Information on Manual Focus Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 Lens


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The Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 lens was first introduced in December, 1979. It carries an Ai lens specification in a revised optical formula and a faster maximum lens speed. A year later in 1980, an equivalent lens with an updated Ai-S lens coupling system was followed.

Credit: Image of this interesting scale of the three generations Micro-Nikkor lenses courtesy of Mr. "Todd Goodheart" <> Copyright 2002. All rights reserved. Another similar image with the lenses at original position can be accessed here.

Naturally, we would assume all subsequent manual focus Micro-Nikkor lenses introduced since then would carry an Ai-S lens specification. Not only this Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8s lens features a faster maximum aperture than the earlier f/3.5 counterpart but it has an improved macro identifications with an overall better finishing. The immediate benefit of the speed gain is a brighter image presents inside the viewfinder and it minimizes chances of darkening of split image rangefinder in a standard Nikon K-type focusing screen. The overall brighter finder also enables easier focusing and picture composing in many low available light situation or when an extension tube or a bellows unit is used in conjunction with the lens.

Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8.jpg
The 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor lens has a modified Gauss-type optical design. It has a slightly more complex 6 elements in 5 groups in its optical formula (Compared to 5 elements in 4 groups used in last versions of Ai-Spec f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor which again different from early versions of f/3.5 lens that has a simpler 5 elements in 3 groups design). The lens incorporates a floating element system in the rear lens group which was aimed to maintain its high optical performance at its closest focusing distance. In fact, a significant factor contributes to great popularity of Micro-Nikkor lenses among photographer and professional users is, these series of lenses are not just specialized lenses for high magnification ratio photography; but they are also excellent optic for handling general photography. Because high definition and distortion-correction remain virtually unchanged over the entire focusing range, this has made micro-Nikkor lenses such an attractive alternative to standard lenses at similar focal length.

Credit: Image of this Ai Micro-Nikkor 55mmf/3.5 lens courtesy of Mr Chris Wakeen <> of © Image Copyright 2002

Next, virtually all modern Micro-Nikkor lens family has been treated with Nikon NIC ("Nikon Integrated Coating " process - a proprietary multi-layers lens coating process by Nikon for their lenses on air-to-glass surfaces to mainntain high image contrast and minimizes flare at large lens apertures). The treatment of NIC also enables uniform optical quality and superior color rendition across all the spectrum.

This highly rated lens can reach a maximum magnification ratio of 1:2 (0.5X) with its internal helical focus mechanism. With a matching PK-13 Auto Extension Ring, the ratio can reach 1:1 Life Size (1X)- so does when it is used in combination with a 2X teleconverter such as Ai-TC-200 or Ai-S TC-201. If you wish to achieve an even higher magnification, this lens is best to with a Bellow Unit such as Nikon PB-6 Bellow Unit. With such a possible combination, the magnification ratio can even be reaching to an astonishing 1:3.5 !

Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Tony K <>Copyright © 2002, All rights reserved.

The focusing and rotation of thhe lens provides a smooth and assuring operration for photographers. it focuses continuously from infinity to 9-13/16 inches (25cm) at its closest focusing distance and a reproduction ratio of 1:2 (half-life size) is reached at that range. Although most photographers preferred to use the PK Auto Extension Ring for life size magnification photography, but there are also series of Nikon Extension Rings which you can either use singularly or in combination to achieve the desire degree of magnification ratio. However, if you often works in the field and requires a more flexible alternative, a Bellow Unit is a more logical choice then.

All Ai Micro-Nikkor lenses usually have a rather colourful but well illustrated scales to provide appropriate information relating to focusing distance(B). The 55mm featured here is no exception, with scales of various magnification ratio of the primary len and another when PK-13 Auto Extension Ring is used. The inner scale, with figures from 1:10 to 2, represents reproduction ratios obtained when the lens is used alone. The outer scale figures (from 1:2 to 1:1) represent possible ratios when the lens and PK-13 ring (A) are used together. Using either of these scales, you can photograph at a predetermined ratio without calculating distance.

The depth of field scales (C) are equally well illustrated with f/32. f/22. f/11 printed in colour strips to indicate the depth of field range in relation to a particular aperture used at specific focus, an additional red infrared index (C) is also provided which locates just beside the focusing, aperture index (6) on the lens mounting ring (10). The lens was designed with a minimum aperture of f/32 (11) which provides maximum depth of field control, essential for extremely macrophotography. The orange minimum scale of f/32 also serves as reminder for locking to this setting of the lens's minimum aperture when used with previous Nikon FA, F501 and other Nikon SLRs that capable of providing Automatic Programmed AE control. Other features includes ADR scales (9) to display the aperture in use inside the camera's viewfinder; a meter coupling shoe (8) for use with Non-Ai Nikon SLR bodies; the aperture ring has a customary Nikon modern lens design (12) which provides a positive, secure hand grip in changing lens aperture. Overall, this lovely lens also has been extremely well corrected for any possible optical aberrations and has an exceptional flatness of field and thus, it is also a perfect optic for duplication and/or copying works.

As Nikon 35mm photographic system has an enormous amount of system accessories to cover this specialized application, and it has been a popular lens not just for leisure photographic use but also comes in handy for many industrial usage. Anyway, possibilities in its usage can be quite broad scope for this lens. Other popular applications include slides duplication, close-up photography with Nikon Bellow Units etc.

<<< -- The 55mm Micro Nikkor is a great companion lens for those who requires to work frequently in reproduction, copying work. An typical example of macro system setup at left may consist of Nikon F3/T SLR camera, 6X Magnification Finder, MD-4, Bellow Unit PB-6E, Slide Copying Adapter PS-6, Bellows Spacer PB-6D, PG-2 Focusing Stage and a Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8s lens.

Well, there are few areas which you need to take not of, especially in the handling and maintenance of the lens. Like any other micro-Nikkor lenses of short focal length, this lens has a rather long extension when you focus to its closest working range. A precaution when you handle this lens is, the rear section will move inwards deeply at its macro focusing range but without any physical protection at its rear. It is necessary to take extra care to avoid any possible foreign particles penetration via the rear section. It is not advisable frequently perform lens changing in dusty environment. So, it is not uncommon to see many of such used lenses has its lens elements resulted in dust accumulation.

Complaints ? Yeah yeah yeah .... human race does move forward that way right ?? The incapability to provide a continuously to 1:1 life size magnification is my main issue. I have been wondering for quite while why couldn't Nikon provide a similar MF lens that capable of providing focusing continuously down to 1:1 life size reproduction. Well, looks like Nikon has kept all the goodies under their sleeves for the autofocus lens family as the first generation AF-Micro-Nikkor lens introduced in 1986 remained at a similar 55mm focal length and shares an equivalent f/2.8 maximum aperture (Which easily leads others to believe it was a replication of Ai-S MF Micro-Nikkor lens as it has the same number of lens elements in its 6 elements 5 groups design). However, the AF lens has a larger filter attachment size of 62mm BUT incredibly, the lens can focus all the way down to 1:1 life size at its closest focusing distance ! Hmm ... so, it is not entirely impossible huh ?

Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Tony K <>Copyright © 2002, All rights reserved.

Another area which is not so much relating to its design, but rather during actual lens usage. At 0.25m (9-13/16 in.) the lens reaches 0.5X magnification, (with PK-13 ring, 0.225m (8-13/16 1.0X) at such restrictive working distance between the outer edge of the extension of the lens and subject you intend to shoot, it can be quite uncomfortable to use and the perspective is slightly unnatural. Worst still, if the lighting condition is unfavorable and artificial illumination is required, it is rather hard to tame the strong flash output. Well, since most flash units are not designed to tilt in to shoot macrophotography but Nikon does provide a few versions of
Macro-Ringlights such as Nikon SB-21 A/B which provides a softer, more even distribution of flash illumination and it has an edge over other general flash unit.

Except for its lens speed, the Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8s lens is a good substitution for any standard 50mm lens as it is more versatile and provides a wider scope of applications than just use it for handling macrophotography. It represents an overall better investment value than a standard lens which has its limitations especially at close focusing. Well, unless you are a casual weekend photographer, you will soon find it has many other suitable usage on and off the field, indoor or outdoor alike.

<<< --- The car that parked next to mine at a traffic light ... Copyright ©-free Images collection. 2001, leofoo Malaysian Internet Resources

Technical Highlights: * Normal picture coverage of 43 °. * Nikon's Close-Range Correction System is used to maintain equally high close focusing performance even when used to shoo at the minimum focusing distance. * Continuous operation is possible from infinity to a reproduction ratio of 1:2 and, with the PK-13 auto extension ring, from 1:2 to 1:1 life size. * Engraved dual reproduction ratio scales for fast operation at predetermined ratios with or without the PK-13 ring. * High sharpness and extremely well corrected flatness of field achieved by using a simple but superior optical design, with Nikon Integrated Coating to improve color rendering. * Stops down to f/32 to permit maximum depth of field - particularly useful in close-up and macrophotography. * Takes popular 52mm filters which shares with many other lens accessories for Nikkor lenses under 200mm focal length. * Excellent for critical copying of flat objects, such as coins and documents, yet its 43° picture angle makes the 55mm micro also an excellent substitute normal lens for landscapes, candids, and general photography.

The Ai-Spec PK 13 Automatic Extension Ring has a female F-Bayonet; male F-Bayonet on each end and provides a 27.5mm extension while preserving automatic diaphragm with any Ai Nikon camera body. The AI meter coupled Extenson Tube is supposedly a dedicated ring specifically aims to supplement the Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8s to enable the lens reaches 1X magnification, but it can also be used singularly or in combination with other Auto Ring sets for other lenses. It was essentially an Ai-Spec Extension Tube updated from the previous version, a Non-Ai meter coupled PK-3 Ring which is not advisable to use it with any an Ai Nikon camera body.

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| Early AF Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8s | Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8s | Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 | Ai Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 | Pre-Ai Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 | Non-Ai Micro-Nikkor-P 55mm f/3.5 | Non-Ai Micro-Nikkor-P.C 55mm f/3.5 | Non-Ai Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/3.5 Preset | Special version Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 | RF Micro-Nikkor 50mm f/3.5 lens

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