NIKKOR f/1:1.2-55 mm.
A subjective description of the legendary & fast prime normal lens for the Nikon F-camera system. by Nico van Dijk, the Netherlands Friday, 1 September 2006
Nico van Dijk®™ © All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced or translated in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.
All pictures were made by the author. Nikon and Nikkor are registered trade names of Nikon Corporation, Tokyo, Japan.
Background & History
This lens was the successor to the first fast prime normal lens for the Nikon-F series, the Nikkor f/1.4/5.8 cm., of which approx. 39,000 were build from October 1959 till January 1962. The Nikkor f/1.2/55 mm. was introduced in December 1965, although its development already started in the early 1960's.
The first picture - shown below - of a probable prototype (# 970103) was published in the Nikon F Nikkormat Hand book of Joseph D. Cooper (Am photo 1962). The production of the last version of this lens terminated in April 1978, although the lens was shown in price lists until the end of 1979. The lens was succeeded by the Nikkor 1.2/50 mm.
More details about the prototype lens you will find later in this chapter. This particular lens or similar lenses have never been seen in shops, collections and/or exhibitions; not even in the JCII-museum in Tokyo. Therefore detailed technical specifications are based on assumptions. As Nikon Corporation in Japan has no information department, no public relations manager and does not even react on written requests, thus detailed information about the production of the lenses mentioned in this book have been collected by the author. For more details see below. The picture of the prototype comes from the earlier mentioned H and book b y Mr. J.D. Cooper.
One of the earliest lenses ever seen on the market. Serial numbers started at #970111; thus being this the 10th lens !!
In the above mentioned handbook the following optical formula was published. Apart from a few minor improvements this formula hasn't been changed during the entire production period. These minor improvements took place at #220001 & #350011. Technical data (for most types, except prototype)
Focal length: 55 mm.
Apertures: 1.2 - 1.4 - 2 - 2.8 - 4 - 5.6 - 8 - 11 - 16
Picture angle: 43 degrees diagonal; 36 degrees
horizontal; 24 degrees vertical
Distance: 0.6 metre/2 feet - infinity. Note:- 0.5 metre/1.64 feet (types V and VI only)
Image size at min. distance: 21.6 x 32.4 mm.
Lens construction: 7 elements in 5 groups
Optical formula: changed 2 times (see text)
Dimensions: diameter: 73.5 mm.; length: 58.3mm.; filter ring-mount: 49.5 mm. (types II-IV) diameter: 72 mm.; length: 61 mm.; filter ring-mount: 49.5 mm. (types V and VI)
Coating: first Nikkor wit h single coating on all lens-to-air-surfaces: from 1972 a multi-layer coating was used.
Attachment size: screw-in diameter: 52 mm. (pitch = 0.75 mm.)
Filter size and lens hood: 52 mm.; HS-3, HS-7, HN-6, HR-2
Serial numbering: on all types a 6-digit number preceded by No. (types II and III only)
Weight: Approx. 420 Gramm
As stated above this lens is of a Gaussian construction, where (seen from the front) the second and third element and the fourth and the fifth element are kitted. A part from the rear lens , which is a biconvex lens, all others are concave -convex lenses. On both side s of the aperture blades one finds the negative elements in opposite position, both covered by positive elements. This Gauss-I construction makes it possible to design a fast lens with a focal length of 50-55 mm. The inventor of this design is the German scientist Karl F. Gauss (1777-1855 ). All early lense s were coated with a single layer. Nikon states that the S. C-lens (from #250011) was its first lens ever with a multi-layer coating on all lens-to-air surfaces. Other Nikkors, like the 1.4/35 mm. and 2/28 mm. followed in the same production year.
Serial numbers: Nikon is famous for its enigmatic numbering of its products. There is no logic in the numbering system whatsoever. Why Nikon gave this lens a serial number started with 970xxx will always remain a secret. The second marketed version (Type III) started with #184711 (sic!). Many name rings with numbers in the #230,000-240,000 range were sold to repairmen. The author has at least 20 spare part rings in that range. Of lens Type III no lenses were found to date in the #216,000-219,999 range. The optical formula was altered by #220001, which makes it plausible that lenses in that range were never sold. The second and last change in the optical formula took place from #350011. No other gap s in any range of serial numbers we re found. Given the recorded serial numbers a total production of all types/versions of approx. 175,000 may be realistic.
The "natural" perspective presents by a standard lens for full length portraiture such as this spot lit stage picture channels a very pleasant visual.
Credit: Image courtesy of Alice Luchies with a Pbase nickname of Butterfly Shadow, whose online PORTFOLIO can be accessed at PBase. Image copyright © 2006. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.
Types or versions:
Type I (prototype) It might be possible that Nikon engineers started the development of this lens at the introduction of the Nikon F SLR in 1959. In those days it was very difficult to produce a fast prime normal lens with a focal length of 50 - 60 mm. Fast prime lenses (f/1.4 - /f/2.2) in that era had a focal length of 50-60 mm. An ordinary Gaussian formula would produce a very large rear lens and the entire lens would protrude too far in to the camera body, which would obstruct the movement of the mirror. In the Amphoto publication, mentioned above, a picture is used of a probable prototype . The lens has an all metal body with a filter size of approx. 62 mm. The lens data are engraved inside the chrome filter ring. The aperture ring is ribbed and has a triangular fork. Serial numbering ranges from 970001 or 970101 to 970110. Since its publication a lens with a serial number in that range never came to surface.
Type II The production of this lens started mid 1965. It was introduced in December 1965. The all black painted metal lens barrel has a scalloped distance and aperture ring (carrying a triangular fork) with in between a chrome ring of 5 mm. width. This lens was assembled with slot s crews, in the back plate three screws. The aperture ring can be removed by turning it counterclockwise after removing a small side screw and by lifting the back plate. Because the aperture ring has to be screwed off this ring cannot be exchanged by a later introduced AI-aperture ring. Many users therefore milled a part of the ring to use the lens on the later Nikon AI-SLR bodies. The first 2,000 lenses have no groove in the aperture ring (between the scallops and the fork) and the ribs in the scalloped aperture ring are a bit larger (13 rib s instead of 11); all other lenses have a scalloped ring without a groove. Lens inscription in white letters on the front of the lens barrel outside the black (52 mm.) filter ring: NIKKOR-S Auto 1:1.2 f=5 5 mm Nippon Kogaku Japan No. xxxxxx Distance indications: feet in yellow, metres in white.
Aperture range: f/16 (blue), f/11 (yellow), 8 (pink), 5.6 (white), 2.8, 2 an d 1.2 in white.
Weight is approx. 421 Gramm (without caps ).
Serial numbers start with 970111 and run up to approx. 986000. The highest recorded number known to the author: 985380. This version was succeeded in
November 1967 by type III. Total production in 2 years approx. 15,300 lenses.
Type III This version was introduced in November 1967. At first sight there are no changes, though the aperture ring can be lift off after releasing a set crew at the side of the ring. This implies that from now on all versions can be adapted to the AI-coupling system. Nikon provided interchangeable rings to repairmen. Another change is the chrome ring, which is now 5 mm. wide. All letters on the lens barrel are a bit tinier than those on Type II. All lenses - of Type III - were assembled with slot screws. Serial numbers start with - an incomprehensible - No. 184711.
From approx. #193000 the back plate is mounted with 5 slot screws in stead of three slot screws. No lenses have been found with serial numbers from approx. 216000 up to 219999. The last lens known with the ‘Nippon Kogaku Japan’ inscription is #215731. All lenses with serial numbers over 220001 (produced from August 1 971) bear the inscription ‘Nikon’ instead. ‘No.’ before the serial number disappears. During its production, which terminated mid 1972, Nikon changed the text on the name ring and the optical formula. Last known serial number - confirmed by the factory -: 240533. Thus a total production of approx. 51,500 lenses in 5 years, although however, as stated before, many name rings with numbers in the 230,000-range were distributed for repair.
Type IV Production of this type started in October 1972. The lens looks like type III but now bears the inscription Nikkor S.C, where the C stands for ‘coating’. This lens, indeed, has an amber coating. On the name ring one can find ‘Nikon’ and the serial number without the preceding ‘No.’. The chrome ring is 6 mm in width.
The entire lens has been assembled with slot screws, although lenses from serial number 260001 - production started in June 1973 - have been assembled with cross screws; also 5 in the back plate. Serial numbers start with 250001 and the last recorded and factory confirmed serial number is 300556.
Type V This version of the lens came into production in April 1976. The entire lens barrel was changed and redesigned. The scalloped barrel was replaced by a black painted flat barrel with rubber grip at the distance ring. The closest focussing distance is 50 cm. - mainly as a result of a slightly changed optical formula. Its weight is 415 Gramm. The inscription on the the front is: NIKKOR 55 mm 1:1.2 xxxxx Nikon All letters, in white, have the same size. The lens diameter is 72 mm., the overall length is 61 mm. (distance filter ring - mount is 49.5 mm.).
Serial numbers start with 350001. Last known serial number: 385347. Thus a total production of approx. 35,000 lenses. Many lenses of this type were sold with the common aperture ring, although some lenses could be ordered with the AI-ring (AI = aperture indexing), so that the lens could be used on the AI-cameras, introduced by Nikon in July 1977. On one of the lens sheets, supplied with a new lens, one can see a lens with serial number 350011 having an AI-ring.
Type VI This version is like Type V but adjusted in July 1977 for the AI-coupling. The new diaphragm ring has a double line of aperture data. Those for the aperture direct readout are all of the same size and in white. On all lenses mentioned hereto on the side of the lens barrel one can find the inscription ‘lens made in Japan’ in white letters. On the last batch of lens type VI this inscription is replaced by a black ‘made in Japan’. The last batch also has a protective lid at the back flange. Its weight is 410 Gramm. The production of this remarkable lens terminated in April 1978. Serial numbers start with 400001 ; last number known to the author is 423800. Total production approx. 23,800 lenses. The total production of all types, in 12.5 years, will be somewhere around 175,600 lens es. Monthly production started from approx. 800 lenses up to 1,800 lenses during the last years. Other types have not been produced. AI-S coupling was introduced in September 198 1. All lenses of Type II - V can be converted to AI-mounts.
The mechanical diaphragm transmission via the converter to the camera is too long, which makes an exact synchronization difficult. As stated before this lens was produced until April 1978 and was succeeded by the Nikkor f/1.2-50 mm.
All lenses with the fork can, in principle, be used on all Nikon SLR’s, which can take the fork (F, F2 and Nikkormat-series) or which can lift the AI-prong (F3, F4, FM, FE, FTN3 and EL2). All lenses converted to AI-mount can be used on all camera's except the FG, FG20, 301, 501 and the AF-models F6 5 and F80. The F5 can be modified. Only the digital Nikon D1 and D2 series and the D200 can be used with this lens; all other digital SLR's and all models which can take G-lenses only, can have an AI-converted lens but there will be no metering. All lenses can be used on the TC-200 converter, although at high shutter speeds and at aperture f/11 and higher there could be an uneven exposure.
Special versions For special clients special versions were made. NASA It is said that some 18 lenses have been converted for and used by NASA. These lenses have a black inscription around the front lens and is almost invisible. It is assumed that the serial numbers start with 8000100 (7 digits!). There have been some dummies spotted for exhibitions. The total production makes them extremely rare, especially since some of the lenses may be left on the moon! It is also said that there are some NASA versions of Type VI in existence
There is a rare Nikkor lens having the same technical specifications - at first sight - but of a total different design and produced for special purposes. This Nikkor-O, produced in the 1970's is a so-called CRT lens (CR T = cathode ray tube) use d for taking pictures of oscillograph screens. The lens is corrected to render phosphorus colours and is at its best at f/4 and f/5.6. It has a non-Nikon 52 mm. reversing bayonet ring which allows it to used up to 5x magnification. If used at infinity the maximum aperture would be f/1.2, but as picture angle and aperture of all optical lenses are changing while focussing, the maximum effective aperture at the set or fixed focus is f/1.4. Total production number is unknown.
Serial numbers (6-digit) start with 7xxxxx and 8xxxxx. The latter version has an additional inscription (in red) in the name ring (M =1/5).
S black front and distance scale; 8 lenses in 6 groups
S maximum aperture f/1:1.2 at infinity; f/1:1.4 at
S fixed focus
S minimum aperture: f/1:11; no focussing; fixed focus at about 110 mm.
S aperture in full stops from f/1.2 - f/11
S 13 diaphragm blades
S Leica mount = 39 mm.
S weight 260 Gramm
S inscription on the front inside the filter ring:
S NIKKOR-O 1:1.2 f=55 mm Nippon Kogaku Japan No. xxxxxx; lenses with #8xxxxx additional inscription in red: M=1/5 Lens performance survey
Various publicists are rating the performance of the lens from modest to good. Especially the coating o f all later versions improved optical performance. At full aperture there is some flare from internal reflections, some coma and some softening in the corners, the latter mainly because of field curvature. Image contrast is better beyond f/2.8 and very good at f/8. Do not us e the lens at f/11 and f/16 It is stated that the lens is susceptible to knocks from the side. The Nikkor-O is an outstanding macro-lens performing equal to the Zeiss Luminars and Leitz Photar lenses. Except the prototype and the NASA-lens, the author has collected and used all types. Especially the non- or partly coated lenses are at full aperture and at infinity rather soft. At apertures from f/2 - f/8 the coated lenses produce outstanding images especially at low light conditions. Aperture f/11 and f/16 are not recommendable. The depth of field should also be taken into consideration, as at full aperture at 60 cm. depth of field is a mere 6 mm.! Although its successors, the N ikkor f/1.2-50 mm. and the famous Noct-Nikkor f/1.2-58 mm., are producing far b ette r images at all settings the Nikkor f/1. 2-55 mm. remains an optical tour de force. To Nikon’s engineers, ‘armed’ in the 1950's with pen, paper and an abacus - and without computers and to be imitated example - shoauld be given high praise.
Forks For its Nikkor lenses Nikon produced 4 types of coupling forks. As you c an see in the picture a bov e the firs t one (left) h ad a triangular form, followed by a rounded fork to make it easier to mount a lens onto a camera. W hen Nikon introduced the AI-system the fo rks were redesigned with two openings in order to improve the readab ility of the aperture data on the lens mount through the read out window in the view finders. The last vers ion (right) has wider openings for a better readability.
Lens Hoods Nikon provided a variety of hoods for this series of lenses. The first all black metal hood had no product name or code. On the side of it the text ‘55/1.2 F Nikkor Japan’ can be found. It has two chrome side pins to mount the hood on the 52mm. filter mount of the lens. The maximum outside diameter of the hood is 77 mm. The same hood was later given a product code - HS-3. A screw in version of this hood was given the code HN-6. The last model, provided for the Types V & VI was a snap on version with product code HS -7. Finally a rubber hood with product cod e HR-2 was sup plied. I don't like to forget to mention that all hoods had to be bought separately. Nikon didn't supply a hood with a new lens.
Boxes, bubbles & caps Nikon never sold items or products unpacked. Camera's came in a solid box, as well as their lenses. The first SLR lenses were packed in a so called bubble - a plastic container - placed in a carton box. That plastic container has a black bottom with inside a lens mount. The top part is transparent with on top the Nikon logo; on later models the simple text ‘Nikkor’. To avoid movement of the container in the box, inside the top part of the box one can find a rubber stop. The boxes itself - as can be seen from the pictures - are gold coloured, have on each side an ‘F’ and the text ‘Nikkor-Auto 55mm F: 1.2 ' . This combination of box and bubble was used for lenses with serial numbers in the 9-series (Type II). The new lenses - from #184711 onwards (Type III) - were packed in a different shaped folding box with a foamy block (known in various colours) inside, which was cut to accommodate the lens with its both caps. Apart from the text mentioned before Nikon used its logo (see pictures). Lenses in the Nikkor-S.C series (Type IV) have an additional black C-logo on their box.
Lenses in the 3-series (Type V) have a more glossy silver coloured folding box with foam inside. The 4-series (Type VI) came in an identical box, but gold coloured. All types we re supplied with a guarantee card and a lens sheet with technical specifications and the depth of field scheme. As you can see from the pictures, both front and rear lens caps changed during production period. All caps are made of black plastic. The first series of rear lens caps carry the old factory's name ‘Nippon Kogaku K.K . Japan ’, later versions have just ‘Nikon’ or a simple ‘N’. None of the lenses were supplied with a modern white rear cap without any name or number on it. The older all black front caps have two chrome side pins to mount the cap on the lens. On top of them the text ‘Nikkor’. Later versions are all plastic with on top the text ‘Nikon’. The last front caps used for Type V & VI have a silver text ‘Nikon’ on top.
Lens data sheets As far as I know lenses in the 9-series (Type II) were not supplied with lens sheets or instruction sheets or booklets. They came just with a guarantee card and - shown below - a small card. Later models, especially Types V & VI, came with lens sheet s with technical information and a depth of field chart. Although Nikon stated that the Nikkor Type V (3-series) isn't a AI-version one lens sheet shows that lens mounted on a Nikon F2 but with an AI-ring ! Probably the Nikkors Type V and VI were sold with or without the AI-ring up to the wishes of the buyer.
Nico's Resources:- Matrix of all versions of the Nikkor-S 1.2/55mm.
Original content written by Nico van Dijk®™ © 2006 <Email:- nikon-nl (at) planet.nl>, Holland, assisted by leofoo®™
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| Index Page | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IIIa | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X |
Intro. by Host
Non-Ai Nikkor Auto 5cm 1:2
Non-Ai Nikkor 5cm 1:1.4
Nikkor-S(C) Auto 1:1.2 f=5.5cm
Noct-Nikkor 58mm f/1.2; Nikkor 50mm f/1.2
Special featured section
on Nikkor 50-55mm f/1.2 lens group by host, Nico
Ai-Nikkor 50mm f/1.4, f/1.8
Ai-Nikkor 50mm f/2.0, Series E 50mm f/1.8s
Nikkor 50mm f/1.2, f/1.4, f/1.8 Ai-S,
AF-Nikkor 50mm f/1.4s, f/1.8s
AF-Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D, f/1.8D
Nikkor 45mm lens group
Special 50mm Editions
NOTE:- A collector's overview of all standard prime Nikkor lenses in F-mount by a passionate collector for Nikkor lenses, Mr. Nico van Dijk from Holland. Nico van Dijk's own website can be accessed via http://home.planet.nl/~nicodijk/index.html
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Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
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Dedicated Lenses for Nikon F3AF: AF 80mm f/2.8 | AF 200mm f/3.5 EDIF
Depth of Field Control (DC): 105mm 135mm
Medical Nikkor: 120mm 200mm
Reflex-Nikkor Lenses - 500mm 1000mm 2000mm
Others: Noct Nikkor | OP-Nikkor | UV Nikkor 55mm 105mm | Focusing Units | Bellows-Nikkor 105mm 135mm
Nikon Series E Lenses: 28mm35mm50mm100mm135mm | E-Series Zoom lenses: 36~72mm75~150mm70~210mm
MF Zoom-Nikkor Lenses: 25~50mm | 28~45mm | 28~50mm | 28~85mm | 35~70mm | 36~72mm E | 35~85mm | 35~105mm | 35~135mm | 35~200mm | 43~86mm | 50~135mm | 50~300mm | 70~210mm E | 75~150mm E | 80~200mm | 85~250mm | 100~300mm | 180~600mm | 200~400mm | 200~600mm | 360~1200mm | 1200~1700mm
Tele-Converters: TC-1 | TC-2 | TC-200 | TC-201 | TC-300 | TC-301 | TC-14 | TC-14A | TC-14B | TC-14C | TC-14E | TC-16 | TC-16A | TC-20E
Recommended links to understand more technical details related to the Nikkor F-mount and production Serial Number:
http://rick_oleson.tripod.com/index-153.html by: my friend, Rick Oleson
http://www.zi.ku.dk/personal/lhhansen/photo/fmount.htm by: Hansen, Lars Holst
Recommended Reading Reference on Nikon cameras and Nikkor lenses | about this photographic web site
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A Nikkor lens Resource site Co-developed with Nico van Dijk , Holland Email Nico via:-<email@example.com>; assisted by leofoo, Rick Oleson
Credit: To all the good people who has contributed their own experience, resources or those who are kind enough granting us permission to use their images appeared in this site Note:certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures, sales manuals or publications published by Nikon over the years and/or contribution from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for may discrepancies arise from such dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Site made with an Apple IMac.