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Nikon 200mm f/4 AI-s
Micro-NIKKOR
(1978-2005)
© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s (FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 52mm filters, 29.1 oz./824g with collar but without caps, about $325 used). enlarge. I got this one from this direct link to it at eBay (see How to Win at eBay), and you also can get it at Adorama.

My biggest source of support for this free website is when you use those or any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. I'm not NPR; I get no government hand-outs and run no pledge drives to support my research, so please always use any of these links for the best prices and service whenever you get anything. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

 

Ideal Uses

Perfect general-purpose close-focusing tele for film and FX, not much bigger or more expensive today than the regular 200mm f/4 AI-s.

Superb as a low-cost FX macro lens, too.

 

Not for

Not the best lens for macro product shots due to lateral color fringing at close distances. The current 200mm f/4 AF-D is far superior, and oddly, this AI-s lens has no problems at normal non-macro distances.

 

Optics:
Ergonomics: (manual focus)
Usefulness:
Availability:
Overall:

 

June 2013   Nikon Reviews   Nikon Lenses    All Reviews

Nikon 200mm Lens Center Sharpness Compared

Nikon 200mm Corner Sharpness Compared

Why fixed lenses take better pictures

 

Other Nikon 200mm f/4 lenses:

200mm Micro-NIKKOR AF-D (1993-today, AF)

200mm f/4 AI-s (1981-1996)

200mm f/4 AI (1977-1981)

200mm f/4 Q (1961-1976)

 

Introduction       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio
I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

Compatibility    History    Production    Pricing

The Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s is precision incarnate. It is the world's first 200mm micro lens.

Everything about it says precise. The focus is out-of-this-world: one finger is enough to flick the focus ring, which feels as if it's floating on air, from infinity to 1:2.

This 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR uses internal focusing, so nothing moves externally as focused.

It's a great lens for anything, however if you're shooting products with black-and-white graphics in the closest macro range and looking closely, you'll see some red-blue color fringing on sharp outlines at the sides.

Optics are excellent otherwise, and the mechanical quality of this piece is fantastic.

 

Compatibility       intro     top

This manual-focus Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s works great with most Nikon cameras, film and digital.

It works flawlessly with every manual focus Nikon ever made, from the F of 1959 through the FM3a and today's FM-10.

On the D3X, D3s, D3, D700, D300, D200, D2 and F6, use the "Non-CPU Lens Data" menu option to set 200mm and f/4 to get full color matrix metering, EXIF data and finder read-out of set aperture. It works great in aperture-preferred as well as manual modes on these cameras.

It works perfectly on every professional film camera (F, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6), and adds Matrix metering on the FA, F4 and F6.

The meters of cheaper digital (D90, D5000 and below) and cheaper film cameras (N80 and below) will not couple (or work at all) with this lens, so you'll be on your own guessing exposure using the rear LCD or an external meter, or get a tiny Gossen Digisix meter and adapter to meter manually.

See Nikon Lens Compatibility for details on your camera. Read down the "AI, AI-s" column for this lens.

 

History        intro       top

1978-1982

This 200mm Micro-NIKKOR was available in its first AI version.

It has a thinner tripod collar and a wider aperture ring than the AI-s version shown here. It is identical optically.

 

1982-2005

The AI-s version shown here is a minor cosmetic update from the AI version, with the same optics.

The sample shown here is from the middle of 1990.

 

Production        intro       top

Nikon made about 40,000 of these 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR lenses, 20,000 each of the AI and then the AI-s version.

 

Pricing        intro       top

This 200mm Macro has always been a $1,000 lens when new.

Used today, it's a screaming bargain.

 
Corrected for
inflation, 2010
Price,
new*
1982
$885
$392
1983
$745
$339
1986
$735
$369
1987
$880
$459
1988
$985
$534
1991
$915
$570
1992
$930
$600
1994
$1,135
$770
1995
$1,200
$840
1996
$1,055
$760
1997
$1,210/1,060**
$890/780**
1998
$935/1,150**
$700/860**
1999
$850/1,100**
$650/840**
2000
$960/1,190**
$760/940**
2005
$?/980*
$?/880*
2010
-
2013
-

* At full NYC discount. Very few people bought their lenses this inexpensively back then.

** USA/gray.

 

Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Name

Nikon calls this the Nikon Micro-NIKKOR 200mm f/4 AI-s IF.

IF means internal focusing; nothing moves externally as focused.

 

Optics            top

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s. enlarge.

9 elements in 6 groups.

IF: Internal Focusing.

Multicoated, called Nikon Integrated Coating (NIC).

 

Diaphragm            top

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s. enlarge.

 

9 straight blades.

Stops down to f/32.

 

Aperture Ring            top

Yes.

Metal.

Full-stop clicks.

 

Close Focus            top

2.34 feet.

0.71 meters.

 

Working Distance            top

19.5" (500mm), hood retracted, at 1:2.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio            top

1:2

 

Hard Infinity Focus Stop?            top

Yes.

This is great for astronomy; just turn to the stop and you have fixed laboratory-perfect focus all night.

 

Focus Scale            top

Yes.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale            top

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s. enlarge.

Yes, but only two little ticks for f/32.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index            top

Yes: red dot in depth-of-field scale.

 

Filter Thread            top

52mm, metal.

Does not rotate or move, ever.

 

Tripod Collar            top

Removable tripod collar:

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s Tripod Collar. enlarge.

 

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s Tripod Collar. enlarge.

 

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s without Tripod Collar. enlarge.

 

Size            top

Nikon specifies 172mm extension from flange (180mm overall) by 66mm (AI-s) or 67mm (AI) diameter.

 

Weight            top

AI-s version (1978-1982)

29.060 oz. (823.9g), with collar but without caps.

Lens alone: 22.382 oz. (634.6g).

Tripod Collar: 6.680 oz. (189.35g).

Nikon specifies 28.2 oz. (800g).

 

AI-s version (1982-2005)

Nikon specifies 26.1 oz. (740g).

 

Hood            top

Built-in short telescoping hood.

 

Case            top

CL-36.

 

Made in            top

Japan.

 

Teleconverters            top

TC-301 and TC-14B.

Nikon warns of potential vignetting with the TC-14A, and says to forget it with others.

 

Packaging            top

Gold-foil box, foam innards.

 

Nikon Product Number            top

1468.

 

Performance       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

Overall   Focus    Bokeh    Color      Distortion   Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters

Color Fringes    Mechanics    Sharpness  Sunstars  

 

Overall      performance     top

The 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s is optically and mechanically superb, except for lateral color fringes at macro distances — whoops!

 

Focus      performance     top

Manual focus is a dream. It's as smooth as silk, perfectly damped and has no play.

It flicks from infinity to 1:2 in 300º of rotation with one finger.

It's perfectly geared for macro use, but for normal distances, I find the focus too fast. The non-macro 200mm lenses are geared much more slowly for more precise focus over a more restricted range.

The D3, D3X, D3s, D700, F4, F5, F6 and most professional AF cameras have three very precise electronic manual focus indicators, with which this lens works perfectly.

Lesser digital cameras, like the D300s and down, usually have just one "OK" focus dot, which is not as precise as two arrows and a dot.

 

Bokeh      performance     top

Bokeh, the character of out of focus areas, not simply how far out of focus they are, is excellent. Backgrounds never distract.

Here are complete full-frame images with the lens focused at 3 meters (10 feet) with vegetation at 10 meters (30 feet):

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro bokeh

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro bokeh

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro bokeh

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro bokeh

 

Color Rendition      performance     top

The color rendition seems the same as all my other modern NIKKORs.

 

Distortion      performance     top

The Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR has minor pincushion distortion.

It can be corrected by plugging these figures into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

 
FX and Film
Infinity
-0.5
15m (50 ft)
-1.0
3m (10 ft)
-0.5
1m (3 ft)
-1.3

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

Ergonomics      performance     top

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s. enlarge.

The Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR's ergonomics are perfect.

The tripod collar comes off for normal shooting.

If you use a pro camera like the D3S or F5, you'll probably need an AH-5 tripod adapter to attach your tripod to the collar itself in order for the battery compartment of your camera to clear your tripod. Don't worry if you can't score an AH-5; this lens is so light that you can bolt the camera directly to the tripod safely.

 

Falloff (darkened corners)          performance     top

In actual photography, falloff on FX is just about invisible at f/4, and gone by f/5.6.

It won't be an issue at all on DX (see crop factor).

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.

 

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s falloff on FX and film at infinity.

 
f/4
f/5.6
f/8
Infinity
4 ft/1.2m (1:4.5)
1:2

© 2010 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Filters, Use with      performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting, even with combinations of thick filters.

 

Lateral Color Fringes      performance     top

On a D3, there are visible lateral color fringes on the sides at macro distances.

At normal distances, there are none, and I doubt any of these would be visible at all on film.

This is too bad, since it makes this lens much less useful to me as a macro lens, since for my product shots, color fringes become obvious.

Here's a complete FX image:

LEICA 35mm f/3.5

LEICA SUMMARON 3.5cm f/3.5 (1958).

 

And here's the lower side enlarged:

LEICA 3.5cm f/3.5 SUMMARON (1958)

LEICA SUMMARON 3.5cm f/3.5 (1958).

Oddly, these go away at normal non-macro distances.

 

Mechanics      performance     top

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s. enlarge.

Like all Nikkor manual focus AI-s lenses, the Nikon NIKKOR 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s is built to the highest mechanical standards of any lens ever made.

 

Barrel Exterior

Anodized and enameled aluminum.

 

Filter Threads

Anodized aluminum.

 

Hood

Threaded anodized aluminum, internal flocking.

 

Focus Ring

Metal, rubber covered.

 

Focus Helicoids

I'm unsure if this IF Micro-NIKKOR uses helicoids, or more likely, cams.

The focus is like melted butter: smooth and silky with no play or need for damping grease.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

Engraved into barrel and filled with orange paint for f/32 (AI-s version).

Engraved into barrel and filled with green paint for f/32 (AI-s version).

 

Internals

All metal.

 

Aperture Ring

Cast aluminum, anodized and enameled.

Engraved markings filled with paint coded to the depth-of-field scale.

 

Mount

Dull-chromed brass.

 

Markings

Engraved into the metal and filled with paint.

 

Identity and Serial Number

On front of lens outside the filter ring.

Engraved into the metal and filled with paint.

 

Ass-Gasket (dust seal at mount)

No.

 

Noises When Shaken

Mild clicking from the diaphragm blades and actuation system.

 

Made in

Japan.

 

Sharpness      performance     top

Warning 1: Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens.

Warning 2: Lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

 

With those caveats, the 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s is quite sharp.

See examples for yourself at

Nikon 200mm Lens Center Sharpness Compared

and

Nikon 200mm Corner Sharpness Compared

 

It's sharp even wide-open at f/4. It gets only slightly sharper as stopped-down to f/8, and then diffraction limits performance more than the optics themselves at the smaller apertures.

 

Sunstars      performance     top

With its straight 9-bladed diaphragm, the 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR should make magnificent 18-pointed sunstars on bright points of light.

 

Usage        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

The effective f/number becomes slower as one focusses more closely.

Here is a table of the expsure corrections to make, but only make them if you are unsing an external exposure meter. For most people using modern cameras with built-in meters, these are all calculated automatically.

Nikon 200mm Micro exposure factors

Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro Exposure Factors.

 

Compared        top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

 

See also Best Macro Lenses Compared.

 

Sharpness

See sharpness comparisons for yourself at

Nikon 200mm Lens Center Sharpness Compared

and

Nikon 200mm Corner Sharpness Compared

 

Comparison Table

 
200/4 Micro AI-s
Anni
1978-2005
1993-today
1975-1996
Filter
52mm
62mm
52mm
Optics
Very Good
Spectacular
Very Good
Diaphragm
9 blades, f/32
9 blades, f/32
9 blades, f/32

Close Focus

0.71m
0.5m
2m
Repro Ratio
1:2
1:1
1:7.4
Weight
29.1 oz./824g
41.6 oz./1,180g
18.0 oz./510g
Price, 8/2010
$100 used

 

Recommendations       top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Usage   Compared   Recommendations

This Nikon 200mm f/4 Micro-NIKKOR AI-s was Nikon's most exotic macro lens for decades. It was the dream of every insect photographer.

Today it sells for a song. Pay five times as much for the hulking AF-D version if you need to split pixels at the sides in the macro range, otherwise for your FX or film camera, this exotic is available used today for less than the price of my last CF card.

 

Deployment      top

I'd leave either a 52mm Nikon Clear (NC - UV) filter, or a 52mm Hoya Super HMC UV on the lens at all times.

I'd pitch the flat Nikon cap that came with this lens and get a new 52mm "pinch" type cap, too. I'm not kidding: the new fatter caps are much easier to use in the field.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 52mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.

 

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Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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August 2010