Repair: Nikkor-T 10.5cm f/4 (F-Mount)

Hello, everybody. I was listening to the Rolling Stones as I’m a big fan of the band. Their music still sounds great today, the grit and the sound never gets old. Mick is literally a geriatric now but boy can he still perform. He has the groove and Keith still has it in him. People call him a “living fossil” because he is still going and there seems to be not end to his energy. I would love to have his vitality at that age. Speaking of living fossils, I will show you a lens today that’s both archaic and old even when it debuted in the early 1960s. It is considered an oddity by many Nikon collectors and some find it obscure. I will walk you through this detailed article, please enjoy this.

Introduction:

We are going to look at the Nikkor-T 10.5cm f4. There is little information on this outside of its history so I hope I can shed some light into this weird lens and its characteristics when used in real-life scenarios. It debuted when the Nikon F was rocking the charts in the early 1960s. There is a rumor that this lens was made for Nikon’s rangefinder cameras but was also repurposed as an F-mount lens to cut cost. It’s hard to confirm it but it is easy to see where that came from. It looks goofy and is more in-line older rangefinder designs than a proper F-mount lens. it is a preset-iris type lens like the Micro-Nikkor 5.5cm f/3.5 and the PC-Nikkor 35mm f/3.5 but unlike those, this doesn’t have a real reason for being a preset-type design. A preset-type lens is where you manually close the iris before shooting since the camera won’t do it for you automatically. Its weird look and the preset-type aperture are the 2 features that define it but there’s another thing and that’s “cheapness”, it’s something that many people overlook. You see, this was designed to be made as cheap as possible. It was a bad marketing decision because people buy Nikkors for their quality. It had a reputation for cheapness that it hurt its own sales and that lead to its very low numbers, making it rare. Fast-forward 60 years and its rarity has made it a collector’s item and the price of this lens has inflated so much that it became a rich man’s toy. Luckily, I was able to purchase one for cheap. It was sold at a much lower price because of the wear and the old owner made a terrible repair job. It was so bad that even the screws did not match. I had to replace them with the ones from my scraps box. Needless to say, it was an expensive junk but it has been one of my dreams to showcase this lens to you.

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The Nikkor-T 10.5cm f4 looks very odd. It’s small and thin but it flares at its base so that it can accommodate the wider throat of the F-mount. Despite it being short, the lens can extend almost 3cm when you focus it to its closest focus distance. If you want a small setup for a leisurely stroll around town then this lens is the one to take with you. It also has a weird nickname, the “Mountain Nikkor”. It got that name because people were linking this to the “Mountain Elmar” of Leica which is a lens that shares a few attributes with this one, they are both ugly lenses. It only has 3 elements, it was popular for lens makers to make 3-element lenses (triplets) for the low-end market and these lenses are usually cheap because they only have 3 elements and their construction usually revolved around cost-cutting. This was at a time when Nikon was already known for its quality and performance so this was really a misfit. It hurt Nikon’s reputation so much that they stopped this economy-driven non-sense and only did it again in the 1980s with the Series-E lenses but they never used the “Nikkor” brand this time around. There was even a magazine article with the title “Why Can’t We Sell This Lens” in a Japanese Nikon magazine back then, it detailed its unfortunate sales history and why nobody wanted it back then. The answer was very simple, it had the overall impression of “cheapness”. It felt like it was made by another company and people would just save-up to buy the legendary Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 Auto that’s a lot better and more popular with everybody back then. Needless to say, this poor thing was only sold for a short time. Branding is so important and this is just one example.

The S-mount version sold even less because people were then transitioning to the Nikon F and there is also an existing 105/2.5 for the S-mount and that made very little sense to purchase that. The S-mount version is even rarer, it costs almost twice the money these days compared to this one but I found a junk that cost me very little money, read more about that lens in my article for the Nikkor-T 10.5cm f/4 for the S-mount.

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The lens looks very odd on any camera because it has a thin profile. Even if it’s mounted on a rangefinder camera (S-mount version) it still looks off in some ways. Operating this lens on an SLR with automatic diaphragm action felt weird because you should open-and-close the iris manually but you will soon get used to it or just use it wide-open all the time. If you have not shot with Nikon rangefinder cameras this can feel alien to your hands when you grab this because all F-mount lenses are stouter than this.

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It sure looks better on the Sony A7. An ugly lens can make a good match for an ugly Sony. Both are ergonomic horror stories and they belong together, a kind of “how to make ugly gear” theme. Operating these two together made more sense because mirrorless cameras don’t benefit from an automatic iris because the finder will brighten up the display when you stop its iris down. It’s a feature that’s unique to mirrorless cameras which makes them perfect for using old, non-automatic lenses.

Despite the weird handling, this lens also has equally weird characteristics that I’ll show you in the sample pictures section. This is a unique lens in the Nikkor lineup and the next few sets of photos will show you why it’s unique. You can’t get any more hipster than this.

Knowing how your lens performs is key to maximizing its use. You’ll know its strengths and exploit them while avoiding its weaknesses or using them to your creative advantage. I took the following photos from f/4, f/5.6 and f/8 from left-to-right as these apertures show the most changes. Since this has a preset-type iris, the aperture values are not exact, it is difficult to do a quick test with a tripod if I don’t have one at-hand, may I even say impossible. The article that I wrote for the Nikkor-T 10.5cm f/4 for the S-mount has plenty of photos and you can also refer to those.

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Chromatic aberration can be high wide-open on extreme cases or when the subject has a shiny surface and over-exposed. The good thing is you will not see it when exposed correctly as in the case of the bicycle photos. You won’t see it by f/5.6 and it’s gone by f/8. The photos of the pencil sharpener is just a case to show you how bad it is on worst cases and you can even see some of it even by f/8. Nobody takes pictures like these in real-life so just refer to the bicycle photos for real-life samples.

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The bokeh quality is surprisingly good and decent at worst across the whole focus distance range. I don’t see any harshness or any weird-looking details in the defocused areas, it’s smooth and generally pleasant. Preset-type irises usually have no-less than 8 or 9 blades, that helps make the iris look round, giving you smoother bokeh quality specially with difficult subjects.

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Sharpness is this lens’ strength. It is sharp wide-open, it gets even better by f/5.6 where resolution also picks-up. It’s amazing by f/8, it is at its peak from this aperture to around f/11. Contrast is pretty high, colors look natural and saturation seems nice. This lens performs better at closer ranges compared to infinity or somewhere around that. It’s not that bad at all, it’s just that my lens performs better at closer distances.

Here’s a photo shot from the closest focus distance. It’s technically great for a lens that was unveiled in 1959 and sold in 1960. This was shot wide-open and you can see just how beautiful it is. There’s no chromatic aberration at all because the photo was exposed properly and there’s nothing in the scene that can trigger it such as areas of really high contrast near the area where the focus transitions.

This was taken at f/8. You can’t see the subtle details in this photo, the RAW file shows every detail of the yellow pencil rendered beautifully. It’s sharp, the details are also resolved perfectly.

This lens seems good-enough as expected from a lens coming from this era but just wait until you see the next sets of photos.

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This lens flares a lot, I don’t know what contributes to this, the only thing I can think of is the coatings (or lack of it). I am sure that it is coated because mine exhibits a bluish hue so I’m guessing that it has some form of coating. How good the coatings are is beyond what I know but my tests show that it is pathetic. I never saw anything like this even on Nikon’s very early lenses from the rangefinder years and my oldest Nikkor’s made in around 1945. It could be the very low element count? Despite this, it’s obvious that the lens is sharp if you zoom-in on what’s focused.

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If you think the previous set looked ugly then wait until you see these. This reminds me of my baby’s ultrasound pictures. Just look at that light pillar, it is just the sun outside of the frame. Look closely and you will notice that the curtain-of-light doesn’t go past the frame. It looks like it was cut at its source near the edge of the frame. What could that be? I do not know but I will ask some optical engineers the next time I meet any and I will inform you guys. You can use this as an effect if you wish, it certainly looks trippy.

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More samples of the flaring problem but not as bad this time. One thing that can cause it is the shiny metal front ring. I was using this without any shade and the reflection is probably the one causing all these ugly artifacts. I don’t have the hood with me at that time but I doubt that it will help much.

By the way, Roland Vink has this to say:

“The blades have an odd shape though, the edges have strong curvature so when stopped down a little the opening has a star or saw-tooth shape. Only at smaller apertures or near wide open is the aperture a regular nonagon.

Since the optical unit is very compact (front to rear) and the focal length is moderately long, there is very little mechanical vignetting so illumination is relatively uniform even wide open.

One nice feature of this lens is the 0.8m closest focus distance so it is handy for close-ups. This is much closer than the 1.2m limit of the Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 Auto from the same era. This also uses the classic Cooke Triplet design which is relatively symmetrical so its close-up performance is pretty good.

Flaring is probably due to the simple coatings and the optical design which tends to send reflections onto the image plane rather than elsewhere. The chrome filter ring does not help either, so using the little hood is useful.”

So that explains the lack of vignetting. Thanks, Roland!

Now that we saw the ugly face of this lens, it is time to balance it by looking at these photos that were shot under practical, real-world scenarios. It has a redeeming quality, you can judge it for yourself.

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The lens is sharp wide-open. It also has a nice 3D-like effect going on despite only having f/4 as its fastest aperture. The low element count contributes to this, giving it a nice character. Contrast is average wide-open but it picks-up by stopping it down to f/5.6, it’s starting to look really generic by f/8. I’ll only shoot this lens at f/4 because this is where all the magic is or at f/5.6 if I had to. The bokeh rendering is quite decent and can be pleasant at best.

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This is probably the worst-case scenario when it comes to the bokeh quality. I can see some mild smearing on the twigs. It’s not that bad but it is just not quite there with the likes of the Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 Auto which renders a scene exquisitely. It does cost twice as much as this one, though (in 1960).

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Here’s another sample. Not the best lens for shooting bokeh balls at night to be honest.

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The 105mm focal length is good for portraiture. It’s apparent in this picture that f/4 is not what you want if you need to mask ugly backgrounds. I would like to point out that the subject isolation qualities of this lens is really good, see how the subject looks very “3D-like” and how she is separated from the background really well? The details on her cloths look great, too. It was shot at f/4 and I wasn’t expecting much but this exceeded my expectations.

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Here’s an example of the lens used at infinity or close to it. When I zoomed it to 1:1 in my monitor, the details look really sharp and it felt like this shot was taked at f/5.6 despite being shot wide-open. I also can’t sense any visible distortion. I was impressed by this.

Let’s now see some photos that were taken with film. Photos taken with film has a unique look because of grain and how light reacts with emulsion. This is the reason why we’re also interested to see some photos that were taken with it because it will help us assess the lens better since we are going to see how this lens renders using its intended medium. This lens was designed to work with film and film grain can hide a lot of “flaws” that digital cameras can record. It’s only fair that we judge this lens using photos shot with film. I took these with a Nikon F6 loaded with Fujifilm Industrial 400 and they’re all taken with the iris wide-open.

Beautiful details! This lens is great for portraiture, too. The combination of sharpness balanced with a nice rendering wide-open makes this a balanced lens that’s great for a lot of things so long as you don’t give it chance to flare.

The quality of the bokeh is even better with film where grain helps give it a smoother look. I love the organic look of grain and that’s why I love film.

The rather slow maximum aperture gives you more depth-of-field so you’ll have more than 1 person’s face in-focus so long as they’re not too-far from each other. You will have to stop a faster lens down in order to achieve this and that has its complications such as a slightly rougher look if the lens has only a few iris blades which results in an angular iris shape.

Well, the lady at the back is probably too far from the lady at the front, that resulted in her face being blurred. Resolution is quite decent even at f/4 so you can see the hair rendered beautifully.

The rendering looks exquisite in this photo, the color is natural but just a bit muted. This lens was made for use with monochrome film and there is a bit of a bluish tint to the pictures which contributes to this look. I like it a lot, it is one of the things that makes this lens special.

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Here are more photos from this roll. Please click on them and see the larger versions. I love how this lens performs so long as you don’t trigger the flare. It has a unique look which makes the pictures taken with this look different. It’s balanced beautifully by the designer of this lens. There is nothing cheap about the performance of this lens except for the very poor flare and ghosts resistance.

I can’t recommend it for regular shooters. There are better alternatives and they’re all cheaper than this. A Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 Auto is the best option, it’s considered to be one of Nikon’s greatest lenses of all time and they are a lot cheaper than this. You can probably buy 3 or 4 of those for one of these. I can only recommend this to collectors or those who wanted to be weird. It’s a quirky lens to use with lots of creative potential. It’s also a great lens to hit on hipster chicks, too. If you really want one, make sure that the iris is free from oil and make sure that all rings turn properly. These are usually found in a variety of conditions, from mint to junk, it is your job to make sure that you get the one that fits your budget.

Before We Begin:

If this is your first attempt at repairing a lens then I suggest that you check my previous posts regarding screws & driversgrease and other things. Also read what I wrote about the tools that you’ll need to fix your Nikkors.

I 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 novice. Before opening up any lens, always look for other people who have done so in Youtube or 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 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 and it will be beneficial for you to read this.

Disassembly (Lens Barrel):

The construction of this lens is not conventional. On typical F-mount lenses, we would normally begin by removing the objective of a lens and it’s just a question of where we’ll be opening it from (front or back). This lens doesn’t fall under this pattern and you will see that for yourself soon. This is a nice refreshing experience because truth be told, I am getting bored at opening the usual Nikkors. For me, this is a nice learning experience and I hope that you will find this just as amusing as I did. I call this lens “Ajahn Lens”. Ajahn is a Thai Buddhist term for teacher, if something taught you a lesson then I think it is a good reason to honor it. Thank you, Ajahn Lens.

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Unscrew the rear baffle by using a lens spanner or better yet, use a rubber stopper and simply use friction to unscrew the baffle. This is safer because rubber won’t scratch anything.

Note the 2 encircled dimples. Those are the slots for the retention ring. You must first remove the baffle before removing the retention ring to prevent damaging the ribs on the baffle. The retention ring is the only thing holding the lens together so remove the retention ring carefully so you won’t drop the front part of the lens.

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Here’s the baffle. It’s a big piece of milled alloy and it serves as a light seal. It also hides the inner parts of the lens so they’re protected from dust.

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Remove the retention so the front part of the lens can be separated from the main barrel.

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Make sure not to leave the retention ring inside.

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The focusing ring is secured by these 3 screws.

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Removing those screws will allow you to remove the focusing ring.

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The grip is secured by these set screws. Carefully extract these, be sure not to scar the surrounding metal. If you look at it carefully you can see that it’s not aligned to the center. The idiot who worked on this did a poor job.

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It can be lifted from the throat just like this. Notice the actual hole where it should have sunk-in? It was actually trying to dig into the metal and created new marks just beside the proper hole.

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The bayonet mount can be removed by unscrewing these screws. Make sure to read my article on working with screws if you’re new to prevent anything bad from happening. Many people get stuck here because they stripped the screws by using bad tools and lack of skill.

Really early versions of this lens have a groove for the locking pin. This one doesn’t have it despite being an early type.

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The bayonet can now be safely removed. Make sure that you remember its position. I got confused when I was putting this back since there aren’t any other features to remind me except for the slot for the locking pin. It should sit exactly at 9:00 on every F-mount lens.

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Time to remove the base cover. It shields the screws on the lens and makes it look nice. I doubt that it’s glued so you can just use your hands to unscrew it. If it won’t move, just use some alcohol to soften the seal and try it again.

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Removing the cover should reveal these screws. These hold the sleeve to the lens’ base. Mine are corroded and look disgusting.

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The sleeve can now be pulled from the main barrel. Note the brass shim, it looks out-of-place but it is there. I think it acts more like a gasket to prevent oil from seeping-out from this. A more sensible use for it is it’s used as a rail so that the rotating tube under it has a smooth surface to turn from.

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This screw is there to prevent the lens from focusing past its range. You can extract it or just leave it there since it won’t stop you from dismantling this. I chose to unscrew it so I can clean it thoroughly.

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Curiously, this lens doesn’t even have a proper helicoid and it uses a cam to focus. I know that this was made with cost-cutting in mind but this is simply ridiculous. Cams are used if you need non-linear extension. That made a lot of sense with the GN-Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 since the focus can be synced to the aperture ring and it has a non-linear iris. Inverse square is also a reason for using a cam, light doesn’t decay in a linear fashion. In this case, it looks like the cam method was chosen because it was cheaper to implement.

To separate the telescoping tubes, carefully unscrew this and be careful not to crack that nylon-like nut. I remember that this thing consists of a spindle and that nylon-like thing and to put it back again, you will have to screw the spindle back first before you press-fit that plastic thing back into place. It is scary to do because this part can easily crack.

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Once that thing is gone, you can now separate the sleeve where the focusing ring used to be connected to. Make sure that you do not misplace that brass ring.

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The inner tube can now be pulled-away. This is where the thing that we just removed a few steps back used to be screwed to. Lightly lubricate the inner tube’s outer surface. Too much grease will only make this sloppy or hard to turn.

That’s simpler than what I was expecting. The simple construction showed how Nikon was trying to make a cheap lens by cutting corners where they could. A helicoid will make the focusing smoother but this cam worked just as well. The only thing that I’ll caution you is to be careful while turning it, the only thing that’s between you and ruining this lens is a small screw and a plastic part. If you over-turn it, these parts may break under stress. Seeing the insides of lenses should tell you a lot about how to care for them. Proper care will assure that these will give more decades of service and not end up being junks or sold for parts.

Disassembly (Front Barrel):

I will condense the sections for the iris assembly, objective and front barrel into one part, the lens is simple and I think that it makes more sense to do it this way instead of having them in different sections which can just confuse you. This is unlike your usual F-mount Nikkor because it’s a preset-type lens so our usual format won’t work.

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This screw comes in contact with another screw inside so the aperture ring will not turn past its range. Remove the screw so you can turn the aperture ring all-the-way, this should help you position some of the parts inside while you remove it.

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This is the screw that the previous one comes into contact with. Leave this alone, you can disassemble the lens without removing this thing.

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The preset iris ring can be removed by extracting 3 small set screws around it. Notice that I still have it mounted onto the main barrel in this picture. It was done so that the front barrel will have something to hold it while I took this picture.

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This sleeve can now be removed and it’s just screwed to the front barrel. It’s there to protect objective and also to make it look presentable. I am not sure if there is a screw securing this but in my sample I found none connected to this. However, there’s a hole on one side, what that hole is for is unknown.

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The preset iris ring can be unscrewed just like this after you removed all of its screws.

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The inner ring for the preset iris couples to iris with this screw. Remove this to extract the ring. This screw can be brittle, be careful when you extract it.

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The ring should come off easily once the screw is gone.

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This bigger screw should be removed in order for you to advance further.

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Now that the screw is gone, you can now remove this brass shim.

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The rear optics assembly can be unscrewed just like this. You should do this earlier as soon as you have access to this. I don’t know why I only removed this now but here it is. Put this in a secure place like a small box.

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To extract the front element, unscrew the bezel with a lens spanner. I would advise that you try using a rubber cup to remove this before you try doing it using a spanner. This is a prominent part of the lens and a metal tool might be able to scratch it if you are not careful. If this is stuck, just place a drop of alcohol and let capillary action do the rest of the job. These were commonly sealed at the factory.

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You can now remove the bezel.

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The front element can be removed with a lens sucker. It is obvious that the convex part should be facing forward but I wanted to warn you in case you don’t know this. Use a Sharpie and draw a small dot on the wall of the lens to remind you where this thing should be facing.

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The 2nd element is secured by this collar. Mine was secured with lacquer so I just placed a drop of alcohol onto the hole beside the collar to soften it. If this won’t work and the collar is still stuck then you should probably use a rubber glove to give you some extra grip. Don’t use a lens spanner on this as it’s not needed.

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The 2nd element can now be extracted using a lens sucker. Do not forget to make a small dot on the wall of the element to remind you where this thing should be facing.

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The rear element is secured with a collar just like the 2nd one. Repeat what you did to the 2nd element but use a lens spanner this time. Be careful not to scratch the surface of the glass when you do this.

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The rear element can be extracted with a lens sucker. Notice the dots that I drew on its wall, these dots signify that this is the 3rd element and the dots are placed near one side of the lens. This edge faces forward, the dots were drawn closer to that side. Simple but very effective way for keeping track of things.

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The front ring can be tough to remove because it was secured with cement. Look at my picture to see what I mean. You can saturate this with MEK and let it sit for a few hours. Repeat every 30 minutes or so until you can extract this part with the help of a pair of rubber gloves. It took me a very long time to remove this so don’t rush it.

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Once the front ring is gone you can now separate the objective’s casing even further. It is important that you clean this part very well to remove any old grease or oil. The spring is sandwiched between the brass rings. This spring pushes the aperture ring forward so it clicks back automatically.

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The rotator cup is secured with a brass ring, pick it out with a needle.

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It can now be safely removed. This rotates when you turn the aperture ring. I simply used my fingertips to remove this thing because my nails were long enough to reach it. You can also use a pair of tweezers and lift it by its walls.

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This is the oily iris. This can be frustrating to reassemble and if you are new then go read my article about working with preset iris type lenses. Note how the iris should be re-assembled by studying this picture.

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The iris can now be taken apart, I just dropped these into a soft surface. You can extract these one-at-a-time but that’s too time-consuming and may even be more dangerous. Use naphtha to clean each blade and wipe them really carefully with a lint-free tissue. If you air-dry these you’ll leave some drying marks. I noticed that these are thinner than usual so handle these with care to prevent bending anything.

That’s all for the front barrel. The most difficult part for me was extracting the front ring. I wasted plenty of time just to remove it. I was not even sure how it should come off and where I should start but I will spare you all the trouble so I’m showing it all here to prevent you from making big mistakes. When re-assembling this, do not lubricate anything. It is the 2 rings that you turn that should be greased and by that you only need a very thin film of it on the threads just to make it feel smooth. The slots on the inner surface of the aperture ring should also be greased a bit so it clicks with no resistance. If you lubricated these too much then the grease will just end up migrating to the iris and its leaves, this is just going to cause you trouble in the future and you’ll have to open it again sooner or later. Clean everything very well before you even begin to re-assemble this.

Conclusion:

I enjoyed working with this. Its weirdness is a good break from the common lenses in the Nikkor lineup. I would like to overhaul another in the future. I will show you the S-mount version in another article.

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What an ugly lens but it’s now working smoothly and I have replaced all of the parts that needed to be replaced such as screws, etc. It’s good seeing the fruits of your hard work.

Thank you very much for supporting the blog. If you liked my work, please share it to your photography group. This is the only site on this planet that shares information on things that not many people talk about. Nobody else makes a repair article for this lens and this is a welcome addition. The help you provide enables me to offset the cost of maintaining this blog. I use the money to pay for hosting this site and to purchase, process and scan film. I am proud to say that this site is the only one consistently showing pictures that were shot with film, this makes the reviews a lot more interesting. This is not only the best site for anything related to classic Nikon repair but it’s a nice place to read about obscure lenses and to see the photos that they take. This is all thanks to your support. See you again next time, Ric.

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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 site’s upkeep, you can make a small donation to my paypal.com (richardHaw888@gmail.com). 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.

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9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor-Q.C 13.5cm f3.5 RF | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  2. jewelry
    May 31, 2018 @ 21:40:21

    When I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments
    are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve
    four emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a way you are able to remove me from that service?
    Kudos!

    Reply

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