Additional Information on
Nikon's Autofocus (AF) Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Ultra-Wideangle Lens

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A rest.. by RK Foxman
Stealing a moment ...

Credit: Image courtesy of Roman FOXMAN, whose online PORTFOLIO can be accessed at PBase. Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Nikon Autofocus (AF) Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultra-wideangle lens
Marketed 03.1994; Current model as at 10.2006

While Nikon commercially faced one of the darkest period in their camera/lens manufacturing history during the first quarter of the '90, one of the most exciting progress was actually on their constant development on both flash and ambient light metering technologies. While during that era Canon had capitalized on Nikon less enthusiastic approach to update the Nikon F4 series and had began to take a commanding role in the professional users market with the Canon EOS-1N series models, Nikon photographers did found some consolation in a breakthrough metering system first introduced with the Nikon F90/N90. The 3D Matrix Metering system has for the first time in 35mm SLR photography to include subject focused distance into exposure calculation. The system had resulted emergence of a new family of AF-Nikkor lenses which incorporate a distance chip inside the lens which then relays the necessary distance info back to the camera's metering circuitry for an elevated level of metering accuracy. The refined 3D Matrix Metering ONLY works with those autofocus Nikkor lenses that embody with a distance chip within. Hence, beginning from here onwards, we have witnessed a broad scale general lens updating program by Nikon for many of their autofocus lenses and many of the previous AF-Nikkor lenses were being updated with this new feature. The distance information may even be more useful when a compatible new series of high performance Nikon flash (started from SB-25 Speedlight ) and the 3D Matrix TTL flash meter where all these have truly extend new capabilities both for ambient and flash photography where previously, even TTL flash may not entirely works perfectly in many picture taking situations that involve open space behind the subject. For an example, the Nikon F90X/N90s with a new CAM 246 AF Module, other than offering an improved AF performance, it also extends the flash meters with its 3D Multi Sensor Balanced Fill Flash. Overall, this has put Nikon has an leading edge over competitions during that period. But as the refined Matrix Metering only works with a companion AF-D Nikkor lense in place and thus, many Nikkor lenses have gone through the lens updating phase and the AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8s was also partly among the series.

autofocus AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultrawideangle lens by uncle Frank
The AF-D update for the AF Nikkor 20mm was occurred in 1994 where it was almost at the same time when the superbly crafted Nikon F90X was introduced. The new Nikkor AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultra-wideangle now enables utilization of the renewed metering function with capable Nikon bodies. Physically, you may not be able to spot any differences between the new and older versions. However, there is an alphabet "D" being added to the lens data after the aperture f/2.8 i.e 20mm 1:2.8D (see the photo at left). One way or another, the added feature imperceptibly increase the weight marginally by few ounces where I believed it may also involve other internal modification. Assuming if it is only with the inclusion of a small chip set and a strip of printed circuit board, it won't take up to that addition in weight. However, as the published lens data technical sheet is virtually similar to the predecessor, it could be just confined to improve internal AF mechanism in tandem with a compatible high performance Nikon SLR. For an example, the Nikon F90X offered an amazing fast 4.1 fps continuously during focus tracking and it was the best performing focus tracking autofocus SLR during that era.

Similarly, the AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D was also among series of a few other AF-D Nikkor lenses introduced in 1994. Some of them that I can remember are AF Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D, AF Nikkor 28mm f/1.4D, AF Nikkor 18mm f/2.8D etc. Other than the distance information chip, other minor improvement on this upgrade is the revised design of the hard rubberized cover manual focusing ring, where it was being made slightly wider and higher in its rectangular block pattern which provides a more firmer grab. Personally, Nikon could had hiked along with this update to include some mid aperture depth of field scales where the current f/5.6 and f/11 are provided. The conventional f/22 was not found as probably Nikon thought the depth of field for f/22 on a 20mm ultrawide literally requires no precise focusing at all. Well, more is better ? Quite right as not all Nikon SLR models are provided with a functional depth of field preview feature. Well, sometimes it makes me kept wondering what is the bloody additional cost in assisting photographers with an easy visual guide on lens without having to check DOF using DOF preview lever. After all, they are just simple mono-color imprint and omitting the previous tedious old ways in hand painting the excellently displayed colour coded scales. The front filter mounting ring section of the lens is made of metal (possibly aluminum alloy) and could or may survive a few light accidental drops. Further, the front filter does not rotate due to deploying an inner focus design and this has facilitates the use of special filters or close up accessories without the hassle of re-adjust the accessory after the desired focus is achieved.

Absolute Still... Vincent Ethier
Absolute still ...

Credit: Image courtesy of Vincent Ethier, whose online PORTFOLIO can be accessed at PBase. Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

autofocus AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultrawideangle lens
As compared to a simpler 9 elements in 9 groups, this lens actually weighs almost the same with the AF-Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D which was introduced a year earlier in 1993. Despite internally, the AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D has a far more complex 12 elements in 9 groups optical train within, it focuses incredibly fast and whisper quiet with my Nikon F5. The short rotation of focusing may be partly contributed to such performance. The Close Range Correction ("CRC") system which employs with a floating lens element design auto compensate any possible aberrations and ensuring its image resolution be maintained at such close working distances. The lens focuses down to just 25cm and matching the close focus ability of both AF-Nikkor 28mm f/2.8D / AF-Nikor 18mm f/2.8D where it actually performs slightly better than the AF-Nikkor 24mm f/2.8D in this area where, the latter only focuses at its nearest at 0.3m.

Credit: Image courtesy of Adorama <ebay@adorama> URL:, who also operates a popular Ebay Store. Image Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.
The filter attachment size is 62mm which is good for easy sourcing or sharing accessories in your system. A little note on maintenance and care taking, the rear lens element actually protrudes quite far outward, so care must be taken when you intend to place the lens upside down during any lens changing. Although the grove at the rear lens mount serves to act as protective measure but still, care must be taken to avoid costly changing of damaged rear lens element. Lastly, the picture angle with Nikon DX Format digital SLR cameras: 35mm (135) format equivalent to 30mm.

autofocus AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultrawideangle lens side view with lens element autofocus AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultrawideangle lens rear view   Again as a reminder, the AF-D lens has an Ai-S spec in nature and offers excellent backward compatibility with many older Nikon Ai-based MF SLR camera models. Further, Nikon stated it uses SIC instead of NIC. Will this be better or just a change of name from NIC to SIC ?

Credit: Image(s) courtesy of 'Shutterblade's Ebay Store. All image(s) appeared herein are Copyright © 2005.

Minus the little things here and there that could have been taken the ride of this lens update to improve it further, but overall this AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D can still be regarded as great piece of ultrawideangle lens to use, optically, neither it disappoints. Although generally people like to associate best performing part of the lens is at their mid apertures, but I am quite satisfied with the results delivered at two of the extremes of its aperture settings. Surprisingly, even at its largest aperture of f/2.8 image resolution is still holding very well and contrast is still maintaining on the high side. If you like it, this is a good element for low light level photography. The reasonably fast f/2.8 aperture also provides a good image brightness inside the finder. On the other hand, some people may murmur on its minimum aperture in providing a f/22 but I think it is more than adequate for an ultra-wideangle lens as the extensive depth of field generates should well covered most requirement. Anyway, as most seasoned photographers do know how-to manipulate depth of field control to get maximum coverage, so I don't think it is a big issue at all. But I think more importantly, the retrofocus design of this lens has its rear lens element is already so small in its diameter, stopping down to an even smaller aperture of f/32 will definitely yields other secondary optical issues such as barrel aberration and coma. For wideangle enthusiasts who like control or manipulation of distortion and perspective, this can be a lovely wideangle lens for creative photography. The modern trend in photography is toward one-lens-will-do-all kind of concept, which has prompted popularity of a super-widerangle zoom but using a prime ultrawide lens can be a different experience from a zoom. The benefit is, by accustom to its fixed perspective, you tend to be able to generate a sense via visualization of of its angle of view or exaggerated perspective it yields. Although you can argue what it has to offer can be easily replicate via sliding a super-wide zoom to 20mm and equally it has a constant aperture of f/2.8 - but if you ever present an argument from this perspective, probably you will never have a chance to exercise your thinking more frequently. Besides, imagine shooting with a highly portable 270g body weight along with a companion
Nikon F3 or a Nikon FM2N / Nikon FM3A and compare this with handling a 745g AF-S 17-35mm mounted on a 1.2KG Nikon F5 or a 2.4 Ib (1kg) Nikon D2X can be an extreme example how to make yourself relax, exercise your mind on creative aspect of the subject you are interested in rather than spending time struggling to get balance and shoot pictures with a 2 kg heavy combination right ?

Overall, provided you know to to unleash its potential as an ultrawideangle lens, this little optical gem is a good entry candidate for possibly great wideangle photography. Combining a modest entry price, reasonably high built quality, great portability factor and its superlative optical image quality it delivers, the old classic seemingly has a continuation in this autofocus version. As for those who likes to use lab test results as a priority for an investment consideration, just follow on where your heart / mind is. I don't think it will go wrong.

autofocus AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultrawideangle lens top view rear lens element autofocus AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultrawideangle lens side view  

Credit: Image courtesy of Jeff@photocreative ® where Jeff's Company PHOTO CREATIVE INC> has a very popular EBAY STORE on its own. Tel: (905) 629-0100 Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

seperator line

Technical Specifications for AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultra-wideangle lens:-

Type of lense: Autofocus Nikkor fixed focal lens with built-in CPU and Nikon bayonet mount
Focal length: 20mm
Maximum aperture: f/2.8; Minimum Aperture: f/22
Lens construction: 12 elements in 9 groups with CRC floating lens elements for close focusing
Other features: Built in CPU provides distance information for exposure calculation (3D Matrix Metering enables).
Picture angle with Nikon DX Format digital SLR cameras: 35mm (135) format equivalent to 30mm

Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Ultra-wideangle lens setup and indication
Picture angle: 94°
Distance scale: Graduated in meters and feet/inches from 0.25m (0.85') to infinity (
Closest focusing distance: 0.25m (10.5") with Reproduction Ratio: 1:8.3

Distance information: Output into camera body with CPU interface system; Manual focus
Infra-scale: provided (next to focusing index).

Aperture scale: f/2.8 to f/22 on both standard and aperture-direct-readout scales
Minimum aperture lock: Provided via slidable switch

<<<-- To differentiate IF your AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 is a D-type with distance relaying chipset, is to see if the lens data has a "D" behind the f/2.8. i.e. it should marked as 1:2.8D for the newer series. The dedicated lens hood HB-4 is a bayonet mount type.

Credit: Image(s) courtesy of 'Shutterblade's Ebay Store. All image(s) appeared herein are Copyright © 2005.

Doggie at rest, Photo by Ken Tsang
Here is simple and good demonstrative photo by smartly combining close-up with scenic in using a 20mm AF Nikkor. Photo Credit: Image courtesy of Ken Tsang <>. Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

Depth of Field Scales: provided for f/5.6 and f/11 only
Diaphragm: Fully automatic, 7 blades; Lens Coating: SIC (Nikon's Super Integrated Coating)
Exposure measurement: Via full-aperture method for Ai cameras or cameras with CPU interface system ; not advisable for non-Ai Nikon bodies
Mount: Nikon bayonet mount; Attachment size: 62mm (P=0.75mm)

Optical construction of the autofocus AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultrawideangle lens MTF chart anylysis of Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Ultra-wideangle lens
Usable Tele-Converters: - TC-201(s) or TC-14A - manual focus only but meaningless to do so unless in a" life and death" situation.
Standard accessories: 62mm Snap-On front lens cap; Rear lens cap LF-1; Hard lens case: the newer CL-30S Usable (Optional)
Optional Accessories: 62mm screw-in filters, Screw-in lens hood HB-4 (Optional)
Dimensions: Approx. 69mm (2.7") dia. x 42.5mm
Weight: Approx. 270g (9.5 oz.)

NOTE: Production Serial Numbers believed to have started from 300001 for this AF Nikkor wideangle lense <305001 - 379751> - Roland Vinks's data -

lens hood HB-4 for Nikon AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D Ultra-wideangle lens autofocus AF-Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D ultrawideangle lens nice view
| NEXT | The next ultrawide, Nikon AF-Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 versions

Version History: | Nikon 2.1 cm f/4~f/16 Nikkor-O | MF Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 UD Auto | MF Nikkor 20mm f/4.0 | MF Nikkor 20mm f/3.5 non-Ai/Ai | prototype Nikkor 20mm f/2.8 | MF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8s | AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8s | AF Nikkor 20mm f/2.8D | AF RS-UW Nikkor 20-.35mm f/2.8s | Relative: Canon equivalent of the Autofocus EF 20mm f/2.8 USM Ultra-wideangle lens

Some suggestive reading reference of this Nikon 20mm wideangle lens on the web (External Links): Ken Rockwell's one-page summary; Ebay Search on prices of used AF 20mm f/2.8 Tom Hogan's post at; Nikon Imaging brief summary

Main Index Page - Autofocus Nikkor lenses

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Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E

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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