Nikon lens series


Nikon non-AI Nikkor

Offer optical performance similar to AI Nikkors but do not incorporate the automatic maximum-aperture indexing (AI) and Aperture Direct Reading (ADR) features. They are used with stopdown exposure measurement on Nikon cameras. However, most Auto-Nikkors equipped with meter-coupling shoe can be converted to AI operation and full-aperture metering.

Diaphragms - automatic, preset, or manual - of non-AI and AI lens types function in an identical manner with all Nikon-system cameras.

The A-type

The very first lenses for the Nikon F and the Nikkormat FT/FTN belong to the A-type and can be distinguished by the fact that no screw heads are visible on the lens bayonet ring, and the distance scale was only marked in meters. Later A-type lenses have screw heads protruding through the lens bayonet and a distance scale in both meters and feet. All A-type lenses have a chrome finished filter ring and the designation was engraved with the name "Nikkor", the maximum aperture, and the focal length. Early A-types have the focal length shown in centimeters, whilst on later lenses it is given in millimeters. Lenses having "Auto" are equipped with automatic diaphragms which are coupled directly to the shutter release and mirror action mechanisms.

Several of these lenses were modified by the addition of multi-coating to their glass elements to become C-types.

The code letter after the "Nikkor" engraving is indicative of the number of elements in each lens. The letters are from Latin or Greek: U for 1 element (Uns),B for 2 elements (Bini), T for 3 elements (Tres), Q for 4 elements (Quatuor), P for 5 elements (Pente), H for 6 elements (Hex), S for 7 elements (Septem), O for 8 elements (Octo), N for 9 elements (Novem), D for 10 elements (Decem).

Thus, the Nikkor-P Auto 105mm lens is constructed with five lens elements, and the Nikkor-UD Auto consists of eleven elements.

The C-type

The C-type Nikkors resemble the A-versions, but some or all of their glass elements are multi-coated. Slight cosmetic changes also differentiate the C-type lenses, which have a black finish to their filter ring with the additional "C" after the code letter for the number of elements. The C-types were introduced from 1967 and remained in production into the early 1970s.

The K-type

Most K-type lenses were fitted with a rubber covered focusing ring, which makes them instantly recognizable from their predecessors. Their depth-of-field rings were usually finished in black, but otherwise their internal construction was the same as the C-types. During 1977, after a relatively short time in production, the K-types were replaced by the AI Nikkors.

Nikon AI Nikkor

The AI line was created by Nikon in 1977. It was a new system for coupling the lens to the camera's exposure system. A cam on the lens' aperture ring, known as the Meter Coupling Ridge, indicates the maximum as well as the preset aperture directly to the camera. AI Nikkors provide automatic maximum-aperture indexing (AI) and full-aperture metering, their secondary aperture scale also provides Aperture Direct Reading (ADR). Each AI-Nikkor also incorporates a meter-coupling shoe providing full-aperture metering with all pre-AI Nikon/Nikkormat meter systems.

Diaphragms - automatic, preset, or manual - of non-AI and AI lens types function in an identical manner with all Nikon-system cameras.

The mechanics of the AI lenses were improved. In earlier lenses the double helix that moves the optical system away from the film plane when focusing at close range distances causes the focusing ring to move forwards as well. To improve handling the two helixes in the AI lenses have different thread pitches. So, whilst the optical system is moved forward, the focusing ring is only displaced by a fraction of a millimeter. The depth-of-field scale is now located on the chrome ring between the focusing and aperture rings.

For a while Nikon offered a service to convert earlier pre-AI lenses to the new AI-system standard.

Nikon AI-S Nikkor

The AI-S line was created by Nikon in 1982 when the aperture mechanism of AI lenses was enhanced to feature automatic aperture control. This feature was to be used with cameras such as the FA, FG and F301 and allowed Program or Shutter Priority (FA only) modes to be incorporated into these cameras when used with AI-S lens. The AI-S mechanisms allows the aperture increments of an AI-S lens to be controlled more precisely by the camera than with an AI lens.

The orange-colored minimum aperture value marking, and a milled semi-circular notch in the bayonet ring distinguish AI-S lenses. The notch is designed to inform Nikon cameras that employ a mechanical automatic aperture control for different exposure modes, that lens with a linear aperture mechanism is attached.

Nikon Series E

A line of compact, lightweight and low-cost lenses designed and built by Nikon expressly for use with Nikon AI-system cameras and available in the most popular focal lengths.

All Nikon Series E lenses provide full performance with all AI (Automatic Indexing) Nikon SLR cameras, including automatic exposure control with cameras so equipped, and aperture indication in the viewfinder via Nikon Aperture Direct Readout (ADR). They can also be used with non-AI Nikon models, employing the stopdown method of exposure measurement.

Lighter weights were achieved through the use of plastic for the exterior parts of the Nikon Series E lenses, as well as their aperture rings and lens chambers that hold lens elements. Even the helicoid was plastic on some of the lenses.

The prices of the lenses were reduced by minimizing the number of lens elements required for optical components and using less expensive glass materials.

Each lens, except for the 70-210/4, accepts standard Nikon 52mm filters for added convenience and economy.

Nikon AF-I Nikkor

A small line of professional super telephoto lenses designed for Nikon 35mm film SLR cameras with the Nikon F mount. These were the first Nikkor lenses to have a D/C coreless focus drive motor built into the lens rather than the body which enabled faster autofocusing.

The AF-I lenses offer a number of very convenient additional features: the M/A mode that permits manual override of the autofocus operation at any time, a focus range limiter to eliminate unnecessary lens movement, and four AF-lock buttons situated around the front end of their barrels to improve their handling.

An important feature of the AF-I type is that they do not require any electrical power to be operated manually and can therefore be used on non-AF camera bodies.

Nikon AF Nikkor

A line of lenses designed for Nikon 35mm SLR cameras having an autofocus motor. There is no AF-drive motor built into the lens, the lens autofocus system is driven from a motor within the camera body via an AF-coupling. With this type of lens, there can be no autofocus operation unless a digital or film SLR camera with the autofocus motor built-in to the camera body is used. Selected digital SLR cameras such as the D3000 series or D5000 series do not have an autofocus motor built-in to the camera body because most lenses produced for these cameras have one in the lens.

Internally the lenses are fitted with a CPU to communicate specific lens data to the camera's autofocus drive and exposure metering systems, via a set of electrical contact pins located around the rear edge of the lens mount.

Compared to the non-AF Nikkors, the focusing helixes were replaced by a cam construction similar to that employed in zoom lenses to change the focal length. This was done for two reasons. First to reduce the load on the focusing motor, which would otherwise have had to move the traditional greased helixes, and second to increase the response time of moving the lens elements to provide a sufficiently quick AF system.

The very low resistance to the rotation of the focus ring when operating these lenses manually and their narrow focus rings did little to endear them to professionals and enthusiasts alike. Beginning in 1988 Nikon responded to the criticism from photographers concerning the design of the first generation AF Nikkors, and began to replace them with lenses that have more traditional, wider rubber coated focusing ring, and a greater focusing resistance to improve their manual focus action.

A new version of AF lenses was introduced at the same time as the F90. These have a modified CPU that provides the approximate focus distance of the lens to the camera in order this information can be incorporated with the exposure calculations performed by the camera's metering CPU. These AF-D Nikkors are a key component of the 3D Matrix-Metering system. The same technology is also included in the newer G-type lenses.

The G type marks the end of the near universal compatibility of Nikkor lenses with all camera bodies from the Nikon F SLR of 1959 onwards. The reason for this is simple: the G types have no aperture ring. They are intended for cameras that allow the aperture to be set via a control on the camera body.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor

A line of lenses designed for Nikon SLR cameras and equipped with Silent Wave Motor (SWM) which enables high-speed and super quiet autofocusing. The AF-S motors are both smaller and quicker than the earlier AF-I coreless motors allowing for physically smaller lenses to be designed.

Nikon AF-P Nikkor

A line of lenses designed for Nikon digital SLR cameras and equipped with stepping motor to focus quickly and quietly making this type of lens ideal for shooting movies as well as still images.

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