Repair: Micro-Nikkor-P.C 55mm f/3.5 Auto

Hello, everybody! Today is the start of my 4-day weekend! I will have enough time for my recreation and self-healing. As you know, I am busier now at my new studio and finding time to do what I love can be very difficult. I often find myself sleeping really late and it’s beginning to take a toll on my health. It’s great that I can finally recharge myself after all the work in the past few months at work and at home. Speaking of refreshes, we will be talking about something great that came out even better after being “refreshed”. This will be a very good example of how a good design can be pushed even further. Stay with me.


Today, we will be looking at the Micro-Nikkor-P.C 55mm f/3.5 Auto lens! This lens isn’t just a cosmetic upgrade of the venerable Micro-Nikkor-P 55mm f/3.5 Auto that came before it as many people would tend to believe but this lens’ optics has been tweaked a bit. Apart from the newer coatings (hence, the “C” in the name), this lens was recalculated so that it can render objects further into the frame sharper. Nikon did this thinking that not many people are using this lens for close-up work. While that may be true statistically, people buy these things because of their performance in close-up work. This turned-off plenty of people but to be honest, I didn’t find this lens to be any less sharp than the previous one. In what I do which is shooting bugs and sometimes slides with these lenses, they’re really as sharp as you can get them to be at f/5.6 to f/8. Maybe I just got an excellent specimen?

FullSizeRender 15The Micro-Nikkor-P.C 55mm f/3.5 is a beautifully-built lens lens. It’s a really little gem for people who love to shoot small objects and it also serves as a great walk-around lens due to the 55mm focal length. The rubber ring is a welcome update to some people but I like the feel of metal focusing rings more to be honest.

img_2326The 55mm Micro-Nikkor family for the F-mount is a venerable line of high performance macro lenses with production spanning decades. It’s the predecessor of today’s popular 60mm line of macro lenses. Nikon was the one who started this trend in Japan but the 1st guys who thought of this concept is Zeiss with their Macro-Tessar lens for the Contax.

All of the lenses in this line (yes, including the Micro-Nikkor 5.5cm f/3.5!) feels great to my hands and I love them all just the same. The new rubber grip on this lens is a nice touch. I imagine that people who use this lens in the cold will be thankful that they’re touching a nice rubber grip rather than cold metal. At this point in Nikkor history, the majority of Nikkors all went through a design upgrade to fit the times and this lens was no exception.

IMG_2032It is a very handsome lens. Mine has the factory Ai-ring installed so I can use this with a modern Nikon DSLR. These were originally sold as pre-Ai lenses and you will need to do a small modification on the aperture ring if yours is not Ai-compliant. Read on my guide on how to modify your lens for Ai to know more about this. I recommend that you leave your lens unmodified and just use a mirrorless camera for your non-Ai lenses but if you just have to then that is the way to do it.

As for performance, it should perform just as good as the Micro-Nikkor-P 55mm f/3.5 Auto that went before or maybe even better when used in challenging lighting conditions due to the improved coatings applied to it. As mentioned earlier, I cannot see any difference with this lens and the rest of the Micro-Nikkors from the same family. Maybe you can see the performance difference in controlled laboratory-like situations but in real use, these all perform about the same to each other (which is excellent).

This lens is a true classic. It’s still relevant today for shooting small static objects using a good lighting setup. If you shoot coins, stamps, slides, film, toys and other similar things then this lens is what you need. Just like its predecessor, it will not give you real-life (1:1) magnification without the use of the M-rings. These M-rings were sold together with the manual Micro-Nikkors from the 55mm family but they usually get misplaced so you will almost always have to look for the as a separate accessory. These are merely extension tubes that will help give you 1:1 magnification. This lens will only give you half of that if you used it alone with the helicoids fully extended so think of the M-rings as essential to this lens if you need to get that magnification.

If you still don’t have one, these lenses are usually sold cheap in the used market. They’re very reasonably-priced but their performance is really good so you get very good value from these lenses. The ones that come with the Ai-ring upgrade can cost more but not by much. I suggest that you get one if you still don’t own one because they’re so good that it’s unthinkable for an avid Nikon photographer and collector not to own one.

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.

Disassembly (Lens Barrel):

Disassembling the lens is very easy and straight-forward. It’s nearly identical to the older Micro-Nikkor-P 55mm f/3.5 Auto in almost every aspect. A beginner can work on this lens with no problems at all as long as they follow this guide properly and use the right tools for the job. The one thing that I’ll have to warn the beginners about this lens is marking where the helicoids separate. This is a very important thing that many people skip.

Just like all lenses, we would like to remove the elements and other delicate things before we work on the lens barrel. This is a very important approach in lens repair that’s why it is recommended here in this blog as best practice.

IMG_2036Extend the barrel by turning the focusing ring until you see this small set screw. Loosen it with a precision screwdriver carefully. If it’s stuck, soften it with some alcohol and see if that would dissolve the lacquer used to secure it. Whatever you do, never damage this or else you will be in trouble because you will then have to drill this out and that will be risky. Damaging the surrounding metal is something that you don’t want to do.

IMG_2037Once the screw has been loosened enough, you can then unscrew the front barrel off. It’s easy to remove it but if yours is stuck, drop some alcohol into its threads to soften it up. I would drop the solvent into the hole of the set screw or through the small opening near its top. Let that sit for some time to let it soften whatever is binding it before you attempt to remove it again. A pair of rubber gloves will also help you with your grip.

IMG_2039Once the front barrel is gone, you can extract the objective and store it in a safe place so it will be safe while you work on the rest of the lens. This usually comes off easily and it’s rare that this thing is stuck. You can try extending the lens and see if that will help. Check the rear element and make sure that it didn’t get scratched as you extract the objective.

IMG_2040Now that the objective is safely stored somewhere, we can now work on the lens without worrying about scratching anything. To remove the focusing ring, you’ll need to remove the rubber grip first. Get a small toothpick and run it through the whole circumference of the rubber grip’s inner surface. This will lift it from the glue so you can safely remove it. Be careful not to damage the rubber because it can be delicate due to age. Tearing this thing means that you will have to say goodbye to it so be careful.

IMG_2041Before removing the focusing ring, focus your lens to infinity and work with the lens this way from now on when possible. Doing this will help you with note-taking because you have infinity as your reference point. This is a useful practice when repairing lenses.

The focusing ring is being secured by 3 screws. They can be hard to remove if they were glued with the same glue used for the rubber grip so be careful.

IMG_2043The focusing ring comes off just like this. People sometimes glue this thing and it can be a bit stuck here and there because of that. Old and hardened grease will also bind it.

IMG_2046The decorative sleeve can be removed by unscrewing 3 screws around it. Make sure that you don’t scar the surrounding metal around the screws by using the correct drivers. The sleeve is easy to remove but it can get stuck due hardened grease. If this happened, use a few drops of naphtha to soften the gunk up before you remove this.

Notice there is a mark at the lip of the central helicoid. The repairman who worked on it scratched a small mark to help him determine how it should be when the lens is focused to infinity. This way, he will know if he reassembled the lens properly or not. This is what I do as well and this mark is going to be helpful to me as well. Thank you, mr. repairman.

IMG_2047The bayonet mount is secured by 5 screws. Carefully remove these and you can remove the bayonet mount. If you are new to this, read my article on how to remove the bayonet screws so you won’t strip the heads of your screws. This is where many people get stuck so don’t make the same mistakes and read my article to prevent that from happening.

IMG_2048Once the bayonet mount is gone, you can safely remove the aperture ring after removing a screw found at the aperture ring. Notice that big screw at the lower-right corner of the picture? That screw is used to couple the aperture ring to the aperture fork inside. It has to be removed before you can remove the aperture ring.

IMG_2052You can separate the helicoids by removing the helicoid key. The key is used to maintain the rate of rotation of all 3 helicoids. Without it, the helicoids will not be able to extend or retract. Before you separate the helicoids, make sure that you took plenty of notes so that you will know how the helicoids should line-up when the lens barrel is set to infinity. It’s a very important thing because if you got this all wrong then your lens will not focus the right way and you will spend a lot of time guessing how things should be.

To remove the helicoid key, unscrew these 3 big screws. These are usually glued and it is a very delicate job to remove these safely. You may accidentally rip the head of the screw away from its shaft if you’re not careful. What I do is I use a small torch to heat these up and then remove them while it’s still too hot to touch. Do this trick one screw at a time. It is also OK to put some MEK or acetone to help soften the glue up but that takes ages. The torch trick is faster but you can damage the metal parts if you aren’t careful so it’s all up to you. I know what I’m doing so I chose the torch over the slower process of using MEK.

IMG_2053This is the helicoid key. It’s longer on this lens because the lens extends quite a bit. If the helicoid key is dirty, make sure that you clean it very well and scrub it with plastic wool. This should be as smooth as possible to prevent a rough-focusing feel on your lens.

IMG_2054Now that the helicoid key is gone, you can now turn the helicoids beyond their range. It’s important to see how far you can turn the inner helicoid until it’s fully-collapsed. Take a few notes to remind you how this should be, when you reassemble the helicoids later it should be able to get to this configuration, if it didn’t then you got it all wrong. If you got it off by just a little bit then that’s probably OK because old grease can jam the helicoids.

IMG_2055Begin by separating the central helicoid from the outer one. It’s very important that you take note of where these separated because this is also the point where they should also mate during reassembly. If you haven’t read my guide on how to work with helicoids. It’s very important that you get yourself familiar with working with helicoids because this is where many beginners get stuck. It can all be prevented by just taking a few notes.

IMG_2056Do the same to the inner helicoid. Again, never forget to take notes on where these 2 will separate. I keep on repeating myself because I still get messages from people asking me how to put their helicoids back. I am unable to answer you quickly because I am busy.

IMG_2057The outer helicoid/barrel also houses the aperture fork and its ring. Before you remove it it’s very important that you take note how far this should be screwed-in. The slot you see at the middle is where the screw on the aperture ring should be.

IMG_2058The aperture fork and its ring can now be safely unscrewed and cleaned. When putting the lens back, make sure that both the screw heads of the iris and the iris actuator are on the right places. The one at the iris should slide into this fork’s slot while the other should be in-contact with the aperture stop-down lever found on the bayonet mount. The one on the iris actuator is actually a tab and it can be a bit hard to put it back if you’re a newbie.

IMG_2059This is what you should have by the end of this section. The lens is simple enough and its parts will all fit into this small container. I always love working with these Micro-Nikkors because they’re simple and it’s a great way to unwind from a hard day’s work.

That’s all for the lens barrel. When lubricating the barrel, make sure not to over-grease it or else the grease will migrate to the glass. It will also form a gloop when it settles and it’s going to deteriorate into an oily mess as the soap separates from the oil. This oil is going to settle somewhere (or everywhere!) so you want to prevent this as much as possible. It is also important not to use a heavy grease, the helicoids need to extend quite a bit so the grease that you want to use is somewhere on the thin side but not to thin as to make the helicoid feel too smooth. A little resistance is nice for a macro lens.

Disassembly (Objective):

Working with the objective isn’t much of a problem because it’s simple but there’s a few things that you should be careful of. This mainly deals with the parts being glued/sealed with lacquer or paint. The front bezel is a pain to remove in all lenses from this series so don’t rush it. I will not show how to work on the iris of this lens so that’s unfortunate for those who wanted to work on theirs. The good news is the iris mechanism’s design looks very much like the ones found on Nikkors of the same vintage. Just look at my article for the Nikkor-P 105mm f/2.5 Auto and similar lenses and you should get a good idea of how this thing should be taken apart.

Usual procedures apply with this lens such as being careful not to scratch the glass. This is also a very simple lens so there’s not much going on here and you don’t have to worry about getting the elements back in the wrong direction because most of the elements are glued to their housing. That should make your job a lot easier. Be careful working on the rear element because that is the most important piece of glass in this lens.

IMG_2639The bezel can be removed by using a rubber friction cup. These are usually stuck but you can soften whatever is binding it with alcohol. Just a apply a small drop of alcohol and it should spread throughout its thread by capillary action. It will take several applications and a couple of hours before you can effortlessly remove this.

IMG_2640Once the bezel is gone you can now remove the cup where the front optical assembly is located with a rubber friction cup. Notice that the previous repairman scratch this mark to serve as a key. Precise optic alignment or collimation is important to a macro lens so it was a welcome sight to see because I knew that the previous guy knows his stuff.

IMG_2641The iris is now exposed. You can clean it carefully with a Q-tip and naphtha if you choose to. If it’s riddled with fungi or oil then only a complete stripping-down of this assembly is going to be sufficient. The iris assembly is simple enough for an experienced repairman to overhaul and it’s similar to most Nikkors of the same vintage. The good news is the iris is rarely oily on this model.

IMG_2642The 2nd element can be removed by unscrewing its housing off. The 1st element is glued to the cup so don’t bother removing it or you will just damage your lens.

That’s it for the objective. This is as simple as it gets and it’s always fun working with this lens. It’s a very good way to unwind after a long day at work.


Does it feel like déjà vu? Like I said, this lens has a lot in common with its predecessor so if you’re familiar with the Micro-Nikkor-P 55mm f/3.5 Auto then this should be very easy for you. I can recommend this to a beginner who has the right tools and skills. Removing the screws can be difficult for a total beginner so I would suggest that you work with this lens once you have gathered a bit more experience working on cheaper lenses that’s not worth saving such as cheap lenses from other makers that you can get for $1 or less. This is a fine optic so treat this lens with respect even if you got one as a junk.

Thank you very much for reading this post. I am currently getting a bit burnt-out writing things on this blog so this short article is something refreshing for me. Writing articles in this style is not easy and it certainly feels like a second job. I have  a 4-day holiday now so I have the time to relax but I will have to use my downtime wisely because I will need to balance it with family, studying PySide for my job, camera fixing and time for myself. It’s not easy but let’s see what I can do these 4 days. Thank you guys for continuing to follow this blog. I have something special for you in the coming weeks so please come back, 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 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.

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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.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Repair: Nikkor-H 300mm f4.5 Auto | Richard Haw's Nikon Maintenance Site
  2. Trackback: Repair: Micro-Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 Ai-S | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

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