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'Dot scratches' on coating surface- vintage Nikkor 50mm 1.8 ai-s lens


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Hi Folks

 

I'm looking to buy a copy of the 40-ish year old Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 ai-s manual lens, a lens with a great reputation because of its sharpness, compact size and light weight. The particular version of this lens was made for the Japanese market, and most available are being sold from Japan.

 

A seller who is very thorough in his description, and when answering my questions gets into even more detail, says on inspection with an LED light that his lens has several 'dot scratches' or 'spot flaws' in the coating surface. In photos they look like specks of dust or round dots. He says the cause of the scratches is not known, but are often caused by corrosion marks from mold or scratches on the coating during cleaning. He assumes the lens has been disassembled several times because of cleaning marks inside the lens.

 

He says however, that none of this, at least now, will affect image quality. Since most descriptions of vintage lenses are much less detailed than what he's provided to me, I'm figuring there are a lot of 40 year old Nikon lenses out there with these kinds of flaws. Or not.

 

If the lens performs fine for 5-10 more years, I'm good with that. These lenses go for less than $200. Should I buy this one? The seller has perfect feedback, with return policy, though return ship is to Japan. I'd be using the lens purely for shooting on film.

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. In photos they look like specks of dust or round dots. He says the cause of the scratches is not known, but are often caused by corrosion marks from mold or scratches on the coating during cleaning. He assumes the lens has been disassembled several times because of cleaning marks inside the lens.

I am not sure how fussy you are with your images. I won't bother with it. I did a casual check at eBay, there are many of these at very low prices. Don't count on returning it to Japan, the shipping cost would most likely be more expensive than the lens.

 

On a separate note, there are many other sharp lenses. Good luck.

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He says however, that none of this, at least now, will affect image quality.

Err, well he would wouldn't he?!!!

 

There are plenty of much better examples of this lens with no issues.... unless you got it for free.

 

You don't say what body you're putting this lens on..?

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He assumes the lens has been disassembled several times because of cleaning marks inside the lens.

Don't touch it then!

 

That model of lens has quite a lot of sample variation anyway - my first example, bought new in 1978, was returned and replaced because it wasn't very sharp. Amateur disassembly and re-assembly is hardly likely to improve on its performance.

I'd be using the lens purely for shooting on film.

Then you probably won't even notice if it's a bit below par.

 

And when did just plain old lenses become 'vintage'? This lens was considered pretty run-of-the-mill when new.

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I am not sure how fussy you are with your images. I won't bother with it. I did a casual check at eBay, there are many of these at very low prices. Don't count on returning it to Japan, the shipping cost would most likely be more expensive than the lens.

 

On a separate note, there are many other sharp lenses. Good luck.

 

Thanks Mary.

 

If you search "Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 ai-s manual lens" Nikon produced different versions of this, not all the same. The versions produced for the American market were different than those for Japan, for example. So a casual check might not give an accurate assessment.

 

Also most sellers only do a cursory examination of the lens, mostly based on cosmetics of the exterior, not on extensive examination of the internal optics. They also answer questions in a general way, not in extensive detail, so they might not even notice or mention these kinds of flaws.

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Amateur disassembly and re-assembly is hardly likely to improve on its performance.

 

Yeah, have to say this was my main concern. Like, who worked on it?

 

By "vintage" I just meant 40 years old.

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Any lens that has been dis and reassembled, more than once, by a non-Nikon recognised fixer has got to be suspect.

 

 

$200? forget such stupid prices

 

I didn't say it was $200.

 

Thanks everybody, I'll skip this one.

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The versions produced for the American market were different than those for Japan, for example.

Evidence for that?

Yes, the 50mm f/1.8 went through a few iterations cosmetically, but the optics remained pretty much the same throughout.

 

It's very unlikely that Nikon would run two production lines for domestic and export sale. The only obvious difference being that export lenses had to be randomly sampled by JIIC and have a gold sticker put on them.

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Evidence for that?

Yes, the 50mm f/1.8 went through a few iterations cosmetically, but the optics remained pretty much the same throughout.

 

It's very unlikely that Nikon would run two production lines for domestic and export sale. The only obvious difference being that export lenses had to be randomly sampled by JIIC and have a gold sticker put on them.

 

See Ken Rockwell's site re the lens. I'm not sure I take his word on everything, but he's pretty knowledgeable re Nikon.

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Also most sellers only do a cursory examination of the lens, mostly based on cosmetics of the exterior, not on extensive examination of the internal optics. They also answer questions in a general way, not in extensive detail, so they might not even notice or mention these kinds of flaws.

Glad he did. The detailed description does not sound good, especially the part about corrosion marks from mold or scratches and that he assumed it had been disassembled many times. Such description would have been helpful if he is selling a classic car. But it's something that you can easily buy elsewhere. Think you made a good decision. :)

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Evidence for that?

Yes, the 50mm f/1.8 went through a few iterations cosmetically, but the optics remained pretty much the same throughout.

 

It's very unlikely that Nikon would run two production lines for domestic and export sale...

 

See Roland Vink's site. Nikon Lenses

 

Serial numbers 2050001 - 226xxxx of the 50/1.8 pancake produced for the Japanese market. More than just cosmetics. While the optics may be the same/similar, having CLA serviced multiple copies of each and every version of the Ai/AiS 50/1.8 I can confirm that internal construction is quite different from all other 50/1.8 models.

NIKKOR 50mm 1:1.8 S AIS 2257006

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Michael Freeman, I see one of the few listings in the US selling a Japanese version saying the downside of the lens is they all get oily aperture blades if not serviced. That could be why the original lens in question is assumed by the seller to have been serviced multiple times. I wonder if that coincides with your experience and if it also pertains to the American version.

 

The focus ring on the American version is apparently plastic instead of rubber, and the lens focuses to 0.6 meters as opposed to 0.45. Rockwell claims the mechanics on the American version are inferior to the Japanese version.

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I'm figuring there are a lot of 40 year old Nikon lenses out there with these kinds of flaws. Or not.

In my experience older Nikon lenses, many with obvious external wear, often have good optics with none of the issues you mention. Definitely look elsewhere. I doubt there's any significant difference between the image quality of the various 50mm types. As you are buying it to use, what difference does it make what exact type it is?

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Internet amplification seems to have thrown a thick layer of pixie dust on this lens, but it is exactly the same optically as the slightly larger regular 50/1.8 AIS (which also has a 0.45m close limit).

 

It share optical design with all the manual focus 50/1.8 and differs only in barrel design (and coating, the E versions are single coated) - it is possible it is the same design as the AF version, I haven't checked.

 

The Japanese market compact version is slightly better build than the E versions and the compact export version - and the japanese version maintained the 45cm close focus of the regular size version - the other compacts had a 60cm close focus limit.

 

Unless you need the compact size, the regular version handles much better and has the rabbit ears if you ever need that.

 

Current price in Japan in brick & mortar shops is a little below 16,000 JPY including 10% sales tax. That is around $110.

That is more than they charge for a 50/1.4 AiS (~14,000 JPY) and twice the price of a regular 50/1.8 AiS (~7,500 JPY). So there is obviously a premium on the compact design of this lens.

 

A 40 years old lens will have some dust inside but these are mostly little used amateur lenses and should be easily found without coating issues and signs of repair.

Niels
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I discovered that these lenses are "special" when I sold a camera including a pancake style 50mm F/1.8. The buyer asked me (quite nicely) to cancel the sale because it was the 0.6M MFD type rather than the 0.45M MFD version. To me they looked virtually identical.

 

I suppose the difference between 0.45M and 0.6M - six inches - could become important in certain situations.

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See Ken Rockwell's site re the lens. I'm not sure I take his word on everything, but he's pretty knowledgeable re Nikon.

And I'll second Rodeo Joe in asking for the evidence for that.

 

He is sometimes "useful" but I wouldn't cite him for something like this.

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