greater. Secondly, mirrorless cameras allow a direct comparision between legacy lenses and those designed for mirrorless. I've collected a lot of Nikon lenses over the years, used them with mirrorless cameras too. But the only one I still use is a venerable 55/2.8 Micro Nikkor. You get spoiled by lenses sharp wide open, even in the corners, with CA on the edge of measurability.
    Fiddlefye likes this.
  11. I received my Nikon-to Fuji lens adapter today and stuck it on my Fuji X-H1 and then slapped on my Nikon 50mm f1.4 AI lens and shot a few frames around the house. I was surprised at how crisp the lens was. I suspect since it's on a crop sensor I'm getting the best of the center of the lens. I guess it is a nifty-fifty though so shouldn't be too hard to adapt. Will be a cool to try it for portraits.
  12. Just have to ask about this one, since it's not one I'm familiar with.

    Nikon made 3 lenses that are considered "Pancake" lenses, although one of those is iffy as to whether or not you can actually call it that.

    Two were f/2.8, but are 45mm, not 50mm. These are the 45mm f/2.8 GN, which has a cam that can be engaged such that the aperture ring changes with the focused distance(handy for manual flash exposure). The other is the 45mm f/2.8 AI-P. AI-P means that it's a "Chipped" lens and gives more or less full functionality on most AF cameras(matrix metering, exposure in all modes, etc). Both are 4-element Tessar-type lenses.

    The 50mm "pancake" is the 50mm f/1.8 Series E. This is a simpler lens design than the 50mm f/1.8 AI-S, plus is single coated. It also has a lot of plastic, which was a big sin in the manual Nikkor days(in fact it was branded Nikon, not Nikkor). It's still generally a good lens, though.

    Of those, the 50mm is generally best. The 45mms are typical Tessars, and are quite soft in the corners wide open.
  13. The 50mm "pancake" is the 50mm f/1.8 Series E. This is a simpler lens design than the 50mm f/1.8 AI-S, plus is single coated. It also has a lot of plastic, which was a big sin in the manual Nikkor days(in fact it was branded Nikon, not Nikkor). It's still generally a good lens, though.

    It's not exactly Pancake but it's pretty close. This is one of my favorite lenses on my Nikon FE2.

    Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AI-s Pancake Review

    NIK_5371_w.jpg NIK_5372_w.jpg NIK_5373_w.jpg
  14. This is Nikon's first "PRO" Zoom lens, the 35-70mm AIS f3.5, Introduced in 1981. I purchased this lens back in 2007 for peanuts, but only used it once. The problem with this lens was that the focusing ring was real floppy and loose and it had the tendency to flare up when pointed at the Sun. I like to collect legacy lenses, but only if they work correctly. So I sent the lens to Nikon for repairs.They sent it back and told me that the lens was too old and that they did not have the parts to fix it. Yesterday I decided to use some WD-40 lube spray that I used to lubricate the ceiling fan in my home recently.

    So I sprayed some of the oil down the focusing ring of this lens. I didn't even bother to open it up, just sprayed into the small crack between the focusing ring and the body of the lens. I let the lens sit for a while and checked if there was any oil residue on the front of the lens but there was none. To my surprise the focusing ring tightened up and was now working flawlessly, just like brand new !? That really made my day, because ever since I purchased this lens, it was substituting as a paper weight. I think I'll go out and test it today to make sure none of the interior elements got ruined.

    I'll keep you posted...

    NIK_5380_w.jpg NIK_5381_w.jpg NIK_5382_w.jpg
  15. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Good Luck with that, I hope it works for you, and look forward to your short and long term outcomes. At this point my general advice would be "Viewers, please do not try this at home!"

    The old Nikon lenses work beautifully on my cameras, I have nearly every one I have bought and used over the decades. Of particular note, in addition to those mentioned the 180 2.8 (and several others) which produce results at least equal to my Modern lenses, with possibly even superior color.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2020
  16. WD-40 is a real witch's brew. Others, Do not try this at home.
    IMO, You'd do better to just put the lens out of its misery with a sledgehammer.
    Albin''s images likes this.
  17. After spraying WD-40 down the focusing ring of the 35-70mm f3.5 the lens shows no ill effects !? Here are 3 pictures taken at 35mm focal length, 50mm and 70mm plus many other pictures taken in between (not shown). No post processing was done except to sharpen the images a little bit before uploading to this site, but the images did not require any sharpening at all. I wouldn't do this with any of my other lenses. Before I used the WD-40, I checked eBay to see if I could get a replacement in case things went bad. The great thing about this zoom lens is that the Focus remains despite changing the focal lenght of the lens !

    NIK_5398_35.jpg NIK_5399_50.jpg NIK_5400_70.jpg
  18. Here are 2 more:
    NIK_5401_z.jpg NIK_5402_z.jpg

  19. So far, but this stuff is made to erode away rust and such over time. At the best it's very risky, and at the worst, fatal to delicate machinery.
  20. No not really it is made for power tools Oh Grand Poobha

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