Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 5)

Hello, everybody! How are you today? The weather is getting colder these days as we are entering into mid-autumn. The migratory bird species have began flying south and this is the season for taking pictures of rare birds! Taking pictures of shy creatures require that you use a long lens that will enable you to take pictures from a distance. Nikon has made many of the world’s best telephoto lenses and I am going to show you how some some of them looked like as prototypes (some weren’t even sold at all!).

IMG_9988This is one fat lens that I would love to own! You don’t get to see this lens much because it was never produced outside of being a prototype. Read this article to see more lenses like this one!

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 is the Nikkor-H 85mm f/1.8 Auto, a lens that would be sold under the same name. It has features resemble that of the 2nd version in that the lens information is found at the outer rim of the front ring instead of the bezel. I find this interesting but nobody knows why or how this came to be. It also has a silver nose and the production model doesn’t. It is an amazing lens and is the predecessor of the New-Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 which shares the same optical formula but with a different lens barrel design.

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This is the Reflex-Nikkor 400mm f/8, it’s a very compact mirror-lens and it would’ve been an instant hit if it entered mass production. It would have been a great lens for birdning, news or wildlife as long as it’s a sunny day.

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Here’s another compact mirror lens, the Reflex-Nikkor 250mm f/8 is so small that it’s just as compact as the New-Nikkor 200mm f/4. That’s ironically the same reason why this lens wasn’t produced because Nikon introduced the New-Nikkor 200mm f/4 just 2 years after it was made as a prototype. I don’t know what Nikon was thinking of achieving when it was made at the lab.

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This is an early prototype of the AF-Nikkor 80mm f/2.5 Ai-S for the Nikon F3AF. It has its pins at the exterior of the lens as opposed to being within the bayonet mount like how it is in the production variant. It’s interesting to imagine how the F-mount would have been if this became the standard instead of what we now have.

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This is very interesting as it’s the fore-runner of the New-Nikkor 200mm f/4It’s called the Nikkor-P 200mm f/4 Auto and it’s supposed to be the transition design from the older but popular Nikkor-Q 200mm f/4 Auto to the more-modern New-Nikkor 200mm f/4. Despite its newer lens formula the lens barrel’s design retains the older Auto-Nikkor look.

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This is another lens that I’m interested in because it’s the rare prototype for the Nikkor-P 135mm f/3.5 Auto and the lens barrel’s design it totally new. It also incorporates a hood in its front barrel so you don’t have to bring a separate accessory with you. I wonder why it was never mass produced, maybe producing this lens will cost too much for a cheap lens.

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This is the prototype for the Reflex-Nikkor 50cm f/5, it’s the first mirror-lens for the Nikon F-mount and the first 500mm lens for Nikon. It may not be remarkable today but this was made in 1961 during the “wild years” of early SLR innovation.

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This Nikkor 600mm f/5.6 ED doesn’t look like any of the 600/5.6 that ever saw production. I don’t know what’s different with this one because the production model was made just a year earlier and the Nikkor 600mm f/5.6 ED IF that came out in 1977 looks nothing close to this. It does have a drop-in filter mechanism, something that I do not see in any of the earlier versions of the 600/5.6 family, please correct me if I am wrong here as I’m not that familiar with this lens family.

Roland Vink said:

This must be the prototype which led to the Nikkor 600mm f/5.6 Ai IF-ED. A small number of trial pre-AI 400/3.5 and 600/5.6 IF-ED lenses were made for the Montreal Olympics like this lens but the prototype shown at the Nikon Museum is of a different design from these trial lenses.

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This is the Nikkor-H 300mm f/4.5 Auto, this prototype bears the same name as the variant that made it into production earlier – the Nikkor-H 300mm f/4.5 Auto. What is different is the shape of the lens barrel. It looks nothing like any of the versions that went into mass production, the fat barrel is totolly different from the slim cylindrical-shaped lenses that we’re so accustomed to seeing in the 300/4.5 lens family. I don’t know why the barrel was made that way and I can see no reason why it has to be that fat. We’ll only know once the lens is overhauled and the insides can be shown to the world – hopefully by me.

Roland Vink has this to say:
As for the fat Nikkor-H 300mm f/4.5 Auto (6 elements), the optics of the production model are almost identical to the older Nikkor-P 300mm f/4.5 Auto (with 5 elements). The main difference is that the front element of the Nikkor-P 300mm f/4.5 Auto was replaced by a doublet in the Nikkor-H 300mm f/4.5 Auto (hence, the extra lens element). This improves correction for chromatic aberrations which was important as color films were becoming more common in the late 1960s. The rest of the optics looks the same, maybe some minor adjustment to spacing, curvature or materials. Since the optics are basically the same, it can be housed in a similar barrel, indeed the Nikkor-H 300mm f/4.5 Auto looks identical to the Nikkor-P 300mm f/4.5 Auto. It is only a few millimeters longer due to the thicker doublet and a little heavier. So it is surprising the prototype is housed in such a different barrel. The other difference is that the prototype appears to have a rotating tripod collar rather than the two fixed points of the production lenses, but that does not explain why the barrel is so fat.

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This is the prototype for the Nikkor-H 400mm f/5.6 Auto, this lens was never produced. It has an interesting collar that looks different from many Nikkors because it has a button, that button may be used for tightening something and it looks like the collar at the neck is able to rotate. The Nikkor-P.C 400mm f/5.6 Auto went into production instead in 1973, it also has an ED element if I’m correct so that’s probably the reason why this wasn’t made. It doesn’t offer much in terms of “what’s new” but the Nikkor-P.C 400mm f/5.6 Auto did. It is said to be Nikon’s first mass production lens with ED glass.

That’s all for the Prototype Nikkors series! Did you enjoy it? It sure took plenty of time to edit and compile these pictures but I am thankful that some people are helping me with the proof-reading like Roland Vink and his excellent site has been very helpful. I hope the series has made a positive impact on the Nikon community and it gave people the chance to see these lenses without having to travel to Tokyo. If you’re able to go to the museum, I will recommend that you do and your money, effort and time will be well-spent. This is a rare exhibit and we’re lucky that this collection was shown. Nikon has a heritage that not many other optical companies have and we should be thankful that Nikon is showing the company’s treasures to us. This is the last part and we’re going to go back to our regular features from the next weekend on. Thanks again for the support and see you again soon in another Nikon-related repair article. Ric.

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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.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Report: Nikkor Prototypes (Part 4) | 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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