Friday, December 08, 2017

Lens Stories ~ Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Q Ai

Lens Stories ~ Nikon Nikkor 135mm f/2.8 Ai

This story begins almost three decades ago.  It involves moving to Oregon, it involves a large company that no longer exists, it involves lunchtime conversations with people who became friends, and it involves a certain Ducati 860GT that swallowed a valve, bent a rod, and ended up in my hands after many years sitting idle.  This tale involves a lens, too.

I was on my way to Seattle to, hopefully, work for Boeing in their passive sensor group.  But before I could get there Tektronix, a company that used to be the center of what was called the Silicon Forest, made me a job offer.  Newly married and looking for a nice place to raise my first wife's children we ended up buying a house in the Portland area.

While my first wife's health slowly failed my work life was challenging in its own way, but it kept food on the table and a roof over our heads.  The division of Tektronix I worked for was sold and I interviewed very poorly at the new company and didn't make the transition.  Instead, I stayed at Tek and finally found a slot in the mid-range logic analyzer division.  Over the course of the five years I worked out at Walker Road where I made many new friends.

One of the guys I had lunch with on a regular basis talked about owning a Ducati that broke a valve, swallowed it, and bent a rod.  I was intrigued by the story of a decent motorcycle that was sitting untended.  My colleague didn't have the time to repair it.  So I paid him a visit.  In fact, I paid him many visits over the years.  Each time I'd pay homage to the Badly Wounded Ducati.

It must've been the alignment of the stars and planets, but one day my friend offered to sell the Ducati.  I jumped at the chance to own something I'd wanted ever since the very first time I rode a 1978 900SuperSport at 130mph down the Ortega Highway in southern California.  That bike belonged to an editor of one of the motorcycle magazines that I sometimes took photographs for.  The handling and pace of the Italian bike really captured my attention.

Granted, the 860GT didn't have the desmo valvetrain of the 900SS, and it had a two step ignition timing advance (instead of a proper curve that advanced the timing as the revs increased).  Still, this 860GT retained it's original Conti pipes which guaranteed it would sound glorious in a Concrete Jungle as I blasted thru.

A little more time, a new piston sleeve, a real 900SS crank set and the bike roared to life.

The former colleague and I have remained friends over the years.  Much of what we talk about, when we aren't talking bikes, is about cameras and photography.  He remains an absolute Camera Freak, even to this day.  In fact, he recently picked up a new Nikon D850.  Just because.  Oh, and he picked up a really nice Zeiss 135mm f/2 lens to go with it.  Which brings us back to photography and this Lens Story.

I lamented to my friend that I very much regretted letting a mint condition 135mm f/2.8 Q Nikon Nikkor go for practically little money.  I'm still not sure what got into me the day I sold it so cheaply.  Mint optics of just about any vintage can be difficult to come by.  Some days I'm stupid.  Other days I'm less stupid.  On that day I was particularly stupid.

Next thing I know, a nice little 135mm f/2.8 replacement ended up in the boite au lettre.  My friend explained to me that since he'd acquired the Zeiss he had no need for the Nikkor and he sent me his old lens.  For free.

That was rather kind of him, but I need to find a way to repay his kindness one day soon.

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