Nikkor lens Resources
Additional Information on
Nikkor 300mm telephoto lenses - Part II


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Nikkor Telephoto 300mm f/4.5 non-AI, AI ED, 1975-1978

After the introduction of the 180-600f/8 ED, Nikon began to integrate ED glass into some of its proven designs. ED glass is designated for its property of Extra-Low Dispersion, which refers to the fact that the index of refraction is nearly constant over the visible wavelengths of light.

In conventional glass designs, the index of refraction generally varies for different wavelengths; thus, the sharpness of distant images may be adversely affected by the misconvergence of different colors. In fact, for very long focal lengths of over 300mm or so, it is impossible to perfectly converge all visible wavelengths on the same spot; generally, lens designs up to the 1970's all tried to converge red and blue on the same spot, which would leave green and purple fringes. All of this changed when Canon and Minolta began to demonstrate lenses with artificially-grown calcium fluoride elements in the early 70's. CaF elements have a constant index of refraction over visible wavelengths, and it is thus possible to design long lenses with perfect convergence. Not to be outdone, several years later, Nikon introduced ED glass, the exact formula of which is unknown. It is believed that ED is a fluorocrown glass, which means that fluorite has been added somehow to conventional optical (crown) glass. Although ED glass does not perfectly correct misconvergence, it has several advantages over fluorite elements, including being physically harder (CaF is fairly soft and thus cannot be used as the front element) and less sensitive to the environment. Thus ED glass has actually proved to be more practical than fluorite elements (and indeed, Canon seems to have switched to what they term Low Dispersion glass in their latest designs). In particular, this lens is of six element/five group construction, with the front element being the only ED element, again similar to the AI and AI-S ED 180f/2.8. I have never actually seen this lens, but its physical design presumably parallels that of the regular 300f/4.5 (e.g. it has two tripod sockets on the non-AI and a single rotating collar with AI version).

The photo of a non-IF ED 300 (At the top section of this page), which is reputedly the best Nikkor 300 ever available.

This lens has the best reputation that I've heard of for Nikkor 300's. Chasseur d'Images gave it an amazing rating, and David Reuther's Subjective Lens Evaluations concurs with them. This, coupled with its relative rarity, have made this lens more of a collector's item than a user's delight. If you really want the ED glass, I would recommend the IF-ED version. Although it may not enjoy the same sterling reputation (though an excellent lens in its own right) as the ED version, it has the added benefit of internal focusing, which makes it shockingly light and easy to handle, as well as a closer-focusing capability.

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Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

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