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Nikon 300mm f/4.5
(1969-1998.) This AI-s version: 1981-1998.

© 2008 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s. enlarge

You ought to be able to get them used here. I get my other goodies at Ritz, Amazon and Adorama. It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours from any of these links, too.

More Nikon Reviews

January 2008

Introduction     top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

This is a popular older lens. It works extremely well on the newest Nikon D3.

See the example photo below if you think I'm kidding.


On the D3, D300, D200, D2 and F6, use the "Non-CPU Lens Data" menu option to input 300mm and f/4.5. This gives full matrix metering and EXIF data, and finder read-out of set aperture. It works great in aperture-preferred as well as manual modes on these cameras.

It won't couple well to the cheaper digital (D80 and below) and cheaper film cameras (N80 and below). It works perfectly every professional film camera (F, F2, F3, F4, F5, F6), with Matrix metering on the FA, F4 and F6.

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

Example Photo

Barstow Green Motel

Green Motel, Barstow, California. Nikon D3, 300mm f/4.5 AI-s at f/11, 8 sec. at ISO 200, tripod, WB set on a preset I use indoors in my home (recalled from memory). Exactly as shot.

Let's see: great color, great contrast, no flare, no ghosts, no distortion, no color fringes and super-sharp. Any questions?

Production History

The 6-element optics have been unchanged, except for coatings, since 1969. This AI-s version is the most recent.

Here are the mechanical variations of this 6-element optical design:

1969-1974: NIKKOR-H. Scalloped metal focus ring, two fixed tripod holes, chrome mid-barrel.

1975-1977: Modern all-black barrel, rubber focus ring, rotating tripod collar, non-AI.

1977-1981: AI version.

1981-1998: This AI-s version.

Specification Variation

All versions stop down to f/22, except this AI-s version, which stops down to f/32.

All versions have only a nasty six-bladed diaphragm, except for this newest AI-s version which has 7 blades. (The ED-IF and AF versions have 9 blades.)

All versions focus to 13 feet (4 meters), except this AI-s version, which focuses to 12 feet (3.5 meters).

Production Quantities

Nikon made about 15,000 of the nasty P versions from 1964 - 1969.

Nikon made about 80,000 of the pre-AI six element versions from 1969 - 1977.

Nikon made about 35,000 of the AI versions from 1977 - 1981.

Nikon made about 125,000 of this nicest and newest AI-s version since 1981.

Other Optical Versions of the 300mm f/4.5 - f/4

1964-1969: NIKKOR-P

Nikon introduced the earlier five-element 300mm f/4.5 Nikkor-P in 1964. (P = Penta, or five elements.)

The Nikkor-P 300mm f/4.5 was the world's first 300mm lens with an automatic diaphragm.

This is too bad, because the optical performance of the Nikkor-P was awful, with loads of lateral and axial chromatic aberrations.

1969-1998: NIKKOR-H through AI-s

Nikon updated the design to this six element version in 1969 as the 300mm f/4.5 Nikkor-H (H = Hex, or six elements.) This is the same optical design as this newest AI-s version.

Coatings vary somewhat by era; multicoating came along in in the 1970s.

1977-1999: ED

The 300mm f/4.5 ED (1977 - 1979) and 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF (1978 - 1999) are newer, more expensive and quite different designs.

The non-ED version discussed here was made for decades along with the ED-IF version.

1987-2000: AF

The 300mm f/4 AF (1987 - 2000) is completely different lens.

2000-present: AFS

The 300mm f/4 AF-S (2000 - 2008+) is completely different lens.

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s at f/5.6, front view.

Specifications    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Name: Nikon calls this the Nikon AI Nikkor 300mm f/4.5s.

Focal Length: 300mm. Used on a DX camera it gives angles of view similar to what a 450mm lens would give on an FX or 35mm film camera. See also Crop Factor.

Optics: 6 elements in 5 groups. Nikon Integrated Multicoated (NIC). Traditional design: entire optical assembly moves in and out to focus.

Diaphragm: 7 blades, stopping down to f/32.

Close Focus: 13.3 feet (3.5 meters).

Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:9.

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 focus ring

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s focus scale.

Depth-of Field Scale? YES.

Infra-Red Focus Index? YES.

Filter Thread: 72mm.

Tripod Socket: YES, rotating, locking, removable (and therefore losable) collar.

Size: 7.66" extension from flange (focused at infinity) x 3.094" diameter (194.5 x 78.59 mm), measured. The widest thing is the the hood. Nikon specifies 194mm extension from flange, 202mm overall and 78.5mm diameter.

Weight: 40.865 oz. (2.554 pounds, 1,158.5g, 1.1585kg), measured. Nikon specifies 1,200g.

Case: CL-20A.

Hood: Built-in, also try the HN-20.

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s aperture ring

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s aperture ring.

Performance    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations


I'm surprised at how well this ancient design 300mm f/4.5 works on my D3. It's sharp, devoid of color fringes, and just works great.

A benefit of this lens over newer ED and AF lenses are its more precise manual focus.

It has no ghosts, making it ideal for pointing into sources of light.

It has a hard infinity stop, making it ideal for astronomical use. (Newer ED lenses have no infinity stop.)

It has no significant distortion of straight lines.


Distortion is invisible unless you deliberately put a ruler on a greatly magnified image on a 30" monitor.

Plug this figure (more coming) into Photoshop CS2's lens distortion filter to correct the distortion. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.


© 2008 KenRockwell.com

Falloff (dark corners)

The 300mm f/4.5 has very mild falloff at full aperture. It is rarely visible unless you're looking for it. If you are, stop it down a stop or two and it vanishes.

This is better than the 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF, which has a weird falloff characteristic with a brighter dot in the middle which doesn't go away until stopped down much further.




Manual focus has the classic Nikon feel, which is duplicated nowhere.


Sunrise, Barstow, CA

Deliberately Overexposed Sunrise, Barstow, Calif. D3, f/8 at 1/125, ISO 200, no filter.

It has no ghosts when pointed into the sun. It's much better than newer zooms like the AFS 70-200mm f/2.8 VR.

Mechanics and Construction

The Nikkor 300mm f/4.5 AI-s is made like they used to. It is built to the highest mechanical standards, period.

Filter Threads: Metal.

Retraceable Hood: Metal, internally flocked.

Barrel: Metal.

Focus Ring: Metal, rubber covered.

Aperture Ring: Metal.

Finish: Black enamel over black anodization.

Mount: Chromed brass.

Internals: Metal.

Markings: All engraved and filled.

Noises when Shaken: Clicking from the diaphragm blades.


It's sharp edge-to-edge on the D3, even wide-open. If it's this sharp on the D3, it will be even better on less picky Fuji Velvia 50 film.

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s

Nikon 300mm f/4.5 AI-s. enlarge.

Recommendations    top

Intro   Specifications    Performance    Recommendations

Want one? Get one; it works great. Also look at the 300mm f/4.5 ED-IF, which sells used in 2008 for about the same price, but weighs less, is slightly smaller and is a newer design that used to sell for far more than this non-ED lens did.

Be sure to get the tripod mount with this lens. It is removable, so stupider people lose them and try to sell these lenses without them.



If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

Thanks for reading!



Caveat: The all the ads below come from third parties. I don't see them before they appear on your screen. See more at my Buying Advice page. Personally I get my goodies at Ritz (the store, not the hotel gift shop), Amazon and Adorama.


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