On my endless search for really cheap lenses with good to excellent picture quality I came across the net on many good reviews on the Nikkor Ai lenses. Okay, many of these lenses have become really expensive now. Sometimes the difference between the current Nikon AF-S lenses and their partial ancient predecessors has become marginal. Right bargains are very rare.
Always very good and inexpensive are the most (not so fast) zooms of the Ai-era and the fixed focal lengths of the cheap "Nikon e-series".
For the beginning I have selected the following lenses for review: the Nikkor Ai 50 f/2.0, the Nikon e-Series 28mm f/2.8 and the Nikon e-Series 100mm f/2.8. Let's see if it will end up a few more.
Let's start with a few lenses from the Nikon range. Specifically with the not very fast 50 mm with the initial aperture of 2.0. Faster goes with Nikon in any case, there are besides the super expensive 1.2er lenses also still with an initial aperture of 1.4 and 1.8.
In many lens makers, the apertures of 2.0 are reserved for photographers who want to shoot with 100% sharp images with a dream-changing security even in the case of a complete open aperture. There is the legendary Zeiss T Planar or the Leica Summicron as expensive and splendid examples. The Zeiss Planar 50mm f/2.0 i very often and gladly use on my Leica M, rather than the faster Voigtländer Nokton 50mm f/1.5. I am not ashamed to assert myself, that the wide open Nikon Ai 50mm f/2.0 is just as good as the Zeiss Planar with open aperture. And you have to get this as a manufacturer for this price.
This amazing Nikkor 50mm f/2 AI was produced from 1974 to 1979. You can use it at FX, DX and 35mm coverage. I've tried it on my Nikon D610 and adapted on the Sony a6000. The results were outstanding on both cameras, FX or DX-sensors.
But, as usual, we start with the technical data:
Diaphragm: 6 straight blades.
Close Focus: 1.5' or 0.45m
Filter size: 52mm
Construction: all metal, metal mount, metal focus ring, metal aperture ring
Weight: 7.8 oz. or 220g
Aperture scale: f/2 - f/16
Dimensions: 63.5mm diameter x 53mm long
Lens hood: Snap-On metal hood (HS-6), rubber screw-in (HR-1 )
Serial Numbers have been started from 350001
Exposure measurement: via full aperture method; meter coupling ridge provided for Al cameras and meter coupling shoe for non-AI cameras
(Source: www.mir.com, www.KenRockwell.com)
The Nikkor Ai 50mm is good to get on the market, you can buy it on different platforms on the net, but also on flea markets it is often offered. Prices for used lenses vary somewhere between 30 and 80 Euros. However there are also dealers, for example on EBay which offers it for outrageously overpriced prices. I've already seen it for 200, - Euro on offer. But you do not have to buy that.
I bought my copy in a photographer's forum for forty Euros. This is not exactly a bargain, but you can take it for this price.
The lens is pleasantly light and compact, on a full-size camera it is unobtrusive and looks almost like a pancake. It feels good and can be used excellently. The mechanical design is almost the same for all Ai-Nikkors, if you know a lens you know almost all.
Even with the massive Ai adapter is the lens on the Sony a6000 pleasant to use.
The Nikkor shows an extremely high performance, also on open aperture. The sharpness is excellent.
On my D610, 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.
The distortion is very small, lightly curving. Almost not to see.
A little bit of vignetting at f/2 on full-size cameras which quickly clears off at f/2.8. On my Sony a6000 is not to see from vignetting. In the backlight, the NIkkor is somewhat sensitive, a lenshood is recommended for this lighting situation. Look at the photo below. The bokeh is unhappily a little bit poor and busy.
The bottom line: A great lens. Very cheap, very well built, and with excellent image quality. Usually for photographers who are looking for a good fixed focal lengths with very little budget. Ideal for adapters who are looking for a truly exceptional and excellent normal focal length. It is not so fast, but very useful at open aperture. From me an absolute recommendation.
Here are a few photos I've shot over the last few weeks with the Nikkor: