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From: "John Owlett" <
Subject: 35-70mm Zooms
To: Leo Foo <leofoo@mir.com.my>
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2001 23:37:14 +0100
Hi Leo,

Once again, I've been mentioning your Web site in public (well, on the Nikon manual focus list, which may not be very public!). As always, I have tried to play fair by my sources, but I thought I ought to let you see what I have been saying.




Scott Perkins wrote to me off-List about 35-70mm zooms. Reading his
note this morning caused me to try to sort out my understanding of
35-70mm zooms and to write this (rather long) reply. In the hope
that this analysis may be of general interest, and with Scott's
consent, I'm posting it to the List.

On Sun 8 Jul 2001, at 19:20 EDT, Scott Perkins wrote;

> I am purchasing I know for a lifetime of camera use as I never
> change or sell and that is why I asked your opinion on a zoom lens
> value and upgrade. I read that the E series really was not Nikons
> best and instead came upon a 35-70 3.5 AIS zoom lens with 62 filter
> ring.
> from some online research see here, I thought this lens I obtained
> for evaluation was really good.
> http://www.mir.com.my/rb/photography/hardwares/speciallenses/3570mmnikkor.htm
> 35-70 zoom lens 3.5constant (not "E" series)
> But now upon close inspection I see it is not the same lens.
> Although the lens has the same apparent specs ( dont know about
> the 62 filter ring size like the one I have ) but what I got is
> not exactly the same according to the picture and mine has a
> little button to push to go into the close focus "macro" mode.
> Do you know if the lens I actually have had a decent reputation ?

Nikon has had two ranges of 35-70mm zooms, which I shall call the "photojournalist" zooms and the "hobbyist" zooms.

The first range began at about the same time as the FT3 (which was launched in 1977, when existing lenses were converted to AI indexing):

(A1) AI Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5 (72mm filter)

This was shown at Photokina in 1976, though it didn't go on sale for quite a while afterwards. It was aimed at press photography and the taking of informal shots at weddings. I understand that there are AI-S versions of this lens, but it was effectively replaced in 1981-82 by

(A2) AI-S Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5 (62mm filter)

This is the lens you have studied, Scott. Like many AI-S lenses it was a little narrower than its AI predecessor but, more importantly, it focused much closer and has the macro-focusing button you mention. Looking closely at Leo Foo's Web page, I think the top and second pictures are of the first version, and the third picture is of the second version.

This second version is a bit of a ghost in Moose Peterson's "Nikon System Handbook" as well. It isn't discussed in the text, though it's there in lenshood table.

Neither of these first two versions seems to have sold terribly well. Optically they were fine, but these were the early days of standard zooms; moreover, I suspect that these two versions were too slow for the photojournalists, and too heavy for the hobbyists.

(A3) AF Nikkor 35-70mm f/2.8

This completely new design did sell terribly well! It was a bit heavier but the extra 2/3 of a stop and the optical quality made it successful. It is still in the Nikon range (as an AF-D lens).

Since it also has a good manual-focus feel, and is not too frighteningly expensive secondhand, it has quite a following on the NikonMF List (it's the one I own).

Among professionals and obsessive AF users, the larger, heavier and more expensive AF-S Nikkor 28-70mm f/2.8 is seen as being quicker, quieter and more convenient to use ... though not necessarily better optically.

To the purist Nikon F/F2 user, "Nikon" was a brand-name that should be used only for ultimate quality cameras: Nikkormats, like your FT3s, were good cameras ... but not real Nikons. Some of these folk are probably still in shock from Nippon Kogaku's 1979 decision to use the Nikon brand-name for hobbyist equipment like the EM camera body and the Series E lenses.

But hobbyists buy zoom lenses too; hence the second range of 35-70mm zooms, which began at the end of 1981.

(B1) Nikon Series E 36-72mm f/3.5

The Series E lenses were constructed of plastic and much lighter. However, the glass was just as good, and some of them -- such as the 75-150mm f/3.5 -- are still sought after. Some of them are valued by those for whom every gramme/ounce matters. The 36-72mm is not one of these: not, I think, because there's anything wrong with it, but because its successor was so much better.

(B2) AI-S Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5

One way to make a zoom lens much lighter is by allowing the maximum aperture to vary, so this lens is only 2/3 of the weight of the Series E, and is built to the standard of the AI-S range of lenses. (I have one of these myself.)

The variable maximum aperture is a nuisance when using an incident light meter (which I quite often do) or a manual flash setting (which I rarely do). Apart from that it's fine (OK, not quite as good as the photojournalist range) and only 2/5 of the weight of the f/2.8.

(B3) AF Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5

When Nikon introduced the current AF lenses in 1986 -- and wanted the focusing to be very light to minimise strain on the motor -- the focusing ring on this lens became a very narrow ridge of plastic with no distance scale and no manual-focus feel.

Aargh! Nasty thing! Horrid! Keep away!

(B4) AF Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 (take 2)

Apparently, some Nikon users didn't like the (B3) version so, three years later, Nikon widened the focusing ring, covered it with rubber, and added a distance scale. This was in the range for about four years until the marketplace for consumer cameras demanded 35-80mm and then 28-80mm featherweight zooms.

There is one other -- the Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5-4.8 -- which comes as part of the kit with the FE-10, but that's another story.


John Owlett, Southampton, UK

35-70mmzoom.jpg (18kjPeg)

The Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f3.5

The first macro zoom lens from Nikon. With a reproduction ratio of 1:4 at 70mm setting down to 0.35m (1.1 ft). Dual zoom rings for separate zooming and focusing - kind of odd, when compared with its elder counter part, the 80-200mm f4. Many believed this lens was a continual model from the Nikon's once highly popular 43-86mm zoom lens (Though quality sucks, but that was the early days of zoom lenses - it just can't compared).

(Please note: Nikon have few zoom lenses that time covering from 25mm to 300mm in the mid-range focal length : 25-50mm f4; 35-70mm f3.5 (36-72mm Series E) , 80-200mm & 50-300mm)

* Compare these stats with the Series E series 36-72mm Zoom

F2 with lens image

A 35-70mm f3.5 mounted on a F2

Nikkor 35-70 f3.5 image

This is a highly acclaimed by many, a zoom lens of outstanding optical performance. Together with the 80-200mm, Nikon has two very popular (and pricey) lens to offer its users in the specified focal lengths. I used to think why this lens was so expensive as compared with other third party zoom lenses that was availabled during that time..). But seeing some images produced by this lens, I was convinced but never bought any.... due to its limited zoom range, the relative small maximum aperture and of course, the price.

The lens has an upgrade. Not surprising, considering current trend in zoom lens development and availability of other wide and broad range of choices currently on the market (During the mid eighties, even Nikon tried with its own version of cheaper lenses, the E series). Tactically, if the lens maintains its price structure - it will be easily washed out by competition. Thus, first there is a small upgrade, the Zoom Nikkor 35-70mm f3.3-4.5, a scaled down version to bridge the embarrassing gap of price difference.

Scale down version image

Followed by another AF version of equivalent specifications

1st AF lens Image

And finally, the pricey goodies are back with this...

Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f2.8 Image 

AF-Nikkor 35-70mm f/2.8
(Shown here is not the "D" designated version - an upgrade again...)

A 35-70mm zoom lens is a very embarrassing zoom range now.
But for those who follows the trend in 35mm photography must have noted first time buyer of a SLR might skip this range and opt for 28mm on the wider angled to 85 or even 105mm on the longer focal length. Indirectly, the traditional way of buying a SLR with the standard lens as package will be subsituted by a zoom lens instead.

For 35-70mm zoom lens to be able to sell well. Price could the the first priority, next is features.So, most SLRs sold now are with a 35-70mm zoom lens (Don't worry, the shop assistant will made you believe). Feature-wise, there will not be any difference between a f2.8 and a f3.3/4.5 zoom because 1st time buyer unlikely will understand the difference anyway.

Thus, a 35-70mm f2.8 is definitely not aiming for those within that pool. It is for a photographer who knows the difference, and they are demanding features, and most of all, quality. And as far as the latter is concerned, this lens delivers!

Again, I have seen some images taken by my friends and I am impressed, very impressed. And it goes back to the earlier days of 35-70mm f3.5 again, Nikon asks you to pay for quality...

Sigma's lens Image

Third party competition like this Sigma 35-70mm f2.8 helps a little
to "keep and contain" prices down, I hope...

Pentax's lens Image

Facing the threat from third party manufacturers,
other makers like
Pentax came with such a cosmetically beutiful
and well constructed 28-70mm f2.8 lens.

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