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NIKKOR AI LENSES ON DIGITAL NIKON BODIES

scott snyder , Jan 21, 2009; 05:22 a.m.

After decades of using my nikon f2as/manual focus nikkor lenses, i have finally embraced the digital age.
although i may not be using my old f2 much any more, i hate to retire all of my high quality manual focus nikkor a1
lenses. so i would like to inquire as to the feasabililty of using them on modern digital nikon cameras
such as d40, d60, d90, and d1x and d2x bodies. i realize that the lens mount is unchanged from earliest
f bodies to the latest digital, but am curious how metering will be done, whether full aperture or stop
down, and how similarly these lenses can be used on digital compared to film bodies. any and all information is
appreciated, as my digital purchase depends on the information gleaned here.
thanks, scott snyder, snyderphotography

Responses

Ellis Vener , Jan 21, 2009; 06:01 a.m.

From my experience; D1X, D2x, D200, D300, D3, D700, D3x bodies: no problems as long as they are AI or AI-S Nikkors. Starting with =with D300, D3, D3x & D700: you can program the camera for up to 10 AI /AI-S Nikkors (programming meaning: enter the focal length & maximum aperture into the memory bank ) and then you have to choose the lens you are using and can vary the aperture from the aperture ring . Full aperture metering with all of these lenses.

Depending on the specific lens you might be disappointed in the results as those older lens are not all great or even good with digital bodies, but some are however; in my experience that includes a 50mm f/1.8 AI-S, a 100mm f/4 AI-S Micro-Nikkor. Butthe 28mm f/8 AI-S blows chunks: a whole lotta color fringing problems.

Tony Correa , Jan 21, 2009; 07:44 a.m.

Nikkor AI'd/AI/AIS lenses will meter at full aperture with the D1, D2, D3 series as well as the D200, D300, D700. On other bodies they will mount but will not have metering of any kind. Optical quality will depend on the lens and digitial body used. In general they will perform better on the newer bodies (D90, D300) than on the older bodies (D200, etc.) and best on the full frame bodies (D700, D3). Also keep in mind that the viewfinders on the newer bodies are larger and better for manual focusing than the earlier models. But unless you go for a full frame body, crop sensor digital SLR viewfinders are much smaller than your F2's.

Kelly Flanigan , Jan 21, 2009; 08:05 a.m.

Using Nikkons on other cameras for exacting applications is as old as Nikkors.

Once it was Screwmount Nikkors on 16mm & 8mm cine cameras; one uses a LTM to C mount adapter.

Then in 1959 we got the Nikon F mount; and some folks used Nikon F nikkors on 16mm cine; or even 8mm cine too. Here I have LTM to Cmount; Nikon F to Cmount; and C mount to D mount adapters. Many Nikkors work well for cine work if stopped down a few stops; one is only using the central core; the on axis part of the lenses view. Nobody back in the day really was confused about what focal length was; or even used the term crop factor either; folks thought about angle of view. One ran ones own tests and found out what worked; folks experimented more than asked others.

Another useage of Nikkors was on video cameras using C mount adapters; this has been done for many decades in research. For digital in astro work using Nikkors is ancient too.

In pictoral work color fringing can be an issue with digital work; thus some lenses might get lower grades with digital than film; since the sensor has a defined pitch. Since each digital device has a different sensor; a lens that works ok/well on one digital body might work worse on another; maybe one thats got a tighter pitch of the pixels.

Many of my old Nikkors; even Leica Thread Mount ones work well on a low megapixel digital; like my Epson RD-1/s thats just 6 megapixels.

AI and AIS in nikkors are a indexing issue; not always an optical design issue. Its like culling out cars pewrformance based on whether they came with seatbelts; or unleaded gas; or tail fins; or FM radios. The totally cool thing about this false belief that all Nikkors changed optically with AI or AIS is one can buy a non AI lens in some focal lengths;thats multicoated; at 1/3 the price!; but it might not fit on a modern Nikon. See Bjorn's nice site below:
See Bjorn Rorsletts excellent site on Nikon lense

Ronald Moravec , Jan 21, 2009; 08:11 a.m.

I will leave the details to above as they are correct, but get the D700 as manual focus is better than with the small viewfinders & small sensors.
You will also not get the cropped viewfinder and reduced angle of view. You wide lenses will still be wide rather than reduced by 1/3.
The better pro grade zoom lenses are nice because changing lenses on a digi slr requires some care so as not to get airborn dust inside.

I have two 28 2.8 AiS lenses and neither produces the blue fringe, but maybe I don`t see it or my applications are less demanding. Ellis is a pro who knows what he sees.

Kelly Flanigan , Jan 21, 2009; 08:12 a.m.

Even Nikon S rangefinder lenses were used with filming an macro still work too; plus cine work.

JDM von Weinberg , Jan 21, 2009; 06:48 p.m.

Here's another site on Nikon lens compatibility and different digital models (link ).

Scott Murphy , Feb 02, 2013; 10:04 p.m.

I use nothing but AI and AIS Nikkors (with a 50mm f/1.4 non-AI I converted myself) on my D700 and D3 and get superlative results. Those older Nikkors are outstanding numbers and mechanically they leave pretty much all modern Nikkors in the dust. In fact you could some of them to smash the newest ones into little bits without fearing doing anything more than chipping a little paint. One thing you might do, is get a microprism/split image screen from focusingscreens.com because digital camera screens generally suck when it comes to critical focusing with MF lenses

Autofocus is something I have never felt a need to have, I guess it is that old dog, new tricks thing. And don't discount that superlative F2, I still have 2 of them, both F2A's. No finer all mechanical 35mm camera made. And speaking of F2's, for the most part I use my D3 and D700 as nothing more than DIGITAL F2's. 99% of the images I take are in manual.

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