Steve's Web Site

A History of my Photography

Older Lenses


500mm f8 Reflex Nikkor

500mm Reflex Nikkor viewed from the front. The primary mirror can be seen as well as the small obstruction of the secondary mirror.

    I bought this lens used back in 1975. It weighs about 1 Kilogram (2.2 pounds) and is about eight inches long. Despite its short length it has a 500mm focal length. I does this by using mirrors. The light goes through the front corrector lens, and strikes the primary mirror at the rear of the lens. It is then reflected forward to strike the secondary mirror and is reflected back through some lenses to the camera. This is called a catadioptic system since it involves mirrors and lenses.

500mm lens viewed from the top showing the focusing scale and the tripod mount release lever. The label in front says "Preset Light Meter" and is a reminder for use on pre AI cameras. The label was on the lens when I bought it used in 1975.

    Focusing is provided by turning the main barrel which changes the distance between the primary and secondary (and also the focal length). This design provides a long focal length in a short light package. The down side is that contrast is reduced by the central obstruction of the secondary mirror and only one manufacturer has ever made an auto focus mirror lens.

Rear view of the Reflex Nikkor with the filter ring visible inside the lens mount. The tripod shoe is visible at the bottom and the release lever is visible on the right. It allows either the tripod mount to rotate allowing vertical or horizontal shots.

Out of focus highlight show up as donuts rather than circles so the bokeh is unique. The best feature of this lens is the long focal length in a short light package.


55mm f3.5 Micro Nikkor

Front view of the 55mm Micro Nikkor showing how far the front element is recessed into the lens barrel.

    Back when I bought my F2S the most common lens to buy with it was a 50mm - either a f1.4 or f2. Theses so called normal lenses were inexpensive and very popular as a first lens. Having had similar lenses with my Pentax Spotmatic I was very aware of the weakness's of these lenses - Moderate sharpness and a curved subject field.

The 55 Micro-Nikkor with the lens at closest focusing distance and the extension tube attached. In this configuration the lens provides 1:1 magnification

    To avoid these problems I purchased a 55mm Micro Nikkor as my normal lens. This lens is much sharper and has a flat subject field. While it is slower than the other lenses I preferred the sharpness over speed. The lens focuses to a 1:2 magnification ratio and is provided with an extension tube that takes it to a 1:1 ratio.

The rear of the Micro-Nikkor showing the parts that extend into the mirror box and making the lens unusable with some modern cameras.

    It is an excellent lens and still works fine today.


105mm f2.5 Nikkor

Front view of the 105mm Nikkor AIS Lens

    This is the second lens purchased for my F2S in 1975. This lens is well known for it's exceptional sharpness and fine bokeh. It has worked well up until the turn of the century when the diaphragm quit working. I was unable to have it repaired due to a lack of parts for a lens this old.

Top view of the lens with the focusing hood extended. The built in lens shade has been extended. Notice the dual marking for the f-stop, one for normal use and one for ADR

    I replaced it with a newer AIS version from eBay. Unlike the earlier lens which had a snap on lens shade that reversed for storage, this model has a built in retractable lens shade. This lens has developed oil on it's diaphragm blades. Since Nikon uses a spring to hold the blades stopped down this is a problem. The lens will still function if I store it front end up, but if I use it for macro work nose down for any amount of time the problem returns.


8mm f8 Fish Eye Nikkor

8mm f8 fisheye Nikkor with lens cap in place. The long black object on the bottom is part of the optics that extends into the camera body and almost touches the film.

    I rented one of these lenses from the camera shop where I purchased my F2S and had good results with it. I was in New York City a few years later and found a used one for a low price, so I bought it. This lens produces a circular image that covers 180 degrees. It is not a reflex lens and requires that the mirror be locked up and separate viewfinder be used. The viewfinder only mates to an F or F2 camera and it's necessary to remove the viewfinder prism also. The wide field make it impossible to use a tripod for a horizon centered picture.

8mm Fisheye shown mounted on a Nikon F. Notice the auxiliary viewfinder mounted above the rewind knob.

    I found myself holding the camera out at arms length to avoid my feet being in the picture. With all the difficulties of using this lens it spent more time on the shelf. I eventually sold it for more than twice what I paid for it because it was now very rare.


20mm f3.5 Nikkor

Front view of the 20mm Nikkor-UD.

    The need for extremely wide angle lenses existed back in rangefinder days. Nikon made a 22.1cm Nikkor for their range finder cameras. When the Nikon F was first introduced they attached a Nikon F bayonet mount to the 2.1cm lens and with it's viewfinder could be used on the Nikon F. It did require the mirror to be locked up and a separate viewfinder  so it was not a good long term solution. This lens the 20mm f3.5 was the first super wide lens for a Nikon camera that worked with the mirror down and provided the image in the viewfinder prism.

Top view of the 20mm Nikkor.

    Nikon made this lens to replace their earlier 21mm lens. The 21mm required mirror lockup and a separate viewfinder, this lens was a reflex design and you used it like any other lens. It has been an excellent lens for interior shots as well as wide view scenic pictures.

Rear view of the lens.

    My copy was the last of them since it was replaced by an f4 version. I bought it in 1975 and it still works fine.


80-200mm f4.5 Zoon Nikkor

Front view of the 80-200 Zoom Nikkor

    This is the lens that put zoom lenses on the map. Prior to this lens you would use zoom lenses when you needed the flexibility, but you had to live with a lens that was less sharp than the fixed focal length equivalent. This zoom lens showed itself to be just as sharp as the 85mm f1.8, 105mm f2.5, 135mm f2.8, 180mm f2.8 and the 200mm f4.

Top view of the 80-200mm with the one touch zoom-focus ring in the 80mm position.

    It was about the same size as a 200mm f4 Nikkor and only slightly slower, so it made a good choice in a camera bag in place of several other lenses.

Close up of the depth of field scale showing the colored lines coded by the colors on the aperture ring.

    An interesting colored scale was use to show depth of field on the barrel of the lens. the colors matched the color of the f stop markings. It allowed determining the depth of field at any focal length or f stop.

Rear view of the lens. You can tell that this is an AI convert by the lack of the maximum aperture post.

    It was a respectable f4.5 itself and was compact and easy to use with its single zoom/focus ring. I picked one up on eBay that had been converted to AI, and later found another at a swap meet for $10 so I have two of them.


35-85mm F2.8 Vivitar Series 1 Vari-Focal

Front view of the 35-85mm f2.8 Vari-Focal Lens. This lens uses a 72mm filter size which was uncommon at the time is was first sold.

    I bought this lens with my Nikkormat EL in 1975. At the time it was a revolutionary lens - It covered wide angle to telephoto in one lens and at a f2.8 speed as well. It isn't a zoom lens in that it didn't hold focus as you changed the focal length but it was still easy to use due to its single control ring. It was quite large and required a 72mm filter.

Top view of the 35-85mm lens showing the focusing scale.

    Vivitar introduced their Series 1 lenses in the mid 1970's and this was one of their big stars.

Rear view of the 35-85mm lens

    I was able to get excellent results with this lens. I fell down a ladder carrying this lens in a hard shell camera case. Even though the lens was not on the camera the fall caused the internal pins to break.  I kept it for a number of yeas finally getting rid of it. I have since purchase an AI version that works fine.


70-210mm f3.5 Vivitar Series 1 Zoom

Front view of the 70-210mm f3.5 Series 1 Zoom lens.

    This is the second lens I bought to go with my Nikkormat EL. It was a direct competitor to the 80-200mm f4.5 Zoom Nikkor. It was faster and cheaper and offered a macro focusing range as well. The lens always performed well with the only problem being the limited use of the macro focusing range.

Top view showing the infrared focusing scale.

    The lens uses 67mm filters which was an odd size in the 1970's. The 80-200 f4.5 Zoom Nikkor used a 52mm filter like most of the Nikkor lenses of that period.

Rear View of the 70-210 lens.

I sold the lens with the Nikkormat EL. I have recently purchased an AI version of the lens on eBay where they are quite inexpensive.