Modern Classic SLRs Series :
Nikon FA - Part VII - The AI-S lenses and the Lens mount's mechanism


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In anticipation of the increased use of microelectronics in new Nikon cameras such as the FA, several design changes were made in 1981 to Nikkor lenses which do not affect the Nikon bayonet mount or the AI feature which automatically indexes the maximum aperture with the camera's metering system. Designated "AI-S type" lenses to avoid confusion with the Al-type lenses, these Nikkor and Nikon Series E lenses feature a focal length indexing ridge, a lens type signal notch, lens speed indexing post and, for ease of reference, an orange-painted maximum f-number on their aperture ring. These, however did not materialized as there was a swift change in trend at the market place.

E series Lenses.jpg (10k)

These Nikon Series E lenses wer the first batch to go "AI-S"...

Pentax ME-F.jpg (17k)
The Pentax drew the first blood by introducing a ME-F camera in 1982 with an 35-70mm f2.8 autofocus lens and raised the curtain for the era of autofocus SLRs. The autofocus camera, was not too popular yet until 3 years later when Minolta brought the Maxxum class of autofocus bodies in 1985 with the world's first body-integrated AF SLR system. What does these development signifies ? Barely a year or two after the FA was launched, Nikon could have realized the future was not at "multimode" but at the autofocus. The development and implementation of the AI-S lenses within the Nikon system was a waste - but not the concept, as all the autofocus Nikkor lenses are AI-S in nature. These lenses can be used on the FA in manual mode and yet enjoy the full benefits as an AI-S lens and take advantage of what the FA has to offer in full fletch features and capabilities.
Minolta's X-700, incorporating the Minolta Program System (MPS) with three exposure control mode in Programmed, Aperture Priority AE and manual was selected as the first European Camera of the Year back in 1981 - Nikon replied with their first multimode SLR in the ultra-compact Nikon FG which for the first time, incorporated with a Programmed Mode in a Nikon SLR body. All you need to do was to turn the aperture ring to the minimum aperture value of your Nikkor lens to operate in this mode, the FA - however, added a layer on top of the program automation with shutter priority AE. Nikon claimed FA's performance may suffer with the use of non-Nikkor and non-Nikon Series E lenses in conjunction with the Nikon FA - To be fair, which is not totally true. With an AI-S lens type, because of the focal length indexing ridge, lens type signal notch, lens speed indexing post and automatic maximum aperture index (Al) system, the FA may operate at its most convenience point, especially in the Dual-Program Mode (in which FA automatically selects either Normal Program or High-Speed Program depending on the focal length of the AI-S type lens in use) and the Shutter Priority Mode (in which the aperture is precisely controlled and accurately stopped down to the metered f-stop position). In conjunction with the FA's introduction, Nikon Teleconverters have also been modified for use with Al-S type lenses. These new Teleconverters are TC-14A, TC14B, TC14C, TC-201 and TC-301.

The AI-S lenses could had been intended to convert the future Nikon bodies to go multimodes in general - which is Nikon's apparent weaknesses in the market place during that period. In many ways, it is a definite faster lens type (with shorter focusing or broader turns - depends on focal length of the lenses), but may not interpret into more superior construction quality than the AI lenses. The Dual-Program Mode is an additional considerate feature, but it is not an neccessity as the FA cannot sense the the focal length of the lens in use, normal program is the default program - other system still perform (As long as it is a minimum AI-Spec lens). It is lighter, the traditional chrome ring has been substituted with aluminium. Most of the optical formula remained unchanged (Given the same maximum aperture of the lens), while newer and faster Nikkor lenses were introduced and there was no basis to compared (Oh.. I think Nikon's speed of converting the AI-S lenses from AI is few times faster than the process of upgrade and replacing the AF Nikkor with AF-D designation).

More interestingly, the F mount on the camera body has additional lever and pin to establish communication between lenses and body. This is a clear departure from the simple Aperture Stopped Down Lever for Automatic Indexing operation found in any of the Nikon camera bodies. You may referred to the Various F Mount for further reference to see how individual lever and button works between the lens and the body (Especially the section covering the "Signal Pins and Levers on the Nikon FA's Lens Mounting Flange".

Anyway, there are no significant advantage for you to 'upgrade' the AI lenses to AI-S directly, and if you are one of those many AF users and want to get a manual focus body as back up - ALL your current AF Nikkor lenses will fit and work well just as an AI-S lenses on the FA. As long as your lens is not a Non-AI Nikkor lens or if you have already did a AI-modification, it will work in the FA with some compromises. Warning: Non-AI lenses are not recommendated to use with the FA. After modification, the AMP (Matrix metering) is still not workable, instead, center weighted metering will be the default metering system. Which means to say, the FA's optimum lens-to-use is minimum a AI-spec Lens.


Type of lens(es)

AMP Metering

Center Weighted Metering

P, S, A with stop-down switch OFF

AI-S, AI, Series E and AF Nikkor



AI'D (AI-modified)



AI-S, AI, Series E with Teleconverters for AI-S Type (TC201, TC-301 etc)



AI-modified with Teleconverters for AI-S Type



AI-S, AI, AI-modified and Series E with Teleconverters for AI Type




ALL types



ALL modes with stop-down switch ON

ALL types



* Note: If you have missed the section on another section, this chart was used again here.

Sounds complicated ? No. In fact, as far as manual focus Nikon cameras are concerned - It began from 1982's FM2 onwards (With the exception of the F3 and its variations - 1979's EM was the first, FG was the second), the FE2, FM2n, FA, FG20 (1984), F301 (1985), the current light-weighted versions of FM-10 and FE-10 need a minimum specification of an AI lens to work properly. In fact, it may damage the meter coupling mechanism if force it on to use on any of these bodies mentioned.

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| Back | to Main Index Page of Nikon FA

Other Technical Issues: Part I | Part II

The AI-S Nikkors (related info | TTL OTF Flash Metering | Interchangeable Focusing Screens. The MD-15/MD12/MD11 Motor Drives | 3rd party Power Winder (new) | Flash Units -SB-16 | SB-15 | SB-10 | SB-16B & Other Options | Databacks | Titanium Shutter | Variation : Mr Y K Wong from Singapore contributing 11 images of his Nikon FA GOLD

| Nikon FM series | Nikon FE series | Nikon FA |

W A R N I N G: The New G-SERIES Nikkor lenses have no aperture ring on the lens, they CANNOT ADJUST APERTURES with any of these manual focus Nikon FE series SLR camera models; please ignore some portion of the content contained herein this site where it relates.

| Message Board | for your favourite Nikon FA camera
| Message Board | for your Nikon Optics in a shared environment
| Message Board | Specifically for Dispose or Looking for Nikon / Nikkor Photographic Equipment

Shared Resources: MD-11 | MD-12 | 3rd Party Power Winder Only for FM2(n)/FE2/FA | Focusing Screens | Titanium Shutter | Flash Units - | SB-15 | SB-10 | SB-16B & Other Options | Databack | Nikkor lens mount (related info)

Others:- Nikon AF-TTL Speedlights | SB-20 (1986) | SB-22 (1987) | SB-23 | SB-24 (1988) | SB-25 (1991/2) | SB-26 (1994) | SB-27(1997) | SB-28 (1997) | Nikon SB-29(s) (2000) | Nikon SB-30 (2003) | Nikon SB-600 (2004) | Nikon SB-800 (2003) Nikon AF-TTL Speedlight DX-Series: Nikon SB-28DX (1999) | SB-50DX (2001) | SB-80DX (2002)

Nikon BC-flash Series | Original Nikon Speedlight
SB-2 | SB-3 | SB-4 | SB-5 | SB-6 | SB-7E | SB-8E | SB-9 | SB-E | SB-10
| SB-12 | SB-14 | SB-140 UV-IR| SB-15 | SB16A | SB-17 | SB-18, SB-19 | SB-21A (SB-29) Macro flash | Flash Accesories | SF-1 Pilot Lamp

weblibrary.gif   Nikon F | Nikon F2 | Nikon F3 | Nikon F4 | Nikon F5 | Nikon F6 | Nikkormat / Nikomat | Nikon FM | Nikon FE/ FA | Nikon EM/FG/FG20 | Nikon Digital SLRs | Nikon - Other models

Nikon Auto Focus Nikkor lenses:- Main Index Page
Nikon Manual Focus Nikkor lenses:- Fisheye-Nikkor Lenses - Circular | Full Frame | Ultrawides Lenses - 13mm15mm18mm20mm | Wideangle Lenses - 24mm28mm35mm | Standard Lenses - 45mm 50mm 58mm | Telephoto Lenses - 85mm105mm135mm180mm & 200mm | Super-Telephoto Lenses - 300mm 400mm 500mm 600mm 800mm 1200mm |

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Index Page
  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
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: by: my friend, Rick Oleson by: Hansen, Lars Holst

| Back | Main Index Page of Nikkor Resources
| Back | Main Index Page of Pictorial History of Nikon SLRs

| Message Board | for your Nikkor optics ("shared" because I do wish some of you to expose to other's perspective as well. Isn't it a sad sate to see photography has to be segmented into different camps from the use of various labels)

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A contributing effort to Michael C Liu's Classic Nikon Site.

Credit: Chuck Hester for some of his beautiful images used in this site; Ted Wengelaar®, Holland for his continuous flow of input; Lars Holst Hansen, Danish 'Hawkeye' who shares the same passion; Mr Poon from Poon photo for their input; Ms Miss Rissa (Sales Manager) & members of the Technical Service dept. of Shriro Malaysia, local distributor of Nikon cameras in Malaysia & Singapore, in providing so many useful input to make this site possible. Special thanks to Mr MC Lau, who has helped with his images of the MF-12 databack. Michael Tan, Pertama Photo (603-2926505) for lending his original Titanium Shutter Display Unit. Dave Hoyt who has prepared the introductory page and offer some images of his FE2 in this site.. Hiura Shinsaku, Nikomat ML, Japan for his contribution on all the various images; A contributing site to 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 own work to publish in this site based on educational merits. The creator of this site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from such possible dispute except rectifying them after verification."Nikon", "Nikkormat", "Nippon Kokagu KK" & "Nikkor" are registered tradename of Nikon Corporation Inc., Japan. Made witha PowerMac.