Additional Information on
Nikkor 400mm super telephoto lenses - Part II

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Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 IF-ED

Prior to the introduction of the Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED-IF, this lens was the fastest 400mm Nikkor telephoto lens. The Ai-S version of this well-received Nikkor telephoto lens was introduced in 1982, with serial number starting from 181501. The main features include 8X magnification when compared with a normal lens producing frame-filling images of distance subjects.

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The exceptionally large f/3.5 maximum aperture makes it easy to focus and photograph in dim light especially when combining with fast films, making it ideal for indoor sports events. The Internal Focusing (IF) design greatly contributes to its silky-smooth focusing action without any extension in the lens barrel while the use of Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass suppresses the effect of chromatic aberrations, resulting in over-all needle-sharp images.

MFNikkor400mmf35IFEDAdorama.JPG MFNikkor400mmf35IFEDAdoram2.JPG
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The lens has a pre-setable focusing ring for rapid refocusing to a specific distance and full-aperture TTL metering is possible both for many Nikon Ai and pre-Ai SLR bodies. The rear section contains a filter drawer making filter changing easy. It accepts 39mm screw-in filters. A narrow built-in telescopic lens hood does not quite provide enough lens shade at its extension. Surprisingly, Nikon does not provide any add-on extension hood as with other and later high speed super telephoto lenses. The lens also has a 360° rotatable tripod socket collar which makes horizontal and vertical shooting a breeze during assignments. With a compatible TC-301s, this lens may be converted into a 800mm f/7.0 super telephoto.

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The lens has a straight forward and classic 8 elements in 6 groups design with the large front and second lens elements in ED glass. It stops down to f/22 and focuses as close as 4.5m (15ft). In addition to rear screw-in 39mm filters in the filter drawer it accepts 122mm front filters. The weight is 2800g - only 400g heavier than the Ai-S Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 ED-IF but it is so much lighter than the 5,150g of the Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED-IF counterpart.

<<< --- Horse Festival, Kabul city. Picture Courtesy of Vincent Thian®, AP Malaysia. Image Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

Overall, combining a top rated optical performance with consistent superlative image quality, robust physical construction and a moderately compact size for its lens speed; over the years, this lens used to be one of the hot favorites among professional photographers. Many felt it was an ideal long telephoto lens covering sports, wildlife, fashion, news, wildlife, stage shows, and many other available-light shooting situations. However, when the even faster Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED-IF eventually was introduced, this lens lost some of its glamour among users, as within this category of lenses, price may not always be a decisive factor affecting a buying decision. Well, Nikon also had cheaper alternatives such as the Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/5.6 ED-IF and also a non-ED version, that may have filled the need of budget minded photographers who also may have taken portability into their consideration. This lens was first introduced in April 1976 and was quickly being converted into an Ai-Specified lens in 1977 (S/N 176091 onwards). There are therefore be three variations. For easy identification, the pre-Ai has a gold ED ring at the front section of lens; the Ai lens has the golden ring relocated between the focusing ring and lens hood; the Ai-S lens is identified by the Lens Type Signal Notch (scoop) in the mount as well has having a minimum aperture number in orange colour.

Nikon's AIS Nikkor 400mm f/3.5s ED IF super telephoto lens   Ais Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 IF-ED
  Ais Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 IF-ED with lens pouch
  Macro LINK
  Base view

: ALL image(s) displayed herein courtesy of all the nice folks from Taiwan's Digitize-Future@EBAY®. Some of them are extracted from their very popular online EBAY STORE. The Company also has a website on their own at Image(s) copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.
ED line designation Tripod Collar

Lens hood

Rear section view Mid section view

of Ai-S 400mm f/3.5 IF-ED Super Telephoto lens

Focal length/Aperture
: 400mm f/3.5
Lens construction: 8 elements in 6 groups
Picture angle: 6°10'; Diaphragm: Automatic; Aperture scale: f/3.5 -f/22 on both standard and aperture-direct-readout scales

Maximum Reproduction ratio: 1:9.8
Exposure measurement: Via full aperture method; meter coupling ridge provided for Ai cameras and meter coupling shoe for pre-Ai cameras
Rear Drop in filter Nikkor 400mm f/3.5
Distance scale: in meters and feet from 4.5m (15ft.) to infinity (oo)
Filters (Rear/Front): 39mm screw-in via special slip-in filter holder/122mm front screw-in
Front lens cap: Slip-on; Lens hood: Built-in telescopic type
Lens case: CL-61A hard leatherette case or No.58 soft pouch
Weight: 2800g; Dimensions: 134mm dia. x 304mm long (overall); 296mm extension from lens flange; Usable teleconverter: TC-200
* TC-201*, TC-300, TC-301 or TC-14A**, TC-14B * Not recommended. ** Usable, but there is occasional vignetting.

Ai-S Nikkor
400 mm f/5.6 IF-ED

Introduced in February, 1982 and discontinued in August, 2002. This is one of the lightest 400mm's around. This compact Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/5.6 ED-IF telephoto lens is a very practical lens, both in terms of affordability, portability without the compromise of the superior Nikkor lens quality.
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It shares many features with the high speed counterparts, such as a narrow picture angle of only 6°10', giving 8X magnification of the subject when compared with a normal lens. Similarly, the Internal Focusing (IF) design provides silky-smooth focusing down to a close 4m (15 ft.) without any extension in the lens barrel and Extra-low Dispersion (ED) glass ensures outstanding picture quality. The Ai lens coupling system employed provides an automatic diaphragm and full-aperture TTL metering for both Ai and pre-Ai Nikon SLR bodies, as it has a meter coupling shoe in addition the meter coupling ridge.

There are more advantages found in this extremely well built telephoto lens; firstly, it is highly portable as the lens is very light for its long focal length and weighs only 1,200 grams, less than half the weight of the Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 ED-IF variants and a third of the equivalent Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED-IF lens. Besides, the lens aperture stops down to f/32 for additional depth of field. It takes popular 72mm filters which are widely and easily available on the market.

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The built-in telescopic lens hood reduces flare when shooting against the light and eliminates the need of carrying an extra snap on hood which sometimes can be quite cumbersome to store and bring along. Lastly, there is a good removable and 360° rotatable tripod socket collar, providing a secure tripod mounting with quick change from horizontal- to vertical-format shooting.

400mmf56EDIFAdorama3.JPG 400mmf56EDIFAdorama1.JPG
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Even with the incorporation of ED glass (G2), the lens still provides an infrared index. Except for its relatively slower maximum aperture, this lens can be a good solution for those who are seeking a high quality long reaching telephoto optic for travel photography, sports, wildlife and/or day-to-day candid shooting etc. The main attraction may be its affordability and many of these lenses surfaces regularly in many popular online used equipment auction sales. This lens with ED glass and Internal Focusing design was introduced as an original Ai-Specified lens back in 1978 and the Ai-S-specified version introduced in February 1982 carried a serial number starting from 287601. Prior to the ED-IF versions, Nikon made three versions without Internal Focusing design, two pre-Ai versions and a Ai version


Credit: Image downloaded from Nikon USA website.
Well, with the Company attention turning full swing on high performance zoom lenses and digital photography, if you are still persisting to buy a Nikkor lens at 400mm, Nikon does have a zoom lens that has this focal length well covered. Other than a good lens speed and features such as IF-ED, the high power zoom ratio lens has many other fancy gadgets which could blow the old prime telephoto lens aside. The AF-Nikkor 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D ED VR provides everything a mobile photographer may anticipate of how to use a telephoto lens with the additional advantage of a vibration reduction mechanism. Camera movement is the main cause contributing to blurry imagery in super-telephotography. The lens has a variable maximum aperture of f/4.5-f/5.6 and an amazing 3 lens elements in its optical construction are ED glass. The only issue is - it ALSO demands a high premium to have 3 ED lenses in one lens....@#$%*(?!!

Specifications of Ai-S 400mm f/5.6 IF-ED

Focal length/Aperture
:400mm f/5.6
Lens construction: 7 elements in 6 groups; Picture angle: 6°10'; Diaphragm Automatic; Maximum Reproduction ratio: 1: 8.8

Aperture scale: f/5.6~f/32 on both standard and aperture-direct-readout scales
Exposure measurement: Via full aperture method; meter coupling ridge provided for Al cameras and meter coupling shoe for non-Ai cameras; Distance scale: in meters and feet from 4m (15ft.) to infinity (
Weight 1200g

Dimensions: 85mm dia. x 252mm long (overall); 254mm extension from lens flange
Filters: 72mm front screw-in; Front lens cap: Screw-in
Tripod Mount: Removable; Lens hood: Built-in telescopic type with click-stops
Lens case: CL-27A hard leatherette; Usable teleconverter:
TC-300, TC-301, TC-14Bs Warning: Certain AE modes (Programmed AE and Shutter Priority AE) on selective Nikon SLRs will not work efficiently with older TC devices. Use an Ai-S version for better compatibility, read the respective Tele-Extender(s) sections.

Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/2.8 ED-IF | Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 ED-IF | Ai-S Nikkor 400mm f/5.6 ED-IF | Ai Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 ED-IF | Ai Nikkor 400mm f/5.6 ED-IF | Ai Nikkor 400mm f/5.6 ED | pre-Ai Nikkor-Q.C 400mm f/4.5 | pre-Ai Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 ED-IF | pre-Ai Nikkor 400mm f/5.6 ED | pre-Ai Nikkor-Q 400mm f/4.5 | pre-Ai Nikkor-P.C AUTO 400mm f/5.6 | Nikon Focusing Unit AU-1 | Original Focusing Unit |

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Credit: 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; Lars Holst 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; Ted Wengelaar, 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; Hiura Shinsaku from Nikomat Club Japan. Lastly, to all the good people who has contributed their own expeience, resources or kind enough granted permission to use their images of their respective optic in this site. It 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 published by Nikon 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.