Repair: Nikkor-S 35mm f/2.8 Auto (Late Version)

Hello, everybody! Anybody codes in Javascript here? I do not like it much, it is a language that was made in a hurry. Back in 1999, it was kind of limited in some areas but it slowly matured into a more complete language. It did not arrive to its current state in just an iteration but over many smaller upgrades. I don’t even think that there’s any standard implementation, it’s confusing. It certainly isn’t fun when looking for documentation for it due to its scattered nature. Today, I’ll show you something that has continued evolving. Just like Javasctipt, it could even confuse a lot of collectors since it’s not documented. I hope that I can help shed some light into its confusing nature.

Introduction:

This version of the Nikkor-S 35mm f/2.8 Auto is the later one that was sold from 1962 to 1974. It is a refinement of the older one, the most significant is its new optical formula which enhanced its performance greatly. It’s a good lens which bought Nikon some time before the excellent New-Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 was sold with an even better optical design. Many people do not know that there are actually two versions of the Nikkor-S 35mm f/2.8 Auto. This is because they are named the same and they look similar, too. If you are a collector, you cannot be blamed if you didn’t even know about these little details since they can be easily be overlooked.

It’s a tiny lens but it feels dense when held due to its all-metal construction. I like how it feels in my hands, it was certainly made for professionals and it could withstand a lot of abuse.

It now has an improved 7-elements-in-6-groups design compared to the old 7-elements-in-5-groups one from the Nikkor-S 3.5cm f/2.8 Auto (Tick-Mark). I could personally confirm that this one is much better in every way. The original one was made in a rush so that the Nikon F would have a wide-angle lens in its kit. However, the design was difficult to make so an efficient solution has to be found and Nikon came up with this several years later. It corrected the older design’s major flaws and made it simpler to manufacture. It’s not yet a perfect lens if there’s such a thing but at least it gave Nikon a solution. That is a long story that’s covered in better detail in Nikon’s 1001 nights article about this lens family.

This is an earlier serial number of the same lens. These look nearly-identical to the original design except that it now has a slightly-smaller barrel and the focal length is now indicated in mm instead of cm. You can always refer to Roland Vink’s site to know which version you’re looking at.

Both lenses shown here are the later versions, both have similar optics but the barrels are different. The one to the left comes from a later serial number batch and the other one is from an earlier batch. Despite having different barrel design and construction you can consider them to be the same lens since the optical designs are identical. It’s worth noting that the ones from the later serial numbers batch have a more modern look, it is also more likely to be sold with the factory Ai-ring.

Be sure to get one with the factory Ai-ring in order to use it with newer Nikons that don’t have foldable Ai-tabs so it won’t damage your camera. It handles quite well with a Nikon D3 despite its tiny size.

Its compact dimensions makes it a great lens to bring anywhere. It balances well with any Nikon, old and new. I like shooting it with my Nikon F90 where it could meter with it using center-weighted mode.

Here are all the major versions of the 35/2.8 family:

It can be confusing to some of you so this list should help you identify which lens we’re talking about. This is a lens family with a lot of heritage, from the first one from 1959 to the last one that was discontinued in 1989. It is a story of continued-refinement until Nikon thought that this lens line is no longer practical since the faster 35/2 line of lenses makes more sense in the autofocus era.

Knowing how your lens performs will help you maximize it. You’ll get to know its strengths and weaknesses, this knowledge will help you decide if a lens is the right tool for a job. I shot these from f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6 and f/8 since we’ll see the most changes happen within these apertures. These are also the most common apertures that people would want to use it with I assume. I shot these with my Nikon D3.

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Vignetting is terrible wide-open, it improves considerably by f/4 and you’ll only see traces of it at f/5.6. It looks ugly wide-open so I encourage you to shoot it from f/4 at the very least if you have even-colored backdrops.

Distortion is quite prominent, your line will bulge-out if they’re parallel to the edges of the frame. Despite that it’s simple to correct since the profile appears to be simple.

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It flares badly wide-open like most lenses of its time. It has a terrible tendency to produce ghosts if you have bright light sources within the frame such as the Sun. It’s ugly, you’ll get large blobs that’s difficult to avoid in many cases.

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The character of the bokeh is quite good for a wide-angle lens but it has the tendency to render smudgy details of linear objects in your background. It’s not so bad to be honest, I’ve seen worse.

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It’s quite resistance to chromatic aberration but you’ll still see it in overblown areas of your photos wide-open. You won’t see much of it by f/4 but it won’t go away even at f/5/6 in extreme cases. You won’t see much of it in real-world use.

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It’s sharp wide-open, the center looks good with adequate resolution but spherical aberration and flare will subdue it. The corners aren’t bad but they’re not good either. Stopping it down to f/4 improves its resolution at the center, you’ll get nice, sharp results. The corners will improve a lot but they’re not at the same level as the center. The center is performing at its peak by f/5.6 and the corners look a lot better. The frame looks better at f/8 where the performance starts to look more uniform across the frame. If sharpness matters over a dreamy-look you’re best shooting with it at f/5.6.

My sample performs better at moderate distances. It’s not quite as sharp at closer or farther distances. You’ll notice it quite easily but that shouldn’t matter because you shoot with it wide-open to get a different look. It’s how you decide to use it that matters.

It’s sharp, the original file looks gorgeous with a large monitor. Saturation and contrast is wonderful, too.

The character of the bokeh appears to be quite nice unlike its predecessor. The corners are weak when you’re shooting it at larger apertures so stop it down to at least f/5.6 to make them look acceptable.

I think this was shot at f/8 or maybe a bit wider so the corners look better. There are some bokeh artifacts here but it’s at acceptable levels.

This is not a good example to show field curvature since I shot this at f/8 I think but it’s good for showing the difference between the center and the corners. At smaller apertures the corners will start to catch-up to the center.

Stopping the iris down to f/8 guarantees a sharp frame except for the extreme corners where you will see a bit of softness remaining.

You’ll notice the straight lines curve slightly due to distortion but it’s not obvious since the lines aren’t parallel to the edges of the frame. It’s most visible at the beam and pillars of the gate.

Angle your straight lines so the distorting effect won’t look as prominent.

It’s great for taking travel photos. You could use this and a Nikkor-Q 135mm f/3.5 Auto for a kit. They can cover many scenarios and should be enough for most cases.

This is a wonderful lens when shot at smaller apertures. It’s great for shooting in a sunny day.

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It’s a nice lens that’s versatile, it’s image quality at smaller apertures makes it a great lens in a sunny day. You will have a nice time with it so long as you know its limits.

Let’s now check some film photos. Film has a unique look that is hard to simulate with a digital camera thanks to grain. It reacts differently to light, this means that it could mask a lens’ flaws or amplify them. Since it was designed to be used with film, it’s best that we judge this using its intended medium. Most of these were taken with the iris stopped-down unless there’s not enough light. I used Kodak Ultra Max 400 with my Nikon F90.

This was shot at its minimum focusing distance. The character of the bokeh is very smooth, you won’t get an abrupt transition from what’s focused to what’s not. This was shot at around f/5.6 I think.

Another photo that was taken at its minimum focusing distance. This was shot at f/8 or so. The little pig looks sharp, you could even see the dust on its face.

This was shot at f/5.6, I think. The shutter was kind of slow since this was indoors but I managed to get a sharp photo. It’s wide so it’s more forgiving when it comes to slower shutter speeds. The focus is on the green toy, it looks really sharp.

It’s an amazing lens for documenting things. It’s not the fastest lens out there in its day but it will do it’s job. A Nikkor-O 35mm f/2 Auto will be a better choice for lowlight photography in its day but that has its own issues that is absent with this lens. You choose the right lens for the job.

This reminds me so much of the photos that I used to see on older magazines. Why shoot with a digital camera and edit your photos in post when you could get it in an authentic way by shooting with film.

Distortion can be observed in this photo, it’s not obvious but you’ll notice that the lines in the scene curves a little bit. It’s still tolerable at this level, you won’t even notice it much.

The New-Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 is the best lens for shooting architecture because of its low, near-absent distortion levels, it’s the best in its class. This one isn’t bad but it’s not the right tool for this.

(Click to enlarge)

Here are more photos for you to enjoy. I had a great time shooting with it, this is still a nice lens today. Instead of buying a cheap Chinese manual lens why not just spend your money on an old Nikkor? Use the money that you have saved into buying film, that is a better way to get more mileage out of your cash in this economy.

This is a nice lens but I won’t recommend it since the Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 Ai is a better lens and they cost less as well. The only real reason to own one of these is for the longer focus-throw but the New-Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 has it and it’s a better performer, too. Who would want this? It’s for those who’d want a period-correct setup and a few of us who just likes to shoot with cool, vintage lenses. Videographers may want these too for their ability to render with a “vintage-look”. If you want to use these with your modern Nikons be sure to look for the ones that have the Ai-ring. You won’t be able to mount it safely to a camera that doesn’t have a foldable Ai-coupling tab. That ring alone will set you back $20.00 but that’s fine since these usually cost around $50.00 or so. Mine was bought for $25.00 because it was sold as junk. When looking for one, be sure that the barrels turn without any problems and the iris is dry and snappy when actuated. The glass should be clear, too. This is a great lens that will survive a lot of abuse and may outlive us all when maintained. Happy hunting.

Before We Begin:

If this is your first attempt at repairing a lens then I suggest that you check my previous posts regarding screws & driversgrease and other things. Also read what I wrote about the tools that you’ll need to fix your Nikkors.

I 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 novice. Before opening up any lens, always look for other people who have done so in YouTube or 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 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 and it will be beneficial for you to read this.

Disassembly (Lens Barrel):

The lens barrel is of conventional design so it was easy for me to take it apart but there are a few things that’s not so straight-forward. Like most lenses we’d like to remove the objective first in order to keep that safe while we work on the rest of the lens. This one is more tricky since we will have to remove the front optics assembly first. Once that’s gone everything can be easily removed. Having mentioned that, this is not for a beginner to work with. You’ll require special tools specially for opening some of the parts within the objective. If your lens needs attention, send it to a real repairer. Make sure that he is familiar with Nikkors so he won’t butcher your lens.

Extract these to remove the focusing ring.

The focusing ring can be removed effortlessly.

Use a lens spanner and carefully remove the front optics assembly. Remove it so you could unscrew the front barrel as it’s in the way.

Use a rubber tool to extract the front optics assembly. If it’s stuck use some alcohol and place a small drop into the seams.

Extract this so you could remove the front barrel.

Unscrew the front barrel. Note that its screw should sink into this hole.

Carefully remove the housing of the objective. A couple of screws will keep you from removing it so locate and extract them.

Extract these so you can remove the bayonet mount. Many people get stuck here because they have stripped them. To prevent this happening, read my article on how to remove bayonet screws.

Carefully remove the bayonet mount.

Carefully extract this, it’s a pin that couples to the aperture fork, this allows it to control the iris mechanism inside of the objective’s housing.

Remove the aperture ring.

Carefully extract the screws of the sleeve and pull it off. Be sure that you are using drivers that fit their slots perfectly to prevent damaging anything.

The sleeve should be easy to remove.

Locate and extract these to remove the helicoid key. You’ll have to heat the screws in order to melt the glue, a micro torch or soldering bolt will help.

Be sure to note its direction before you remove it. The helicoid key keeps all of the helicoids synced so turning the central one will allow you to collapse-and-extend the barrel. It prevents them from turning beyond their range.

Separate the central helicoid from the outer one. Don’t forget to note where they parted since this is also the same spot where they should mesh. People forget to do this and waste a lot of time later figuring how to put these back. To prevent this from happening to you, read my article on how to work with helicoids.

Carefully pick this brass ring off to remove the aperture fork assembly.

Remove the aperture fork assembly and clean it.

You couldn’t separate the inner helicoid from the central one because the helicoid stop is in the way. Carefully remove it by extracting these and do not forget to note its direction so you’ll know how to put it back later.

Separate the inner helicoid from the central one and don’t forget to note the spot where they parted.

Carefully clean the parts, never leave any residue. Scrub the helicoids, I would even polish the threads with a stiff-bristled brush. Hardened dirt can only be removed with a sharp toothpick.

A thick-type of grease works best with this because the focus-throw is short, it will give the best results. Never apply too much grease or it will migrate to the iris mechanism and cause an even bigger problem. Only apply a really thin film to the slots of the aperture ring.

Disassembly (Objective):

The objective is pretty straight-forward but there are some parts that are a bit tricky to remove. Paint is used to seal some of them and you’ll have to break the seal first before dissolving them with alcohol or acetone. It’s going to take you some time and you’ll be required to do some repeated application.

Be careful when removing the parts here so your hands and tools won’t slip. You should always take notes and be aware of where your elements should be facing. Their order is important, too. Putting an element back will crack the glass when you secure them. I use a pencil or permanent marker to draw a mark at the walls of the elements. This helps me identify them easier.

Extract the bezel to remove the front element. Apply a drop of alcohol to its seams to dissolve the seal. It may take several applications so be patient.

Use a rubber tool to unscrew the bezel.

Remove the front element with a lens sucker.

This is tricky to remove, it’s sealed with paint at the factory. Use a needle to scour the seams and apply a drop of alcohol the it. You’ll need a pipe-key or a lens opener with long bits in order to reach this. Avoid removing this if you could help it as your hand can slip and scratch the glass.

Remove the retainer carefully.

Carefully extract this group with a lens sucker.

There’s a spacer above this element. Be sure to note their directions so you could put it back properly later.

Unscrew this collar to remove the 4th group. It may be sealed so use a small amount of alcohol and place it on its threads.

Extract it with a lens sucker, note that this is facing the wrong way.

These are all the elements found in the front optics assembly.

The rear optics assembly can be removed by unscrewing it. Visible here is the 5th group. I left that alone since removing it is a delicate job.

Unscrew this collar to remove the rear element.

I didn’t clean the iris mechanism. If you need to service yours, read my other articles and look similar ones in my database. If the iris is working properly just leave it alone.

Clean the glass carefully. If your lens has fungus, read my article on how to clean lens fungus. Don’t use the solution at full-strength, thin it with distilled water. Don’t soak the elements in the solution for too long or it will dissolve the coatings. The cemented group is fragile so handle it with a lot of care.

Conclusion:

It took me more time to service this since a lot of the parts were sealed. I had to wait for the solvents to work on the seals before I continue working. Most of the time was also spent on cleaning the parts thoroughly. It’s a lot of fun working with these since they were built very well.

Reassemble everything by backtracking your steps. This lens was built in the filed-to-fit manner so you could not adjust its focus. If the focus is off then you have reinstalled the helicoids incorrectly. There’s no other way to do adjust it in a non-destructive way.

It’s now time to enjoy shooting with it after an overhaul. It’s not the best match for a Nikon F90 but it works. I could meter with it in center-weighted mode and I usually get great exposures with it.

Thanks for following my work, if you liked this article please share this with your friends so it will get more views. This site earns around $0.30 a day, it’s totally reliant on views. You can also support this site, it helps me offset the cost of maintenance and hosting. You are also helping me purchase, process and scan film. This site promotes the use of film so we’re all in this together. See you again in the next article, 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 site’s upkeep, you can make a small donation to my paypal.com (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’s name or other information so that the donations will totally be anonymous. 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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