Repair: New-Nikkor 55mm f/1.2

Hello, everybody. I’ve been busy the whole week with the unbelievably overcomplicated and ill-reputed Zoom-Nikkor 43-86mm f/3.5 so I have not updated the blog in a week. I’d also like to thank my readers for the growing support that you are showing me. All that support will keep me motivated.  I’m also happy to know that there are many people who share my passion that some are now starting to share their knowledge in the internet. It is time for another lens teardown and I’m going to write this guide for a friend that’s why I chose this lens instead of the other ones that I have in my repair notes. Enjoy!


The 55mm f/1.2 lens line started with the Nikkor-S.C 55mm f/1.2 Auto lens and then it got updated to the K (New-Nikkor) version and lastly into Ai. The subject of our article is the 2nd version (K). It’s a very nice lens and I hope that I can convince you with this article.

This lens is what many people call the “poor man’s Noct because it opens all the way up to f/1.2 and the focal length is also close to 58mm. While the Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 Ai-S is in a totally different category of specialty lenses, this lens is designed to be a normal lens best used at night for more light and easy focusing due to the brighter viewfinder. This lens was also a product of an industry-wide race to produce the fastest normal lens at the time and this lens was only discontinued when it’s successor, the Ai-Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 came into production more than a decade after this lens line was introduced.

IMG_2697The New-Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 is just a cosmetic upgrade of the Nikko-S.C 55mm f/1.2 Auto. It had its main barrel re-engineered to make it simpler to mass produce and make it look a bit better (subjective). I am not sure if the optics were slightly improved by changing the curvature of any elements or whether any surfaces have received better coatings but for all intents and purposes, you can consider these 2 lenses to be identical in handling and in performance or at least be very similar in those regards. They’re both excellent lenses!

HAW_6158This lens can produce amazing subject isolation when shot wide open, but this lens also has a tendency to produce harsh looking bokeh (I hate that word) if the correct variables were given such as foliage. Just look at the picture above and judge it for yourself!

The lens itself is sharp wide open in the centre when focused properly but the artefacts that it produces when shot at f/1.2 makes the image look unsharp. Having this in mind, you can actually exploit this to you own advantage because this will also make the skin “glow” under the sun or when lit with a powerful enough light at night, making the skin look clear and the resulting picture “flattering” and surreal.

HAW_2764This is also the lens that I grab first whenever I want to produce a painterly like effect. The 50mm f/1.2 Ai-S can do the same thing but just not as dreamy as what this lens can do. Just look at the picture and you can see what I am talking about. The lens is around 4 decades old but the pictures that it takes still looks lovely and full of character. This trait is missing in modern lenses that were overly-corrected and that is one of the reasons why I am buying older Nikkors at the present and the poor quality control issue in recent years is another reason as well.

One interesting story about this lens is how a special variant made for NASA was sent to space and it was used to take pictures of our ozone layer. This is something that you can be proud of if you are a fan of this lens. This says a lot about this lens’ performance. See more pictures and information about space cameras here in this article.

HAW_9945This was shot wide-open. You can see some flares and ghosts but the image is generally a nice one despite those and some chromatic aberration. Remember, we are shooting with the sun in the frame! The overall image has a dreamy character that you can creatively.

(Click to enlarge)

This lens is capable of taking sharp corners when stopped-down. Foliage is a very tricky subject to photograph at times but this lens handled it pretty well. I like the nice, subtle and “soul” of the pictures taken with this lens. Current high-resolution cameras will show this lens’ outdated optics in the sense that they out-resolve this lens. I took a picture with this lens wide-open with a Nikon Df and another with a Nikon D750 and you can see that the center just isn’t quite as sharp with the Nikon D750. This is not to say that this lens is no good these days but you will just need to be careful and stop it down a bit if you want critical sharpness in the center when using high-resolution cameras. Some people claim that no sensor will out-resolve any lens and this is just bullshit to put it frankly. I talked to some of Nikon’s lens engineers and they themselves confirmed to me that this is really the case that is why the current lenses were calculated for very high resolution as a form of future-proofing them as the megapixels get higher and higher.

HAW_0040Shooting at f/2 is probably what you would want to do if you want sharpness and bokeh!

HAW_0039Even at f/1.4, the lens is capable of taking sharp pictures. Just look at the left hand of the lady behind the counter. I certainly nailed the focus here! The details are amazing!

HAW_0076This shot was taken wide-open and as you can see, the center is pretty sharp. This lens is not what you would want if you need a flat field, you can observe from the image that it has a rather curved field due to the bulbous front and it wasn’t corrected very well in the lens design. You can also see a hint of barrel distortion here but it’s pretty decent.

HAW_0079Check out the left brow of Anpanman (アンパンマン). He’s the guy with the big red nose. It is very sharp and well-defined despite being shot wide-open! I also had to black-out the eyes of the people in the picture for their privacy.

HAW_0080This lens was made for shooting night scenes. It was not easy to nail the focus on a train that’s running even at a slow pace but at least we got something. Chromatic aberration is apparent on the highlights on the train but at this distance it’s not so obvious.

(Click to enlarge)

Here are some kids doing a skit. These were shot wide-open at ISO1600 and they look so good that the hair on the kid at the front is very well-defined. This lens is really good for night shots, specailly if your subjects can just stand still! These kids don’t, unfortunately.

HAW_0031Here is a shot of the sky just to show you how the vignetting on this lens looks like when shot wide-open. This improves considerably once you stop the lens down. I need to show this to you because it’s going to be relevant for the next sets of test pictures.

The next sets of pictures were taken at f/1.2, f/2, f/2.8 and f/4 respectively. I skipped f/1.4 because it’s pointless anyway since that’s a real small increment from f/1.2 but that isn’t to say that there aren’t any differences between f/1.2 and f/1.4! In fact, f/1.4 will give you a nice jump in sharpness (not by a lot) while still maintaining the nice background blur.

(Click to enlarge)

Wide-open at f/1.2 the center is already pretty sharp and the background just melts away in a very nice wash of colors. Veiling flare will make the image seem unsharp but that is just an illusion if you can call it that. The very thin DOF is also a big factor in focusing so take care and focus carefully. At f/2, you will see a big jump in sharpness at the center of the frame while the background is still beautifully-blurred. At f/2.8, the center sharpness is excellent! The background is still blurred but not as exquisite as before. At f/4, you can already say that the center has reached its peak sharpness. The background is starting to look “generic” and the magic is now gone. I would only use this for very bright days. This is not what I bought this lens for, I want to use it below f/2.8 and exploit the exquisite and unique character of this lens when shot at wider apertures.

I got this lens in a pretty OK state as the glass was clean and free from blemishes or small scratches. The lens however had a slightly dry helicoid and a misshaped aperture. The iris was not even (a bit oval) so I skipped this lens the first time I saw it but since the rest of the lens is OK anyway and I figured that I could fix the aperture myself so I bought the lens the next time I saw it in the shop. Now, let’s begin the lens repair article!


This lens was pretty easy to work with, very straight forward and orthodox. The only time that I felt scared was when I was handling those big chunks of glass because I do not want to scar the lens accidentally.

If you have been following my blog, this will remind you of the Nikkor-S 50mm f/1.4 lens I blogged about a few weeks before as the assembly was pretty straight forward and similar in many cases.

Before We Begin:

If this is the first attempt at opening a lens then I suggest that you read my previous posts regarding screws & driversgrease and other things. Also read regarding the tools that you will need in order to fix your Nikkors.

I highly suggest that you read these primers before you begin (for beginners):

Reading these primers should lessen the chance of ruining your lens if you are a beginner. Also before opening up any lens, always look for other people who have done so in Youtube and the internet. Information is scarce, vague and scattered (that is why I started this) but you can still find some information if you search carefully.

I highly recommend that you also read my working with helicoids post because this is very important and getting it wrong can ruin your day. If I can force you to read this, I would. It is that important!

For more advanced topics, you can read my fungus removal post as a start. This post has a lot of useful information here and there and it will be beneficial for you to read this.

About Me:

I am a photographer based in Tokyo who scours the junk section of the camera shops here on a regular basis. I started this hobby of fixing old lenses and cameras because I kept on getting scammed before when I purchase online. This turned out to be a blessing because I now buy junk lenses for a fraction of the price and then fix them to add to my growing now collection. This allowed me to buy gear that were otherwise off-limits to me if I were to get them in better condition.

I was a scale modeller before who built models for other collectors for a very longtime, got an education as a dental prosthodontist (but didn’t pursue dentistry) and growing up in a watch repair shop gave me the useful skills that would help me in this craft. Fixing my car also contributed some know-how.

Having mentioned the above, I will tell you now that I am not a professional repairman! So please take what I do with a grain of salt and I will never be held responsible for anything wrong that will happen to you and your project. I hope that the pros would guide and teach us but nobody is writing anything.

As my collection of repair notes grew, I get requests from people with similar interests and from professionals who just needed some notes just in case. Now, I am sharing my library with you for your entertainment and reference. I hope that you find my work useful.

Disassembly (Lens Barrel):

This lens is very typical of the Nikkors made in this era. There’s nothing noteworthy in this lens’ barrel construction that I must mention apart from the slightly brittle type of rubber used for the focusing ring. Nikon decided to use softer ones for their later lenses so I find it odd that they used something like this for this lens.

IMG_1433First, rotate the focusing ring until you see this tiny set screw and loosen it just enough so that you can rotate the front ring without this set screw coming in contact with the fine threads underneath.

IMG_1434Remove the front ring and store this properly because you do not want to warp this part accidentally. We are going to remove the objective (lens assembly) first so that we cannot damage it accidentally as we work on the lens.

IMG_1435Carefully pull he objective out of lens chassis with your fingertips and be careful about that brass ring. It is responsible for adjusting the focus of your lens as well as a washer so that the fit is tight.

IMG_1431Now, remove the screws that secure the rear bayonet plate. Ignore the fact that the lens assembly is in the picture. It should not be there if you have followed my previous steps.

IMG_1432Remove the bayonet plate. The aperture ring can easily be removed at this point. As with the name ring, store this properly because you do not want to bend or warp this or else you will have a rough feeling aperture ring each time you turn it. Again, Ignore the fact that the lens elements are still in the picture.

IMG_1437Now, carefully remove the rubber sleeve and be sure not to rip or puncture it. With that rubber sleeve gone, you can remove these screws. Be sure that your lens is focused all the way to infinity from this point so that you know where are working from each time you remove a part from the lens itself.

IMG_1438Gently pull the focusing ring off from the rest of the lens and clean all the dirt and grime from it. I would also suggest that you dunk this in an alcohol bath to soften up whatever is there for easier clean up later on.

IMG_1439Carefully examine and mark the infinity position of the helicoid in relation to the rest of the lens as this will serve as a guide later on when you reassemble your lens. Notice that I have removed the chrome grip from the lens by first removing the 3 screws that secured it  to the lens barrel.

IMG_1440Next, remove these tiny screws that secure the helicoid stop and be sure to mark which way should forward as reference.

IMG_1441Remove the helicoid stop and store it properly. I accidentally bent mine and I had to fix it on my cylindrical anvil with a rubber mallet. Not a big deal but it certainly is something that you want to avoid if you can.

IMG_1444You can safely remove the sleeve earlier if you want. It just didn’t occur to me so I got rid of it this late. Clean this and leave this to pickle in the alcohol bath as this part normally gets really dirty on the inner surface.

IMG_1445With that gone you can now access the helicoid key and it’s 2 screws. Remove these small screws so that you can freely unscrew the helicoid.

IMG_1446Be very careful to document and mark where the helicoids separate. I scribed an arrow mark in relation to the line that mark where infinity should be as a reference on where the helicoids separated as this will be the same point where they should engage when it’s time to reassemble your lens.

IMG_1447Drop the helicoid key into your palm and clean it up…

IMG_1448The inner and main helicoids still look great even after 4 decades, just dirty and dry.

IMG_1449As with the main helicoid, mark where the inner and main helicoids separate. If you look at the picture, I marked mine in reference to the notch in the main helicoid.

IMG_1452Now you are left with the outer helicoid/lens barrel. If you need to clean the bearings, just remove the copper retention ring and that should come off. Be careful with the spring by the way. I got lazy and just left these alone as I do not want to go through all the bother by opening this up and having to install the ball bearings one tiny piece at a time.

IMG_1450You should now end up with the same thing as I have in the picture. Next, I’ll outline how I dismantled the objective.

That’s it for the lens barrel. It is pretty straight-forward at this point unless you open up the bearing then things will get really complicated really quick. Just skip the bearings if it is functioning properly. It can be a pain to put back all those small bearing balls.

Disassembly (Objective):

The glass elements used for this lens are HUGE! Be careful not to damage any of them or you will end up with an expensive paperweight. Always proceed with caution and don’t get overconfident, a slip of the wrist may ruin your day. If anything isn’t unscrewing easily then you just have to apply some alcohol or solvent to soften up any glue that was used, wait for the solvent to do it’s thing then have another go at it.

IMG_1456I began by removing the rear elements assembly from the rest of the objective by simple unscrewing it. If it is stuck, do the acetone trick that I described in my best practices blog post to soften up whatever adhesive they have used on this thing.

IMG_1457The front elements assembly simply screws off. In this picture, I just had it sitting on top of the front name ring for no reason at all.

The objective is pretty straight-forward and there is nothing unusual about it apart from its big size. The construction is similar to Nikkors of the same vintage so this should not be a problem for you if you are an experienced repairman.

Disassembly (Iris assembly):

You can skip this step if you do not need to clean or repair your aperture assembly. I had to on mine, so I am sharing my repair notes with commentaries with you just in case you have to do it on yours.

IMG_1458First, remove the screws that secure the aperture assembly. Be sure to mark where the screws are because these were precisely secured in place and you do not want to be off my even a millimetre! Notice that I have removed the screw in the picture.

IMG_1459Now is a good time to inspect (actually before the previous step!) the aperture assembly and document it before you disassemble it. It is very delicate and precise and you should be very careful with each step.

IMG_1461Carefully remove this mechanism and store it in a safe place. Be sure not to damage the tiny spring and mark where this thing was before you removed it.

IMG_1462Next, remove this plate after carefully noting it’s position. Notice that one of the aperture blades has fallen off (oops!).

IMG_1463Remove the rotation plate and you can now safely remove the aperture blades.

IMG_1464Be careful when handling your aperture blades, you do not want to accidentally scratch or bend one out of shape, rendering your lens useless except for shooting wide open.

That’s all for the iris mechanism. The only thing that’s worth mentioning here is you will want to be careful with the spring-lever mechanism on the iris’s ring. Make sure that it is properly installed or else your iris will not function properly or it may even damage your iris blades which is even worse! Again, careful taking of notes is very important here.


This lens took me the whole afternoon (3 hours?) to service and was quite enjoyable to be honest because the lens itself was engineered to be simple and there were no clever tricks used in the lens chassis that would require a lot of figuring out to take apart and put back together.

Here are some of the things that I did during reassembly that might interest you. I do not write reassembly procedures since it’s common sense anyway, you just need to backtrack on the steps and you should be fine. I will only mention things that are noteworthy.

IMG_1455Having cleaned the helicoids thoroughly, I applied ample amounts of grease so that the focusing is well-damped but not too much as to leave a pile of gunk inside the lens that would later cause grease migration and foul up the aperture blades and glass elements.

IMG_1466The aperture blades were carefully put back into place and the iris now forms a lovely uniform shape. The aperture blades were easy to fix as they are of the traditional type and not the same type as what the original Micro-Nikkor 5.5cm f/3.5 (preset) and other vintage lenses have, which is a painful interlocking mess like this one from Brian’s site..

The lens was reassembled within a short time. Aside from the usual precise position and alignment check, the only thing that gave me the most headache was putting the optical block (the objective) back into the lens chassis. This lens is packed inside so it took me a bit of time to get that back in place properly. There’s a trick that I do where in I lower the objective in and out until both the aperture column and the stop- down lever column are both in place and then I lower the whole thing once I am sure.

You may also want to recalibrate your lens’ infinity focusing and for that, simply refer to my guide on how to calibrate your lens for proper infinity focusing. Focusing is critical on this lens because of the very thin DOF so you will want to get this as perfectly as possible.

IMG_1475Here it is with it’s successor, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.2 Ai-S, which is reputed to be a pain to service because of the many interlocking parts inside. Although they share the same spot in product placement and use, each has their own special trait that you should exploit in order to maximise their strength and make the weaknesses work for you.

I hope that you have enjoyed my latest post. For my next post I will try to make one where we dissect an AF-D lens as this makes for a good subject since we already tackled fixing a zoom on the previous repair project.

If you learned a thing or two and would like to support me in this passion please feel free to share this and in the future, click on the links and banners in my page so that I get a few cents every time an add got clicked. This whole Nikkor repair blog project was started without monetary gain as one of the primary considerations but since I have already paid for the domain name (for easy searching) I might as well get that $18 a year back if I can.

Thanks again and I really do appreciate the growing readership of my blog. Until the next post, Ric.

Help Support this Blog:

Maintaining this blog requires money to operate. If you think that this site has helped you or you want to show your support by helping with the upkeep of this site, you can simple make a small donation to my account ( Money is not my prime motivation for this blog and I believe that I have enough to run this but you can help me make this site (and the companion facebook page) grow.

Helping support this site will ensure that this will be kept going as long as I have the time and energy for this. I would appreciate it if you just leave out your name or details like your country and other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous it is at all possible. This is a labor of love and I intend to keep it that way for as long as I can. Ric.


36 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ron V.
    Feb 07, 2016 @ 22:08:15

    Again, very nice work Rick.
    Thanks for sharing.
    While not a technically brilliant lens, it is however one of my favourites.


  2. richardhaw
    Feb 08, 2016 @ 00:20:40

    sorry, I mean the 55 f/1.2!


  3. christophe
    Mar 10, 2016 @ 03:38:15

    Hi here!
    Anyone any idea where to get a ring to convert the type 4 version non-ai to ai?


  4. Toby
    May 02, 2016 @ 02:06:58



  5. Charlie
    Jun 03, 2016 @ 08:54:54

    AFAIK to access aperture blades on 50 f/1.2, three lenses from the front must be removed from lens barrel


    • richardhaw
      Jun 03, 2016 @ 09:05:54

      Hi, Charlie. If i recall it, you can remove the front optics assembly in one piece and you can access the blades. But I think you have to remove the whole objective from the lens in order to access the 3 screws holding the retention ring itself. I may be wrong, I have a 50 1.2 dust cleaning post here somewhere, might be better to just reference that.


  6. DanWhye
    Jun 13, 2016 @ 04:24:14

    just bought a fungus ridden Zoom-Nikkor 43-86mm f/3.5.for cheap
    would really love to see how you dismantle it! thanks


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  11. Dejan Maletic
    Aug 02, 2017 @ 09:17:33

    I found very cheep nikon 50 mm, but the focus ring is not so smooth, and sometimes slips without resistance. Also from the lens I can hear rattling sound it seems that few balls from ball bearing are missing. Where i can find these small metal balls and what is the size of it?


    • richardhaw
      Aug 02, 2017 @ 09:19:58

      Hello. Bring one of the balls to a bearing shop as a sample. Some older 50mm have rattling bearings and that is NORMAL. For the helicoids, it sounds like it is all dry. You will need to clean and lubricate that up. Ric.


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  13. Daniel Jung
    Sep 07, 2017 @ 06:20:15

    Hi!! I have two NIKKOR 55 1.2 AI and NonAi lenses! One of them (AI) is just slightly off for infiniti focus. I see in your description that you stated that the brass ring is used to adjust focus. How do you use the brass ring to adjust focus? I’ve been studying your pictures but don’t see how to adjust focus with the brass rings. Thank you!!!! Your site is amazing! I will be donating soon!!!


    • richardhaw
      Sep 07, 2017 @ 07:24:40

      Hello, Daniel.
      The brass ring is used as a washer and shim to help you achieve infinity focus but that is not the only thing that does. For minor focusing adjustments, you will have to fiddle with the inner ring on the central helicoid or the screws in the focusing ring’s inner lip. Ric


  14. Daniel Jung
    Sep 07, 2017 @ 17:29:58

    Ah I see, so there is no way for me to just adjust the brass spacer to adjust infinity focus then? I would have to take apart the focusing ring, which would be a little bit intimidating. ThoughI I have taken apart a few lenses before, Tamron 18-50 2.8, Tokina 20-30 2.8 and Nikkor 50-200 kit lens they were only very minor fixes such as a broken mount. The Tamron 18-50 2.3 was to adjust focus slightly, which was easy to do since there was a small plastic spacer you could rotate to slightly adjust the front element after removing the front retainer ring. Well, I guess I will need to start purchasing a set of JIS screwdrivers! I spent the better part of 5 hours cleaning a used Nikon F film camera. The Nikon F is a thing of beauty.


    • richardhaw
      Sep 08, 2017 @ 01:56:05

      NEVER do anything to that brass ring. You can fix your focus by calibrating the focus ring and where it is attached. It requires a bit of work and is not an easy task because the ring underneath the focusing ring is glued so you will have to soak that ring in alcohol overnight to remove it. Alternatively, there are adjustment points under the inner lip of the focusing ring and this is what you should be looking at. Just make sure that your lens is not tampered or improperly put back. Ric.


  15. Daniel Jung
    Sep 08, 2017 @ 21:28:27

    Thank you! I will not do anything to the brass ring. I’ll look for the screws in the inner lip first and if that does’t work, I’ll have to buy a lot of alcohol! As an aside, I have two of these lenses, the 55 1.2 latest additions you have here with the white script “Lens Made In Japan” with the Blue and Green coatings and I also have the older serial number 201566 Nippon Kogaku branded lens 55 1.2. I read on one site that the last few years that they made the older lens before switching to the Nikon branded lens was the first lens that had multi coatings similar to or possibly the same as the S.C. lenses. In this article I read it seemed as if it was not definitive if the multi amber coatings were added to the lenses in 1969, though it mentions a Nikon brochure that states it’s the first lens that had multi coatings In which case I’m in luck. Mine has a very deep amber coating that is striking and beautiful. I’m reaching out to Mr. Nico Van Dijk with photos, since he seems to be the person to know and can add to the history of this amazing lens.


    • richardhaw
      Sep 09, 2017 @ 00:59:36

      Hello. I have made 2 guides for the 55/1.2 lenses, one for the metal one and another one for the rubber gripped one.
      I recall that the older one has an amber coating while the new one has a greenish hue. Ric.


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  20. Charlie
    Jun 12, 2018 @ 07:44:22

    Thanks for another great article, Richard!
    Got a late production version of 55 f/1.2 with completely stuck helicoid. Now its back to normal!

    By the way, i will be visiting Japan next week for a conference, do you know any good shop for tools in Tokyo?


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