80-200 Zoom Nikkor- The Lens That Changed How Photographers Looked At Zooms

80-200 on the FM

80-200 on the FM

I have never been a huge fan of zooms. The convenience of a bunch of focal lengths usually comes at a price, most notably, aperture speed. There are a lot of other compromises as well. Size, convenience of use, moving parts, more elements, and sometimes, inferior glass. These were some of the issues Nikon photographers wrestled well into the 60’s. in 1969, Nikon introduced the first version of their 80-200 f/4.5 Zoom Nikkor. It single handedly changed the 35mm world , and perception of zoom lenses, maybe forever.

This lens was scooped up at this Spring’s Photographica for a whopping $15.00. It has the original user’s name engraved on it, and like virtually all “push pull” Nikkor zooms of this vintage, it suffers from all out, full blown, lens creep. The same grip you use to zoom in and out is also used to focus, and there is an internal piece of felt that almost always broke down. If held upside down, the lens barrel will slide right down to 80mm, with virtually no resistance at all. I rectified that with a couple of pieces of gaffers tape. And, sorry Richard, I painted out your name. A little bit of cleaning of the front and rear element, and a yellow Hoya filter, and ready to fly. This version is the “C” version, indicating additional coatings of the glass. And, it was originally pre-Ai, but factory Ai converted, as evident by the second smaller aperture scale to accommodate ADR (Aperture Direct Readout), and the Ai coupling. Richard broke off the rabbit ears, so no metering on the F or F2. But F3, FE2, FM, and yes, D300? Meters and indexes perfectly.

80 200 D300

Mounts, indexes, and meters on the D300.

The lens is insanely sharp, almost too much so. The maximum aperture of f/4.5 really turned out not at all to be as bad as I thought it would be. Even at f/4.5, it is crisp and punchy. And, 400 speed film almost seems made for it. It is built like a tank externally. All metal, decades before plastic invaded the consumer Nikon zooms, and photographers had to pay a hefty premium for successors, such as the 70-200 f/2.8 VR. This was certainly the lens that kicked the more professional zooms off, and back in the day, this was the one photographers lusted for. Easy to see why. A few samples from last month, in historic Concord, MA, with the F3. Semi-stand developed in Rodinal-

Minuteman Statue, Concord, MA The lens aperture was stopped down to a fairly small aperture here.

Minuteman Statue, Concord, MA The lens aperture was stopped down to a fairly small aperture here.

Beautiful tree in historic Concord graveyard downtown, wide open aperture.

Beautiful tree in historic Concord graveyard downtown, wide open aperture.

The sharpness and speed of Ilford HP5 is a real nice match for this lens.

The sharpness and speed of Ilford HP5 is a real nice match for this lens. Old North Bridge.

Get one of these lenses, get one that is cheap. Like all older lenses, check for fungus, element separation, scratches, rubbing and cleaning marks, and general condition. But I don’t think I’d pay more than $20-30 for one. And have a blast with it. Not all zooms are bad.

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