The first Nikkor zoom lense, 8.5~25cm f/4~4.5-16 Zoom-Nikkor Auto was believed to have been introduced in November, 1959, it was barely few months after the legendary reflex Nikon F SLR camera was officially debuted. The zoom lens was among the original batch of Nikkor lenses that were designed for the Nikon SLR, which comprised of other lenses such as 2.1cm f/4-16 Nikkor-O, 3.5cm f/2.8-16 Nikkor-S Auto, 5cm f/2 Nikkor-S Auto, 10.5cm f/2.5-22 Nikkor-P Auto, 13.5cm f/3.5-32 Nikkor-Q Auto, 5.8cm f/1.4-16 Nikkor-S Auto, 10.5cm f/4-22 Nikkor-T Preset.
Although most Nikon followers would believed strongly the second zoom lense was the popular 4.3~8.6cm f/3.5-22 Zoom-Nikkor Auto that introduced a few years later in 1963; but that was not entirely true because as early as end of 1961, Nikon showcased two zoom lenses which have caught the entire photographic community by surprise. The first was high speed lens with a medium zoom range, 3.5~8.5cm f/2.8~4.0-16 Zoom-Nikkor Auto*, but for some unknown reasons, the lense with its amazing lens speed has never being officially marketed. While on the other hand, a bulky lens with a wide zoom range but with a moderate lens speed, 200~600mm f/9.5~10.5-32 Zoom-Nikkor Auto has been introduced earlier in September, 1961. Thus, to be more accurate, the popular 43~86mm was actually Nikon's third zoom lense in production. Incidentally, the compact zoom was also being widely regarded as one of the world's best selling MF zoom lens in 35mm photography.
Supplement: A lens type of zoom design continuously varies its focal length, without shifting the focal plane, by moving part or in full of the optical lens elements. While some of the lens groups move to change the focal length other groups also shift to maintain sharp focus and the selected aperture throughout the zoom range. The ratio between the longest and the shortest focal lengths is called the "zoom". Nikon called theirs as "Zoom-Nikkor".
Years that followed, Nikon adopted a more cautious approach in deciding the appropriate types of zoom lenses to be introduced to the Nikkor lens family as, firstly, with their prevailing manufacturing facilities at the time high quality zoom lenses were very difficult to design and manufactured according to exacting lens spec. Secondly, despite zoom lenses encompassed many convenience but early versions were still fell short in optical quality one would expect them to be. However, the process of introduction of these lenses although was slow but it was steady as over the 20 years period, Nikon has ensured only zoom lenses of practical lens type and range be included in their lens family. See table below for a rough indication (Lenses shown are major announcement but excludes various possible cosmetic updates of previous introduced versions):
Note: Shortest focal length was 25mm (1975); longest was the 1200mm (1976). First with a 5X zoom range 50-300mm (1966). First ED glass zoom lense - Zoom Nikkor 180-600mm f/8.0 ED.
As you can notice, Nikon's lens development program was concentrated at zoom range at the wider end rather than at longer focal lengths. The first wideangle zoom, Zoom-Nikkor 28~45mm was only being introduced late in 1975/6 and it was also the first zoom lens that broke the technical barrier at 28mm focal length by a camera manufacturer. It took Nikon optical engineers another few more years in an intense lens development program to enable zoom lens with 25mm picture angle be realized in 1979 (Zoom-Nikkor 25~50mm f/4.0).
Amidst the aggression on marketing of both Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses that started to take off during this period of time, a few significant events have happened which may have cast a long term influence over acceptance of zoom lenses. First, the epoch-making Zoom-Nikkor 80~200mm f/4.5 which received rave reviews was followed by another high quality wideangle Zoom-Nikkor 35~70mm f/3.5 lens with outstanding sharpness. Both of these lenses have changed general perception towards low optical quality synonymous with older zoom types. Next, fruitful research and deployment of "ED" (Extra-Low Dispersion) glass into design of zoom lenses has enabled a new breed of high quality zoom lenses to appear.
Credit: Image of this beautifully taken Ai-S Zoom-Nikkor 35~70mm f/3.5 courtesy of Mr. Bill Green <email@example.com> of Classic-Cameras-com Image copyright © 2002 All rights reserved.
Lastly, some fascinating Nikkor zoom lenses such as Zoom-Nikkor 50~300mm f/4.5 Auto that offers a magnificant 6X zoom-ratio and super telephoto zoom lenses such as Zoom-Nikkor 360~1200mm f/11 ED, along with a CPU aided Zoom-Nikkor 1200-1700mm f/5.6~8.0s P ED-IF to offer an Incredibly wide selection of super telephoto focal lengths were made possible with use of computer aided design, new found optical glass technology and updated manufacturing facilities. Combination of these factors has resulted optical engineers to develop a new zooming system which enabled them to simultaneously eliminate previous stumbling blocks of extreme distortion, poor minimum focusing distance and excessive front element diameter in the design of high quality zoom lenses. This infancy period in zoom lens development has eventually pave the way for a rapid development of Manual Focus Nikkor zoom lenses that eventually began to blossom fully in numbers, varieties, range and performance at the next decade in 1980. Naturally, if we include latest inclusion of modern AF zoom such as incrediable wideangle zoom 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF AF-S Zoom-Nikkor, Nikon almost* carries the widest extension of focal lengths on both ends in a wide selection of zoom range from 17mm to 1700mm ! * As at18/02/2003, Canon has a wideangle zoom in EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM lense.
Note: Lenses during this period were mainly crowded between focal length of 35 to 200mm.
Unlike prime lenses with a single focal length, most appealing aspect presents in a typical zoom lense is its ability to allow the photographer be focused on a subject with the lens and then, by a zoom control on the lens (either in the form of single push & pull design or dual rings control), to change focal length to alter the image size at will on film. This mechanism has enabled a zoom lense to substitute many prime lenses with a single lens. Design of a zoom lense can be very complex as it may use up to many glass elements within a design and in a mechanical assembly that requires high precision and extremely close manufacturing tolerances. A typical zoom may require all the lens elements it encompasses within to move in a group or only some be moved independently to alter the focal length. In an ideal zoom lens design, one would expect only the focal length be changed while it can still retain a constant aperture and optical aberrations be control at absolute minimal level as the image size increases on film plane as it zooms and focuses across the entire focal length. One common problem encountered by optical engineers is to meet up with market demand for compactness and lightweight in a zoom lens - while lenses with constant aperture may not be easy to design or produce during that time, a compromised method was to alter the aperture value while zoom range increases to enable reduction of weight and dimension of the lens - this was still widely used in today's modern zoom lens design.
From a user's point of view, zoom lenses presents the photographer with an entirely new way of lens handling in photography. In one lens, it gives you a wide choice of focal lengths without having to carry extra lenses. You can change focal lengths quickly, and therefore change coverage, without actually having to change lenses or your shooting position. Next, it substitutes the needs on cropping processed images in the darkroom as the process can be done via the camera's viewfinder during shooting.
Credit: Spider outside the window .. Brisbane Air Port, Australia. Image courtesy of Mr. CY Leow <firstname.lastname@example.org>Image copyright © 2002 All rights reserved.
Basically, zoom lenses change conventional ways of how we shoot pictures and may even provides a creative challenge to a photographer of how to make the best out of its basic designing concept and overall convenience it provides. One of the selling point of zoom lenses often "over emphasized" by manufacturers during those days was its ability to create unique "zoom blurs" - a popular eye-catching photographic technique by zooming the lens using a slow shutter speed as it can impart a feeling of motion to even ordinary stationary subjects. Well, other than the creative aspect, that has a lot to do with prevailing film types available at the time where seemingly film manufacturers found it hard to keep up with the fast pace in development by camera/lense manufacturers. On a practical front, a common trick in using these lenses is by focus at a zoom range to its longest focal length first as depth of field will be smallest at that setting to ensure focusing is more accurate before changing back to a predefined shorter focal length. Next, as most MF SLR cameras available at the time usually provide center-weighted average metering, you can also actually make use the longest focal length in a zoom to act as a spot meter to compare meter readings when you feel unsure of the meter reading in a particular tricky scene. Whatever it is, the sheer speed of focal length changing, improved lens performance/handling and an overall cheaper entry cost into SLR photography are few main reasons contributed to its gradual widespread popularity over the years.
However, despite constant improvement and enhancement made to the design of high quality zoom lenses, these lenses still have a few drawbacks in general. For situations requiring high maximum apertures such as sports or action photography, fixed focal length lenses still have the edge and "generally" - they may offer a better optical quality if an equivalent focal length of a zoom lense is compared. In particular when handling backlit shooting, zoom lenses often perform miserably in comparison. Although I would believe Nikon did (and still does) produced many good Nikkor zoom lenses, but I might not entirely agree every lenses they made are classics.
Credit: A very well captured image of this old Nikkor Classic Zoom-Nikkor 80~200mm f/4.5 lense that has rocked the entire photo community during the '70 courtesy of Mr. Sorin Varzaru <email@example.com>. Image copyright © 2001 All rights reserved.
I know my reservation could make some potential "virtual enemies" out there but as a user, I think I still have to stand by what I have firmly believed - purely from a perspective of a consumer. But undeniably, with high-quality zoom lenses of modem design such as current AF Zoom Nikkors, I know what we believed in the old days could be just theoretical rather than actual as it used to be true that a zoom lens couldn't match the picture quality of a comparable single-focal-length lens in the same range but modern lenses with such incredible lens specifications may made anyone still carrying the old mindset settled for good easily. However, old commercial culture practiced by respective manufacturers still persists and thus, we still have to cough out more if we want something real good from them in performance - that same old equation is just what I cannot digest thus far and so I have to revert back to use my MF series of Nikkor optic.
Nikkor MF Zoom Lenses: | Main Index Page |
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
Credit: Image of this popular Nikkor Zoom-Nikkor 43~86mm f/3.5 lense courtesy of Mr. John Walls <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Image copyright © 2001 All rights reserved.
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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
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.