Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 4)

Hello, everybody! I was playing around with the Nikon Z6 with the Nikkor-Z 24-70 f/4S on it and I thought about how much zoom lenses has evolved since the early years. Nikon is a pioneer in zoom lenses in the 1960s and continues to be an important player up to this day. Join me in this part of our Nikkor Prototypes series and see just how far zoom lenses has evolved from simple tubes with cams inside to the all-electronic wonders that we all take for granted today.

IMG_9913This is just one of the lenses that we’ll see in part 4. This table only has a few lenses but it shows some of the more important prototypes in this exhibit in the sense that it shows a bit of “tech” compared to the other tables.

This article is part of the Nikkor Prototypes series, it’s a series that I made comprising of no less than 5 parts because it has so many pictures that putting them all in one article is going to be difficult for me. Please enjoy the rest of the series by clicking on these links:

  1. Introduction and Samples
  2. Wide and Ultra-wide Lenses
  3. Normal Lenses
  4. Zoom Lenses
  5. Telephoto Lenses

Please check them all out to see everything in their proper context. I could’ve just made it so these lenses aren’t organized but that will make things very confusing for my readers.

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This Zoom-Nikkor 40-85mm f/3.5 Auto was probably made to replace the popular Zoom-Nikkor 43-86mm f/3.5 Auto. They roughly share the same focal range and speed so they both occupy the same lens class. Note that it has a secondary ring like all modern zoom lenses and not the one-touch design that many people preferred back then. It looks a bit longer than the Zoom-Nikkor 43-86mm f/3.5 Auto in case you didn’t notice it. It makes me wonder how well this thing would have sold if it was ever released or if this has a better optical performance than the Zoom-Nikkor 43-86mm f/3.5 Auto.

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This is the Zoom-Nikkor 40-85mm f/2.8 Auto, it looks like Nikon loves this focal range a lot. I guess this would have been very popular if it ever saw production because nobody has anything like it so this would have been part of every news photographer’s kit. It’s a very big lens for its class, just look at that filter size! We’ll never know why this lens never got to be produced but I suspect that it has something to do with its size or its performance is probably not up to Nikon’s standards.

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This is the Zoom-Nikkor-C 35-70mm f/4 Auto, it was an attempt to make a wider but more compact lens than the Zoom-Nikkor 43-86mm f/3.5 Auto. It looks huge here because of the shade and I am not sure if it’s retractable or not but it looks like a built-in hood. I know it sounds funny but 35mm was considered to be a wide focal length back then.

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If this Zoom-Nikkor 28-56mm f/3.5 was ever produced back then this would have been a world-beater! The Zoom-Nikkor 28-45mm f/4.5 was relaeased a bit earlier but this lens is more ambitious because it’s a bit longer at 56mm and is faster. A similar lens in the form of the Zoom-Nikkor 28-50mm f/3.5 Ai-S was released in the mid-80s and it looks similar to this one externally and it looks as if it took a lot of inspiration from this prototype.

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This is the Zoom-Nikkor 28-105mm f/4 Ai-S, it’s there forerunner of today’s popular do-all zooms. The amazing thing about this prototype is how early it was made and that Nikon was thinking ahead of their competition long-before these lenses became common. This would have been really something if it was ever produced. I know that it says “AF” in the picture but I doubt that it does that and is most likely a typographical error. There’s not a chance that this thing would be capable of doing that from how it looks and it even has a ring for “macro” mode that’s really typical of manual-focus zooms of that era.

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Here’s the Zoom-Nikkor 28-135mm f/4-4.5 Ai-S, it’s an “improved” version of the lens that I have shown above in that it has a longer reach at the cost of a variable maximum speed. Even with that in consideration, this lens would have been a big leap over what the other companies had to offer at the time if it was ever made. Note that its shape resemble those of Nikon’s zooms of the time. It’s also a nice touch that they used a Nikon Z7 to show how it’s compatible with older lenses from a couple of decades back.

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This is the Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm f/3.5 AF Ai-S, it was made so manual focus cameras will be able to autofocus with it via an add-on at the bottom of the lens. This would have been an interesting lens had it been released along with the Nikon F3. I suspect that reliability issues prevented it from being produced. The Nikon F3AF will be released along with its own line of lenses and it doesn’t need an awkward device to auto-focus. It does look ugly because it has a big prism housing, making it look like a frankencamera.

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This is the Zoom-Nikkor 70-250mm f/3.5-4.5 Ai-S, a lens that never saw production. There is a market for this type of zooms but the variable-aperture design along with the modest increase at the long end to 250mm doesn’t make it much better than what Nikon had like the Nikon 70-210mm f/4 Series-E. It’s a decent lens despite being a Series-E lens so it was a popular lens and its optics were used on the Zoom-Nikkor 70-210mm f/4 AF, Nikon’s first AF telephoto zoom lens for the Nikon F-mount.

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The Nikon F3AF is Nikon’s true auto-focusing camera and I trust that Nikon had that idea right from the start when they were designing the Nikon F3. It was a short-lived system, I can only count a hand-full of lenses that were made for it. Nikon was set on adding more lenses to the system to make it more competitive as you can see in this prototype. This is the Zoom-Nikkor 50-135mm f/3.5 AF Ai-S and this would’ve given the Nikon F3AF a good normal-to-telephoto zoom lens if ever this was produced. The focal length is useful and it is reasonably-fast.

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This is the prototype for the Zoom-Nikkor 35-70 f/2.8 AF Ai-S. It’s a very popular lens and I love mine very much. The exterior details are different from the production lens and the look is of the older generation of AF-Nikkors with the thin plastic focusing ring that every one hates. It also appears to have a 2-ring design, the production model has a traditional push-pull design that many don’t like these days.

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This is another prototype for the Nikon F3AF system, the Zoom-Nikkor 35-70 f/3.5 AF Ai-S was never released. I am not sure why but it may have to do with the coming Nikon F4 in a few year’s time. Nikon decided that an updated Nikon F-mount is the better option for a reliable AF system compared to the clumsy one that was used on the Nikon F3AF.

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This is the Zoom-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8 ED Ai-S, it was never released but I think that its design was re-used or at least influence later AF zoom designs in this category. Its design looks modern despite the year it was made and its compact size sets it apart from others in Nikon’s lens lineup. This would have been a favorite for many pros had it beed made.

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Here’s a bg zoom, the Zoom-Telephoto-Nikkor 100-600mm f/5.6 Auto is a monster zoom. It has a very long lens barrel and it also comes with 2 large posts that you can attach to the focusing ring that’s typical with lenses in this class. I am not quite sure why this was not released as Nikon doesn’t have anything in the same class at that point if I am correct. It’s probably due to its focal length, the range can easily be replaced with 2 lenses and this is a big consideration. All wasn’t lost since its design may have been used to influence later designs. One thing I find interesting is the contraption near the base of the lens. I wonder what that’s for but it looks like it’s used for drop-in filters.

That’s it for part 4, I hope that you liked this short article and please come back for part 5 of this series. The next (and the last) part of this series is a long one and I’ll require some time to edit nd write it but I will try and have it ready before the weekend. See you again next time and thank you for patronizing this blog, Ric.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 5) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  2. Trackback: Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 3) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review
  3. Trackback: Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 2) | Richard Haw's Classic Nikon Repair and Review

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