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50 years of Nikon F-mount – Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2 vs. Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8D

11 August 2009
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality

The Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2.0 gives the impression of a very small instrument. At first glance it looks as if it was distinctly smaller than the Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8 D. When you put two lenses side by side, though, you can see that both of them have almost identical length; the new model is just a bit more bulky. The front element of the new Nikkor is a tad bigger – the lens is faster, after all – but also it is positioned more deeply inside the barrel. Also other lenses with similar parameters are very much alike when it comes to physical dimensions – it can be clearly seen in the following chart.

50 years of Nikon F-mount – Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2 vs. Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8D - Build quality

The focusing system of both lenses works in the same way - by moving all the elements one way or the other; it doesn’t change the mutual position of the elements so the focal length remains the same. In the Nikkor – S the manual focus ring is ribbed and has small grooves for fingertips. It works very nice and smoothly but not loosely so its use can be called very comfortable. On the ring we can find a distance scale in feet and the caption “LENS MADE IN JAPAN”. Other specimens of this lens had the scale in meters and feet.


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50 years of Nikon F-mount – Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2 vs. Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8D - Build quality

The Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2.0 has two chromium-plated bands. The first surrounds the front element and it extends during focusing; it contains a non-rotating 52 mm filter thread. The second band is between the manual focus ring and apertures ring; opposite to it we find a caption “PAT. PEND.”. The black apertures ring allows to change the aperture by 1 EV stop in the range from f/2.9 to f/16.

50 years of Nikon F-mount – Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2 vs. Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8D - Build quality

Of course it is needless to say that the Nikkor –S 5 cm f/2.0 is completely made of metal. In those times they didn’t use plastic in barrels.

50 years of Nikon F-mount – Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2 vs. Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8D - Build quality

When it comes to its optical design, the older lens is, surprisingly, more complex than its younger brother, although it is slower. The Nikkor –S consists of 7 elements in 5 groups. The forty years younger Nikkor AF 1.8/50 D has one element less. The specimen in our tests had a six blades diaphragm, although at that time there were series of similar instruments with a nine blades diaphragm.

50 years of Nikon F-mount – Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2 vs. Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8D - Build quality


At the end of this chapter there is one more issue to clear up. The Nikkor –S 5 cm f/2.0 is one of the oldest F mount lenses so it belongs to the type frequently described as a non-AI so without the aperture ring-light meter cooperation mechanism, called AI (Automatic Indexing) and introduced in 1977. The lenses, manufactured after that date had a hook on the aperture ring and its position depended on the aperture. Early bodies with the AI system were connected to this hook using a little lever, which, when the non-AI lenses were used, could be lifted up. The modern bodies doesn’t have a possibility to lift that little lever so there were some doubts whether or not we would manage to attach such old lenses to a body of, say, a D3x. It turned out that the lever is very thin so the lens’s body slides beneath and it stays fixed after the connection. By contrast, the AI lenses move the lever by a value depending on the maximum relative aperture. It creates a problem, though. Even if the body has a possibility to save the information about the used Non-CPU lens, some strange data often find its way to the EXIF. Although the focal length is saved correctly, the active aperture is not. In EXIF we find the most often the lens’s maximum aperture, regardless of the aperture that was really used. It happened from time to time that the body got silly and just saved some random aperture values.

50 years of Nikon F-mount – Nikkor-S 5 cm f/2 vs. Nikkor AF 50 mm f/1.8D - Build quality