Author Topic: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses  (Read 1110 times)

Robert Camfield

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Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« on: April 22, 2023, 21:51:57 »
Recent posts and comments leave me with the impression that the early ED lenses (300mm and longer) may be preferred, compared to the subsequence ED-IF variants. I speak specifically to comments regarding the 300 f4.5 ED, 400 f5.6 ED and, just a couple of days ago, the thread regarding the 600 f5.6 and 800 f5.6 ED lenses combined with the AU-1 focusing unit. I use the better known and, these days, inexpensive ED-IF AIS variants, finding acceptable resolution though, in the case of the 300 f4.5 ED-IF, difficult longitudinal color fringing in high-contrast lighting. Any thoughts you may have are appreciated.

Robert   

Birna Rørslett

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2023, 23:23:38 »
There is no simple answer to your question. By the way, it's the 800mm f/8 ED non-IF lens head.

The lenses to compare are 300/4.5 ED vs ED-IF, 400/5.6 ED(PC) vs ED-IF,  600/5.6 ED vs ED-IF, 800/8 ED vs ED-IF, and finally 1200/11 ED vs ED-IF. All pairs except 400 has a non-ED version as well, which in general tend to give good image quality but increasingly troubles with chromatic aberrations of the axial kind as focal length increases. In cases known to me, the ED-variants have better image quality than any of the non-ED designs.

As I have most but not all of these lenses, I can only contribute some data points for paired comparisons. Other members are welcome to chip in with their observations of course.

300/4.5 ED vs ED-IF: ED has the best image quality and is near apochromatic, to the extent that there is no IR focusing mark. Focusing is slow and stiff compared to the ED-IF version, which is super snappy and can be focused by a single finger tip. The ED-IF also handles added extension well and one can enjoy close-ups around 1:3 to 1:4 scale. For shooting into bright light sources the ED-IF performs better.

The ED 300 is elusive and difficult to track down in particular if you wish to have a clean specimen without too much external signs of wear. The ED-If is easy to get, either as AI or the more common AIS. The latter has the best tripod mount. Be aware that many times the ED-IF version simply is labelled '300/4.5 ED' by ignorant (?) sellers, thus make sure you read the description and study any pictures if tempted to buy. The ED-IF has a characteristic shape with a front section followed by pronounced narrowing into a slimmer focusing barrel, the ED lacks this appearance and well -- looks like a lens :) The ED also has a quite tiny tripod mount platform. For tripod use, the ED-IF is is the true 'upper crust' in terms of stability if you have the AIS version. The AI has a narrower tripod mount yet still superior to most other lenses.


400/5.6 ED/PC vs ED-IF: Again, the ED has the better image quality, but the ED-IF is not far behind. The latter also focuses much faster, but is less easy to deploy safely on a tripod as it tends to wobble a bit due to its long and light weight build.

The first generation of this 400 is not labelled 'Nikkor*ED', only -PC (or in the onset, simply -P). Only *ED units have the gold ring. They are externally and internally similar but might be not identical in optical terms. However, from the samples I have used over the years, performance is well-nigh identical so I lump all non-IF versions together. My current version is a modified K lens of the 'PC' type.


800/8 ED vs ED-IF: In terms of image quality, the ED wins hands down. However, the ED-IF handles far better as it is much more light weight and less bulky because  no need for the cumbersome focusing adapter. The ED-IF also focuses much closer, to 10m instead of 14-15m of the non-IF version.

Whilst the 800/8 ED-IF is uncommon and scarce, the 800/8 ED lens head is amongst the rarest of Nikkors and less than 100 units were produced. I would look for the bigger 800/5.6 ED-IF Nikkor instead.

Birna Rørslett

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #2 on: April 23, 2023, 09:02:32 »
I don't have the complete pairs of ED vs ED-If for the 600 and 1200mm lenses.

600mm f/5.6 ED-IF: very good image quality, probably near what the ED non-IF delivers. Judged from my experience of lens heads on a focusing adapter, the ED-IF would handle much better. Still, the lens is quite big and really requires good support to deliver best results.


1200mm f/11 ED-IF: this lens is nearly 60cm long and requires good technique to give acceptable results. Its sharpness is very good given its massive focal length, but the chromatic fringes can be seen on harsh transitions in the motif. The precursor 1200/11 ED must be a beast of a lens on any tripod as it is nearly the double length.

The limiting factors for such long lenses -- rather than the optics themselves -- are air turbulence, heat waves, wind gusts, inadequate tripod support, touching the lens during exposure, and pollution or dust in the air giving haziness. One should preferably not shoot subjects at long distance unless the shooting is conducted early morning or late evening, otherwise even focusing such lenses can be difficult due to achieve.

Birna Rørslett

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2023, 10:33:12 »
For the 400/4.5, we only have the 400/4.5 Q Nikkor lens head which is non-ED non-IF, and the recent 400/4.5 Nikkor Z S-Line, which is ED-IF and adds a lot more fancy features as well.

In this case, the 60+ years of evolvement really shows off: The 400Q needs the focusing adapter either CU or AU-1, and with it weighs nearly 4 kg. It focuses to 6.5m with the AU-1. Image sharpness is very good, but axial chromatic fringing can be a problem. It certainly needs to be supported by a sturdy tripod.

The new 400/4.5 Z is a real featherweight and weighs about 1/4 of the old setup, is much shorter, can easily be handheld, has lightening-fast AF, and its ED + other exotic glass elements make for an excellent image quality with high sharpness, high contrast, and vividly rendered colours. Axial colour is virtually non-existing. Closest focus is 2.5m and by adding extension such as the FotoDiox tubes, can be shortened to approx. 1m with all functionality of the master lens intact. The focusing mount is acceptable as well although the AU-1 in particular provides a better mounting platform.

The evolution has greatly favoured the photographers of today. For all Z users, the 400/4.5 Z is a must-have item if one can afford it, or needs a long lens. Price is elevated, but not going through the ceiling like the asking price for the faster 400mm f/2.8 Z TC.

Birna Rørslett

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2023, 15:55:50 »
To illustrate the points made above, firstly here is the 400/4.5 Q Nikkor on the CU focusing adapter (on which it can focus to 5.5m compared to 6.5m on the AU-1), and the 400/4.5 Nikkor Z S-Line. The size difference is stunning and and so is the difference in weight. Interestingly, the Q has 122mm filter thread vs. 95mm for the Z. The Q lens of course requires the FTZ/FTZ.2 adapter in order to fit any Z camera.

Secondly a 200% crop comparison of the Z vs Q for details on the white picket fence of my test subject. Distance to the fence is about 75m. The weather changed suddenly into grey fog and rain, and temperatures dropped 15 C. Shot at f/4.5 for each lens and there is no sharpening or other editing at all. Despite the obvious colour fringing of the old lens, the difference in acuity is food for thought -- meagre food in this case, as the venerable Q lens from the '60s is very sharp. With proper post processing of these captures, it would mainly be the troublesome axial colour that tells the lenses apart.

Robert Camfield

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2023, 00:31:45 »
Birna,

Thank you for the in-depth commentary, which provides foundation for my intuition, in turn drawn from opinions expressed in the NG forum. I'm surprised the vintage non-ED 400 f4.5 yields resolution not far from its counterpart for Nikon Z. As you indicate, much color fringing is present, particularly with white fencing...the ED variant would perhaps mitigate the issue significantly...was there an ED version of the 400 f4.5 lens head?

In occasional photos, length of vintage 1200s coupled with the focusing units appear to reach well over 1 meter.

Your evidence leads one to infer that the optical formulas of the ED-IFs (K, AI, AIS) are to facilitate the IF function...higher element count certainly doesn't translate into improved resolution. I speculate that market competition likely contributed to Nikon's adoption of IF: as I recall, Canon incorporated IF functionality prior to Nikon...Canon's first iteration of the 400 f2.8 dates to around '77-'78 or so.

And, yes, the vintage 800mm EDs are f8.0s - thanks for the correction...wasn't paying attention to what I put on paper.

Thanks again...Robert

     

Roland Vink

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2023, 01:41:47 »
was there an ED version of the 400 f4.5 lens head?
...
Your evidence leads one to infer that the optical formulas of the ED-IFs (K, AI, AIS) are to facilitate the IF function...higher element count certainly doesn't translate into improved resolution.
Nikon never updated the 400/4.5 to ED. From https://imaging.nikon.com/imaging/information/story/0050/
"Only the 400mm lens discussed here continued to be manufactured with no change to its original design [no ED version]. This is likely because release of its successor had already been decided. In 1976, limited production of the Ai Nikkor 400mm f/3.5 ED IF began to coincide with the Montreal Olympics"

Nikon also had the 400/5.6 ED (non IF) version which was probably also seen as a more compact upgrade to the 400/3.5.

Regarding IF, early designs may not have improved outright optical performance, but I recall reading that IF acts like close range correction, allowing the lens to focus and perform much better at close range than older unit focusing lenses.

Birna Rørslett

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2023, 10:13:27 »
....
Regarding IF, early designs may not have improved outright optical performance, but I recall reading that IF acts like close range correction, allowing the lens to focus and perform much better at close range than older unit focusing lenses.

That is an important point, in particular for long focal lengths that tend to suffer in performance when forced into close focus. However there is no free lunch here either: due to the pupil magnification factor (=dim exit pupil/entrance pupil) the telephoto lenses "lose" more light in the near range; in some cases much more so than long focal designs.  When I used the Nikkor*ED T lenses for my view cameras, I had tabulated a spread sheet to find the required compensation in exposure as a function of focal length and bellows draw. Given the cost of 4x5" or 8x10" sheet film/processing, such measures were absolutely necessary. Modern camera metering systems handle this drop in effective 'speed' automatically, though. Plus, most IF lenses, in particular lenses for macro use,  'cheat' by shortening focal length in the near focus range, thanks to the IF optics.

rs

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2023, 02:58:59 »
Regarding IF, early designs may not have improved outright optical performance, but I recall reading that IF acts like close range correction, allowing the lens to focus and perform much better at close range than older unit focusing lenses.

Indeed and this is elaborated on in Tale 66 - 400mm f3.5 https://imaging.nikon.com/imaging/information/story/0066/

Robert Camfield

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Re: Nikon's Early ED and ED-IF lenses
« Reply #9 on: April 29, 2023, 17:10:05 »
Birna,
Roland,

Thanks for follow up comments, which fill in details. Regarding the introduction schedule of the updated 400s, I note that, apparently, the 400 5.6 ED (non-IF) dates to 1973-75, whereas the 400 3.5 ED-IF dates to 1976 and is the first of Nikon's longer IF lenses. The 400 4.5 for the AU-1 focusing unit was apparently available for sale - production may have ended much earlier - well after the introduction of the 400 5.6 ED (C, K variants).

Thanks again, Robert