Recently I have been looking for some old style NIKON F AI MF lenses across the internet. I got this one. It is a discount, costs next to nothing. Of course it’s not only about the money, but about the performance you can get from it. It’s a NIKON F mount, AI-S lens. AI-S has a depressed notch on the mounting ring. AI in general has secondary f-stops markings but more importantly has light-meter coupling.
I can mount it on my NIKON D200 camera and get both focus confirmation dot in viewfinder as well as proper metering thanks to its AI featured lever. My main objective was to keep it low-cost, old-style, MF, proper metal and glass build. So it is AI-S.
I cannot get light metering on my NIKON D70S, because it lacks mechanical coupling for reading it from lens mouting ring. Shooting on this camera with AI, AI-S lenses, either you get external light meter or remember all numbers by yourself. I cannot get light metering neither on my NIKON F50. Reason is the same as with D70S. With digital is only a matter of few more tries. With film it won’t work, you cannot check instantly if you are good with exposure. Need to get different camera like F70, or EL. For sure I will try to describe it more precisely soon.
This lens can be operated in pull-push manner. To get 75mm you need to push away, to get 150mm, pull it to the maximum. Unfortunately focusing rotates the outer barrel, so no good with screwed grad filters. Fortunately focus does not change with zoom. It is very convinient to focus on 150mm and do final framing on 75mm.
It has markings for DOF ranges. It says nothing about any coatings. Just that is was made in Japan. Some copies suffer zoom creep which is basically a tendency to fall/slide along with gravitation changing our zoom position set previously. My very copy is free of this defect. I must say that is has some foreign matter inside like dust and fungus. Not that much, it does not affect image quality in any reasonable way. Minimum focus at around 1 meter and it’s constant.
I have read that there are few things considered with inexpensive lens design. First is to minimize cost by limiting construction elements as well as linerizing manufacturing process. Second is to sacrifice one of its zoom positions, like normal or tele in terms of imaging quality.
Looking at some examples, I see very sharp images starting from f/4 up to f/11 with no to little image defects. Very sharp, contrasty, vivid one, you can get on tele at 150mm. I like it very much. Same with quasi-macro.
I think that is not real macro, but close to this, so someone says that it is quasi-macro. Nonetheless, sharpness occurs not only at distant subjects (like 1 km on the first example) but also on close one (like 1 meter). I have not conducted any sharpness tests across the corners as I think that it is not so important for the artistic purposes. It seems that shooting at 75mm or somewhere near 100mm would give less performance. Maybe a little.
It is one of my favorite lenses. It’s sharp, both normal and tele and most of all it is very cheap. It has constant f/3.5 which is good enough for almost anything you need. Stopping down only to f/4 gives so much more up to f/11. For obvious reasons you should not go for f/16 and above it if you don’t have to. Strongly recommend it. Beaware of poorly handled copies. Remember that it is AI-S and MF. Shot only with light source behind as it will be too bright and less contrastly while shooting against the light.