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Nikon's AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8s IF ED telephoto lenses - Part I

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Part I Background and version history of Nikkor 180mm telephoto lenses Some historian believe way back in the '30, Nikon has already produced lenses under the label of "Nikkor" with different mount and configuration for general use even before they made their first rangefinder Nikon 1 camera in 1948. Amazingly, the focal length did not just covered the shorter focal length such as 3.5cm, 5cm which we are so familiar with (such as the Hansa (Canon) series of rangefinder cameras which used a few Nikkor 5cm) but Nikon was also producing tele-lenses from 13.5cm, 18cm, 2.5cm and even long reaching telephotos of 5cm (500mm) in rangefinder mount ! Even when Nikon introduced their own "Nikon" rangefinder models, the limitation of the viewfinder system imposed usually requires a separate telephoto reflex housing in order these lenses be used on the rangefinder Nikon. The first RF (rangefinder) 180mm Nikkor f/2.5 was released in 1953 and was the second tele-lens after the early 2.5cm f/4.0 preset version. Tele- lenses with an opening aperture of f/2.5 was indeed, considered to be quite a rare find during those days and hence, this lens can be regarded as quite an exotic optic as comparable (and in fact, faster) to the likes of Contax / Carl Zeiss JENA 180mm Olympia Sonnar which was offered with a constant aperture of f/2.8. The 1953's Nikkor-H 1:2.5 f=18cm (180mm f/2.5) for the rangefinder was believed to has been supplied in only all matte black finish. The optical composition was a straight forward 6 elements design, mounted in a short mount and only usable via the reflex housing with the Nikon Rangefinders. Closest focus for the lens is approx. 7 ft. But the filter size is an amazing large 82mm - which shows its scale below. Along with a few other old RF Nikkor lenses,it is also classified as a rare and a hard to find piece of antique Nikkor today.

Nikkor-H f/2.5 18cm for Nikon rangfinder camera Old, Nikkor 180mm f/2.5 for rangefinder Nikon cameras

For collectors, the old but rare lens has turned into a USD2,500-00 optic now.. Credit: Image at far left courtesy Camron8888 where I spotted these picture from his EBAY STORE. All image(s) copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Credit: Image of the RF Nikkor-H 18cm f/2.5 with N/F tube shown at he right hand side (see an enlarged view) displayed herein courtesy of Simon Pulman-Jones" <>copyright © 2003.

Over the years that followed, Nikon actually has maintained two telephoto lenses with quite close in the focal length of 180mm and 200mm (but during the rangefinder era, Nikon has a wider gap in focal length away from 180mm, the next lens is a RF Nikkor-Q 25cm (250mm) f=4). While the Auto Nikkor 200mm f/4.0 (Nikkor-Q AUTO 20cm f=4) and Medical Nikkor 200mm f/5.6 were only being introduced at later stage between 1961/1962; while the first 180mm Nikkor telephoto that designed in a F-Mount was only being introduced late in June, 1970.

Nikkor-P Auto 18cm f/2.8 telephoto lens

Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 telephoto lens in Ai-spec

Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED telephoto Ai-S

The non-Ai
Nikkor-P Auto 180mm f/2.8 telephoto lens in the reflex F-mount that shown to the photo community has a typical physical appearance of most Nikkor lenses used during the late '70; typically with a wide diamond grids manual focusing ring and colorful display of focusing distances / aperture values printed onto the lens barrel. It probably has a Nikkor-P.C during the pre-Ai period. This professional grade Nikkor telephoto lens was only being upgraded in 1977 as an Ai-spec Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 in an all new outfit to comply with the Nikkor Ai lens updating program. The last version, Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED was introduced in 1980 with an ED glass element in its optical composition, incidentally, it was the first medium telephoto under 180mm where ED glass was deployed in its optical group and hence this lens was often hailed as the poor man's ED tele-Nikkor (Note: as for the 200mm focal length, the super fast Nikkor 200mm f/2.0 ED in 1977 was the first for the 200mm focal length that uses an ED glass in its optical group). I have used two of these versions and I am still keeping both.. for good as well as for sentimental reason. hehe. The Ai-S Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED is a value packed tele-Nikkor, and it was a hugely popular telephoto lens among many professionals because of its various good elements such as top rated image resolution, portability (weight, dimension), affordability and a good opening aperture of f/2.8. Many Nikon users confidently also group the lens as another Nikon Manual Focus Classic in a highly affordable lens package for their Nikon.

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Part II AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8s IF ED MK I* (original version) telephoto lens
Introduced: Nov. 1986; Discontinued: 1988

In September, 1986, Nikon quietly introduced an autofocus version of the famed MF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8s ED lens. It was among the first initial batch of the mass market first generation autofocus Nikkor lenses. God things was, Nikon did shown some good effort for this lens upgrade. Instead of taking a easy path by just replicating the manual focus design direct to autofocus, Nikon has actually designed the AF lens with an entirely different optical design inside - where internally, a more complex 8 elements in 6 groups design was developed as opposed to the manual focus predecessor of a simpler 5 elements in 4 group. One significant difference found in the AF lens was the adoption of an internal focus design which was never being used in any of the manual focus versions. Unfortunately, very few photographers noticed its presence of an IF feature in this lens - primarily because consumers interest has shifted towards high performance zoom lenses such as the hugely popular AF-Nikkor Zoom 80-200mm f/2.8 IF ED Zoom lens that surfaced a year or two later.

Roland Vink's picture of the AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 IF ED 1st version
Another reason for poor reception of this prime Nikkor telephoto was also partly due to the physical appearance and design used for all the original batch of Nikkor lenses in 1986. They exhibited a rather strong plasticy presence externally and users were quite resistant to such a "new" Nikkor feel and look. One area which also received heavily criticism was the very narrow (1/2") manual focusing ring on the lens. Lastly, it was partly also due to AF performance of early Nikon AF SLRs were still at its in infancy stage and usually telephoto lenses will exhibit focus hunting from near to far or vise versa.

Credit: Roland Vink, NZ. The original image of this lens has a LARGER VIEW, it has been scaled and re-sized to fit into this page. Please also try to give him a hand in his on going project of compiling a database on serial number for Nikkor lenses.

You can say the debut of the Nikkor telephoto was rather a little bit untimely as the early days of Nikon autofocus heavily missed a professional grade SLR to reflect its potential. The MF Nikon F301, AF F501, AF F401(s) available during those days were still regarded as entry level autofocus Nikon models and not until the much better made Nikon F-801 as well as the first professional grade Nikon F4 were eventually being introduced in a late 1988 that finally Nikon photographers had the opportunities to try out the AF Nikkor lenses to evaluate if it is comparable with the performance of the old manual focus classic of 180mm f/2.8 ED. As a whole, although the telephoto was a very good lens but it suffered from poor human engineering, user's interface in its lens design and all these years, it did not received the status it has enjoyed as with the manual focus counterpart.

Skate Boarder by SIMON WAKELIN
The 180mm Nikkor is one of the favorite telephoto lens for journalist as well as sports photographers. the reach permits photographer to capture street scene without being too offensive to the subject. as well as sports with its moderately fast speed maximum aperture. A good example is presented here taken by Simon Wakelin. When combine its own strength with a moderately fast speed film, you can literally freeze any fast pace action even in a less ideal lighting situation. Photo was captured using f/4.0 aperture with photographer good anticipation technique. great shot huh ?

Xplosive View 332k Jpeg |

: Image courtesy of Vieri SIMON Wakelin® associated editior of Digital Photo Pro & Editor of HDVideoPro, who is also an active outdoor photographer himself. Simon also maintains an online PORTFOLIO on his own. Image copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Second version of the AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 IF ED with broader rubber focusing ring
The MK II version of this early AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8S IF ED was probably introduced in 1987/8 as an interim measure to offset criticism of the lack of consideration for older MF Nikon users. Anyway, as during this period, as far as interface and exterior design various other AF Nikkor as a whole is concerned, it was either a love or hate relationship but there were more negative reviews than positive which forced Nikon to revamp the exterior appearance of the entire series of their early AF Nikkor lenses. Critical areas such as the narrow strip of focusing ring has been redesigned with a hard rubberized covered focusing ring which was more closely resembled how a traditional Nikkor lens looked like, while the manual focusing ring was also being broaden wider to provide firmer grip for manual focusing. Well, at least the uninviting, uncustomary exterior has been improved in this 1988 upgrade.

Optically, I think by combining the excellent image resolution of an ED glass elements in this telephoto and the native behavior of the tight compression of perspective will offer photographer with a good telephoto lens for all round usage. Note: The ED glass for this telephoto was located as 2nd element in its 8/6 composition, while the MF version uses as front, 1st element). As I can see a big difference f the autofocus version from the manual focus version was the addition of the IF (Internal Focusing) technology in the lens design which partly compensates sluggishness of the early Nikon AF system. The noise level and hunting focus still persists on some Nikon SLR cameras, in particularly when you focus on a less distinctive background such as close focusing where depth of field is limited which causes the camera AF system to behave less responsively. These has more to do with the early days of camera driven AF system rather than conclusively put the blame on the lens itself. Well, if you can live with some weakness in its exterior finishes, the lens still presents itself as an excellent creative tool for many photographic results and possibilities. Lastly, despite with its moderately fast maximum aperture, Nikon has designed the lens with an additional f/22 minimum aperture - this is useful for some application such as using the lens with its native optical characteristic as a telephoto. Other than the wider and rubberized covered manual focusing ring, both the first and this upgraded version of this AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED-IF can also be easily distinguished with its twisted knob for the minimum aperture lock (where newer AF-D version onwards, it has changed to a slide switch design). However, the lens barrel of both versions still lack of other mid aperture on the depth of field scales (only f/16 and f/22 were provided); to many old time Nikon photographers, this is another irritating design for people who may be fond of using these visual guides frequently.

Overall, despite the little hick ups here and there, if you can omit them this AF Nikkor telephoto does deliver its capability as a true performer. Image just snapped into focus quite rapidly on the Nikon F4. The optical essence is still at its image resolution where contrast is high and sharp across most of the apertures (except for f/2.8 where it is a little soft but it is still well acceptable because it does offers other areas such as gain in shutter speed and a beautifully rendered depth of field). The ED glass has certainly delivered its purpose and chromatic aberration is well tamed. Typically with scenes that contain blue, red elements it will show its differences with a lens that does not has ED. The perspective compression also begin to show in its 180mm focal length where you can make good use of it for other creative works. The close focus ability is an average but you can get higher magnification with a TC attached while retaining the minimum focus distance of 1.5m (7.5'). NOTE: With an Tele-Extender attached, the lens will revert back to MANUAL focusing. Next, it decreases effective lens speed but only reflects in a slower shutter speed, so it is still okay. Some argue it should be designed with a removable tripod collar but although it is a nice suggestion but you have to compromise with portability. Further, come on my friend, if you cannot handle a lens with a f/2.8 maximum aperture, wondering how you can cope with other AF Nikkor zoom lenses with bloody slow f/4.5~5.6 ? Besides, if you prefer the lens be added with additional 150g; that is fine with me but do you think Nikon will not add some premium on the retail price ? if this works fine for you - I am not.

A day in the life in Cambodia, 2006
A typical street scene. Two wheels are largely the main transport in Cambodia. A road side motorcycle repair service.

Interim photo ONLY. Looking for contributing images to substitute this.

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Technical Specification for AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8s IF ED Telephoto lens (applicable to original and MK II*):-

Type of lense: Autofocus Nikkor fixed focal lens with built-in CPU and Nikon bayonet mount
Focal length: 24mm; Maximum aperture: f/2.8; Minimum Aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 8 elements in 6 groups; Internal Focus Design
Picture angle: 13° 40' Nikon DX digital SLR format cameras: 9° (approx. 270mm based on 1.5X factor)
Diaphragm: Fully automatic,
Distance scale: Graduated in meters and feet/inches from 1.5m (7.5') to infinity (OO)
Distance information: Output into camera body with CPU interface system
IS NOT POSSIBLE with this version; Option for manual focus provided
Aperture scale: f/2.8 to f/22 on both standard and aperture-direct-readout scales

Side of of early version of AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 IF ED telephoto lens
Mount: Nikon bayonet mount with CPU contacts; Attachment size: 72mm (P=0.75mm); Meter Coupling Prong: NONE
Depth of Field Scales: provided for/16 and f/22 only
Reproduction ratio: 1:8.8 maximum
Minimum aperture lock: Provided (1st and 2nd version twist knob; slide switch for 3rd version onwards)

Lens Coating: NIC (Nikon Integrated Coating)
Exposure measurement: Via full-aperture method for Ai cameras or cameras with CPU interface system

Standard accessories: 72mm front lens cap; Rear lens cap LF-1; Hard lens case: Original CL38S
Optional Accessories: 72mm screw-in filters
Dimensions: Approx. 78.5mm dia. x 144mm (approx. 5.6") ; 153.5 from the lens mounting flange; Weight: Approx. 750g

Usable Tele-Converters: - TC-201S; TC-14A; TC 16AS (Nikon didn't actually recommend these combination, but only stated using shutter speed faster than f/11 uneven exposure may be occur).
Lens case: older Hard case fro MF version CL-32S may be usable, Case CL-38 for the new lens is original case for the lens.

* Others: AF 180/2.8 IF-ED plastic lens barrel, all plastic manual focusing ring:- 200001 < 204591 - 209997 > Sep86 - 8/6; AF 180/2.8 IF-ED plastic lens barrel, wider rubberised manual focusing ring:- < 2079xx - 210854 > - 1988 Reference: Roland Vink's lens data sheet.

| NEXT | The 3rd upgrade of the AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8s IF ED telephoto lens in all new exterior cosmetic

Brief version history, original and MK II version | AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8S IF-ED New (MK III) | AF Nikkor 180mm f/2.8D IF-ED

RELATIVE:- Early generation of AF Nikkor lenses; Ai-S Nikkor 180mm f/2.8 ED; Ai-Spec Nikkor 180mm f/2.8; Non-Ai Nikkor-P 180mm f/2.8 Auto; Micro-Nikkor Zoom 70-180mm f/4~5.6 IF-ED; AF-Nikkor Zoom 80-200mm f/2.8 IF ED lens group; Other labels:- Canon EF 180mm f/3.5L USM MACRO

External LINKS:- Discussions at Photonet forum on this lens Segment A (compatibility with DSLRs | Segment B (Macro Application); CPU Nikkor lenses listed by LensID; Photozone Reviews: Earlier Non-D version | D-Spec lens; Kenrockwell, Australia own opinion on the lens; Nikon Imaging Site formal listing; A quick price search on AF Nikkor 180mm at Epinion Price Comparison; New or Used prices at Ebay of various AF 180mm lenses

Main Index Page - Autofocus Nikkor lenses

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Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

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