Repair: Nikkor-Q 135mm f/3.5

Hello, everybody! How are you guys this week? As usual, I am very busy with work, family and maintaining this blog. I find it difficult to balance the 3 and I got even less time now because I need to devote more time to my growing daughter’s development so I hope that you will understand if I am having a hard time publishing my posts on time.


Today, we are going to talk about a cheap and fantastic lens that is always considered by many as the underdog of the Nikkors – it’s the magnificent Nikkor-Q Auto 135mm f/3.5 lens!

IMG_0456The lens is overshadowed by it’s faster f/2.8 sibling, the Nikkor-Q 135mm f/2.8 Auto lens for obvious reasons but I will tell you now that this lens is even sharper than it’s f/2.8 sibling wide-open. That is saying a lot because the NIkkor-Q 135mm f/2.8 Auto is one helluva lens in terms of bokeh and sharpness wide-open! You get that kind of performance together with a compact housing and a reasonable price and the result is going to be a classic!

(Click to enlarge)

The sample images above were mostly shot wide-open and I believe that one of them may be shot at f/5.6 or somewhere around that aperture. The only weakness I can find with this lens is it’s rather outdated flare resistance when shooting against contra-light. Even if the sun or a bright light source is barely seen in the frame, it is probably strong enough to give you some contrast loss across the frame so I advise that you use a hood with this lens. This lens series is also one of the earliest lenses made for the F-mount by the way. Yes, it’s old and its optics are even older and it dates back to the Nikon S days.

IMG_5749Here are all of the major variants for the F-mount. The rightmost one is the earliest and the leftmost one is the latest. There will be 3 lenses more if you add the rangefinder ones into the picture. This lens line is probably one of Nikon’s longest if not the longest one in Nikon’s history that went into production. It’s lineage can be traced all the way back to Mr. Wakimoto Zenji in the immediate years after the war and the last lens from this long line of 135/3.5 family came out of the factory around the mid ’80s.

This objective of this lens is made up of 4 elements in 3 groups and that gave it the “Q” for quad in it’s name. Having less glass elements means that you get better rendition (highly debatable) at the expense of artefact correction like coma, flare, aberration and the like. I personally do not care much for those so long as the images I get have “character” and no, I am not a hipster trying to be different.

IMG_0055.JPGThe lens came in a few different minor versions and one of which is the one shown above in centimetres – the Nikkor-Q 13.5cm f/3.5 Auto lens (right) in which we will talk about in a future blog post. Every version has some differences internally and they require separate blog posts.

I guess that’s all that you need to know about this lens, let us now start with the teardown and commentaries!

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 (Focusing Unit):

This lens is actually simple and some may even say that it is perfect for beginners but I am going to say that while this thing is indeed built simple, there are many little things that will frustrate a beginner so pay attention to what I am going to say in the commentaries. I am going to tell you beforehand that you will need plenty of alcohol and solvents for this lens as glue was used liberally on this lens series.

IMG_0535Start by removing the front part of the focusing ring, you can do this my removing this set screw and then unscrewing the front protective ring away. Notice that my ring is of the (+) type – this is an indication that somebody else worked on this lens and probably lost the original set screw.

IMG_0536Simply unscrew the ring away. If it doesn’t move then you will have to apply some solvent or alcohol into the screw hole of the set screw and around the seams of the thread and let capillary action take the liquid into the whole thing. You may want to use a grippy rubber glove to help you remove this ring. Be careful not to warp or damage this ring because you will have a uneven and rough focusing when this thing is not perfectly circular.

IMG_0537Once the front ring is removed, the set screw for the front barrel is now exposed. Carefully remove this set screw and don’t lose it!

IMG_0538The front barrel should come off easily. Notice the hole on the thread? That hole is used to lock the set screw into place, making sure that the front barrel stays put. When it’s time to reassemble your lens, make sure that the set screw sinks into this depression. There is a way to modify this with a drill bit and pin vice but I will not be teaching you this technique here.

IMG_0539Carefully pull the objective (optical unit) from the focusing unit. Notice that the screw you see in this picture goes to the slot in the focusing ring. This is a standard way to secure the objective in most Nikkors of the same price category and vintage. The predecessor if this is the Auto-Nikkor 13.5cm f/3.5 and that lens, while similar in engineering, make and optics was made a bit tougher and the objective was held using 3 small screws.

IMG_0540Next, remove the focusing ring by unscrewing the 3 screws that connect it to the helicoid but before doing so, make some marks so that you will know the approximate alignment of the focusing ring later on during reassembly. The focusing ring should come off easily.

Disassembly (Rear):

The rear parts look straight forward and the only caveat is the bayonet mount because the screws can be tough to remove. Be sure to use the proper screwdriver!

IMG_0541Carefully remove these screws that secure the bayonet mount into place. If these won’t go away easily then you will have to drop some solvent into these things and wait for a couple of hours to let the solvent dissolve whatever was used to secure it. Some people heat these using a soldering iron to soften the glue or Loctite, I actually do that sometimes.

IMG_0542With the screws gone, the bayonet mount can now be pulled away from the rest of the lens and now, the aperture ring can be removed as well.

IMG_0544The aperture ring can be a bit stiff so be careful as you do not want to damage anything in there.

IMG_0543Next, remove the 3 screws securing the decorative sleeve/grip. Be careful not to scar the shiny finish!

IMG_0545The sleeve should come off easily. This is sometimes secured by some glue but mine was not so I had an easy time with this. While pulling this sleeve out, be careful not to damage the spring used for aperture clicks. It sometimes get in the way so you will have to press it down with your fingernail so you can safely pull the sleeve.

Disassembly (Helicoids):

Here is where most of the frustrating parts are situated so please pay attention!

IMG_0546With the sleeve gone, you can now access the helicoid key. Just be sure that you are always working on any lens while it is focused to infinity. Take pictures for reference before you remove the helicoid key so that you will know how to put this back together later and how the tolerances should be. Simply remove the 2 small screws that can be accessed using the 2 circular holes.

IMG_0547Now that the helicoid key is gone or unsecured you can now remove the helicoids. Just be sure to mark where the helicoids should mate and you should be fine. Forgetting to do this will ensure a stressful time later on when it’s time to put things back together.

IMG_0548The central and inner helicoids cannot be removed easily because of the two helicoid stops used for the minimum and maximum focus distances.

The central helicoid has a focusing adjuster that you should remove by unscrewing these 3 screws. These are usually glued into place to prevent any misalignment so watch out for that. If you look at my picture you can actually see the glue.

IMG_0549Now, all we need to do is to remove just one of the helicoid stops and you do it by removing these 2 screw.

IMG_0550The helicoid stop is glued in place as well as you can see in my pic. Nikkors are known to be built tough and are legendary for that attribute.

IMG_0551You can now now remove the focus adjuster ring. One thing that I want to be clear is that these rings are usually glued and removing these rings usually take a lot of effort. What I do with these rings is that I soak the whole assembly first (helicoid and adjuster ring) in an alcohol bath overnight and attempt the removal of these after that.

The threads are also very fine and are disrupted by an annoying horizontal slit. This part is very prone to cross-threading and I myself have ruined one accidentally before on the very same model as this one.

IMG_0552With that adjustment ring away, you can now remove the inner helicoid from the central helicoid. Of course, do not forget to mark where they separate because this is also where they should mate during reassembly.

IMG_0553To remove the aperture fork, you will need to remove this retention ring with a spanner. It can be difficult to remove because it is secured by glops of glue so put a couple of drops of acetone, alcohol or any solvent to soften the glue up before you attempt to unscrew this.

IMG_0554While waiting for the solvent to work on the glue, carefully unscrew this pillar screw. This serves as a pin to couple the aperture fork to the aperture ring (that you removed earlier). These types of screws are delicate and I advise you that you should never over tighten or use plenty of force when working on these. If it doesn’t move, put some solvent and try it again instead of brute forcing your way.

IMG_0555The solvent has done it’s job after half an hour and constant reapplication of the solvents and now this came off effortlessly.

IMG_0556Here is the aperture fork. The pillar screw (pin) that we removed in the previous steps also serves as a means to secure this thing from playing around inside the lens so you obviously cannot remove this aperture fork without removing that pillar screw.

IMG_0557Now, on to the rear! You can skip this part if you are in a hurry because dismantling this is only essential if you want to do a thorough job and this requires some time to fix as well.

Before anything else, you have to remove one end of this spring from the stop-down lever or you risk ruining the spring. Notice that there is a retention ring in this part of the lens and as you can see from the picture above, it was glued down to prevent this from being moved. This retention ring secures the bearings and I advise you NOT to remove this ring unless you know what you are doing.

IMG_0574You can actually just remove the whole assembly instead. This part is glued shut to I had to pickle this whole thing, helicoid and all in an alcohol bath overnight before I attempt to remove this thing. I have serviced 4 lenses of this type from different eras/versions of this lens and this part is the second most annoying (after the adjuster ring) Once the glue has been dissolved, this thing can be removed rather effortlessly.

IMG_0577Since I want to do a thorough cleaning, I removed the retention ring for the bearings. You will need to remove the retention ring over a dish so that the bearing balls will not scatter across the floor. I cleaned the parts properly and applied some grease to the ring and I use the grease as some kind of glue for me to patently stick the bearings into it. Once all of the bearing balls are stuck to the ring, I reinstall it carefully to where it’s supposed to be.

There is an alternative way of doing this and that is to drop the balls on the ring while the ring is on that large piece of aluminium where it’s supposed to be. Gently lift one side of the ring until the ball falls into place and repeat the process for the other balls. This step is more time-consuming so I just showed you this step instead. Repacking bearings is never a fun way to spend your lazy Sunday afternoon!

Disassembly (Objective):

The objective is pretty straight forward and the only warnings I can give you is not to drop any of the lens elements to the floor and if something will not come off, use some solvents and wait for the glue to soften up a bit.

IMG_0560First, remove the name ring with your barehands. This name ring (with all the engravings) is glued but you can easily twist it off with your barehands.

IMG_0561The name ring holds the front element in place so be sure not to drop the front element to the floor! Remove carefully it using a lens sucker.

IMG_0562The front elements assembly should come off easily. If it didn’t then you should apply a bit of solvent to the threads and try again after the solvents has worked on the glue. Don’t apply too much because the 2nd and 3rd elements are glued together using Canada balsam and solvents will melt that bond.

IMG_0563Unscrew the ring on the rear of the front optics assembly to reveal that big chunk of glass.

IMG_0564See how big that chunk of glass is? Now you know why this lens is so heavy! That thing is called a “doublet” – glass elements cemented into one unit.

IMG_0565The rear element assembly can be unscrewed easily, revealing the iris mechanism.

IMG_0566Simply remove the retention ring using a spanner. As you can see from the picture, this ring is secured by some black paint and you have to scrape some off before you apply some solvent to soften up the glue. The smudge there is just fingerprint by the way.

IMG_0567The retention ring comes off just like that.

IMG_0568Use a lens sucker to remove the last element and be careful to note where it is facing. If I am not mistaken, this lens is a Sonnar-type design.

Infinity Focusing:

Before you put the focusing ring back or tighten the adjuster ring on the central helicoid, make you sure that your lens is focusing to infinity properly. Once your lens is capable of focusing to infinity, set the adjuster so that the helicoid key touches the adjuster at that point and then tighten the 3 screws in the adjuster ring. Be sure that you use the correct screws because the screws for the adjuster ring is longer than the ones for the focusing ring. You can also be confused as to which holes these screws should go so please check your notes carefully.

Once you are satisfied that the focusing stops exactly at infinity, put the focusing ring back in place and make sure that the infinity symbol is centred properly with the white line in the focusing scale and only then can you tighten the screws on the focusing ring. Test the lens again by focusing on a distant object around 3 kilometres away or more and if the dot on your DSLR’s viewfinder lit up then you are set. If you got a blinking dot or if the focus failed to stop at infinity then you should go several steps back and repeat. I know that it sounds annoying so please be careful with this step.


This lens is something that I would avoid myself if I have to, not because it is difficult but because of the ridiculous amounts of glue used in assembling these things! Will I work on another one? Yes, but not for myself if I do not have a good reason for it.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog post and if you have any questions or just want to drop by to say “hi” then you should definitely “like” our facebook page. You will also get updates on your facebook app or browser any time I post something new and you can also discuss stuff with other people there. Thank you very much for the support and the best that you can do for this blog at the moment is to share it with your friends. Keep dry this summer, 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.


8 Comments (+add yours?)

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  6. Lewis Francis
    May 06, 2018 @ 02:35:59

    Thanks for sharing this, was super helpful in today’s flea market restoration project. Couldn’t get the rear element unscrewed so had to go after the fungus though the aperture, which was a serious pain. Needed to take a hair drier to the optical block after many attempts to loosen the glue with Ronsonol to do the same, but finally won the battle with your help — thanks again!


  7. Trackback: Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 5) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

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