Nikkor-P and Spiratone 105mm f/2.5 lenses

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by jdm_von_weinberg, May 28, 2013.

  1. There's been some talk lately about both of these lenses, so I finally got around to digging them both out. Here's the result.
    Nikkor-P and Spiratone 105mm f/2.5 lenses

    Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 Kadlubek Nr. NIK2780
    Spiratone 105mm pre-set f/2.5 Kadlubek Nr. SPI0101 (Tc coating)

    This is not so much a "test" as it is a "review". No claims to rigid scientific testing are made here, but I am giving a comparison of the two lenses under the same conditions. Each lens was shot on the same 5D mark II camera body. The camera was mounted on a heavy-weight tripod and fired with a wired release.

    Here are the two lenses side by side:

  2. As seen end on:
  3. Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5
    The Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 was designed by WAKIMOTO, Zenji in 1949, released 1954, and later offered in the Nikon F mount and as an automatic aperture lens. It was redesigned in 1971 as a Xenotar type lens ( ). In the Nikon RF/Contax mount, it sold new in 1961 for about $80. The Nikkor-P for Nikon F sold for around $175 in 1967.

    The lens in any version is commonly described in superlatives.
    "The next in the line, the Nikkor 105mm,f/2.5, can rightfully be called a Nikon legend, and many photographers consider it to be the finest lens Nikon has ever produced." Nikon Compendium

    "This popular 105mm f/2.5 Nikkor lens was easily one of the standout lenses in the Nikkor line during that period of time, offering a large number of features with top performance characteristics for outstanding versatility; this lens, in fact, is often the first choice of photographers when selecting a telephoto focal length." MIR Nikon site.
  4. The early design reviewed here was of Sonnar type Nikkor.

  5. Spiratone 105mm pre-set f/2.5
    The Spiratone 105mm pre-set f/2.5 telephoto was a 1963 Four element design, so it was not by any means a clone of the similarly spec'd Nikkor. In 1969, a Spiratone 105mm f/2.5 as automatic lens for Nikon, Pentax, etc. was offered for $65-70, but Spiratone continued to sell the pre-set lens too for the earlier $35. Basically, these stopped being offered after 1971--Not offered at all in the 1977 Xmas catalog, for example. I does not seem to have been offered in "Pluracoat" form. In a 1979 Catalog, a Auto Pluracoast 100mm f/2 Minitel is offered for 140.
    Here's and early ad from August, 1963, Modern Photography:
  6. The Spiratone lens received a good review in Modern Photography from Herbert Keppler:

  7. Comparison

    I set up a lens test chart and photographed it with each lens on a solid tripod, using a cable remote. For this test chart, I should have been about 4.3m away to actually try to read resolution, but in this case the distance was only 3m, so the targets shown below are only for relative comparison.

    First, here is the result with the Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5:
  8. Here is the same exact setup, just changed the lens, with the Spiratone 105mm f/2.5:
  9. I think that it's clear that there is a considerable difference between the Nikkor and the Spiratone, but as the images below illustrate, the out-classed Spiratone is still a very decent short telephoto.

    Here is my by-now standard picture of the "Polyspheroid water tower" with the Nikkor at f/2.5

  10. And the same view with the Spiratone 105mm f/2.5:

  11. I also took shots with the lenses at f/5.6 and f/11 but nothing in the way of differences from "wide-open" that would show up much here at the reduced 700 pixel size.

    Here are 100% crops from the above (all on tripod, cable release):

  12. And what would one of these lens "reviews" be without the street scene?
    Both lenses at f/5.6 here
  13. These are "portrait lenses", of course, so here is my favorite sitter with the Nikkor:

  14. and the Spiratone:

  15. For no very good reason at all, here is the same subject from the side with a Spiratone Portragon 105mm f/4 soft-focus lens.
  16. That may be enough, at least for me. :|
  17. Goes to show that there's good reason for the Nikkor's being so well regarded. This evidence is perhaps not enough to determine whether or not the Spiratone lens -- seen by itself, no comparisons -- is good enough for what it will be asked to do.
  18. Of course, also remember that one of the lenses sold for $175 and the other for $40.
  19. That was always clear: but I cannot agree with any suggestion that low price alone makes a lens (or anything, for that matter) usable.
  20. Very interesting, JDM. With the two "portraits", was the same aperture selected for both lenses? The Nikkor sample seems to have considerably more DOF, while the Spiratone image has very little in focus, other than possibly the tip of the nose. I wonder where Spiratone sourced their lens...The pre-set version bears a resemblance to one of my favourites, the 105mm Sankyo Kohki Komura f/2.5, about which I posted a few words, here:
    Thanks for another informative post.
  21. Nobody said that low price made it usable, it only makes it surprising.
    I think the results above for the Spiratone are credible, if not up to the standard of the better lens. "Worse", is not the same as "unusable".
  22. Those shots are very strange. The Nikon shots look great close up, but the Spiratone LOOKS sharper at first glance at the long distances. Looking a second time you see that it isn't.
    I always wanted to live in one of those water towers. You scrabble up the ladder, pull it up w/ you, and shout "come and get me coppers", then relax on the sofa w/ a cold one while the flat foots try to figure out how to get up there. That was the old fantasy anyway. Now, I just figure they'd send in an unmanned drone and blow the tower and I sky high. National security risk and all that jive.
  23. Low cost mulberry bush, a pointless argument pulled out of a hat.
  24. JDM, thanks for another informative and interesting post. Do you have the latter version of the 105/2.5 as well? You've inspired me to at least haul out my two 105's. Perhaps if the stars are aligned properly I might even go shoot them side-by-side soon. The most obvious external difference between the two versions is in the size of the rear elements. (Please pardon the craptastic blur. Shot these by available light in the dining room, about 1/4 sec exposure. Frankly I'm amazed that the Panasonic "Power O.I.S." was able to compensate for my post-prandial -and post Trader Joe's cheap wine - shakiness as well as it did. Chilewich placemat, in case if anyone is wondering. Bought on closeout, as is usual in this household.)
    Steve, I thought the same thing on first glance (Water tower by Spiratone looks somehow better), I wonder if it is due to the difference in exposure, with the Nikkor shot relatively underexposed. Perhaps there is a difference in T-stop between the two lenses?
  25. Interesting comparison and informative post.
  26. Nice post JDM. I have an early 105/2.5 like yours, but mine had the factory AI kit installed when I got it from KEH (it was listed on the web site as "AI'd" and I expected a hack job). It's fantastically sharp. The only thing I don't like about it is that in some cases, objects just outside the plane of focus take on a weird double-refraction kind of look. See attached photo.
  27. As for Old Abe, I confess that the Nikkor shot is an old one, and probably was stopped down more, but the Spiratone was wide open, but not so well focused at about 1/25.
  28. I 'fess up. The "portraits" were a last minute thought as I posted and realized I hadn't tried out the lenses for their common use for portraits. I dug up the Nikkor image from an old file, since I'd already taken off the adapter. Then I took a hurried picture with the Spiratone -- clearly much too hurried-- and posted the result above.
    Anyhow, here is the Spiratone 105mm f/2.5 lens at f/11 - from the test above by MP its best spot. On tripod with cable release.
  29. One more thing I meant to mention: The Spiratone has its aperture blades designed to yield round "bokeh' regardless of the aperture setting. The Nikkor aperture blades take on a hexagonal form, except at full aperture, of course.
  30. One lens that does deserve it's reputation. Always interesting to see a comparison like this even though, as you claim, it's not a scientific test. Those scientific tests do bore the nuts off me I must admit.
    I also have the Sonnar and Gauss versions, but oddly enough have never tried a comparison, something for a rainy day. The only thing is that when I reach for a 105 I usually take the older Sonnar type.
    I've always wanted the original 105mm for the Nikon rangefinders but they are just too darn expensive these days! Does anyone know if the RF version has the round aperture blades? The simpler hexagonal blades are to cater for the automatic diaphragm operation in the reflex lenses.
    Keep up the good work JDM, I'm really getting to like that water tower!
  31. Well, the water tower seems to "grow on you" - or someone. ;)
    Thanks, everyone.
  32. Just in case you'd like to see more of the polyspheroid water tower (and who wouldn't?) go to a new folder in my portfolio where I have posted some thumbnail images. :)

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