Saturday, June 26, 2021

Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4 Ai

I had this lens up for sale not too long ago.  No one seemed to want to bite, even though I'd put a rather low price on it.  So I took down the forsale ad on my Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4 Ai lens, put it into its case, and put it back on the shelf.  

My wife and I then went on winter holiday, where, for the second year in a row, we got stuck in Nice.


Lens Stories ~ Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4 Ai

OK.  Just how "stuck" can one actually be when in Nice?  

Well, we were "locked down" by the French government due to the extreme pandemic conditions in the Alps Maritime (where Nice is located).  All social events, art exhibitions, and concerts were cancelled and banned until further notice.  Travel was limited to 10km from your place of residence.  We couldn't legally return to Paris, even if we wanted to.

Of course, there was the beautiful Mediterranean sun and warm winter weather, right?  Er.  No.  Not this year.  It rained.  And it rained.  And it rained some more.  And it was cold.  There was snow in the hills around Nice well into April.  Nothing was open, though we could get "take-out" from a couple restaurants in the area, including a wonderful "hole in the wall" pizza place.

I know. I'm bitching and moaning about being "locked down" in paradise.

It did give me time to think, though.  One of the things I thought about were my manual focus Nikkor lenses.  I still have too many of them for one man's own good.  I enjoy having them.  I enjoy photographing with them.

When we were finally able to reach Paris again I was delighted to see all my "stuff" and "things."  Just seeing my several boxes of toys made me smile.

I'd taken a look at out of focus rendition in an earlier article.  There wasn't much to say except the Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4 Ai didn't look a whole lot different than some of my other lenses.  Resolution is as good as anything else.  It was nice but unremarkable.  I hadn't found must "magic" in the lens.


Lens Stories ~ Nikon Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/4 Ai

After photographing three lenses for other articles found here, I turned the Sony A7 and Nikon Micro-Nikkor f/4 Ai on a pretty little orchid my wife brought home.  When looking at the images I thought "gosh, now don't those look nice?"  The out of focus rendition behind the point of focus was quite unexpectedly smooth and delicate. 

My thoughts on this old "Heliar" design Micro-Nikkor lens needed an evolution in light (ahem!) of those orchid photos.  Then I looked more carefully at the lens portraits I'd taken earlier the same day and thought "well well well then, aren't those just drop dead gorgeous?"

Maybe I'd been a little too hasty in putting this old beat-up lens up forsale?

Next month there will be a couple car gatherings.  One in particular should be an interesting event to try this ugly duckling of a Nikon Micro-Nikkor f/4 Ai.  Hopefully my current more highly evolved thoughts will be soon proven correct.

Yes.  I know.  Like everyone else I've been coupe'd up far too long.  I find myself _wanting_ to love this lens and it gives me pleasure to think I've found where the "magic" lay.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Nikon Nikkor-O 35mm f/2 pre-Ai

In 2016 my wife and I visited le Grand Train, a short-term food court event held in an old SNCF railyard on the north side of Paris.

After my usual whinging and thrashing over what to carry by way of camera I finally settled on one of my Sony NEX-5T, a straight-through adapter, and the Nikon Nikkor 35mm f/2 Ai I had at the time.  On the crop-sensor NEX the full frame equivalent works out to around 52mm's, or what we used to call a "standard" focal length.

Lens Stories ~Nikon Nikkor-O 35mm f/2

Soon after, I sold that lens.  Of course, me being me, I soon regretted the sale.  I'd gotten around 150 bux out of it to help finance the purchase of something else I thought I desperately "needed."  My aging brain can't remember what I bought, but I can still remember that lens.

On the rendition of the images I took that day...  I don't know... there is just "something" about them that appeals to me, even now.  Some of it is the Capture One "gold" somethingorother preset I had access to at the time.  Some of it, I felt, had to be the way the lens renders when shot wide open.

Here are two color image examples from le Grand Train.

le grand train

Artful Headlight
le Grand Train
Nikkor 35mm f/2 Ai

le grand train

 Business End
le Grand Train
Nikkor 35mm f/2 Ai


The lens wasn't "clinically sharp" at f/2, but compared with modern lenses it could certainly "hold it's own."  If I needed "clinically sharp", I could certainly get things to look like anything else in the lens kit with a little "smart sharpen" or "capture sharpen" during processing.  

As a side note, I believe Lightroom and RawTherapee have similar "capture sharpen" functions. This can be applied to a file as a way to offset anti-aliasing sensor filters as well as to offset lens "softness."

A couple years later I was browsing That Auction Site out of boredom. I came across an early Nikkor-O pre-Ai copy.  Patiently I waited for the auction timer to count down.  Patiently I watched as no one bid.  Patiently I hoped I could win.  Patience does not come easy to me.  I did the best I could.  Trying to be virtuous and all that... et...  voila! I sniped it for less than 50 bux, delivered.  When it arrived it was in even better condition than I'd thought from looking at the auction photos.  Happiness ensued.


Grand Corso ~ Carnaval ~ Nice ~ 2020
Grand Corso ~ Nice ~ Mardi Gras
"Second Chance" 35mm Nikkor-O
Sony A6000
LensTurbo II focal reducer


This "Second Chance" Nikkor-O, like its Ai series successor, renders beautifully.  Wide open this single coated lens exhibits just a hint of "sparkle" in the highlights that the multi-coated Ai version I had did not.  The out of focus rendition behind the point of focus is Nikon's typical gorgeous smooth under-corrected spherical aberration yumminess that sends me over the moon in delight.

These days the "Second Chance" 35mm f/2 practically lives on a pretty, very low shutter count Sony A7 that I'd also picked up for cheap.  

With the re-opening after a long, difficult pandemic, I'm hopeful there will be plenty of future opportunities to use the combo A7/Nikkor-O.  It'd be fun to come away with a few more good images.


Villefranche sur Mer ~ 2020
Villefrance sur Mer
"Second Chance" 35mm Nikkor-O
Sony A6000
LensTurbo II focal reducer

Monday, June 21, 2021

Nikon Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 ~ two SLR 1960's/1970's versions

In an earlier post I said "... Not that I needed a third 105mm lens or anything like that, but, apparently I needed a third 105mm lens... It appears that I'm the second owner of a gorgeous version of an updated dual rear element optic..."

Lens Stories ~ Nikon Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5

The development history of the fabled Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 lens is well known.  

I remember reading somewhere that Nikon took their c.1954 10,5cm rangefinder lens, shaved 1mm off the rear element to clear the Nikon F SLR mirror, and introduced that lens in 1966.   

Nikon's own Thousand and One Nights series  documents some of this from a designer perspective.  They say...

"...Compared to the previous model with the [Nikkor-P early SLR] Sonnar type lens construction, [the updated Nikkor-P Xenotar type] offers significant improvements in close-range aberration fluctuation, as well as peripheral light, spherical aberration and coma. In particular, it delivers a beautiful balance of focused and defocused (blurred) images, as well as higher resolution with natural gradation. The Xenotar-type lens design with the ideal aberration correction made it the perfect lens for portraits..."


Lens Stories ~ Nikon Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5

I once again have one of each version of this optic.  The chrome-nose 105mm on the right in the top image is the earlier 105mm SLR single rear element Sonnar design.  The black-nose 105mm lens on the left is the 1970 Xenotar update version.

Of course I couldn't help myself and I had to see if I could see these things.  Additionally, I wanted to see how the two lens designs handle highlight transitions.  So I selected a scene that included white screen door material and an edge of a sliding glass door.  I also "Capture Sharpened" images from both lenses to see how much the software normalizes output resolution. Lastly, I wanted to confirm that in terms of "sharpness" that even 50 year old lenses can still "look good", even by today's hyper-sharp standards.

[click on the following image and enlarge to 100 percent]

Comparison ~ Nikon Nikkor-P 105mm SLR version 1 and 2


Now that you've had a good squint at the output, can you tell any difference between the two?  I can't.  Well, maybe a little.  If I really squint hard, stand on the tippy-toes of my left leg, spin counter-clockwise, and chant "lenses lenses lenses."  Any minor differences are really difficult to see and might quickly be put down to focusing differences, if any.

So what have I proven?  Well, both lens designs seem to render highlights very similarly. Both can be made to appear very sharp.  Both handle shadow details equally well, even though they are single coated.  And I can re-affirm that I like both of these lens versions equally.

This leaves me in something of a conundrum.  Which lens would I carry and why?


Lens Stories ~ Nikon Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Old Manual Focus Lenses ~ current collection

I recently downsized my selection of manual focus lenses from an unmanageable to a nearly manageable number of items.  

To celebrate, I thought I'd do yet another "family portrait."


Lens Portrait ~ 2021

Missing from the portrait are two lenses.  One that for some reason didn't make it to the table.  That would be the rather too shy for its own good Nikon Nikkor 50mm f/2 Ai.  It should've gone right next to the pretty little 50mm f/1.8 AiS "pancake" lens at right in the front row.

The second is a lens that arrived a couple days after I took the above photograph.  Not that I needed a third 105mm lens or anything like that, but, apparently I needed a third 105mm lens.  It would've slotted in next to the gorgeous 35mm f/2 on the right and just in front of the early design single rear element Nikkor-P 105mm that is also on the right.

It appears that I'm the second owner of a gorgeous version of an updated dual rear element optic.  It is pre-Ai and, according to the documentation I received, was purchased in late 1973 from a shop here in Paris, France.  There are only a few indications on the focusing ring that the lens is not new.

Along with the lens came two marketing brochures.  They describe Nikkor lenses from the late pre-Ai period as well as from the early Ai time frame.

Here is the scanned pre-Ai lens document.

Here is the scanned early Ai lens document.

When I was young I poured through these two catalogues of lenses.  My imagination was thoroughly fired up by what I saw.  Since I now have these on hand I decided to scan them.  For posterity sake and all that.

You may have noticed that 135mm lenses are missing from the family portrait.  I'll have to wait to see how much longer that remains the case.  I miss the 135mm Ai f/3.5.  I'd sold it in a fit of downsizing.  I think I went too far.

If I'm not careful and before I know it I'm certain to again reach a clearly unmanageable number of manual focus lenses.  

My only justification is that I'm trying my darnedest to limit the budget to well under 50Euro each.  That, and the fact I'm very happy with having found an early Sony A7 24mpixel full frame camera that arrived with less than 800 clicks on the shutter.  It "needs" lenses, right?

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Sony HX90V vs Motorola G8 Power ~ a quick comparison

Well, that was quick.  

I'm back with yet another article on resolution and such Madness.  This time I compare photographs taken using a Sony HX90V 18mpixel 30x zoom point and shoot against a Motorola G8 Power that I recently picked up on sale.

The setup was a street scene.  The camera and phone were shot handheld.  I selected the focal lengths closest to 24mm full frame equivalent.  On the Moto G8P this meant selecting the middle/default lens, where I set the resolution to 16mpixel.  I let the devices deliver the output jpgs using their default image processing modes.  

That's it.  Easy peasy.

Here is a comparison of images between the two devices.

Motorola G8 Power vs Sony HX90V at approx 24mm FF equiv

As is quickly confirmed, the Motorola fixed focal length lens system outperforms the Sony point and shoot at this focal length.  Images out of the Moto G8P are sharp to the very edges.  The Moto G8P colors are more pleasing to my eyes where the Sony color tones feel slightly "washed out."

Compared to APS-C or Full Frame images, these devices produce somewhat "water colory" rendition.  Yet, when downsized for viewing across the web images from the small devices aren't half bad.

Of course the Moto G8P doesn't have the kind of reach that the 30x zoom Sony HX90V has.  But after spending far too long cooling our Covid 19 pandemic jets in Nice, France this past winter where I used the Sony quite often, I realized yet again that I seldom use long focal lengths when I'm out wandering around.  I just don't "see" that way.

I know I'm well "behind the curve" on this stuff.  So I'll close by saying the obvious - cell phone cameras aren't nearly as bad as I feared.