Specific 55 3.5 version

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by brian_bahn, Aug 13, 2010.

  1. I am looking at buying a macro lens to use on my D300, and most likely some use on my new to me FE. From the research I've done I have found as most of you probably know that there are many versions of this lens. I will be using this lens for macro 90% of the time, so I would prefer the version that is more suited for macro and not "corrected" for focusing at distant objects.
    How can I be sure that I get the earlier version? Make sure it has the dual(compensating) aperture numbers? Also what is an AI'd version? I see one at KEH that has this designation. Is that the earlier version?
    BTW. Does anyone happen to know if KEH shows the exact model of the lens or just a general picture of the model. I know it's not the actual lens they show a picture of. I know I can call them, I just didn't know if anyone knew for sure.
  2. Does anyone happen to know if KEH shows the exact model of the lens or just a general picture of the model.​
    They show a representative version of the lens for sale, not a photo of the specific lens.
  3. Find out the serial number, that is about the best way to figure out which model it is.
  4. "I would prefer the version that is more suited for macro and not "corrected" for focusing at distant objects."
    That would be the "compensating aperture" version, shown here on an M tube. Serial numbers 188101 - 2xxxxx. This is a pre-AI lens, and if you intend to use in on a D300, then you must find one that has been AI converted or "AI'd", or have it AI'd before you use it. In the factory original condition it will probably damage the AI tab on the D300 lens mount.
    Although it gives great performance at close-up range, the distant performance is apparently very mediocre, so be aware of that for your other "10% of the time". If you have not already seen this, you might want to see Bjorn Rorslett's comments on various versions of the Micro-Nikkor 55/3.5 here.
    Personally, I would look for an AI version of the 55/3.5 (s/n 940001-9xxxxx), which is still a very good performer close up, but YMMV. :)
  5. The compensating version of this lens is specifically listed as such at KEH:
  6. An "AI'd" or "AI-converted" lens is a pre-1977, pre-AI lens that has been converted to be compatible with AI cameras (basically any Nikon SLR introduced from 1977 on). Nikon used to offer an AI conversion service, but they no longer do, so these days there are third parties that do the conversions. Sometimes these are done well and sometimes not so well, so I avoid converted lenses unless I know they were done by Nikon.
    While I am familiar with the 55mm "micro" lenses, I don't understand your concern about getting an early version. I would think you would want CRC (close range correction), for which you would want an f/2.8 AI-S version from the 1980s. Even that model only goes to half life-size; you need a PK-13 AI extension tube to get true life size. Why not just get the 60mm AF macro, which provides true life-size and should work fine on both your FE and your D300?
  7. Thanks for the quick replies guys.
    Michael - Not sure how I didn't pick up that the compensating version was called out on KEH, I looked over their listings quite a bit and then BAM, there it is. Haha. Also I guess there really won't be another 10% because I have a 50 1.8 I would use for that FL.
    Craig - I'm not overly concerned with having to have the early version, I was just figuring if both versions were equally available I might as well get the one that is better with macro. But as Michael pointed out if there isn't thaaaat much difference I might as well save the effort and just get an AI version. I just thought if all things equal I should get the one that would do better for what I would be using it for, but that doesn't appear to be the case.
  8. I forgot to add that I was looking at the 55 because it's right around or less than $100. The 60 2.8 is over $200 and since it's my first macro I figure I'd go inexpensive and move up if I find I need/want to.
  9. Well, if half life size is sufficient for your needs, the 55mm f/2.8 or f/3.5 will do. You want an AI or AI-S version. Again, I recommend the 55mm f/2.8 AI-S because it has CRC (close range correction) which gives the best results for macro work.
  10. If you truly want the much venerated compensating version (I did), go for it. You can have it AI'ed by John White for about $25. He does good work. Also, you can use it without modification (for close-ups only of course) with the M ring. The M ring itself does not require modification.
  11. I can attest that the f3.5 AI version is no slouch either. If you can pick one up from KEH in "bargain" condition like I did, I'd say go for it. I paid $69 for mine and it's in great shape. I don't know why it was rated "bargain."
  12. Brian, you may have read that the compensating 55 micro is better at close range, although it is only average at distance. The compensating aperture is found in all the early 55 micros with the metal focus ring, serial nos 171501 - 273153. The optics were adjusted slightly after that point, supposedly to improved distance performance but close range performance is not quite as good, making it a better all-round lens. Given that macro shots are usually shot at f8 or smaller, diffraction will largely equalize the performance of these model anyway.
    For use with the D300 and FE I would strongly recommend the AI 55 micro, or an AI-converted NON-compensating lens, serial no 600001 or greater. I would NOT get the older compensating version. It was designed for cameras without through-the-lens (TTL) metering. For cameras which meter with this lens, such as the FE and D300, you will get exposure errors which get progressively worse as you focus close, because the compensating aperture screws up the metering.
  13. To find serial numbers or models etc. Check out this site: http://www.destoutz.ch/nikon-f.html
  14. Roland,
    I have a compensating lens, which I use with a Nikormat EL in auto mode. For anyone who doesn't remember these, they were the predecessors of the Nikon FE for for Non-Ai lenses. I have tried really hard to achieve a metering error with this lens (at f/8) and thus far have been unable to do so. I checked if the lens really compensates (as described by Bjorn Rorslett) and it does...
  15. I have just the normal non-CRC 55mm f3.5 AI lens. You may be trying to be picky about which one you get, but any of these you end up with are AMAZING. So just find a bargain and walk away happy imho.
  16. I've owned three 55s.
    1. F2.8 AIS - careful for oily blades!
    2. F3.5 PC AI'd
    3. F3.5 AI - currently own a minty silky smooth copy and love it.
    All three excellent lenses.
  17. From my informal testing, the benefit of the better performance at greater distances of the later 55/3.5 lenses outweighs any gain from using an older compensating model very close up. When you then factor in the floating element design of the later 55/2.8 lens and the fact that it is brighter to focus through, the argument for the older compensating lens is not very strong. As part of my collection I have a black front compensating 55/3.5 with factory AI conversion. I also have other 55/3.5s and a 55/2.8. The irony of the compensating lens is that it was designed for use with cameras that did not have through the lens metering. If I use the lens with a camera like a Nikkormat FT2 and if I am close enough that the compensating feature is a factor, I need to use stop down metering to get the correct exposure. In most situations where you are close enough to use the lens with the compensating feature you are so close to the subject that it would be more helpful to put on a longer lens. This is why when I am using a film camera I enjoy using a macro lens in the 50-55 range for general purpose and close-up work but not for close macro work.
  18. Christoph,
    The metering problem will be worst when the compensating lens is focused close AND stopped down to f/5.6 or smaller. At non-macro distances the compensating action hardly comes into operation so the lens performs similarly to a non-compensating lens. As the lens is focused closer, it extends further from the film/sensor so the effective speed drops. At 1:2 slightly over one stop is lost. The aperture on the compensating lens opens up one stop to compensate, so the effective speed remains constant through the entire focus range. Of course this only works if the lens is stopped down at least one stop in the first place - the aperture cannot open up any wider if they are already fully open. This works well for cameras with no TTL meter like the Nikon F with non-metering prism, or low end DSLRs - once the correct exposure has been set, it won't change when refocusing.
    With TTL metering, the camera already takes into account the loss of light due to extension. When the picture is taken at 1:2 the aperture blades on the compensating lens close down one stop less than expected, so overexposure results. If you are using print film, you probably still get good results due to the larger latitude, but slide film will usually be noticeably overexposed.

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