As we have addressed earlier where names preceding the word of a "Nikkor" lens indicate optics made for special purpose or applications. Hence, a PC-Nikkor means a lense-type features perspective control ability - to be more exact, they are wide-angle lenses with extended film plane covering ability. These lenses are used to covers large rectangular subjects, for example, a tall building, the photographer has to tilt his camera upwards to include the top of the structure; generally, the resulting image portrays in the photograph will have walls of the building appear to converge, as if the building were falling over backwards.
Current World's tallest building - Petronas Twin
Image copyright © 2003 All rights reserved.
It is quite similar to large format view cameras with swings and tilts with movable lens board features where you can actually be able to play around depth of field or correcting perspectives but in the case of PC-Nikkor, it is more confined to manipulation in perspective rather than depth of field. The view above was actually taken at the Condo where I am staying right now at level 10 but still it was far lower than the magnificent 88 storeys high Petronas Twin Towers at Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) and I have to tilt my Linhof 617 slightly upwards which effectively showing the buildings being converged in perspective mainly because the panoramic 617 camera does not provide a tilt & shift feature (some medium format cameras such as Hasselblad and Mamiya etc. are also starting to offer equivalent lense types now). The eventual visual effect of a typical shooting situation is quite apparent with the use of conventional lenses. Basically, a PC-Nikkor replicates view camera's perspective control feature into a small 35mm format. With a PC-Nikkor lense, the photographer is able to shift the lens horizontally, vertically or diagonally to include the top of the building while keeping the film plane parallel to the wall surface to eliminate unwanted converging lines. Naturally, without other mechanism such as flexible swing control and lens board etc. as provide in large format cameras, depth of field control with these 35mm lenses is still has to fall back to selective use of apertures.
Credit: Image was downloaded from Nikon-USA website. Image has been retouched slightly.
Well, technically, there are other ways to minimize effect of converging perspectives when a normal lense is used; for an instance, by using a wideangle lense to shoot but you have to compromise with loss of useful negative space with inclusion of large unwanted foreground in a picture while use cropping to eliminate undesirable elements in a wide-angle negative (or another way is to use some "engineering work inside a darkroom" to compensate such effect). But unfortunately, 35mm format has a far less negative size as compared to any typical view cameras (4x5 or 8x10) which you can afford to do so with cropping the big negative(s). So, these dedicated PC lenses preserves the little film size the 35 x 24mm it has in order to optimize the image for desktop publishing etc.
<<<--- NOTE: As Nikon has a new PC-Micro lense added into this lense category and it has slightly different operational sequence and combining tilt & shit function with close focusing capability. Besides, the PC-Micro lense has a medium telephoto focal length and also serves more to the needs of autofocus SLRs. However, as this can be quite difficult for me to address two generations of PC-Nikkors within a single site; hence, I will only confine discussions here based on the older versions of this lens type and leave the new PC-lense at a later stage.
In operation, the front part of a PC-Nikkor lense may be shifted by as much as 11mm off-center by means of a micrometer leadscrew. In addition, the entire lens mount may be rotated a full 360° with click-stops at every 30°. By combining the parallel movements with full circle rotation, the lens can be shifted to any desired direction by 11mm. This feature renders the lens highly valuable for architectural and interior photography, especially when using color or monochrome reversal films which do not accommodate perspective correction in the process of enlargement. Due to its shifting and rotating mechanism (the shift feature and the fact that a PC lens can be rotated 360' to allow shifting in any direction, the lens thus, has no automatic features), a distinctive feature found in this lens type is, the diaphragm has to be preset* manually and used with stop-down metering (this is not an important issue as in most cases, shooting successful pictures with a PC lense often takes time to setup, the lack of automatic feature although is undesirable but may not be an absolute disadvantage factor. Overall, it is a solution-providing optical lense in 35mm photography).
Naturally, the distinctive feature of PC-Nikkor can also be used for shooting interiors and even for arranging product shots inside a studio. When perspective correction is not required. Besides, any PC-Nikkor may also be used as a conventional medium wideangle lens to provide equally excellent optical results except there is a little inconvenience in metering. With these lenses, you may also take advantage of the shifting movements of the PC-Nikkor to make panoramic pictures by joining two exposures. Its advantage over an ordinary lens mounted on a panoramic equipment is that it is able to maintain the film plane parallel to the subject at all times, and hence, the pictures will match perfectly. Generally, with a typical older (but more popular) PC-Nikkor, there-are eight settings on the aperture scale - from f/2.8 to f/32 (f/3.5-f/22 on older f/3.5 model) for the popular PC-Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 (f/3.5-f/32 (f/4.0-f/22 on older f/4.0 model) for the PC Nikkor 28mm and an impressive f/2.8-f/45 provides on the new PC-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D.
* Nikkor Perspective Control (PC) lenses can be classified as preset lenses with no automatic features. With the exception of the new PC-Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D which has a CPU to communicate with modern AF SLRs, provides a semi-auto exposure measurement and close focus ability to an impressive !:2 reproduction ratio, usually, you operate such lenses with a Preset Ring which you can open lens aperture for viewing and then close lens to selected aperture size. The preset aperture ring works with the normal aperture ring by setting the preset ring to the desired f-number (but it does not control aperture size, it merely serves as a mechanical limit to rotation of the aperture ring). Technically one can set the aperture ring to any larger aperture size than that selected by the preset ring (but not smaller). When a desired aperture is selected via the preset ring, then open the aperture at its largest size by the aperture ring for viewing/focusing at maximum brightness. shooting is by turning the aperture ring towards any pre-selected. Depth of field, too, can change the perspective of the final picture and thereby distort the subject matter, something the human eye does not do.
Credit: Image courtesy of Mr. Mike Puchreiter® <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Image copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.
Generally, the apparent convergence of vertical lines, say in a picture of a tall building, is the result of the correct geometrical perspective of the subject as seen by even the best quality lenses. This is because these lines are not on the optical axis of the lens. To handle pictures which have a considerable number of vertical lines, a general rule to follow is to place the camera in a position about half way between the top and bottom of the subject with the camera pointed horizontally. Use of a wideangle lens, although intended for such photography, could present a distorted picture, too, if the camera-lens position is off the axis. If it is impossible to correct the situation by moving the camera-lens position, then such PC lenses, with rising and falling front objective, are an ideal solution to the problem of convergence of parallel vertical lines. This movement of the lens is similar to the swinging back of many larger view cameras.
How a PC-Nikkor overcomes perspective distortion As long as the film is in the vertical plane - the camera held parallel to the subject - there is no perspective distortion. But shooting in this position with a conventional lens frequently produces unbalanced* composition. When photographing a tall building, for instance, the top of the building is cut off, and unwanted foreground is included because the camera is usually held close to the ground level (fig. 1). To include the top of the building and reduce the foreground, the camera must be tilted, but this results in converging vertical lines (fig.2). Similar distortions result in horizontal lines when photographing a long line of buildings with the camera tilted.
However, with the PC-Nikkor's unique mechanism that enables shifting and rotating movements, it permits the photographer to get balanced composition without tilting the camera. The film plane will remain vertically while the center of the lens is placed on the line connecting the center of the subject with that of the film (fig.3). Theoretically, the converging verticals would be acceptable in terms of the perspective that is true to life. But the human eye will not psychologically accept such vertical convergence while it is quite prepared to accept the same effect in the horizontal plane. The use of slow shutter speed(s) is a common element during operation as it is not advisable to shot these lenses at their widest apertures so a steady tripod is a handy supplementary accessory.
Nikon introduced their first PC-Nikkor lense back in 1962 which was originally aimed to extend the appeal of 35mm SLR photography further with the success debut of the Nikon F. The original PC-Nikkor was a 35mm focal length lense and has a slow lens speed of f/3.5, the wideangle PC-Nikkor 28mm f/4.0 was only introduced in 1975. Both lenses were updated with a faster versions in 1968 - a f/2.8 lense for the 35mm and a f/3.5 version updated for the 28mm focal length which actually occurred quite late in 1980.
Credit: Images of this old PC-Nikkor 35mm f/2.8 lense courtesy of: Mr. James B Skates Jr. ® <email@example.com> website: www.citizensphoto.com. the company also operates a popular Ebay Store. Jim can also be contacted at Citizenís Photo which located in Portland, Oregon. If you have any questions please call Jim @ 1-880-221-3267 ext.125 from 10-5pm PST . Image Copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer. | MORE Images |
NOTE: Nikon Japan website also has a few articles relating to development of PC-Nikkor lenses where you can read more about to it. Secondly, our friend, Lars has also sent me an URL relating to Instruction Manual for the early version of the PC-Nikkor.
Both of these special application lenses have been remained in production since then without any exciting improvement but it serves specific needs of photographers who needs such kind of optic in their photography. This specific lense group eventually has a new inclusion introduced around late '90 with the PC-Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8s D. Generally, I would not like to mislead anyone by outlining their various advantages for this very specified lense-type because frankly, these specialized PC-Nikkor lenses are not that easy to master especially if you are new to them. As compared to view camera which provides higher level of flexibility, its main strength is portability but losing out on a smaller film size and depth of field manipulation - anyway, both formats are not easy to handle either. Another painful fact is - although Nikon can claim as a pioneer by developing the first 35mm lense with shift capability, but seemed the Company was quite contented living with such "honour" for too long and little effort was put in to pursue further in their lens development program to explore other potential in this highly specialized scope of photography.
Canon, for an instance is more adventurous and as early as 1973, they have alredy developed a PC FD lense with both TILT and SHIFT function while currently they are still leading in this technological battle field with a total of three EF lenses (TSE-24mm f/3.5L, TS-E 45mm f/2.8 and a TS-E 90mm f/2.8) to support the electronic EOS line of AF-SLRs. More amazingly, they are not just optic with SHIFT capability for perspective correction but also provide TILT ability for depth of field control. Even smaller player such as Olympus also has a MF ZUIKO 24mm f/3.5 SHIFT introduced during the mid '80 fro OM users. Depressing to realize this hard fact, huh ?
Third Party alternative: Schneider PC-Super-Angulon 28mm f/2.8. The lense carries mount for Canon, Contax Yashica, Minolta, Minolta AF, Nikon, Olympus and Rollei.
On its own, a main drawback of the manual PC-Nikkors is its non-metered coupled mount as TTL viewing/metering is not possible. But given time, effort and lots of experimenting, you may find yourself a new-found photographic territory that is very useful, practical and satisfying in both business applications and/or for leisure photography. Best of all, these versatile lenses are still every inch a top class 35mm wideangle lense if it is not used for its main purpose - except, you still have to meter and handle it in a less responsive manner.
Anyway, seemingly, introduction of the medium telephoto 85mm Micro-PC was just an interim measure to counter competitions but more than a decade later since it was introduced and there is still no sign that an equivalent wideangle lenses will be introduced by Nikon (as at March, 2003).
Credit: Image of this beautifully taken old PC-Nikkor lense courtesy of Mr. Matthew Lin® <firstname.lastname@example.org> with an Web URL on his own at: http://www.matthewlin.com Matthew is a passionate collector for Nikon photo gears. Image(s) copyright © 2003. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.
PC-Nikkor at 28mm Focal length: PC-Nikkor 28mm f/4.0 | PC-Nikkor 28mm f/3.5
PC-Nikkor at 35mm Focal length: PC-Nikkor 35mm f/3.5 | PC-Nikkor 35mm f/2.8
PC-Nikkor at other Focal length: PC-Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D
| Relative: Various Nikkor wideangles at 28mm & 35mm focal length |
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Special Application lenses:
Micro-Nikkor Lenses - 50mm~55mm -60mm 85mm -105mm 200mm Micro-Zoom 70-180mm
Perspective Control (PC) - 28mm 35mm PC-Micro 85mm
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
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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
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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
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Co-developed with my web buddy, Rick Oleson® & Denmark, Creator of the Nikon Repair Group Mailing-List; A contributing effort to Michael Liu's Classic Nikon SLRs and Nikkor optic site.
Credit: MCLau®, who has helped to rewrite some of the content appeared this site. Chuck Hester® who has been helping me all along with the development of all these Nikon websites; Lars Holst Hansen, 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion I have; Ms Rissa, Sales manager from Nikon Corporation Malaysia for granting permission to use some of the official content; Ted Wengelaar, Holland who has helped to provide many useful input relating to older Nikkor lenses; Some of the references on production serial numbers used in this site were extracted from Roland Vink's website; Hiura Shinsaku from Nikomat Club Japan. Lastly, to all the good people who has contributed their own expeience, resources or kind enough granted permission to use their images of their respective optic in this site. It is also a site to remember a long lost friend on the Net. Note:certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets & brochures published by Nikon 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.