Nikkor lens versions

Nikon Corporation has produced millions of lenses for rangefinder cameras, single lens reflex cameras, large format cameras and movie cameras. All named Nikkor. The rangefinder lenses have their own mount, nowadays called the S-mount. It is in fact a copy of the lens mount of the very early Contax cameras. Lenses of both brands are interchangeable but there is a difference in the pitch of the focus wheel in the camera mount. If a Nikkor lens is used on a Contax rangefinder camera - or a Contax/Carl Zeiss lens on a Nikon rangefinder camera - an indication in the rangefinder that focusing is OK may not coincide with the distance scale on the lens.

All lenses for Nikon single lens reflex cameras - including all film, digital and APS SLR cameras - have the so called F-mount, named after its inventor/designer, the famous Nikon engineer and former managing director Masahiko Futeka. Via an Nikon N/F-adapter it is possible to mount some RF-telelenses on a Nikon F camera.

Modern Nikon lenses have a G-mount (G = gelded), which is of the same shape as the F-mount, but lacks the aperture ring. Also the mount of APS lenses, the so called IX-Nikkor, looks like an F-mount. The IX-lenses can be used on other cameras, but the rear lens may be damaged by the mirror.

The Nikonos underwater cameras and lenses have their own mounts. All Nikonos lenses can be used on all Nikonos cameras, except those that are designed for the Nikonos RS single lens reflex camera.

For film dark room equipment Nikon produced a wide range of excellent enlarger lenses, known as EL-Nikkor. Most of EL-Nikkors have the so called Leica Thread Mount (LTM) of 39 mm. For the only one Nikkormat/Nikomat slide projector (see relevant chapter) a Pro-Nikkor f/3.5 - 4 inch (the only Nikkor with its focal length in inches!) was produced. Although in the sales brochure of that slide projector more lenses were announced others were never produced.

Nikon produced lenses for cameras with a larger film format than the 35mm.-film. Many years Nikon supplied Zenza Bronica Industries in Tokyo very nice Nikkor lenses - with a focal length of 40mm up to 1200mm.- for its Bronica (6 x 6 camera series. Other companies Nikon supplied Nikkors to are Plaubel Makina, Konishi, Mamiya and Aires Camera Co. For large cameras, also known as ´optical bank´ cameras (Sinar, Toyo, Linhof, etc.) Nikkor produced various lenses with a built-in (interlens) shutter.

Finally Nikon produced many lenses for a variety of movie and TV-cameras. Well known are the lenses for 8mm-movie cameras of Revere (1950-1960´s) and Sony Betacam TV-cameras.

Note: Nikkor SLR lenses, produced rom 1959 - 1977 (before the introduction of the Aperture Indexing (AI-) system), will not fit cameras build after 1977. These lenses should be converted to the AI-system. Nikon provided to repairmen AI-conversion sets for nearly all lenses they produced. Nowadays it will be hard to get these kits. If you need one have a look at the site of Nikon fan Roland Vink, who listed all kits produced by Nikon.


Variations in F-mount

Although the F-mount didn´t changed since 1959, when the first Nikon SLR was introduced, inside and around the F-mount many alterations have limited the use of certain Nikkors. Each lens flange has three half-round bulges of an average length of 22-28 mm. Around that flange various ridges, levers and buttons can be found. Each with a specific task.

All older Nikkor lenses are fitted with slot/groove screws, since 1973 changed by crosshead screws (aka Phillips screw). If the flange has to be removed not all screws are holding the flange; some (like the black one on top) has another function. In the picture shown above the numbers are referring to:

1. ridge on top of the aperture ring ´passing´ the maximum aperture to the built-in exposure meter via the tab on the camera lens mount. Also known as AI-coupling ridge.

2. hollow passing the focal length of the lens to the automatic (shutter) program of the Nikon FA. The exposure program will be altered when a lens with a focal length of 135mm. or longer is fitted. Also known as AI/S coupling hole.

3. notch locking the lens when mounted. To unlock the lens press the button next to the lens mount on the camera (at 9 o´clock).

4. tab passing the maximum aperture of the lens in use to the camera.

5. notch for the auto focus drive shaft.

6. tab for the DS-1, DS-2 and DS-12 aperture control unit fitted on a Nikon F2.

7. this lever will - mechanically - connect to the aperture lever in the mirror house. If the depth-of-field lever of any camera is pressed or if the camera fires the shutter, via this lever the set aperture in the lens will be closed.

8. locking tab on AF-lenses. For automatic aperture control all AF-lenses should be locked at smallest aperture (data in orange).

9. up to 8 electronic contacts for the exchange of data between the lens and the camera.

Not all Nikkor lenses have all of the shown contacts, tabs, etc. All non-AF lenses have an additional prong to couple the exposure meter with the lens (see below)

The very first F-lenses have the (left) triangle prong, followed (early 1970) by the rounded prong to ease coupling. In May 1977 at the introduction of the AI-system (aperture indexing system) a prong with little openings was fitted. It enables to read the aperture data which reflects into the prism viewfinder of an SLR better. In September 1981 the openings were widened to improve readability.

Above some Nikkor lens mounts: left an AF-Nikkor with its electronic contacts and AF drive shaft (at 4 o'clock), mid: a manual focus lens with AI-mount, without contacts and right an AF-D VR lens with all contacts used but without AF drive shaft and without aperture ring.


Nikkor lens versions

The very first SLR lenses - we call them nowadays the 'A'-version - have a scalloped focusing grip, as well as a scalloped aperture ring, a chrome filter ring (aka chrome nose), a closed triangular aperture coupling prong (see above) and 'auto' engraved in the front name ring,. Some A-lenses have the distance scale in inches or in millimeters or in both. The last A-lenses were made in 1967. They are succeeded by the C-lenses, having a black filter ring (black nose), still a scalloped focus grip nd a 'C' (for coating) engraved next to the letter that indicates the number of lens elements and a rounded aperture prong. In 1970 the K-lenses were introduced, having a rubber covered focusing grip. The C for coating disappears. All lenses still have the aperture prong. In 1977 the N-lenses with the AI-coupling ridge are introduced, followed by the AI/S-lenses in 1979. A variation of the latter lens is the Series-E lens that was introduced with the Nikon EM camera in 1979. The AI and AI/S lenses have a open rounded aperture prong. The Series-E lenses don not have a prong, but there are tiny holes in the aperture ring to mount a prong if needed.


Nikkor special specifications

Since Nikon Corporation is able to melt its own glass and to design and manufacture any lens it desires, various Nikkor lenses has been marketed. In 1968 the first Nikkor with an aspheric lens - Fish-eye-Nikkor 5.6/10mm. OP (orthographic projection) - was introduced, followed by the famous Noct-Nikkor 1.2/58mm in 1978. Those first aspheric lenses were hand grounded, nowadays there are several methods to produce such a lens at reasonable costs. The ´precision-grounded´ lenses are still used (like in the AF-Nikkor 1.4/28mm and AF-Zoom-Nikkor 2.8/20-35mm.), but in various zoom lenses ´hybrid-aspheric ´ lenses are used. Here the aspheric part is cemented on the lens, as a ´molded´ aspheric lens is what it says: molded in an aspheric shape or form.


Close Range Correction is a special technique where a part of the lens moves differently from the rest.


Internal focusing is a system where only a part inside the lens is used for focusing. In some lenses extra elements have to be fitted, which can cause extra internal reflection.


Rear focusing is a variant on the IF in that the rear part of the lens is moving for focusing.


Defocus Image Control is used in portrait lenses in order to obtain unsharp area´s just in front of of or behind the sharp motive.


Most Nikkors have an F-mount, but some newer (since March 2001) Nikkors have a G-mount. Those lenses are missing the aperture ring and therefore can´t be used on older Nikon SLR´s. G-mount lenses can be used - with all program features - on a Nikon F6, F5, F100, F80, F65, F50, F-401-series, Pronea 600i, Pronea S and all digital reflex cameras. They may be used on a Nikon F4, F90-series, F70, F801-series and F601M too, but in programs P and S only.


Introduced in 1994 these rather cheap and thus affordable auto focus Nikkors are (mainly) made in Nikon´s factory in Thailand. Optical performances are - however - very good. Mechanically they are not the strongest lenses.


In 1992 when the sophisticated Nikon F90 was introduced Nikon presented the first range of AF-Nikkor D lenses. These lenses have a built-in chip that communicates the focus distance to the camera, enabling the matrix exposure metering to set an adequate exposure for that particular area in the image. It also assists the exposure meter when using a Nikon flash (SB-26 and later). The flash will be dosed on base of the measured distance between the camera and the object in focus. Distance data transfer is only possible when mounted on a Nikon F6, F5, F100, F90X, F80, F75, F70, F65, F55, F50, Pronea-series and all digital reflex cameras. Automatic flash coupling only works with the Nikon F6, F5, F100, F90X, F80, F75, F70 and all digital reflex cameras.


Introduced in 1992 as (tele)Nikkor with a built-in motor. Long tele lenses need a long and energy consuming drive shaft form the camera to the aperture in the lens. The early fast AF-Nikkors in 300, 400, 500 and 600 mm. focal length were fitted with a motor.


Introduced in 1998 as the successor of the AF-I lenses, all AF-S lenses have a built-in Silent Wave Motor for focusing. Most of these lenses have - relatively fast - internal focusing or rear focusing. The long focal length lenses have an additional manual override. Unfortunately these lenses cannot be used on older auto focus film cameras (like F-801), save in M (manual)-mode. The SWM gets his power from the batteries in the camera.


These are auto focus lenses with a built-in vibration reduction system, enabling to take pictures at low light or when moving. This Vibration Reduction feature can be used when mounted on a Nikon F6, F5, F80, F75, F65 and all digital reflex cameras only.


These lenses are designed and made for use on digital cameras with a small sensor (APS-size). When used on other SLR camera vignetting may occur.


Specially made for the APS-SLR (Pronea-series) cameras. These lenses have no aperture ring (like the G-lenses) and the rear lenses are protruding in other cameras which may lead to damages.


Specially made for the digital mirrorless compact cameras, like the Nikon-1 series. They can't be used on other cameras. Most lenses mentioned above can be used on the Series-1 cameras via an adapter.

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