A lot of people may not have realized the fact that, other than photographic lenses, which have actually made them world famous, Nikon was also an active player involved with commercial production of related optical instruments such as Ultra-Micro-Nikkors for production of IC's and LSl's, EL-Nikkors for photo enlargement, APO-Nikkors for photoengraving, Cine-Nikkors for 16mm movie cameras, Repro-Nikkors for 35mm life-size reproduction, and a variety of other lenses for TV cameras, optical measuring instruments etc.
In 1979, barely a year after Nikon introduced their fourth automatic SLR camera model Nikon FE, Nikon introduced a new series of SLR cameras in an ultra-compact fashion. The Nikon EM was the first of such new concept SLR model.
More importantly, these compact Nikon SLR models were the first among many Nikon SLR cameras that clearly departed from the obligation to support older non-AI lenses, as the meter coupling lever was designed as a fixed type on the lens mount. During the same period, a new series of cheaper and lighter lenses was developed to supplement these compact cameras; Nikon FG & FG-20 after the compact Nikon EM. The Series E lenses were also the first batch of Nikkor lenses that came with a revised specification of AI-S (Standardized aperture stop down action). The Series-E lenses is also the only batch of lenses produced by Nikon that is not stamped with a "Nikkor" trade name. These new updates resolved the complexity invovled with enabling an SLR to provide Shutter Priority and full Programmed Auto exposure modes, since the aperture could now be controlled via the aperture stop down action.
Note: The brand names of "Nikon," "Nikkor," "Nikkorex," "Nikkormat" and "Nikonos" are derived from "Nippon Kogaku K.K."
The classic professional Nikon F3 was announced in 1980 to replace the decade old mechanical classic Nikon F2. It was the first automated F-series model entirely electronically controlled except for a sole mechanical backup shutter speed. That was followed by Nikon FG in 1981, which incidentally was the first Nikon SLR camera that offered Program AE mode control. However, the FG works with a minimum specification of any AI-lens. This is possible due to instant stop-down metering. The Original Nikon FM2, introduced a year later in 1982, was the first among the mid-range Nikon FM & FE series models that abandoned the backward compatibility with non-AI Nikkor lenses. The Nikon FA, announced along with the Nikon FE2 was the first true multi-mode AE Nikon SLR camera. It can provide Shutter priority AE in addition to Aperture priority AE, Program AE (normal and High Speed programed AE), and full manual control. The various AE controls does not require an AI-S lens, but when a such lens is used instant stop-down metering is not required. Nikon FA also introduced the innovative multi-segment evaluative metering developed by Nikon to be used for metering computation with the Nikon FA (The method is later called called "Matrix' metering - it was also used in some of the higher-end P&S cameras such as the 35-Ti and 28 Ti). The Nikon FA was awarded European Camera of the Year as well as the Japan Camera Grand Prix for the Matrix Metering system - the first industrial awards for Nikon.
Supplement: The Nikkor lenses with an updated Ai-S lens coupling system introduced during early '80 was supposedly designed to extend capabilities of Nikon SLRs' metering/exposure system to take on challenges posted by changing environment in the SLR camera market. The added on mechanical extension, pins and levers would enable transmission of additional lens information to capable Nikon cameras models in computation for metering and/or more complex automatic exposure controls. Because In a updated Ai-s Nikkor lens configurations, additional camera exposure control modes offereed in the new generation of Nikon SLRs such "intelligent" program AE, shutter priority AE modes would require additional linkage between camera body and lens in order to function properly. Thar was essentially the main goal behind the development of the AI-S lens couping system was all about. But frankly, much due to the shift of attention by camera manufacturers to development of autofocus with the debut of the Minolta AF Maxxum 7000 SLR camera system; so further development in possible more Nikon SLRs with complex design was halted during that time. Thus, other than Nikon FA and Nikon F-301, there were actually not many Nikon MF camera models that actually have benefited directly from the incorporation of the AI-S features into the Nikkor lenses. However, subsequent Nikon AF SLRs which usually have multi-programmed AE modes incorporated also required the Ai-s specification to enable better compatibility in both meterng and exposure control. So, it is not true that such development program effort was entirely wasterful.
One significant development amidst same period of development of those multimode AE Nikon SLR models was the emergence and quick acceptance of zoom lenses by photographers. The advantages of zoom lenses was distinctive with their ability to offer variable focal lengths by simply zooming in and out and find the best focal length for the compositions.
I am not totally against zoom lenses, but it depends on whether you position yourself as a photographer. UNLESS you are a seasoned photographer who has has already developed enough skill to make use of the various picture angles each focal length presents, I still don't think zoom lenses will benefit those who are still new into the medium of photography - primarily because one might not be able to get a true feel between relationship of perspective and the angle of view generates by the respective focal length in a zoom lens. Visualization of how you envision a photograph at will needs a lot of experience and it might take years to develop that "feel". Generally, to interpret such senses will help a lot in increasing the success rate within a roll of film (you can visualize before you even look through the viewfinder and roughly picture the eventual effect with the selection of the corresponding lens). On a personal note, unless you are willing to cough up more from your pocket, it is still really hard to be convinced that, zoom lenses are rivaling primes in optical quality. This is especially evident in situations with strong backlight.
Well, Nikon is no stranger when it relates to zoom lenses. In fact, the first Zoom lens was a 8.5~25.0cm f/4~4.5-f/16 Zoom-Nikkor Auto back in 1959 ! Their second zoom lens was equally amazing, it was a design with 13 elements in 7 groups; Auto Nikkor Telephoto Zoom, 200mm~600mm f/9.5-10.5~f32, introduced in 1961 along with few other zoom lenses such as 43~86mm f/3.5-22 Zoom-Nikkor Auto, 3.5~8.5cm f/2.8~f/4.0 Zoom-Nikkor Auto (source: The latter was extracted from Michael Liu's site which again referred to Popular Photography, p. 36, June 1961). The 43~86mm zoom was Nikon's third Zoom lens, and it was once considered to be the most popular zoom lens in 35mm SLR photography. However, the next introduction was quite distant apart in 1965, where another stunning high powered zoom lens in a design with 20 elements in 13 groups; 50~300mm f/4.5-22 Zoom-Nikkor Auto was marketed. Despite all these early original effort, most professional photographers during that era still regarded zoom lenses as a convenient solution tool rather than taking them seriously as high quality optics. A real breakthrough for altering the entire perception towards zoom lenses occurred in 1970 when Nikon brought us a Zoom Nikkor 80-200mm f4.5 Auto, ".... the epoch-making zoom lens which received rave reviews for its outstanding sharpness at all focal length...". Well, as a matter of record, the first Nikkor wideangle zoom lens, was a Nikkor 28-45mm f/4.5 introduced quite late in 1975.
Since then we have seen many upgrades of zoom lenses. The early and mid-eighties was also considered as the era of high performance zoom lenses where high powered zoom ratios also began to surface. Strangely, it needed another major player in 35mm SLR manufacturer, Canon which kept breathing down Nikon's neck to their supremacy at the professional market, to push development forward. Probably, such positive competition, as those repackaged Canon L-series zoom/prime lenses which actually provided right stimulus, to pressure Nikon to upkeep both development of their SLR cameras and Nikkor lenses.
As many people noticed, the design of Nikon SLRs during the first quarter of the 80's began to incline towards automation. However, it was surprising that Nikon only concentrated in upgrades rather than full scale deployment of any new technological breakthrough in their lenses. The explanation could be: Nikon had to keep up with the rapid pace of sophisticated automation deployed in their SLR cameras along with backward compatibility of their older lenses; and, another major factor was the new found battleground which was flooded with early autofocus SLR lens prototypes introduced by various 35mm SLR manufacturers; the confusing state which had the market slowed down with commitment to development of manual focus optic.
One clear example is the Nikon F3AF which has two companion AF lenses and an innovative device, AF-teleconverter TC-16A. The AF-Nikkor 80mm f2.8 and AF-Nikkor 200mm f3.5 ED are in fact the only two AF Nikkors that have a micro motor incorporated within the lens. This was almost more than a decade before the much hyped AF-I lenses which carries similar type of thechnology! Why did Nikon fail to follow through with the development ? Perhaps they forgot to register it as a patent....and Canon did, ah ?
Credit: Copyright © 2001 Images courtesy of MCLau / Edward Ngoh
When Nikon eventually decided to adopt camera driven AF instead of using in-lens micro motor driven AF technology, the first batch of the AF Nikkor lenses that were introduced with the Nikon F501 camera was scarce in number and choices were limited. Nikon claimed that the use of an AF converter could easily 'transform' a collection of manual focus lenses (F5.6 and larger) into one of AF lenses and was therefore not in a hurry to produce more AF lenses. As such, AF lenses were slow to appear in the market. HOW SLOW ? verrrrry slow. There were 11 lenses introduced during 1985/86, but no wide-angle lenses beyond 24mm, and the first ultra wide Nikkor that went AF was an AF 20mm f/2.8, first introduced in 1998 !
Just like the Series E lenses introduced in 1979, these early versions of the Nikon's AF Nikkor lenses has no meter coupling shoe on the aperture ring. This means they cannot be used conveniently on a Nikon SLR camera that is not AI coupled (you can add a meter coupling shoe atop the aperture ring or use the lens manually on your camera and figure the exposure by experience).
It is interesting to point out that AF Nikkor lenses retained the basic essential principle of the AI-S (standardised aperture stop down action) so when used with a non-AF camera they act as any AI-S lens. See more on AI-S compatibility.
If I am not mistaken, Nippon Kogaku K.K changed their name to Nikon Corporation in 1988. That year also saw Nikon's introduction of their 4th generation professional class F-series model, the mighty Nikon F4. It was a huge success commercially because Canon were still struggling with the after effect of dropping their entire line of FD mount system in favour of the new killer Electro-Optical System AF technology, or more commonly referred as " EOS ". Besides, the early EOS cameras were too fragile to serve professional needs until their flagship model, Canon EOS-1 was eventually introduced. The F4 did capitalize on the vacuum for the first few years of the Canon transition but soon the superiority of the Canon EF lens technology revealed and strangely, Nikon sat and did nothing even when Canon brought their 2nd generation Pro camera model EOS-1n to the market. The EOS-1n took advantage of the EF lens superior AF technology, which made the aging F4 so "slow" in comparison. Canon gradually regained its ground at the professional users market and now apparently the Nikon advantage has faded to allow Canon to step in at this traditional stronghold of Nikon.
Anyway, like many other camera manufacturers from Japan, Nikon also took quite a long while to 'settled down' on the current physical appearance of AF-Nikkors. A typical example is the introduction of the D-type AF Nikkor lenses which provide distance information to Nikon cameras for exposure calculation. Originally when this technology was introduced with the Nikon F90x back in 1992, there were only a few lenses incorporated with the chip set. By 1993, there were less than 10 D-designated AF-Nikkors out of 28 lenses in the AF-Nikkor lens group. This problem is not unique to Nikon. Most major camera manufacturers heavily engaged in the development of autofocus SLRs and lenses were having similar problems and there were many levels of upgrades and upgrades... to improve efficiency and optical quality. Most manufacturers, other than Canon with the USM lenses, adopted the camera body control autofocus thechnology which made the AF SLR cameras very power hungry. And naturally, focusing efficiency was high on the priority list during the lens design. Many users complained that the new crops of AF lenses from these manufacturers had compromised the optical design and durability in order to achieve focusing efficiency.
Over all, the first ten years of autofocus with Nikon lenses was not that exciting as compared to the end of the seventies and early eighties. I would rather compare those mid-eighties to current stage of digital SLR photography (perhaps the only significant difference is that prices are so unrealistic for digital SLRs). The very well made Nikon F90x carried the Nikon flag in the highly competitive up-market SLR market place while the Nikon F4 series were considered a little "out-fashioned" at the high speed AF war zone with other Japanese 35mm SLR manufacturers. Canon, in particular had established a good footing with the noise-free and power efficient USM lenses and took advantage of Nikon's slow reaction to counteract such competition.
The F90x was the first Nikon to incorporate a distance chip set with specific D-type Nikkor lenses to provide exposure calculation based on distance during flash exposure. The Nikon F5 followed three years later and was the first to use such information for ambient light metering with the 3D color matrix metering system.
Previous | Next | - Last section, some personal thoughts - IF you still has the appetite to continue... ... Part III 2/3
Nikon F | Nikon F2 | Nikon F3 | Nikon F4 | Nikon F5 | Nikon F6 | Nikkormat / Nikomat | Nikon FM | Nikon FE/ FA | Nikon EM/FG/FG20 | Nikon Digital SLRs | Nikon - Other models
Nikon Auto Focus Nikkor lenses:- Main Index Page
Nikon MF RF-Nikkor lenses for Rangefinder cameras:- Main Index Page
Nikon Manual Focus Nikkor lenses:- Fisheye-Nikkor Lenses - Circular | Full Frame | Ultrawides Lenses - 13mm15mm18mm20mm | Wideangle Lenses - 24mm28mm35mm | Standard Lenses - 45mm 50mm 58mm | Telephoto Lenses - 85mm105mm135mm180mm & 200mm | Super-Telephoto Lenses - 300mm 400mm 500mm 600mm 800mm 1200mm |
Special Application lenses:
Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
Perspective Control (PC) - 28mm 35mm PC-Micro 85mm
Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
Depth of Field Control (DC): 105mm 135mm
Medical Nikkor: 120mm 200mm
Reflex-Nikkor Lenses - 500mm 1000mm 2000mm
Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
Nikon Series E Lenses: 28mm35mm50mm100mm135mm | E-Series Zoom lenses: 36~72mm75~150mm70~210mm
MF Zoom-Nikkor Lenses: 25~50mm | 28~45mm | 28~50mm | 28~85mm | 35~70mm | 36~72mm E | 35~85mm | 35~105mm | 35~135mm | 35~200mm | 43~86mm | 50~135mm | 50~300mm | 70~210mm E | 75~150mm E | 80~200mm | 85~250mm | 100~300mm | 180~600mm | 200~400mm | 200~600mm | 360~1200mm | 1200~1700mm
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:
http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/index-153.html by: my friend, Rick Oleson
http://www.zi.ku.dk/personal/lhhansen/photo/fmount.htm by: Hansen, Lars Holst
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Co-developed with Denmark , Creator of the Nikon Repair Group Mailing-List; A contributing effort to Michael Liu's Classic Nikon SLRs and Nikkor optic site.
Credit: To all the good people who has contributed their own experience, resources or those who are kind enough granting us permission to use their images appeared in this site. Mr. MCLau®, who has helped to rewrite some of the content appeared this site. Chuck Hester® who has been helping me all along with the development of all these Nikon websites;LarsHolst Hansen, 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion I have; Ms Rissa, Sales manager from Nikon Corporation Malaysia for granting permission to use some of the official content; TedWengelaar,Holland who has helped to provide many useful input relating to older Nikkor lenses; Some of the references on production serial numbers used in this site were extracted from Roland Vink's website; HiuraShinsaku from Nikomat Club Japan. t is also a site to remember a long lost friend on the Net. Note:certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures, sales manuals or publications published by Nikon over the years and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for may discrepancies arise from such dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Site made with an Apple IMac.