Nikon NIKKOR-H Auto 50mm f/2 (1964-1972, FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 52mm filters, 7.3 oz./206g, 2'/0.6 m close focus, about $50 used). enlarge. I'd get it at this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).
Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI (1974-1979, FX, DX and 35mm coverage, 52mm filters, 7.8 oz./220g, 1.5'/0.45 m close focus, about $50 used). enlarge. I'd get it at this link directly to them at eBay (see How to Win at eBay).
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Nikon's first SLR lens was the original NIKKOR-S 5cm f/2 sold from June 1959 through 1963. It had seven elements and was a double-Gauss design modified with an extra front element to make it a slight retrofocus design to clear the rear flipping mirror. I'm not reviewing that lens here.
The lens I am reviewing is this 6-element Nikon 50mm f/2, which was introduced in January 1964. It was first called the NIKKOR-H Auto. Its optics were unchanged through the AI NIKKOR version which was made until 1979. Multicoating was added in 1972. Except for the multicoating, nothing changed optically from 1964-1979; it's all the same lens but in many different cosmetic variations.
I got this along with my Nikon F body for $75 in July 2007.
Nikon calls this the Nikon NIKKOR-H Auto 50mm f/2.
Auto means automatic diaphragm, which means the diaphragm opens and closes automatically as you snap the shutter. This was hot stuff back in the 1960s.
The H in Nikkor-H means Hex, or six elements; the fact that all Nikon 50mm f/2 lenses have 6-blade diaphragms is coincidental.
6 elements in 4 groups.
Single-coated mostly in blue, multicoated from 1972-on.
6 straight blades.
2' or 0.6m for earlier models, 1.5' (0.45m) for later ones.
All metal: metal mount, metal focus ring, metal filter threads, metal aperture ring.
Engraved and filled lens name and serial number, engraved and filled aperture ring, engraved and filled colored depth-of-field markings.
NIKKOR-H: 2.538" diameter, 1.520" extension from flange (64.46 x 38.59mm), measured.
Note: Unlike AI lenses, the aperture rings of these pre-AI lenses extend a bit past the mounting flange. I made a differential measurement from the flange mounting surface, not the overhanging aperture ring.
NIKKOR-H: 7.265 oz. (205.9g), measured.
On a D3, the 50mm f/2 AI is always sharp edge-to-edge.
The images are sharp at f/2. however there's veiling from spherical aberration which lowers contrast. This is greatly improved by f/2.8, and contrast is perfect at f/4 and smaller.
Minor barrel (bulging).
Ease of Focus
The focus ring flicks with one finger, without play, slop, grittiness or any need for damping. Lenses like these make modern lenses, even off-brands like the Zeiss-branded Cosina-made lenses, feel like poop by comparison.
The newer f/1.8 50mm lenses are as sharp, and have none of the barrel distortion of these earlier f/2 lenses.
AI Conversion Successful!
As shown, I bought the 50mm Nikkor-H in its original non-AI form.
I bought an AI conversion kit, which is simply a modern AI aperture ring. It was trivial to unscrew the mount (using specialized screwdrivers), swap the old ring for new, and now my 50mm f/2 Nikkor-H from 1972 is fully compatible with matrix metering, auto exposure and full EXIF data on my D3. How's that for Nikon preserving long-term investment value in its lenses?
I found an old, unused conversion kit; I don't think Nikon sells them any more. Nikon did these conversions for only about $25 each until the 1980s, when everyone who was paying attention should have had their old lenses converted.
The AI version came as AI.
The pre-AI lenses don't mount to modern Nikons. Get the AI version so it will mount to everything. You need either the AI version, of have an older one AI converted to work on a D300 or D3. See Nikon Lens Compatibility for more.
This is an extremely high performance, fast lens at a bargain price used.
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