Repair: Nikkor-S 5.8cm f/1.4 Auto

Hello, everybody! It is now VERY hot here in Tokyo! I’m now craving for a serving of ice-cold noodles served with some wasabi and light dipping sauce! While this may sound a bit weird and obscure to some, this is a very popular way of cooling-off here in Japan on the hot summer months. It is as weird as vanilla ice cream on your chips (fries) but I will tell you that many people do this and that includes me! Next time you go to a Mcdonald’s restaurant go order some and try it for yourself! While we are on the topic, I will show you an obscure lens from Nikon in this article. Enjoy the article!


Today, I am going to show you one of the more obscure Nikkors that was ever made, the Nikkor-S 5.8cm f/1.4 Auto lens! This small lens is relatively unknown to the average Nikon photographer and is only being talked about by collectors and older lens aficionados like me. There are a few small details that were unconventional at the time with this lens if you compare it to similar Nikkors of it’s time that some people even dared to speculate that this lens was made by another company. I will show you what is different with this lens during the teardown section but do not get your expectations too high because the differences aren’t really that much and is insignificant except for one thing which I will explain to you later. This is the only place on the internet that talks about things like this.

IMG_1319Look at that big front element! This is the first lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 for the Nikon F-mount! Just think about the light that it is able to gather!

The Nikkor-S 5.8cm f/1.4 Auto lens came about as there was a need to design a true 50mm lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.4 for the Nikon F-mount. It was difficult to design a 50/1.4 lens for the F-mount because the flange distance of all SLR systems is further away to the front than that of the rangefinder systems. Nikon and many other companies were new to this and this was a major challenge back then and it was made more complicated because there were no advanced computers to help with ray-tracing and the technique of using back-focus has not been pioneered by Nikon yet. That will happen soon after this.

IMG_1911Here it is beside the Nikkor-S 5cm f/1.4 Auto lens which succeeded this lens. Can you see the similarities? The front ring of the latter variants is the same as the one found on the Nikkor-S 5cm f/1.4 Auto lens. Some of the parts may even be interchangeable (?).

To address the challenge of designing a true 50mm f/1.4 lens for the F-mount, Nikon made the decision of making a stop-gap lens by making the design a bit longer to compensate for the flange distance required and therefore settled with the odd 58mm focal length for this lens. We are not going to discuss here the merits of using the Sonnar design versus a  Gauss design bit I’m going to tell you that this lens used the Gauss design because it gave the lens a decent performance and the back-focus required to make space for the reflex mirror. Gauss designs tend to be longer and the faster the lens, the thicker the elements needs to be so that contributed to the decision to use 58mm as the nominal focal length.

This is also the first f/1.4 lens for the Nikon F-mount and it was popular back then until it was replaced by the Nikkor-S 5cm f/1.4 Auto lens which Nikon originally had in mind but wasn’t capable of manufacturing yet at the time. The Nikkor-S 5.8cm f/1.4 Auto lens was short-lived but it achieved what it was designed for, a stop-gap lens for marketing while the “real deal” is being developed. Production lasted around 3 years only, I think.

While the Nikkor-S 5.8cm f/1.4 Auto lens was short-lived in terms of production, this lens did have 2 major variants where the front and the aperture ring are different and there were also some sub-variants in between. The earliest one has a taller lip on the aperture ring so you won’t be able to mount it properly with many Nikon cameras made from the mid ’80s to the present. If you wish to use this lens on later cameras, I would look for the later ones with the stepped front barrel similar to the Nikkor-S 5cm f/1.4 Auto. There are a few early variants with the shorter lip on the aperture ring and all you need to do is to look at the rear of the lens to see if you got the right type or not.

(click to enlarge)

Here are the two major variants. The one on the left is missing its front ring so I found a scrap somewhere and modified it into a makeshift front ring. I fabricated something that looks a lot better and you will be able to see it in this article.

IMG_1338Here it is mounted on the Nikon Df camera. Never mount this to any camera with the Ai-coupling interface! You need to modify this to make it safe to use on those cameras unless they have a special tab like the Nikon F3 or the Nikon Df. To see how to convert a non-Ai lens, click on this link. I will just leave this alone If I were you because this is too precious to be modified since there aren’t many of them left. Yes, they are somewhat rare.

(click to enlarge)

Here are some sample and please pardon the poor focusing skills. Focusing this lens with moving subjects is very tricky. Most of the images were shot at f/1.4 and some of the ones that were shot at night were taken at f/2. It is easy to tell which one is which by looking at what’s in focus. This lens loves to be shot at f/2 where the picture still retains the creamy background but your subject looks sharp and clear. Check the image of the lady riding a bicycle, notice that there is significant vignetting when you shoot this lens wide-open and it can be exaggerated when you pair it with the plain background like asphalt. Also look at the picture of the couple walking in the middle of the street. This is how great this lens is at isolating your subject. A 50mm lens will not be as good as this one and it seems that the extra 8mm difference is what it needs to give you that. Sorry for the missed focus.

HAW_8100.jpgThis one was shot wide-open and at its minimum focusing distance. See how smooth the background is and how smooth it transitions from what is in focus to what is not. This is great when you want to make nice detail shots of something and blur the background.

The Nikkor-S 5.8cm f/1.4 Auto is great wide-open and it can render a very dreamy image when shot under the right circumstances. It’s also capable of making what the people are raving about these days – the “soap bubble-look”. The bokeh will not hold up to the 85/1.4 class of lenses but it was good for its time. There are aberrations here and there but they all just work together to give you a unique image.

(click to enlarge)

The samples above were shot at f/1.4 and I set the pictures up so we’ll have foliage on the background because photographing leaves (on a sunny day) will easily give you an idea of how a lens performs in terms of “character”. This is a passé term that is being used by many people these days to describe the intangible aspects of lens’ rendering. Notice the cool “soap bubble” effect on the image. Remember I said that this lens is capable of that? Well, here it is. This is considered a flaw and is corrected by many modern lenses but it is also very highly desirable when you know how to use it in a non-distracting way.

(click to enlarge)

The images were shot at f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8 and f/5.6 (from left to right) to give you an idea on how this lens performs when shot in different apertures. Notice that the lens loves to be shot at f/2 where you still get the subtlety of f/1.4 but the image also sharpens up nicely in the center. The image is already pretty good at f/2.8 and by f/5.6 the center is at it’s peak. See the changes in the bokeh’s character, it didn’t really change a lot from f/1.4 to f/2.8 but the bokeh dramatically at f/5.6. This change probably occurred at f/4 and is as expected in lenses of this class (fast lenses) and this is a very desirable trait in a lens because it gives you the flexibility of having a lens that renders differently as you stop down the iris. This is a very handy trick and saves you the trouble of bringing several lenses with you.

HAW_1134Here is a higher resolution sample from this lens and it was shot at f/1.4. As you can see from the image, the lens has a very pleasant character for use with portraiture. The flare and imperfections make the skin look smooth and natural. This is great for portraiture so every pore and wrinkle won’t show. The eyes are also sharp but lacking in contrast since the coatings and lens design were both dated but if you have to ask me, I will say that it’s perfectly OK since it adds a “pleasing” quality to the image.

(click to enlarge)

Here are 2 more samples.  The 2 samples above were shot at f/2 and as you can see, it is starting to pick up. The eyes look sharp right now but image still retains the delicateness of the image shot at f/1.4 when you look at the brick wall behind her. These pictures are outtakes and were shot just to determine wether a lens will work on her or not or if the makeup works so don’t be too critical of her or my photography. From here, you can see that this lens isn’t really ideal for her when used to shoot tight headshots as it made her look a bit chubbier. She has an athletic build and for that, you would need a longer lens. I will never hesitate to recommend this great lens to all portrait photographers!

The 58/1.4 lens class was revived with the recent release of the expensive but great AF-S NIKKOR 58mm f/1.4G lens. The two have nothing in common except that it was made to be the spiritual successor of the venerable Nikkor-S 5.8cm f/1.4 Auto lens. It’s a different lens made for a different era, related only by lineage and history.

I am sure that you guys want to see the teardown now so I will not hold it any longer! I’m aware that some people come here only to read the introduction but my purpose really is to show you how to repair this lens so here it is!

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 (Main Barrel):

The main barrel or what I call the focusing unit is relatively easy to open up if you are an experienced repairman with all the right tools for the job. As with most lenses, we would like to separate the objective from the main barrel to prevent it from getting damaged as we work with the rest of the lens. Nobody wants to accidentally damage anything so this is a must! This lens has really big glass elements that can be easily damaged.

If all you want to do is clean away any junk or fungus on the glass then all you need is to remove the objective and then skip the rest of this section because there is really no need for you to bother with the main barrel unless you want to overhaul it,too.

IMG_1321First, remove the focusing ring by unscrewing the 3 screws that secure it. Be careful not to scar the screws as they shown prominently! Nobody likes an ugly and scarred lens!

IMG_1322The front ring can be removed by unscrewing this tiny set screw. I am not sure if the first version with the smooth front ring had this but let’s just assume that it did.

IMG_1323The objective is being secured by these 3 screws. I’m just showing you one of them in this picture so it is up to you to look for the other 2 on the other side.

IMG_1324The objective and it’s casing can now be pulled away from the main barrel. It is a heavy object so be careful not to drop this unless you want an expensive doorstop.

IMG_1325To remove the chrome sleeve, simply unscrew these 3 screws. Just like the screws on the focusing ring, be careful not to scar these as well. A slip can make this look ugly!

IMG_1326Simply pull away the chrome sleeve afterwards. There is usually an oily mess under this and I would advise you to clean that up with naphtha and tissue.

IMG_1327Before you can remove the aperture ring, unscrew this first. This screw serves as a pin to connect the aperture ring and the iris mechanism inside via a slot attached to a ring. Be careful when reattaching and probe it first with an object that is thin enough to fit in the hole like a pin and make sure that this is sitting squarely on the slot under it. Put this pin back and if something feels weird, just do the previous step again or see if the aperture ring is positioned properly, it may be sitting too far to the front so unscrew it back to the the other end of the lens to make the hole site properly on top of the slot under it. Get it?

IMG_1328The aperture ring unscrews just like this now that the pin is gone. Note the tolerances of this thing before you unscrew it. You do not want to screw it too far into the lens or it will impede pin’s function so it will not couple with the slot under it properly.

IMG_1329To separate the bayonet mount, unscrew these little screws and be careful not to scar or damage the threads surrounding it! Use a driver that will fit properly!

IMG_1330The bayonet plate can be pulled away just like this. I do not think that Nikon glued this in place but if yours is stuck then just be just careful when removing this and NEVER pull it from the rear baffles! The baffles are made of thin metal and will easily bend!

IMG_1331See the ball bearings? This is the stop-down lever mechanism and I would advise you to just leave this alone unless yours is really filthy and not snappy. It can be taken apart by disconnecting the spring and unscrewing the retention ring with a lens spanner.

IMG_1332Here are the helicoids when set to infinity. Take a picture of yours and observe how they were configured as you will need to get the lens back to this state later. The 2 round holes in the middle of the photo are access holes for you to reach and unscrew the helicoid key. The helicoid key keeps all 3 helicoids in sync as you focus this lens in or out. Remember the orientation of the helicoid key before you remove it. Sorry for the blurry pic,too!

I remember somebody wanted me to take HDR pictures so that it would look pretty and unfairly insulted my photography skills when I told him this was impossible since I am doing repair notes. You get unreasonable jerks like these everywhere. You cannot please everybody. He will be remembered as the jerk that he is by me readers.

IMG_1333Now that the helicoid key is out of the way, you are free to collapse the helioids outside of the range that the helicoid key was constraining them to. Collapse the central helicoid all the way and then make a small diagonal mark. This mark will help you determine if you reassembled your helicoids properly. The mark I made was too big and rough so do not follow my example, this lens is mine so I didn’t care as much.

IMG_1334You can go on with separating the helicoids. The central helicoid separated with ease and I marked where they separated to help me mate them back later. Notice that the central helicoid was milled from a single billet of brass! This is really unusual as far as Nikkors are concerned and this is probably a big factor why the lens focuses really smooth since brass is known to have that as a property, I think engineers call that “self-lubrication” in their jargon. I can imagine some people with a grin on their faces now…

IMG_1335The inner and central helicoids will not separate unless you remove this stop. It’s there to prevent you from focusing out of the lens’ intended range as a safety. I’ll also advise you to note this thing’s orientation because this thing is not symmetrical.

IMG_1336Again, mark where they separated. If you forgot to do this and end up having a terrible time then please do not message me for help! Read my helicoids article for your peace of mind and education if you are new to this!

IMG_1337Unscrew the aperture coupling collar from the main barrel/outer helicoid. It is this part that is connecting the aperture ring to the iris mechanism inside. Be really careful not to damage the delicate threads by cross-threading or scarring  it. I am just making up the names of the various parts of this lens in case you haven’t noticed it yet. Now you know.

That’s it for the main barrel. If all you want to do is clean and lubricate the lens then you can stop right here. The next section deals with the objective.

Disassembly (Objective):

The objective is rather simple and pretty straight-forward as far as Nikkors go. There isn’t anything radically different from the usual Nikkor lens and any technique and advise on fixing your usual Nikkor prime of the same vintage applies. If ever I’m going to warn you about anything, that will have to be being very careful with which way a lens element should be facing when you put the elements back together. The curvature is not obvious on some elements specially the ones on the rear.

IMG_3758The front elements group can easily be unscrewed from the casing with your hands. If it is stuck, place a drop of alcohol on the seam and leave it there for a while to let it soften whatever was used to bind it before you give it another try.

The rear elements group can be unscrewed the same way. I would like to apologize for all the missing images on this section, I think I’ve lost them when my iPhone 4s died! Do not worry, the construction is very similar to the one on the Nikkor-S 5cm f/1.4 Auto lens. I wonder where those pictures went, I will update you as soon as I find out!

That is all for the objective (unfortunately). I doubt that you will ever need to go deeper but if you do then read the next section!

Disassembly (Iris Mechanism):

The iris assembly is best left alone unless you need to clean it. This part can get oily and the contaminants can come from anything ranging from grease to fine dirt. I usually will leave it alone unless it needs to be cleaned.

IMG_3752Before you do anything to the iris mechanism, be sure to take plenty of pictures for your notes. It can be very complicated for some people and taking notes should also be part of your standard routine. There are absolutely no excuses for not doing so!

IMG_3753The ring inside that secures the iris mechanism is being held in-place by these. There are 3 of them and just look for the other 2 on the other side of the casing.

IMG_3754This ring should come after you got rid of the screws. It can be a tight fit so just use your fingertips to pull it away from the casing. You will also need to unscrew that screw near the center of the picture attached the brass ring before you proceed.

IMG_3755The brass ring can now be removed now that the screw is gone. Note its orientation since this thing isn’t symmetrical. Having this face the wrong way will only lead to big trouble later on. Disregard the fact that the front elements are in the picture.

IMG_3756The rotation plate can now be removed. The safest way is to push the tab/ears from the outside to lift this thing slightly and then pick it up with your finger nails. Please be very careful with this. If you dropped this thing and it warped, I am going to bet that the iris will not be able to open and close down as smoothly or snappy as it once did.

IMG_3757I simply drop the iris blades on my palm and wiped them properly with a lint-free tissue and naphtha. These are very delicate so handle them with care!

IMG_3759The iris blades were then put back together carefully with a pair of tweezers. Handle the blades with care and only pick them up from their pins to prevent damaging it. It may take you some time to put this back together if you are new to this but this was easy for me since there were only 6 blades in total. Before this, most Nikkors had 9 iris blades and this is another unusual thing (back-then) until later lenses were being made with just 6-7 blades became the norm. It was a big cost-cutting decision but it also assures reliability since the 9-bladed ones were kind of delicate. Take my word for this, I know how delicate the 9-bladed ones can be, read my Nikkor-P 10.5cm f/2.5 Auto article to see why.

IMG_3761When reassemble your iris mechanism, be careful about the position of this little spring. It can be a bit difficult to get this into position so be patient. The straight end should be situated on the peg of a lever/arm and the curved end of the spring should be facing the inner wall of the objective’s casing. The peg is encircled in the picture in case you haven’t seen it yet. This spring ensures that the iris opens or closes down properly all the time.

With the iris reassembled, check it for anything weird by rapidly flicking the stop-down lever and see if it actuates freely and the action should also be very snappy. If the blades retard or stick then you will have to clean it further. If the iris is irregular then you will have to set the iris blades again. This is rare but it happens! The cause can come from a damaged blade or if the blades aren’t sitting flat because of the plate. Be careful.


It was a boring task working on this lens since the construction is generic but I was really happy with the lens’ performance so that is more than enough and it made all the effort worthwhile. The feeling that you have saved another lens is indescribable!

IMG_1914 2Here it is with an improvised front barrel. I milled this one from my spares but I was not able to mill the threads for the filter or hood because I do not have the capability at the moment. Maybe I will be able to do that in the near future, who knows?

IMG_1908Here is the early version again with its dedicated hood. The hood is a bit loose because it doesn’t have anything to grip onto. I love how the hood has the lens’ name on it.

IMG_1320Here is another picture of the early version with the makeshift front barrel. See how it is shinier compared to the later Nikkors? They don’t make them like they used to!

The lens doesn’t come cheap due its rarity but it is not as rare as the “tickmark” lenses or the more exotic ones like the Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 Ai-S lens so it is more affordable for the average person to own one of these. If you want an important piece of Nikkor history then you should buy one of these but if you are thinking of buying it to shoot with it and if you don’t give a rat’s ass for all that history then the Nikkor-S 5cm f/1.4 Auto lens may be all that you need. It’s better than this lens in many ways. Personally, I just shoot with this lens for the fun of it. Weird Nikkors are fun to play with, the feeling is akin to driving an old European car around town on a Sunday afternoon. I hope you get what I mean.

We are now at the end of another article! Thank you for reading my blog and if you wish to help me then please click on my links or just browse through my blog. I have began to monetize the blog so any traffic here helps! Sharing my blog is also going to help a lot. Of course, you are free to buy me a beer or coffee by donating some to my paypal account. Thanks again and see you again next time! Love, 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 make a 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.


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