Additional Information on
Special application lenses - Medical Nikkor 120mm f/4.0 IF

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Medical Nikkor Lens 120mm f/4.0 IF

The first medical Nikkor lens was introduced way back in November, 1962. There were two known subsequent updates of the old
Medical-Nikkor 200mm f/5.6 auto which occurred first in 1972 with some refinements on lens features, handling and improved power supplies. The followed up in 1974 was more confined to cosmetic changes and with improved lens coating to the lens.

Credit: Image of this Medical-Nikkor 120mm f/4.0s lense with accompanying connecting cable and power unit courtesy of Mr. "Jeremy Dresar" (905)629-0100 <> from PHOTOCREATIVE. Image copyright © 2003. All rights reserved

A radical change to the design of this lens series occurred in December, 1981 where Nikon introduced a new version of Medical Nikkor lens with a more practical focal length at 120mm and incorporating an Internal Focus (IF) design. The lens also has a faster maximum lens speed at f/4.0 and more importantly, tabbing on some of the prevailing Nikon SLR cameras that started offering automatic flash exposure control capability, this close-up Nikkor has provided a new dimension in precision, handling and user friendliness.

Originally designed for medical research and documentation of body cavities such as dental and eyes examination, this specialized application Nikkor lens was also widely used for industrial, scientific research and even as a superb close-up lens for macrophotography. The main technical highlights of this lens was its ability to record fine details in infinitely variable reproduction ratios from 1:11 to 1:1 life-size reproduction in a shadowless illumination with its built-in ringlight at the front section. With the accompanying a 2X close-up attachment lens (filter attachment size: 49mm), the maximum magnification ratio of 1X at 0.35m (lens only) can reach at an astonishing 2:1(2X) at its closest focusing distance (at 0.26m with 2X auxiliary lens attached). The internal focusing (IF) design used in its optical design provides two distinctive advantages; firstly, since there is no helical movement which usually causes physical extension of the lens barrel during focusing, this provides an excellent level of operational ease in the areas of lens handling; next, the IF design also enables the lens remained very compact in its size as well as providing a silky smooth focusing action.

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"....This used Nikon Medical-Nikkor Macro lens (manual focus) was traded in by a local hospital. ...designed especially for professional medical, dental, and scientific applications..." -

- Both images courtesy of Mr. Jeremy Dresar" from PHOTOCREATIVE

The choice of focal length at 120mm over the previous version of 200mm of this lens probably attributed to a few factors. Firstly, since the lens provides a faster maximum aperture at f/4.0, it compromises bulkiness in a possible 200mm with similar configuration As this lens will probably be used handheld frequently, that is not viable. However, the lens picture angle of 18° 50' still provides reasonably natural perspective without too much of distortion when shooting at its closest focusing/working range. Its optical construction comprises of a 9 elements in 6 groups design. The use of NIC provides the lens with excellent colour fidelity and high image contrast across its entire aperture setting and focusing range. Besides, its exceptional flatness of field attributed from its superior optical design also minimize any possible optical effect commonly found in close-up lenses.

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However, a most important feature among the many this Nikkor close-up lens provides could be the odd looking but highly practical built-in Ringlight flash which has contributed to its distinguished physical look. Frankly, very often photographers may not realize the ring flash used in a Medical Nikkor lens was actually among the first batch of Nikon automatic thyristors units that can provide automatic flash exposure in the Nikon 35mm photographic system. With the built-in ringlight flash, this Medical Nikkor lens provides an innovative guide-number (GN) system that automatically sets appropriate aperture as subject distance is set on the focusing ring.

Credit: This beautifully taken image of the Medical-Nikkor 120mm f/4.0 IF lens was downloaded from Roland Wink® website Image has been scaled and retouched to fit this page. The original image can be accessed by Clicking Here.

The built-in ring flash, apart from providing a more assuring optical result in exposures, it also offers a wraparound, shadowless illumination. There is an film speed settings provided on the lens while a red LED ready-light sits at the on top of lens barrel as visual confirmation of the flash charge status. Naturally, the flash can be turned off when not needed and this lens is so easy to use even if you are inexperienced in shooting close-ups. Other than those colourful guides imprinted beside the distance scales, the appropriate reproduction ratio also appears inside the camera's viewfinder in the lower right-hand corner of the frame as the lens is focused (it serves as an alternative flash ready-light) , and is imprinted on the film at the instant of exposure; the imprinting system can also be turned off when it is not needed. The lens comes with a LA-2 AC power unit as standard accessory and it can also used the optional DC LD-2 Battery Pack for continuous extended operation.

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Credit: Two good illustrations of the LD-2 and front section of the lense courtesy of Mr. "Richard Tillis®" <> Woodmere Camera 2163 Merrick Ave, Suite 5 Merrick, NY 11566 Phone: (888) 340-6237 Phone: (516) 868-9804 Fax: (516) 868-9426" <>. All images Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved.

As compared with the older Medical Nikkor 200mm f/5.6, this lens can be considered as an worthy upgrade to the old version. It does has a little slight flaws in its design. Firstly, although automatic diaphragm is linked to its focusing ring but a meter coupling prong was missing in its design. Besides exposure measurement is only provides via stop-down method so , it is more likely to be used both flash/lens in combination rather than using the lens singularly. Next, I don't know why (or rather I am not sure) why it is not provided with an TTL sync cable which allows TTL OTF flash exposure control which will even made this lens more appealing to used it in general photography. So, for those who still prefers TTL flash, you have to fall back to the Nikon SB-21A/B TTL Ring-light according to your camera models.

Technical Specification of Medical-Nikkor 120mm f/4.0 IF

Focal length/Aperture
:120mm f/4 (at 1/11X)
Lens construction: Lens: 9 elements in 6 groups; 2X close-up attachment lens: 2 elements in 1 group
Picture angle: 18 degrees 50' (at 1/11X); Aperture scale: f/4.0 -f/32
Distance scale: Graduated in meters from 1.6m to 0.35m (white numerals for use with lens only) and from 0.33m to 0.26m (orange numerals applicable when 2X close-up attachment lens is attached; sticker-type conversion scale for feet also provided
Flash illumination: Via built-in electronic flash ringlight at front of lens provides wraparound, shadowless illumination, flash can be turned off when not needed.
Flash output power: Approx. 60W
Flash duration
: Approx. 1/500sec. at ASA/ISO 25; controlled by thyristors and series circuitry and varies with film speed setting
: Provided; red LED on top of lens barrel; reproduction ratio in the viewfinder also serves as ready-light
: Fully automatic; diaphragm linked to focusing ring, so that correct aperture for flash photography is set as the focusing ring is turned
Exposure measurement
: With built-in ringlight flash: automatic; guide-number (GN) system automatically sets appropriate aperture as subject distance is set on the focusing ring. Without flash: via stop-down method; meter coupling shoe not provided.

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Reproduction ratio: Continuously variable from 1/11X to 1X (lens only) and 0.8X to 2X (with 2X close-up attachment lens)
Data imprinting
: Possible when using ringlight flash; reproduction ratios (1/11X to 2X) can be recorded in lower right hand corner of the film; non-data shooting also possible by leaving DATA button in "off" position.
Focusing lamp: 12V lamp at front of lens provided to facilitate focusing in dim light; glows for 16sec. after finger is taken off LAMP button; automatically stops glowing when ring light fires or power source is turned off
Power source
: AC Power Unit LA-2 or DC Battery Pack LD-2 (optional) (required when using built-in Ringlight flash); Weight: 890g (lens only)
98mm dia. x 150mm long (overall); 142mm extension from lens flange
Attachment lens size
: 49mm front screw-in; 2X close-up attachment lenses provided; Front lens cap: Slip-on

Credit: A crystal clear image (scaled from an original image in a larger 70k Jpeg file) of this Medical-Nikkor 120mm f/4.0s lense courtesy of Mr. "Jeremy Dresar" (905)629-0100 <> from PHOTOCREATIVE. Image copyright© 2002. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the owner.

Lens case: Leatherette compartment case which houses lens, accessories, and one power pack is available
Lens hood
: None; Usable Teleconverter(s):
None; Note: Serial number for this Medical-Nikkor lens was believed to have been started with 188041.

Versions: | Medical-Nikkor 120mm f/4.0 IF | Medical Nikkor 200mm f/5.6 | Relative: MF Micro-Nikkor lenses @ 105mm, 200mm

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