This could well be the mother of all Zooms !
Weighing 16kg and measuring 880mm in an overall length and there is just no comparing optic to match this lense in its basic spec - that is not exaggerating to replicate a famous slogan from Saddam Hussein to quote here, huh ? Since most of us have not and rarely will have any chance to see this lense in its physical form (guarantee will make your eye-brows raised straight up !), so let us don't waste time talk about how well it can perform optically or how smooth the zooming action is blah blah blah etc. .. but rather, simply based on its spec sheet, we will confine the discussion on other aspects relating to its viability, possibilities, development history and future expectation.
If you have nothing to do and have all the time in the world to do something out of nothing or if you have a high speed Internet access which you think is under utilized, by all means click on the image to see an enlarged blowup view (93k) Jpeg.
Credit: All images appeared in this page was originally scanned from a 1998's Nikkor Sales Guide. The image at the top of the page has been retouched slightly to restore to colours where I think it is supposed to be after examining the scan. Similarly, the blowup view has also being retouched in its colour appearance.
Showcased in 1990, this lense could also well be the most expensive optic for 35mm SLR photography that money can buy offers by any lens/camera manufacturers. To get a rough idea how big is this amazing super telephoto zoom lense is, probably we will need a scale to compare its dimension. As you know prior to availability of this zoom, the longest optic (in terms of length, not focal length) in the Nikkor lens family was used to be the Zoom-Nikkor 360-1200mm f/11 ED which has a 704mm physical extension. While the 360-1200mm zoom has not had an IF (Internal Focus) design, the IF-equipped 1200-1700mm's length of 880mm can well be considered as quite an "achievement" purely from a perspective of lens designing. Well, while that is only referring to its length, but actually it is the diameter of the lense that separates the two super-zooms into different league. The 360-1200mm has a lens diameter of 125mm but the 1200-1700mm lens is 237mm ! The main factor contributes to such vast difference in their respective dimension are their varying light gathering power. The 360-1200mm zoom's f/11 could have been designed to provide an optimum balance between lens handling and performance so as to keep the it physically viable to be carry around and use. But portability is perhaps not a top priority with the 1200-1700mm lens, but rather, it was designed specifically for performance (and/or the status to showcase Nikon's designing capability) It has a very fast aperture of f/5.6 (1200mm) and graduates as it zooms and reaches one f-stop slower at f/8.0 when reaching another end of its zoom range at 1700mm. This Nikkor zoom is/was the current ^ fastest lense (as at 2005) in its class (only comparable by Canon's FDn 800mm f/5.6 L or 3rd party optic such as Sigmas' 350-1200mm f/11 APO Tele-Zoom as their respective "corporate status product icon)) & it will be a long time before it will be excelled by others (even by Nikon themselves) obviously, you don't expect it can sell very well in numbers except for big budget scientific/military/surveillance expenditure of governmental agencies - I wouldn't entirely write off affordable individuals too) The variable lens speed design could have aimed to make the lens slightly more "compact" rather than adopting a design that offers a constant aperture of f/5.6 across its entire zoom range which would have enlarging its overall dimension.
This is NOT an AF lense. Despite it was introduced in the beginning of the '90 where other than the Non-AF Nikon FM2n (Nikon FE10 and Nikon FM10), virtually everything produced by Nikon amidst this period were using autofocus as the platform for their products because that is where the users' focus, attention and revenue is. So, why not an AF lense being produced ? Instead, Nikon has only designed a CPU chip set that enables the lense integrates for Matrix Metering (and other workable auto-exposure control modes) with applicable Nikon SLRs. That essentially explained why the lens designation "Zoom-Nikkor 1200-1700mm f/5.6~f/8.0s P ED IF" has a "P" which signifies this unique feature. Along with the MF Nikkor 500mm f/4.0s P ED IF super telephoto, this Nikkor zoom was one of the two manual focus Nikkor lenses that bear such identification and feature/function. Coming back to the question of why not an AF version being produced ? Well, probably the only logical explanation for this decision was laid with the prevailing AF technology at the time during designing the lense (not referring to date of introduction, as designing and manufacturing such a lens type may well be pushing the lens design stage a few years backward to around 1987/8) does not permit a camera's servo motor to drive such a long extension in its focus rotation efficiently, even if it incorporate an ingenious IF design. Well, mind me to remind you the first AF-I Nikkor lense, 300mm f/2.8s ED-IF with a coreless DC micro-motor built into the lens to aid camera's autofocusing was only being introduced in 1992.
Will an AF equivalent be introduced in the future ? A high possibility. Because the only significant feature missing in this lense is a AF-S type of lens design to enable it to be more practical, efficient and viable to be used responsively for shooting fast pace action type of photography. Imagine how can all the amazingly-spec Nikon bodies of F5, F100, D1X (H) be not using AF focus tracking and has to resort to operate manually in a lense with only less than a 2° angle of view ? Similarly, neither any user would be seriously considering a potential investment into such an expensive optic without an AF function right ? Okay, since we have mentioned the "view" of the lense, we may have a good topic for discussion here, the extreme narrow picture angle of 2°-1°30 the lense provides, along with its massive weight and dimension which often restrict mobility for photographers do demand some wistful thinking here - it is not a question of whether you can afford it or not but rather can you find some rightful subject topic to put the lense into good use. And it follows by another question, can you handle such a super long reaching Manual Focus zoom lense efficiently or not. If you still don't understand what I have meant here - try using a simpler Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8.0s to shoot a Formula 1 event, as race cars that can speed up to 300kph within few seconds, the main handing problem for such kind of photography is actually the narrow angle of view that make it so difficult to follow the action, unless you are contented just shooting stationary scenes such as tires changing during pit-stops or at best, anticipating those speed-demos that may reach a specific pre-focus cornering near the track etc.... )
Update:- From: "Eduardo Frances" <eduardofrances(AT)gmail.com>
Subject: about the Nikkor 1200mm-1700mm Hello, first of all I hope you are fine and enjoying life!! I wanted to thank you for the Nikkor and nikon information sanctuary you have built it has been very useful :) In Reuter´s blog there is a great article talking about how a photographer used the Nikkor 1200-1700mm to take some photos of the president of France during Bastilla Day Parade check it out http://blogs.reuters.com/2007/07/18/unleashing-the-beast
Kind regards, Eduar
Credit:- the photo shown at the right hand side is link directly from Reuter Site.
This lens is not for the ordinary. Not even professionals in their own capacity because pros usually have the ability to adjust themselves and reverting any unfavorable photographic situations (added the fact, most successful pros with conventional wisdom in the profession are usually also smart in financial management). So, only large and established media/press houses and/or governmental agencies can afford such kind of investment (I don't entirely write off people who has nothing to do such as those superrich individual(s) who may be curiously want to record on film on board his private yacht who is with his recent "identified target(s)" on another yacht a mile away from his etc...). Joke aside, some proper applications of this spectacular super-tele zoom could be on scientific research, wildlife observations, solar or lunar photography, surveillance, headlined political events, major international sport meets and other kinds of situation where they are inaccessible for photographers to close in during shooting such as reporting for rocket launching, rioting, air strike bombing in a possible war (again ?) etc.
A little off-the-topic: Err... come to think of it, other than NASA, I think some selective privileged agencies like the CIA and MI-5 might be the biggest fans of Nikon and probably may have a few dozen of these in their possession, the KGB might not have any because budget for the agency is probably being deferred; as for the rich individual pros who wants to bring the lense on the field, he might need a jeep but it is advisable confine to shoot wildlife such as rhinos, lions, endangered species of birds, yaks or the kangaroos... well, don't even think of bringing the camouflaged jeep near a war zone, because the mobile-rocket launcher-look appearance of the lense and the focusing action of the photographer may invite some hostile return artillery fire from nowhere, hehe...
Well, this the the last section on the featured Nikkor zooms series - can afford to exhale a little of my dampened and compressed spirit within while ready to inhale some O2 to stay awake before switching to the PC-Nikkor sections next... -leofoo®- 23/02/2003
The shortest distance the lense can focus close-in is 10m (35 ft.). Although not entirely impressive in figures but neither this lense is designed to taking close-up facial expression pictures (you might as well buy a telephoto or a Reflex-Nikkor 2000mm f/11s lense and save yourself a couple of ten thousand). Although in theory, the use of a Tele-Extender(s) may able to shorten its minimum focusing distance, but Nikon has not specified any compatible TC devices for such purpose. So don't be a hero to play around with this expensive optic even if you can afford to do so. The rear lens mount of the lense is equipped with a series of pins/contacts which almost looks like AF contacts (primarily for relaying data via chipset on lense section with the circuitry on camera section). This native Ai-S lense has also provided with ADR scales for direct viewing of picture taking aperture and full aperture metering/viewing/composing of pictures is possible with any applicable Nikon bodies. Naturally, although it is a high speed super telephoto zoom but logically other photographic operational measures such as choice of the right focusing screens and selection of high speed film types and more importantly, an ultra-steady tripod setup during shooting is a MUST to accommodate its Extra-ordinary weight, these may be able help in ensuring minimize any changes of spoilt images arising from possible shaky movement on camera/lens/slow-shutter-speeds during shooting.
The technical highlights of this incredibly unique and powerful Nikkor tele-zoom can be summarized as follows (Note: This optic is on a special order-to-produce basis):
The optical design is comprised of a 18 elements in 13 groups (3 x EDs) optical formulation with an Internal focus design. Extremely narrow angle of view from 2°-1°30; it focuses down to 10m (35 ft.) and two focusing/distance indexes are provided, orange (1700mm) and green (1200mm). Full aperture viewing and metering is possible but meter coupling ridge is NOT provided on the lense. Its CPU design to integrate for Matrix Metering and various auto-exposure modes with all applicable Nikon SLRs. It uses 52mm slide-in filters (L37C supplied) via a filter holder at mid section. Lens hood is a built-in type. It weighs a massive 16,000g (approx. 36 Ibs) and measures 237mm in dia. and a length of 880mm (overall) without lens hood extension. Tripod mounting is via socket in a fixed tripod mounting collar, carrying by a fixed rigid handle built-in on top of the lense. With the inclusion of this powerful zoom in the Nikkor lens family, Nikon can safely claim its system now has the most comprehensive selection of lenses in the widest of picture angle (MF Nikkor 6mm f/2.8s), longest reach in focal length with the MF Reflex-Nikkor 2000mm and now, the most powerful zoom lense for 35mm photography.
Credit: A reference chart for Ai-P Nikkor lenses in various exposure modes and metering systems with a typical modern Nikon SLRs such as Nikon F5. For other models, please referred to Nikon (congratulation to your potential ownership... if you are dead serious about asking them).
IMPORTANT: As information relates to this lense is scarce and hard to acquire through normal means, the creator of this site cannot ensure 100% accuracy in its content posted herein. If you have any other helpful resources (images, presskit, original annoucements etc....) pertaining to this rare Nikkor zoom (or for that matter, any interesting Nikkor optic), please mail me. Please refer to manufacturer for further detail for any potential purchasing or acquisition.
Focal length/Aperture: 1200-1700mm f/5.6~f/8.0
Lens Coupling: Ai-S
Lens construction: 18 elements in 13 groups (3 x EDs)
Picture angle: 2°-1°30'; Diaphragm: Automatic. Built-in CPU
Aperture scale: f/5.6 ~ f/22 on both standard and aperture-direct-readout scale
Focusing and zooming control: via dual rings. Two removable quick zooming handles provided. Dual focusing/distance indexes provided: Orange (1700mm) and Green (1200mm).
Exposure measurement: Via full aperture method; meter coupling ridge NOT provided. CPU integrated for Matrix Metering with applicable Nikon SLRs.
Distance scale: Graduated in meters and feet from 10m* (35ft.) to infinity (oo)
Focal Length Markings: 1200mm (green), 1700mm (orange).
Depth of Field Scales: Orange for f/22; Attachment size: 52mm rear drop-in
Tripod Mount: Mounting Collar Supplied; Weight: 16,000g
Dimensions: 237mm dia. x 880mm long (overall); Filters:52mm rear drop in
Front lens cap: Slip on type; Lens hood: Built-in
Tripod mounting/carrying: Via socket in a Fixed tripod mounting collar. Handle built-in on top.
Lens case: CT-1217 metal case supplied.; Usable Teleconverter(s): Not advisable; Note: Serial number for this Ai-S ONLY Zoom-Nikkor lense was believed to have been started from 200001. Source: Nikon System Hand Book. Nikon USA product code: 1448 NAS
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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
Recommended Reading Reference on Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses | about this photographic web site
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Co-developed with my web buddy, Rick Oleson® & Denmark, Creator of the Nikon Repair Group Mailing-List; A contributing effort to Michael Liu's Classic Nikon SLRs and Nikkor optic site.
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.