What Were the Good Pre-Ai lenses?

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by waynecrider, Oct 29, 2011.

  1. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I'm seriously considering picking up a non-Ai body and am wondering what the standout lenses were. While I prefer 28mm, 50mm and long lenses, I'll consider anything with good bokeh and resolution. Subject matter is open mountain landscapes, flowers and city shots. Thx.
     
  2. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Most of them except the zooms are outstanding even by today's standards.

    But keep in mind that you don't need pre-AI lenses for a pre-AI body; AI lenses are rearward compatible. You need AI lenses for an AI body, however; pre-AI lenses are not forward compatible unless the camera has a flipable AI tab.

    In other words, AI and AI-S lenses make more sense if you ever intend to use the glass on anything other than a pre-AI body (including modern film and digital Nikons).
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 29, 2011
  4. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    I thought they couldn't index for metering? I though you needed rabid ears.
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    http://www.kenrockwell.com/nikon/nikortek.htm#ai

    Check out the photos of the various lenses on that Webpage to see that AI and AI-S glass do have the meter coupler.
     
  6. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Only the E series lenses came without the ears, and they could be easily added for pre AI metering cameras.
     
  7. Ian C

    Ian C Member

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    AI and AIS manual focus Nikkors communicate aperture preset ring position with F, F2, and Nikkormat bodies via the meter coupling prongs (“gunsight”) on the outside of the aperture preset ring on the lens. This connects to the meter coupling pin on the body or finder.

    AI and AIS lenses communicate with AI, AIS, and AF bodies via the shoulder of the meter coupling ridge cut into the rear of the aperture preset ring. This connects to a rotating ring about the lens mount.

    Some folks have the correct “shoulder” machined into the rear of the preset ring on original F-mount (“non-AI”) lenses to give the older lens AI compatibility.

    Thus, you can use most AI or AIS lenses on any Nikon F body. The only exception is that the PROGRAM cameras, such as the FG, FA, and others require the signal notch of AIS lenses cut with the periphery of a thin milling machine cutter into the rear surface of the lens mount at one of two different depths signifying:

    1. Lens is less than 135mm (or if it is a zoom, its maximum focal length is less than 135mm). In this case the spring-loaded plunger switch of the body will instruct the camera to use the low speed program up to a certain range of light levels.

    2. Lens is 135mm or greater (or if a zoom, its maximum focal length is 135mm or greater). In this case the different depth of the “S” (maximum focal length Signal notch) will instruct the camera to switch to high speed program at a lower light level to avoid blurred shots from slower shutter speeds.

    The Series E (“Economy”) manual focus Nikkors have no meter coupling prong and so can’t communicate with the meter of F, F2, or Nikkormat cameras.

    Other than the restriction on PROGRAM bodies, you can use and AI or AIS lenses on almost any Nikon manual focus body and the position of the aperture preset ring will be communicated to the meter.
     
  8. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    To answer the OP question, I'll stick it out and say of the Non-Ai series, the 85 f/1.8, 24mm f/2.8, 35mm f/1.4, 28mm f/2 are the best. Maybe throw in the 50mm f/2 H as well.
     
  9. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    Standouts? There's hundreds of scientific, pseudo-scientific, and barroom reviews of Nikkors on the web. Few take into account unit and batch variations and many are "judged" in a manner that is patently inaccurate, such as the sharpness of tree leaves, as if the wind never moves them. Nikon often made design and optical changes and didn't make a big deal of it. Only by knowing you need 'this serial number or earlier', or 'that serial number or later' can you be mildly sure of something. (Whatever that might be. An Italian bicycle builder once said "A little mystery will keep us employed.")

    I have three bogus rules I follow if I'm buying: 1. Try and ignore emotion. 2. Later lenses handle flair better (because of better coating technology). 3. Hand-holding and film speed destroys resolving power. Full stop. So you might want to throw away the charts.

    With that out of the way here's *my* list of pre-Ai standouts:

    Any 105mm f/2.5. Truly, the Alpha and Omega of Nikkors.
    50mm f/2
    24mm f/2.8

    If you want my desert island scenario it's

    28mm f/2
    50mm f/2
    105

    Good luck, work 'em hard whatever you get, and don't forget to have fun.

    s-a
     
  10. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    Stick to the links in #2. Rorslett's probably owned and shot more Nikkors than anyone here.
     
  11. Pumalite

    Pumalite Subscriber

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    I like this selection:
    Any 105mm f/2.5. Truly, the Alpha and Omega of Nikkors.
    50mm f/2
    24mm f/2.8

    If you want my desert island scenario it's

    28mm f/2
    50mm f/2
    105
     
  12. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Yeah I was reading the links above and it seemed a pretty comprehensive site. It was very informative as to ghosting and flare and the variations. According to what I read, my picks would included the above with the addition of the 50-300 and the 80-200. I am especially interested in the long zoom lenses for shooting in the SW.

    I'm looking for a FT2 (just missed one here) so if anyone knows anything drop a line.
     
  13. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    Favorite Nikkors

    Personal taste plays a big role, but you will see a few lenses mentioned repeatedly. Actually, bokeh aside, these old lenses were mostly surprisingly good, even compared to modern lenses. Here are some of my favorites (and not favorites):

    24/2.8 - a great wide angle. The 28/3.5 is fine, but you will see the 24 on almost everyone's list. There are at least a couple good 20's also, but the 24 is good, widely available, and not expensive.

    35/2 - I'm very happy with my non-"C" version (not multicoated). The survey link in post #2 gives some good info on the variations. I had the 35/1.4 and was happy enough with it. It is sharper than the f2 but to my eye, bokeh is decidedly better with the f2 version. The 1.4 was noticeably easier to focus.

    50/2 and 1.4 are both great lenses. The f2 is definitely sharper over the whole field, but the 1.4 is a fine lens and has been my preference lately. Neither is generally known for great bokeh. People will show of photographs with nice bokeh from both (and I can too), but both can look pretty mediocre (or worse) in that regard at some stops and distances. I think the bokeh is slightly better with the non-multicoated versions.

    105/2.5-either version. As already mentioned this is one of the great Nikkors. The later Gauss type is really sharp and has good bokeh. The Sonnar is plenty sharp and has a nice look.

    The 85/1.8 gets mentioned a lot and is a very nice lens, but you mention bokeh, and too me it is not in the same class as the 105's, or at least not as consistently. Like the 50's, it can be excellent (especially wide open), but this is one where, to me, the bokeh deteriorates seriously as it is stopped down.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 30, 2011
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  15. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    The 105 2.5 is mandatory :cool:
    I have an early gauss version and will also pick up the earlier sonnar to compare at some point.
     
  16. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    The 85/1.8 and 135/2.8 are sweet if you'd like to skip the line-ups for 105s.
     
  17. markbarendt

    markbarendt Subscriber

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    I don't know if i'd skip that length, my 105 2.5 is way too nice.

    One day I'd like to have the 105 2.0 DC.
     
  18. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    I also have the 135 2.8 (pre ai) that I got really cheap right here at apug recently.
    Only used it once so far but for the money it's a great deal if you can deal with the focal length.

    I actually like 135mm but a lot of folks don't these days if you believe online chatter.

    I have the EF 135 f/2 for EOS canon and that thing is amazing.
     
  19. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    The lack of openmindedness about lenses here and elsewhere can be tiresome and misleading. I guess it's soothing to repeat received wisdom when that's all you've got. This always interferes with these discussions, especially discussions of Nikkor lenses when specific limitations and shortcomings are overwhelmed by generalizations and vague "chatter," as you put it.
     
  20. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    What "limitations and shortcomings" do you see being overwhelmed? Threads to questions like the OP's often decay into 'look at all the stuff I own' monologues, and not just when discussing specifically Nikkors. I don't really see that happening here. Could you be more specific?

    s-a
     
  21. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    I was being serious about the 105 2.5 being mandatory even though I put one of those goofy things after to indicate, (take with one level pinch of salt).

    I think everyone ought to have one considering a pre ai can be had for around 100.00 if you shop carefully.

    It's not especially fast but a good one can sure deliver the shot.

    That's one of the bonuses we are seeing despite other products dropping like flies.
    We get to try stuff we may not have had the opportunity to otherwise.
     
  22. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    I thought you were. It's not just a standout but outstanding too. If you consider an aggregate of resolution, sharpness, color quality, build quality, durability and duration of manufacture it probably outdoes every other lens/formula Nikon has ever made or is likely to make. I have an old 10.5cm and almost never use it but whenever I have it has indeed delivered the shot.

    s-a
     
  23. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    I'm sure CGW will speak up to expand on his comment, but I agree that lens discussions tend to go the direction he described (as I understand it). I also agree with s-a that this discussion has been better than most. I think one thing that helps when discussing old Nikkors is that there are quite a lot of people around who've had long and varied experience with them, more so than probably any other 35mm camera brand.

    The fact that there is sometimes disagreement is a good sign to me in that people have different tastes and concerns. The OP's mention of bokeh really helps to narrow the field with Nikkors.
     
  24. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    I agree 100 percent with that (right down to not using mine much). It is kind of funny that Nikon nailed it so well with two successive and completely different versions of that lens. I do have a guess that this fl/aperture might happen be a relatively easy target to hit. I always thought that Nikon's "E" series 100mm was an extremely nice lens also, and I had an Olympus 100/2.8 (IIRC) that was my favorite lens of the ones I had in that system (when the OM system was new). (Just edited to mention that I realize these last two examples do not in any way live up to the build quality and durability s-a mentioned for the 105's)

    When you bump up a stop, the field of lenses start to drift into different directions more noticeably.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 30, 2011
  25. CGW

    CGW Restricted Access

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    The large number of RF105/2.5s sold obviously proved that the market loved 'em enough to carry the original design and its kids forward with successive SLRs. I prefer the 100/2.8E for its size and weight. It really gives away very little to the 105/2.5. The 105/4 Micro is also sweet but a bit hard to find. I'm still a sucker for the old 85/1.8 and prefer it to the later--and very different design--85/1.8AF. The 85/2 didn't really cut it. Ironically, the new and dirt cheap(<$300) manual Rokinon 85/1.4 is looking like a killer lens on film and digital cameras.
     
  26. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    I rarely shoot the 105 2.5 stopped down but about 2 months ago I was shooting it @ f/8 and IMMEDIATELY upon inspection of the negs I went...woah...(this thing kicks some serious behind)

    Now I've only used the 85 f/2 and that was when I borrowed one on a large project I was assisting.

    The 85 1.8 gets tons o luv and also gives you a good deal more handholdable speeds in low light.