Repair: Nikkor-Q.C 13.5cm f3.5 RF

Hello, everybody! It’s a very cold evening now in Tokyo and it’s forecasted to snow in the coming hours. I hope that you keep yourselves warm this weekend and drink plenty of fluids and vitamin C. I used to be resistant to minor illnesses but age has caught on to me and I easily get sick. Some old people are tough despite living for more than 7 decades so age clearly isn’t a problem here. Speaking of tough oldies, I will show you one tough old lens that can still deliver despite being around 70 years old. Sit back and enjoy, this is the Mick Jagger of telephoto Nikkors (who will outlive us all and never seem to die)!

Introduction:

The topic of this post is the amazing Nikkor-Q.C 13.5cm f/3.5 lens! This lens was popular back in the days because it’s Nikon’s longest lens for their rangefinder cameras. 135mm is the upper-limit for many rangefinder cameras because focusing a longer lens is not only an exercise if futility but it’s also going to be too big for the smallish lens mounts of most 35mm camera systems back in the day. Its predecessor is the Nikkor-Q.C 13.5cm f/4 and it is one of the original Nikkors made for consumer photography right after the war. It was heavily-based on the Zeiss original but it was short-lived, being replaced shortly by this lens after only a few years of production. The Nikkor-Q.C 13.5cm f/3.5 improved upon its predecessor’s design by giving it a slightly faster maximum aperture. It came in different versions and mounts and it can be very difficult to near-impossible to acquire every one of them. I will show you some of them in this post and on a succeeding post showcasing a different (earlier) version of this lens. This lens is the first in a long line of 135/3.5 lenses.

IMG_3978These are lovely lenses. and they’re very well-made from solid brass. The chrome one on the top came in the Leica L39 mount. Many photographers preferred Nikkors over their Leicas because they had better contrast, harder coatings and were cheaper. The people at TIME magazine brought Nikon to the limelight by using them to cover the Korean War. It gave Nikon a very good reputation because their gear didn’t freeze in the harsh winters of the Korean peninsula and this gave Nikon its reputation for reliability and toughness.

IMG_4010

The Nikkor-Q.C 13.5cm f/3.5 is a big lens. It’s front-heavy when mounted to a tiny camera like the Nikon S3. If you think it’s big without the shade then just look at it with the shade on. The shade or hood is an important accessory as you will soon see why. The hood alone can sometimes cost more than the lens itself. This is the rarer “all-black” version and this set can cost 1.5x to more than 2x the usual price of the normal chrome one depending on the condition. Mine is not mint but just nice enough to be presentable.

The Nikon S3 does not have frame lines for 135mm so you will need an external viewfinder for better framing. This big bright-line finder isn’t cheap but I got it for a nice price because it had fungus.

The Nikkor-Q.C 13.5cm f/3.5 only has four lens elements so it’s not a difficult or expensive lens to produce. Despite that, the lens has great optical performance and is a favorite of many photographers. Its F-mount successor, the Nikkor-Q 13.5cm f/3.5 Auto has a slightly different optical formula but it’s largely based on this lens. This is the father of telephoto Nikkors in the 135mm range to say the least and is a historically important lens.

IMG_7585Here it is mounted on my Sony A7. Despite it age, it’s still a good lens by today’s standards if your main interest is a lens’ rendering and use for general photography where AF and other modern features aren’t as important as a lens’ other intangible qualities.

(Click to enlarge)

The lens flares terribly. The flare resistance (or lack of it) reminds me of the cheaper lens that we recently reviewed, the Nikkor-T 10.5 cm f/4 but at least this lens isn’t that bad and also consider that this lens was made in the early ’50s so that puts things into perspective so I would say that it’s typical for lenses from this era. The good thing is the lens seems to be pretty resistant to flaring somewhat with the sun in the frame, it’s only terrible when the sun is outside of the frame. A lens shade should be used at all times to prevent it from flaring. Stopping the lens down helps a lot as you can see on the right-most picture but it also “solidifies” the flare into slivers of light. You can use this to your creative advantage.

DSC01048The lens doesn’t vignette much except for the far corners and It’s also sharp at infinity. It is not shabby at all but I think that this lens was calculated to be better in closer ranges.

(Click to enlarge)

The set of pictures above were shot from f/3.5, f/4 and f/5.6 (in that order). Wide-open, the lens is pretty sharp at the center of the frame. The bokeh is pleasing despite the slow f/3.5 maximum aperture. It’s not the lens to use if you want wash-out backgrounds but it does the job decently to say the least. Stopping the lens slightly to f/4 helps a lot. Sharpness is great by f/4 and the contrast improves a lot. Stopping the lens down to f/5.6 doesn’t really much except for improving sharpness even more and getting more things in-focus. Even when you stop the lens down, the character of the bokeh is still nice because of the round iris. Preset-type irises with plenty of iris leaves will always have a round iris and this will give you this pleasing character for the bokeh, just imagine shooting this lens at night. On a different note, I suppose some sick bastard will find the last set of Tom Sawyer with bits of crap on his face erotic. I thought it was caterpillars but it looks to be bird droppings.

(Click to enlarge)

The rendering of this lens is very natural due to the very low element count of just four lens elements. The transition between what’s in-focus and what’s not is smooth and so natural you will want to use this lens all the time. It can be hard to focus despite using a mirrorless camera with focus peaking set to ON but you’ll get used to it.

(Click to enlarge)

The results on film is also pretty good. Sharpness and rendering are both excellent! Using this lens with a Nikon SP is is amazing because it has frame lines for 135mm and it is also very easy to focus because of the Nikon SP’s accurate viewfinder. I love how my pictures look to be honest. They’re not technically perfect and they will not top any modern chart for lens testing but they are definitely not mediocre specially considering that this lens is from the 1950s. This lens is a real bargain if you find one in decent condition.

I hope that this introduction will give you a good idea on how this lens performs and I’m really hoping that you will appreciate this lens a bit more in the historical context since I consider this lens to be one of Nikon’s most important lenses ever. If you’re a collector, I am sure that you already one of these and I hope that you bring that lens out and shoot it with a film camera or any digital camera just to give the lens some exercise and prepare to be amazed by the results. It makes for a great travel lens due its size and practical use. That’s it for the introduction, let’s now begin with the repair article!

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 now-growing 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.

Lens Barrel:

This lens conveniently separates into 2 parts. I always remove the optical part of any lens and store it somewhere safe before I work on the rest of the lens so this makes repairing this lens a lot easier. One of the reasons for this is that Nikon can manufacture the front part of the lens and then make the main barrel in several versions for Leica, Contax, Arri or other mounts. This simplifies production and I recall seeing an ad where you can buy the lens barrel separately so you can swap the lens barrel of your lens to a mount of your choice. I don’t know if this was ever a standard practice in those days because I never see these lens barrels being sold now. Maybe they were but the volume is probably very low so we don’t see it trickle-down to the used camera gear market at the present.

IMG_3979The front assembly can be easily removed by unscrewing it from the focusing unit. There is a brass shim there that you should be careful with. It’s unique to this lens as it’s used to adjust this lens’ infinity focusing. Store it in a safe place so you won’t misplace it.

Keep the front assembly in a safe place because that’s where all of your elements are. Put it in a safe place to prevent it from rolling-off the edge of the table. Be careful not to scar it or damage the iris or glass.

IMG_3980The focusing ring can be removed by unscrewing 3 of these screws. Make sure that your driver is of the correct size or else it will strip the screw’s head or scar the surrounding metal. It should fit the slot snugly and you may need to grind your driver to fit.

IMG_3981The focusing comes-off just just this. I always work with the lens set to infinity to give me  a nice reference point. It’s a good habit that you should always be aware of.

IMG_3982To remove the sleeve with the grip, you will have to remove these screws. There are two that you can easily access but one of them is hidden and I will show you how to get to it.

IMG_3983The tripod foot can be removed by unscrewing these 4 screws.

IMG_3984Once the foot is gone, you can now access that hidden screw.

IMG_3985Before you can remove the sleeve, you should first remove the helicoid. As usual, always mark where the helicoid separated or you will have a terrible time guessing where they should mesh properly. Read my article on how to work with helicoids to know how to do this properly. Many people get stuck here so read my article just to be safe.

IMG_3986You can now finally remove the sleeve. You can now access the 3 screws that secure one of the helicoids.

IMG_3988Remove the 3 screws and you can remove the helicoid. Make sure that you mark where it should be oriented before you remove it because you can easily put this back incorrectly.

IMG_3987The rangefinder-coupling cam mechanism can be removed after removing a few screws. Just like with the helicoid, remember its orientation before you remove it. This couples to the rangefinder arm in the camera and the spring makes sure that contact between these 2 parts are always maintained.

IMG_3989To separate the collar, remove this screw.

IMG_3990The collar can then be removed just like this. Don’t apply too much grease on this part. A very thin film of grease is enough so long as it doesn’t squeak. There is another screw, it’s for the cam itself and removing it will separate the cam.

IMG_3991The cam can now be separated. Clean this part properly and grease the hole a bit when it is time to put this back together. Make sure that the whole assembly doesn’t squeak and it should be operating smoothly. The spring may be rusty so you should remove all of the rust with oil or WD-40. Clean the spring properly before reinstalling it. That black paper lining on the inner surface of the cam had to be replaced. It has been there for more than half a century breeding germs. Unless you’re a collector, this has to be done.

The main barrel of this lens is simple enough to understand and you don’t need plenty of explanations for this. If you’re familiar with old-school Zeiss lenses then this shouldn’t be a problem for you. The key to all this is using the correct-sized drivers for the screws.

Use a lighter-type of grease for this. I used a heavier grease on this and it’s a bit too stiff. Remember that this will couple with another helicoid on the camera and the resistance of that helicoid will contribute to the overall resistance that you will feel when you turn the focusing ring. Always keep this is mind when working with those Contax and Nikon-S mount rangefinder lenses! I don’t know what I was thinking when I oiled this but I forgot this fundamental thing! I was probably concerned about making precise turns so I used a heavier grease on this. It’s not all that bad but I wish that it’s just a bit lighter.

Front Assembly:

It’s now time to take the front assembly apart. This lens separates into 2 convenient parts and this is the part where most of the things happen as it contains several mechanisms. I personally like working with this lens because of its simplicity. Do note that some parts of this lens may be glued such as the front barrel so be patient. Use some solvent and place a small drop unto the seams and let that soften the glue before you proceed. Acetone and alcohol (isopropyl 99.9%) is very good for this. MEK will also do but I find that it’s a little bit too strong and may dissolve some of the paint. Be careful with solvents because they will do a quick job on cemented elements if you are not careful! The fumes alone may be enough to soften Canada Balsam. It’s a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea.

IMG_3995The front elements assembly can be unscrewed from the front assembly just like this. Be careful not to damage the glass when you’re handling this part.

IMG_4005The aperture ring can be removed after you unscrew the 3 grub screws that are securing it. Make sure not to damage the screws because they can be brittle with age.

IMG_3996The doublet can is glued to its collar so unscrewing the collar will also remove it. The 2nd and 3rd elements are glued-together so handle this with care. Be careful when using any solvent or chemical because you don’t want to dissolve or damage the optical cement.

IMG_3997The front barrel is secured by a small set screw.

IMG_3998You can safely unscrew the front barrel once the set screw is gone. The bezel secures the front element so removing the front barrel with it attached will give you access to it. You can remove the bezel first before removing the front barrel by using a rubber cup but I prefer to do it this way. Make sure that you don’t drop the front element to the ground!

IMG_3999The front element can now be extracted with a lens sucker. You can push it from behind with a finger and catch it with the other hand but this is the safest way to do this. Recall which side should be facing forward by drawing a small dot with a Sharpie on the walls of the element. Putting any of the elements back facing the wrong way is dangerous.

IMG_4001The bezel can be safely removed just like this. I always clean what’s behind this because this thing usually accumulates dust underneath it.

IMG_4002The rear element is secured to its housing. Unscrew the housing to remove it.

IMG_4003The rear element is secured to its housing by a retention ring. Use a lens spanner if you want to remove it. There’s no point in doing so since you can clean the rear element like this. Make sure not to damage this part while removing the retention ring.

IMG_4007Mine was really filthy so I had to disassemble everything.

IMG_4008The rear element can now be removed. Again, make sure not to put this back facing the wrong way.

There’s not a lot of surprises in this lens because it was made during the early years and production shortcuts weren’t implemented yet. So long as you have the proper tools you should be fine working with this.

Iris Mechanism:

The iris mechanism is similar to the one on the Nikkor-P.C 10.5cm f/2.5 RF. Mine was just a little bit oily so I decided to simply wipe it with a Q-tip and naphtha. I rarely do this as I advocate cleaning this thoroughly but there are times when I get lazy and shortcuts like this are acceptable for me. If yours need a complete overhaul then just wait for the next one in this series where I will take-apart the iris mechanism of an earlier version of this lens. There are little differences but they’re basically the same mechanically.

IMG_4004There is a thin film of oil on the iris. I carefully wiped it with Q-tip and naphtha until it is as clean as I could make it. Always wipe along the curvature if the iris leaves to prevent it from catching any of the iris leaves and damaging the iris. You can also flush this with naphtha if you like but that will take more effort.

IMG_4006.JPGJust a little bit more to go! A sharp artist’s brush will finish the job.

That’s the quick and dirty way to clean a preset-type iris. to do a proper job, read my post on how to work with preset-type irises. These work differently from the usual automatic irises that we are more familiar with and requires more patience. It can be frustrating so even seasoned repairers aren’t always happy to work on one. I may consider asking for a big extra next time I work on one.

Conclusion:

I had plenty of fun working with this lens, it’s a nice project for a Sunday afternoon. This will probably take you 2-4 hours at most depending on the condition of the lens. I wanted to replace all of the linings on the lens so it took me more time because I had to pickle the lens in an alcohol bath to soften the glue on the linings so I can completely remove them and replace them with new material such as black matte velvet paper, velvet or felt. It all depends on which surface needs it. A quick trip to the upholstery shop will get you these things. A hat maker’s shop will also be a great idea to ask for advice.

IMG_4009.JPGThe felt lining for the hood was replaced with new material. The old one was dirty so this had to be done. I used a thicker felt so that the fit is snug.

IMG_4019.JPGHere it is now! Coupled with the bright-line finder, it makes for an enjoyable setup to use for general photography. All that hard work paid off and this lens will be good to use for another 50 years! They don’t make things like they used to.

Did you enjoy this repair and review article? If you did, please don’t forget to share this with your friends at social media. Share it with your camera group so people will have a better appreciation of this lens. This is probably the only article online which deals with this lens when it comes to repairs so I hope that this will help somebody repair their old lens and bring it back to working condition. If you’re new to this, send this to a repairer and have him see this article as a guide. Thank you very much for the support. This blog has been continuously publishing exclusive and original content for a couple of years so it has been gaining respect in the Nikon repair community. Without your help, this blog will not succeed and your support is the key to my motivation to keep this running. I am busy these days but I always make time for this blog because I know that people will be waiting for my next post every weekend. See you guys again next time and thank you for the burgers and cigarettes you’re sending me. Rest assured, I have quite smoking for now because some of my readers were pushing me to quite the habit. You have become more than my audience, you’re part of my community. Keep warm this winter, 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 paypal.com account (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.

 

 

Buy me a roll of film or a burger?

Thank you very much for your continued support!

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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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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Repair: Nicca 3S (part 1) | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  2. Trackback: Repair: NIkkor 135mm f/3.5 Ai | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  3. Trackback: Shopping: Arrow Camera / Garakuteya (Yotsuya) | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site

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