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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

An Interesting Lens

By Oren Grad

An anonymous reader has posted a comment to my recent focal length numerology post to remind us of yet another lens that I overlooked: the AF-Nikkor 80mm ƒ/2.8, released in 1983 along with the F3AF camera. With this, Nikon once more takes over runner-up status in our informal tally of near-normal focal lengths, with ten (24, 28, 35, 45, 50, 55, 58, 60, 80 and 85) to Pentax's eleven (24, 28, 30, 31, 35, 40, 43, 50, 55, 77 and 85).

More importantly, the AF 80 turns out to be a very interesting lens. The engineering requirements of motor-driven autofocus in the F3AF lenses led to a rear-focusing Gaussian design that was a breakthrough for its day and influenced the design of the later 85mm AF-Nikkors. Also, unusually for Nikon, spherical aberration was kept slightly undercorrected, enhancing the character of its background bokeh. You can read more in this fascinating article, and also here.

Many thanks to "anonymous" and to all the other commenters—please do keep those cards and letters coming!

Posted by OREN GRAD


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have your counted all the different screw mount and M-mount lenses that fit M-mount (Leica) rangefinders?
I think I own or could quickly lay hands on 24, 25, 28, 33 (stemar!), 35, 40, 50, 75, and I'd swear I'd seen 65 and 85 lens in S or M mount. I'd also swear I'd seen a 29 somewhere.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The mathematician in me keeps on wanting to think of the 31mm and the 43mm as the only prime lenses in the bunch. :)

9:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahh, so that's why I feel a little frisson every time I use my 127mm Ektar!

Anon, I have some recollection of a Pentacon 29 in M42; I'll have to do some homework re Leica S or M.

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although the original posting mentioned only SLRs, introducing rangefinders makes thing interesting. Cosina/Voigtlander currently sell six focal lenths in the specified range (25, 28, 35, 40, 50, and 75). Leica also shows 6 focal lengths in the current catalog of R lenses (24, 28, 35, 50, 60, and 80) and 5 focal lengths in the current M mount catalog (24, 28, 35, 50, and 75). Leica certainly have more versions of each focal length than most manufacturers...a good thing in my opinion. There are probably a lot of older M-mount lenses that would fill out the Leica M mount line, but someone who knows a lot more about Leicas than I do would have to fill in the missing focal lengths.

If, however, you count LTM lenses as Leica M mount lenses, then I think you'd have to count Pentax M42 lenses as K mount lenses. But what about Canon FD mount being part of the EF list? Adapters were made. What about third party manufacturers? If Voigtlander lenses count in the list of Leica lenses, don't Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, and countless other manufacturers count for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, etc.?

Things get quickly complicated when you move away from the original basic question about manufacturers making lenses for a lens mount.

I really have no axe to grind...I just had a lot of fun with this. When I read the first posting, I imeediately noticed the missing Nikon 80mm lens. (Yes, I'm the "anonymous" who wrote in.) I know Nikon's catalog well because I've just absorbed it over the years. But the original post got me interested in the broader question, and I've learned a lot about lenses and lens mounts over the last few days than I learned in my entire life before this.

Be well.

9:38 PM  

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