Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 1)

Hello, everybody! I am going to bring to you a long series on the prototype Nikkors that’s currently being-held at the Nikon Museum. It’s a big exhibit quantity-wise but the area it occupies is small due to the size of the specimens shown. I will say that this is one of the more important exhibits that the Nikon Museum made in terms of what’s being shown or its historical significance. Join me in this series and appreciate the long heritage of Nikon in the field of 35mm photography.

 

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This will greet you as you enter the exhibit. This section of the exhibit showcases pictures (that I cannot show here) that were taken using 10 of the 60 prototype lenses that’s being shown in the exhibit. It’s also a nice touch that they used the new Nikon Z7 for these just to make a point that the new mirrorless Nikon can take lenses that were made during the dawn of the F-mount. It would have been nice to show you these pictures for conext but I can’t because it’s forbidden by the management.

This is a very special event because these are very rare not because these are unique but it’s Nikon’s policy to destroy any prototypes they have made so that they won’t end up in a competitor’s hands and taken-apart to be studied. You know who that competitor is, the slimy company that operates like Mr. Slugworth! “Don’t listen to him Charlie!” is what I’ll always tell the Nikon faithful.

Please pardon my iPhone photography. I took hundreds of pictures that day and editing them all will be very time-consuming. I also don’t have much freedom when it comes to what angle I could use and the reflections from the environment is always a problem. It was my best effort so please bear with me. I will also separate this into several articles, it will take me more than a week to write them all and I just don’t have the time or energy for that. I have literally hundreds of pictures to organize. Having said all that, let’s begin with part 1.

 

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This is the Nikkor-S 105mm f/2.8 Auto. It’s an interesting concept lens because this lens is supposed to exhibit spherical aberration across its aperture range, making it a soft-focus lens. While many fast-aperture lenses exhibit spherical aberration at wider apertures or wide-open, they improve drastically once you stop the lens down by even a small bit. The effect is great for portraiture which give the skin and other bright points a nice-soft glow. This is usually absent in modern lenses which makes their rendering look “too-clean” so many people look for older lenses because these can sometimes help make a picture look more interesting. I don’t quite understand why this lens was never produced, maybe the marketing department thought that this lens will be too-specialized and only people who shoot portraiture for a living would want to have this. Additionally, a soft-focus filter can also help re-produce this effect to a certain extent and they don’t cost much, too. There is an iPhone effect that I always see these days being used by women to make their skin or face look smoother, if you have seen that then this lens strived to achieve the same thing.

 

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This is the Nikkor 28mm f/1.4 Ai-S, if this went into production I’ll bet that this will be an expensive lens that’s not within-reach to pedestrian photographers. I also see that this is going to be useful for astronomy and other scientific fields to record phenomenons and study them. The market does exist but it would have probably be too small, even people who shoot real estate for a living will probably reach for a Nikkor 28mm f/2 Ai-S because it’s a more practical lens and it won’t cost you a small fortune despite costing a premium.

 

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This is the GN-Nikkor 35mm f/2 Auto, it operates on the same principle as the unique GN-Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 Auto that was released just a year after this was made as a prototype. It has the same gimmick as the GN Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 Auto in which you can couple the aperture ring to the focusing ring so focusing the lens will also change the aperture. This enables the lens to automatically regulate its iris for flash photography. This is a unique feature as far as Nikkors go but I believe Pentax was the first to use something similar. It became redundant when TTL flash metering became standard so it’s not pointless to use something like this even for flash photography. If the GN-Nikkor 35mm f/2 Auto ever saw production then this would have been the 2nd lens in the GN-Nikkor family. I’m not sure if this is related to the GN Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 Auto or which lens came first but I suspect it to be the fore-runner of the GN Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 Auto and the lessons that were learned from this lens made their way to the GN Nikkor 45mm f/2.8 Auto.

 

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This is the lens that would become the legendary Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2 Ai-S. There are aspherical elements used in this lens in order to correct coma at the corners of the frame so it’s suited for night photography and scientific uses. Do note that this lens has a non-Ai aperture ring and the designation “T” in the sticker which stands for “trial”. I am not sure what’s different with this lens unless I overhaul it. If you guys want to see my overhaul it or any of the Nikkor prototypes then write a request to Nikon and tell them about it.

 

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This is the Reflex-Nikkor 400mm f/8, it’s a unique-looking mirror lens because it has a thin profile unlike usual Reflex-Nikkors that look like oil barrels. Despite being slim it’s still an enormous lens and it has a rather-slow maximum speed of “only” f/8 which is typically a trait of mirror lenses. Mirror lenses tend to be slow and produce donut-like artifacts. This is something that many people simply ignore because the advantage of using these lenses is their mass. A refractive lens of the same focal length and speed will be much-bigger so it’s not going to be practical all-the-time specially if size and weight are important. Nikon didn’t think that this lens will sell very well and the Nikkor-P 300mm f/4.5 Auto was going to be released just 2 years after this was made which is just-as-compact but is faster and only a bit shorter at 300mm versus 400mm. If you ask me, I would always prefer having the faster lens over the longer one because I can just use teleconverters. This was made in 1962 as a concept lens and I would imagine that this was revolutionary back-then but technology caught-up really quick and it became impractical. I don’t know why it doesn’t have a tripod foot but it will sure benefit from one if this ever saw production.

 

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This is a prototype or a variant of the Micro-Nikkor-P 55mm f/3.5 Auto. Apart from having a slightly-slower f/4 maximum aperture, the biggest difference that we can externally see is the different type of extension ring. This variant of the M-ring will allow you to couple the lens to the camera’s light meter via a clumsy link. This was successfully done several years later on the Nikon PK-3 extension ring by using an elegant under-the-tube coupling mechanism so only the prongs and pin are exposed. I suppose that there are more to this than what we can examine from its exterior but we’ll never know unless we repair one.

 

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This is the Fisheye-Nikkor 10mm f/2.8OP Ai-S. It’s a unique lens that can automatically set the size of its iris, I assume that it does that when you turn the focusing ring and a cam in the housing of the lens is coupled to the focusing ring so it will alter the iris as you focus. The description is vague even in Japanese so please don’t take what I said as fact. It has a huge aspherical front element that’s evident in my photos and that alone makes this lens an expensive optic to manufacture. I don’t know why this lens never made it but I think this was made as a proof-of-concept.

 

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This is the Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm f/11, This is a typical mirror lens. except that it has IF or “Internal Focusing” in Nikon’s merketing lingo. All it means is the lens will not extend nor will it contract as you focus because the focusing unit of the lens lay somewhere else and is not reliant on the lens changing its length to operate. It either has an element (usually the 2nd elements assembly) moving back-and-forth or the extension of the tube is hidden because it’s within the lens barrel’s outer casing. This is useful when you attach gadgets such as a rig that relies on the lens barrel not changing its length to operate properly. The lens never saw production for some reason but I suspect that the Reflex-Nikkor 1000mm f/11 Ai has something to do with it, it’s a successful lens that was produced from 1977 up until 2005. Since this lens has nothing much to offer versus a tried-and-tested design, its future development was stopped so we never saw this enter production.

 

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This zoom is the world’s first telephoto zoom for stills photography. Its 85-250mm f/4 spec is practical but its huge for what it does. Older telephoto zooms back-in-the-day were all huge like this one and they will get much-smaller during the the decade leading to 1970. I have a few of these old zooms in my collection but I hated using them because they’re big and heavy. People didn’t complain much those days because that’s all they have. This lens never saw production but its successor the Zoom-Nikkor 8.5-25.0cm f/4 Auto did in 1960, 2 years after this thing was made. I suppose this one was made as a proof-of-concept. Note that it merely has a piece of paper for a focusing scale and was pasted-into the barrel.

 

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The Zoom-Nikkor 35-400mm f/4.5 Auto was never produced but it has an astonishing 10X magnification that even beats the Zoom-Nikkor 50-300mm f/4.5 Auto’s already-amazing zoom ratio. It has a humongous front element that you can attach a close-up lens to so it can focus even closer. I don’t know why this was made but I think that the engineers just wanted to test the limits of the time and see what they can end up with. I don’t see this as a practical lens to use, theZoom-Nikkor 50-300mm f/4.5 Auto is already a monster lens so many people just carried a two-camera setup with a prime lens on one and a zoom with the other. This makes it easier on the photographer’s back, too. I can attest to that myself.

So, did part 1 get you excited? Just wait until you see part 2! This series will take me the whole month to finish so please come back again everyday and see if I published a new article or not. Thank you for supporting the blog and if you liked this article, please do a good deed and share this with your friends! This blog survives on views and clicks so it’s a big deal if it gets views. See you again after a few days for part 2, Ric.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 2) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

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