Nikkor 43-86 zoom
I have an early model Nikkor 43-86mm f3.5 - 4.5 zoom (non-AI) (serial no. 575194). I have read various reports trashing this lens saying it is the worst Nikon ever made, gave zooms in general a bad name, etc. The odd thing is .... it is one of my favorite lenses. I have used it mainly for portraits, and it seems to give a sharp image but with a kind of softer contrast - not soft in the sense of being unsharp, but just a pleasing tone that works well with portraits.
I wonder if others have experiences with this lens that they would like to share, either good or bad. I just find it hard, based on my own experience, to write this lens off as being as appalling as some others have suggested it to be, and it definitely has a niche as far as I am concerned.
Whatever the sins of the father were, its "reputation" got passed along to the AI descendant which I have and like as a walk-around lens. My view is that the "dog" verdict is just passed along uncritically, urban legend-style, by people who never touched the lens. Shoot, enjoy and ignore the herd of independent minds.
Originally Posted by newcan1
I have an Ai converted version of this lens and have used it for years. It does have its flaws but at certain lengths it is is quite acceptable.
I have an early 43-86 Nikkor and it's bad reputation is justified. Pretty soft and lacking in contrast, especially wide-open. I rarely use mine anymore, mostly it just sits in the closet as a curiosity.
It's also worth noting that the lens was redesigned in 1976. This newer version I hear, is pretty good.
When I first started taking photography seriously, in 1986 at the age of 15, I moved up to my Dad's Nikon F, from a Kodak Instamatic 100 (a 126-format cartridge-loading camera, for those who don't know, not actually an "instant" camera).
He has a few lenses for his F, but the only one he would let the teenage me use was the 43-86, and I have to say that I loved the focal length range. His copy of the lens is early, purchased in Japan in the late 60's, so I know that it's not the updated model. I've gone back and looked at some of the photos I made with it, and they are soft, there is some distortion of straight lines, and sometimes unacceptable lens flare. It really wasn't bad for people pictures.
In 1992 I finally got tired of asking if I could borrow his camera and got my own Nikon F, with a 50mm f/2 Nikkor. There is no doubt that the 50mm is a better lens, but the 43-86 wasn't terrible, and it was certainly better than the Kodak Instamatic 100!
I guess there is some distortion - I noticed in the viewfinder while playing with it this morning - but I'm not concerned about that for portraits. Mine is actually quite sharp. Per the serial number it would seem that mine is likely the coated version manufactured between 1974 and 1976 - not the AI version, but a variant of the early model; perhaps the multicoating improved it somewhat.
Lens coatings are a major difference between the more modern lenses and the older ones, especially for color photography.
Kent in SD
It's bad for shooting air force test charts and therefore "not good". If you like it so be it! One of my favorite lenses is a finely scratched with little coating left Planar on a beaten up Rolleiflex 2.8E I found in an old alley shop in Beijing about 12 years ago. The "signature" of this lens pales compared to perfect Planars I have on other cameras in terms of contrast and fine sharpness yet it's one of my favs for portraits and even some types of b&w landscapes. However most would look at it or shoot with it a couple of times and swear it off. I see it as one of my most treasured cameras and truly unique and special.
I have this lens you mention too and like it just fine particularly for the $20 I paid for it. Will it win any awards for wide open performance? No but it was never really meant to.
I got an early AI version of this lens for pretty much free really. It was part of a package deal for an FE with some other stuff, all for less then the FE alone was worth. Anyway, it had a teensy bit of fungus that was growing on the inside of the front element. I was able to clean that off easily and shot a roll with it. I wasn't expecting much frankly (thanks to terrible online reviews of course) but I thought the images looked great. I couldn't find any flaws really. The pics were sharp and the contrast was nice. It seems like a great choice as a walk around lens for average daylight situations to me.
I have one. It's a little unsharp, but i used it. I enjoyed it until i tried making large enlargements. But I preferred the rendering of the 50 1.4 anyway.