What are the virtues of Pre-AI Nikkor glass?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by chip j, Nov 25, 2018.

  1. chip j

    chip j Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    1,976
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Besides them being cheaper. I can't find any reviews of them.
     
  2. jimjm

    jimjm Subscriber
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    620
    Joined:
    May 2, 2007
    Location:
    San Diego CA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I mainly like the older lenses for their cosmetics, chrome trim and all-metal construction. Perfect with a Nikon F, F2 or Nikkormat body. Plus they are generally cheaper. Some of the older lenses had different optical designs than the later AI & AIS versions, and may give a different look. I have an early Nikkor-P 105/2.5 which is a Sonnar design, and a later AIS 105/2.5 that is a Gauss design and is very sharp. The older lens is not as sharp, but I actually prefer it for portraits.Coatings on the old lenses were not as good, but I always use lens hoods and haven't had much problem with flare. Here's two sites that compare the old/new versions of Nikkors - from Bjorn Rorslett and David Ruether.

    Here's one shot with a plain-prism F and the Nikkor-N 24/2.8 lens on Tri-X. The sun was just above and out of frame, but the lens handled the scene really well.

    alibi_club_sm.jpg
     
  3. OP
    OP
    chip j

    chip j Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    1,976
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks for the Reuther link--scary! (some legendary nikkors are far from great in all respects)
     
  4. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    10,732
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    K,Germany
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Ken Rockwell has quite a few reviews on his site of them. I find them to be great value for the money and often worth to pay for the AI conversion.
     
  5. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    5,036
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  6. OP
    OP
    chip j

    chip j Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    1,976
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I have THAT book--doesn't tell me what I want to know.
     
  7. darkroommike

    darkroommike Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,385
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2007
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Aesthetics aside, older pre-AI lenses were designed before computer ray tracing, CAD/CAM, CNC and multicoatings.
     
  8. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    5,036
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Mike, are you sure about all that? I ask because computer ray tracing was first implemented in the late 1950s, CAD/CAM and 'CNC are manufacturing techniques that don't seem to help designers, and multicoating, whatever that means, has only one effect on lens design (it may allow more air-glass interfaces and acceptable levels of flare than are possible with coating as known before the mid-1970s_.
     
  9. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    5,036
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You asked for reviews. Crawley reviewed equipment. If you meant to ask for comparisons between older and newer Nikkors, you should have asked for that.
     
  10. darkroommike

    darkroommike Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,385
    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2007
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I sold Nikon back when Nikon was transitioning to the AI lens mount, I have never seen any pre-AI literature touting computer lens designing. Most early Nikon SLR lenses are based on their RF lenses, many of which are improved versions of even earlier designs, tessar, planar, etc. Use of digital computers in lens design a more recent development. Until someone that actually worked for Nikon (or EPOI) can pipe in I think I'll leave it there.
     
  11. jim10219

    jim10219 Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    895
    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2017
    Location:
    Oklahoma
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    My only pre-AI ens is a first version 55mm 3.5 macro. I got it because its sharper at macro distances than most of the newer lenses, is cheaper, and has a flat field of view. It was designed as a copy lens and works superbly as a DSLR film scanning lens. Its weakness is infinity focus, which it does acceptable, but I have others that easily surpass it. Most of the newer Nikon macro lenses are better corrected for infinity, with the expense of being less well corrected for macro. They're more versatile overall, but I like this one as a one trick pony.

    In general, most of the newer lenses will be better performers. So the main advantage is price and compatibility with pre-AI bodies. But there are a few examples that offer a specific look or function you won't see in the newer lenses. And if you're looking to have a pre-AI lens converted, you lose the price advantage.
     
  12. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    5,036
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Don't forget the Sonnar. The original 105/2.5 was a Sonnar clone, later ones -- still not AI -- were Planars.

    As for computers, Nikon may not have made much noise about using them. I have some old Nikon propaganda that, like the material you're familiar with, says nothing about them. That said, this story https://imaging.nikon.com/history/story/0048/index.htm says they were designing lenses with computers by 1960.
     
  13. Theo Sulphate

    Theo Sulphate Subscriber
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    5,576
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2014
    Location:
    Gig Harbor & Palm Springs
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Lower prices for pre-AI are not a factor for me; my reasons are actually simple-minded.

    I like the ruggedness and long term reliability and repairability of fully mechanical cameras such as the Nikon F, F2, and Nikkormats. Use of pre-AI lenses on them (which is their original configuration) incurs no liability. For example, you can meter wide open. Yes, a newer Nikkor lens works just as well and may be optically superior, but I prefer to have period-correct lenses on my cameras, which means the AI, AIS lenses get used on my F3/T's, F4s's, and other Nikon bodies that work best with them.

    IMAG9590-1-1.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2018
  14. Kiron Kid

    Kiron Kid Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    Shooter:
    35mm
    28DDA86B-B2AD-437A-B8DE-17523E76CA47.jpeg I’d never part with this gem.
     
  15. TheRook

    TheRook Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    362
    Joined:
    May 18, 2016
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Shooter:
    35mm
    In other words, lenses with character! Not necessarily a bad thing.
     
  16. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    23,771
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    If you own some, most likely they were paid for a long time ago!
     
  17. BMbikerider

    BMbikerider Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    1,678
    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2012
    Location:
    County Durham, UK
    Shooter:
    35mm
    What is good about old Nikor lenses? Well absolutely superb build quality. All top level optics will have improved since the demise of the non-Ai models, both in design and lens coating but to be honest unless you are a specialist using them on an optical test bench Mr Average would be very hard pushed to tell the difference. Even a non Ai lens can be improved by using the camera to which they are fitted being used on a tripod with a cable release.

    The difference can be quite surprising. Even Mr Rockwell suggested the Nikon 20/35 AFd lens was lacking in the corners unless stopped down - not so if the camera is on a tripod. Whilst the sharpness cannot be actually physically changed it means the edge/corners are up to standard and the centre is just that bit better because the optics are completely static.

    I have read so have no personal experience theat the VERY early lenses were deliberately sharper in the centre so they concentrated the eye to the most important part (their idea) of the image
     
  18. OP
    OP
    chip j

    chip j Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    1,976
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Well, that explains some "character' to me. What I want to know is WHAT unique qualities do the lenses have in rendering a picture that makes them desirable. Thanks
     
  19. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    10,732
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    K,Germany
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I'm a big fan of old Nikon glass myself; in my opinion, the biggest bang for the buck
     
  20. Kiron Kid

    Kiron Kid Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    Shooter:
    35mm
    2AD24C08-E4B3-4437-8545-6159083F2C3B.jpeg Nikon pre-AI 105 f/2.5 snap on Portra 400 film. No post processing.
     
  21. OP
    OP
    chip j

    chip j Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    1,976
    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2012
    Location:
    NE Ohio
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Yes, beautiful, soft colors--I noticed that from a couple reviews of that lens.
     
  22. Kiron Kid

    Kiron Kid Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    Shooter:
    35mm
    And sharp. Even wide open. That snap was made at f/4
     
  23. macfred

    macfred Subscriber
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    1,932
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2014
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    A beautiful photograph - really love that lens. It does b/w too ...

    36774687876_f3aa811706_b.jpg
    Nikon F2 Photomic - Ilford XP2 super - Nikkor P - Auto 105mm f/2.5
     
  24. Kiron Kid

    Kiron Kid Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    Shooter:
    35mm
    5A563CC2-0496-4213-9DB9-05A50CD98798.jpeg
    Nice.
     
  25. Kiron Kid

    Kiron Kid Member
    Ads Enabled

    Messages:
    618
    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2005
    Shooter:
    35mm
    XP-2 is an underrated film.
     
  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies. If you have a Photrio account, please log in (and select 'stay logged in') to prevent recurrence of this notice.