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November 9, 2009 @ 2:05 am

GAS —  Where to get it

Nikon News Hound finds GAS

Filler Up!

Recently, I trotted over to my local camera show. Admittedly it’s not so much a show as it is a flea market — but there sure is a lot there to show. In recent years, the frequency of these kind of camera meets vigorously bloomed — and then as suddenly they collapsed. These markets follow the natural ebb of camera gear that is disposed of during times of great change. This time it was the great exodus of film into digital technology — circa 2004–2007. Now at a low watermark, there is but one such local meet held each month. Naturally, it brings together all manner of mensch and merchandise. Mingled between the reputable are the wretched. On show days, these meets becomes a hive of activity. A place where heroes and villains battle for the minty, the scarce, and the scum. One person’s garbage magically transforms itself into another person’s treasure. In the midst of such grandiose showmanship, the stealthy make out to hoard bargains while the distracted ogle the crown jewels and other untouchables.  Just like any specialized market — these are places to sniff out awe and value.

Along with the usual “jambalaya” of hard to find adaptor rings, eyepieces, discussion pieces, Nikon manual focus options, and throw-always — this time the Nikon news hound made a significant impulsive purchase. Up until this anomaly — and aside from the usual adapters, experimental optics, and eyepiece accessories — the only novelty item the hound had managed to hoard was a 106 page Cokin creative filter catalog. You know, the resin filter system from France? THis minature publication is  shown above.  While marketing speak is not normally on the list of collectables  — what was intriguing about this was that it’s approximately the size of a business card and the body text was set to 3 or 4pts. Mostly unreadable to the naked eye —  a 4x loupe would later verify this. Yes, I’m somewhat red-cheeked to admit that this is the kind of jambalya that excites the Nikon News Hound. But if not for me it would go to someone else.

Just prior to leaving with this booty — the Nikon News Hound rebelled against instinct and acquiesced to the siren call of an extremely pretty Nikon F3 HP. Not only was it totally out of character to buy this on impulse, it was purchased despite owning several other Nikon manual focus film cameras that barely see more than a few rolls of film trickle through them every year. Yet this camera is not what THIS STORY is about. NO! What this story is about is the impulse that led me to buy another product I do not need.

The photo community has an idiom to describe such a phenomenon. It’s called G*A*S which is short for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. The syntax for this acronym can be further splintered into sub-genomes. For instance, in the Nikon community this act of GAS is also known as NAS. Leicaphiles are known as LASsies. LASsies are particularly dangerous when they’re on the scent of a collectable. It is said they can be as feisty as a dog that roils in heat. This suggests Sony advocates — previously (Minolta) MASsies — are affectionately known as SASsies. Pentax receives a PAS. KAS could stand for Konica or Kodak — but serious GAS braggers usually don’t prize these as much as other brands. The other top brand which receives a lot of attention is Canon. As “Canon Acquisition Syndrome That Rules All The white lens Experts” is an acronym for CASTRATE — the hound will not take you there.

GAS is most commonly encountered where great bargains are perceived and/or lusted after. Or it could appear at anytime scarce or untouchable collectables are dangled before us. GAS is a form of flatulence. And like other flatulences, it ranges from “subtle-yet-distinct” to “noisy-but-mostly-benign”. If you scan the online camera forums it’s not long before these symptoms become self-evident. GAS is common enough that most everyone suffers it to some degree. Some people are hoarders, some collect until they gag — then purge. Others are tepid to the practice and pretend not to have GAS, but  then proceed to flatulate anyway. I suspect the latter category explains my particular acquisition of an F3 HP.

Some gear is just meant to be admired. It’s either a work of art — or so desirable that it clouds our senses and blinds us with lust. This syndrome usually runs in cycles which are lowest when our desires are satiated, but move forward when empty. The best way to deal with GAS is to purge as needed. Small quantities are less conspicuous than engorging ourselves to the point of hedomism. In this instance, the Nikon News Hound caved in to temptation.

I guess to GAS is normal, but to purge is divine. If the subject of GAS bags interest you, further scandal and entertainment is published in the number one tabloid tattler for Gasbags — the photopoo.

*The market to which I referred to earlier, can be found on the Rosebowl parade route in Pasadena, California. The GAS is so popular for this market that it attracts vendors as far away as Japan, Africa, Canada — as well as buyers of secondhand merchandise across America. More information and a schedule of events is published here.

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September 2, 2009 @ 9:46 pm

1000mm Nikon Manual Focus Nikkor Reflex Mirror Lens

The 1000mm Nikkor reflex mirror lens, was at one time perhaps the most affordable exotic super telephoto available in the Nikon Manual Focus lineup. Designed to capture a very narrow 2˚30′ field of view over a full frame of 35mm film, it captures an incredible 1˚53′ (1500 mm equivalent on a Nikon SLR digital camera). Add a well matched Nikon TC-301 2x teleconverter to this lens and it it captures the astounding equivalent of a 0˚57′ field of view. That’s enough to identify people from 6.5 Km (4 miles) away. To put this into perspective: 

  • At 1000mm the magnification of the subject is 20x that a regular 50mm full frame lens. 
  • At 1500mm the magnification is 30x.
  • At 3000mm the magnification is 60x.

Of course, this kind of ultra telephoto photography can be so extreme that it requires extra consideration above and beyond good long lens technique. When shooting subject at such great distances, the air — along with any moisture, temperature variance, dust, and contaminants — acts as a natural aberration which is exaggerated at such extreme. As with all other super telephotos, thermal variance — or heat waves — will distort perspectives. What additional precautions are needed to handle these lenses at infinity? For greatest clarity:

  • Use only an extra sturdy tripod and head to secure the lens. Tighten all levers and clamps.
  • If possible, use another tripod or secondary support for the camera in addition to the lens mount.
  • Shoot from an ultra secure base or platform. If shooting from a balcony or building be weary of vibrations from shifting weight on your feet or local traffic.
  • Place a light reflective cloth (white) over the top of your lens to prevent disproportionate heating of your reflex lens.
  • Mornings and evenings, when the suns angle of incidence is naturally low, are best times to reduce light scatter from dust and particles.
  • Shooting after a cold front moves through results in the least amount of thermal distortion. It also clears the air of particulates.
  • Apertures of ƒ11 — or even ƒ22 when using a teleconverter — will require shutter speeds that are prone to detecting subject movement. If shooting moving subjects, compensate by timing the apex of a subjects turn, or shooting subjects that are moving directly toward you or away from you.
  • Use a viewfinder magnifier — such as  the current model Nikon right angle finder with 2x magnifier. This is mandatory for any critical focus at smaller apertures. Be weary of some third party magnifiers for they can underperform in the corners and require you to refocus the magnifier between 1x and 2x magnification. The consequence of using a budget magnifier is that you may need to re-calibrate your manual focus lens.
  • Use the manual focus handles that came with this lens, or build a substitute. They are absolutely necessary for achieving the best critical focus of your Nikon manual focus reflex lens.
  • Most of all, practice patience. Ultra telephoto photography cannot be practiced without it. Meditate, get control. There are bound to be any number of variables at one time which may compromise your efforts. It goes along with the territory. The rewards will only go to those who can master this technique.

For close ups, this is a great lens to take to the zoo. It cuts through most chain link fences — like a warm knife through butter — and brings you closer than you dare to possibly come under any other circumstance. There are many applications for this lens, such as infra-red photography on a Nikon SLR digital camera, astro-photography, wild animal portraiture, environmental monitoring, and security to name but a few. This lens, while scarcer than the more common 500mm Nikkor reflex, is still possible to find second hand. The Newshound recently acquired a specimen and had Nikon clean, lube, and restore it to it’s original specs.

Note: not all mirror reflex lenses were built to the same standards, and some take short cuts that negate the quality and performance of the Nikkor reflex design. Reflex lenses are also vulnerable to rapid fluctuations in temperature, or careless handling. Good long lens technique should always be applied. When purchasing a second hand specimen, buy from a reputable dealer that allows you to test the lens and return it if you are displeased with the results. Caveat emptor.

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August 23, 2009 @ 9:49 pm

Nikon News Revisited — The Day Nikon Prophesied the End of FIlm

For film enthusiasts, it could hardly have been any darker or colder that eleventh day of January … 2006. Word began to spread like wildfire in photo forums around the globe. What started with a low murmuring whisper rapidly escalated into a raging, unstoppable whirlwind of fire. Far and wide — people came together to discuss the news and comfort each other as if it were the day Don McLean sang to us about when he narrated his epic American Pie. It was the day that Nikon USA issued a routine press release with the deceptively bland title of: “Reshaping Nikon’s Film Camera Assortment”. It was a day for Trojan horses. It was a day that would reshape photography forever — and it was a day which read in part as follows:

With film cameras accounting for an ever smaller percentage of Nikon’s total sales volume, the company has decided to concentrate its vast resources toward those business categories that continue to demonstrate the strongest growth. Consequently, as Nikon focuses more on the digital camera business, the company must adopt appropriate measures to ensure its continued success. With that, the Nikon film camera lineup will be reshaped, allowing more of Nikon’s planning, engineering and manufacturing resources to be focused on the digital products that now drive our thriving industry. The measures that Nikon will adopt include discontinuing production of all large format Nikkor lenses and enlarging lenses, as well as several of our film camera bodies, manual focus Nikkor interchangeable lenses and related accessories. Sales of these products will cease as supplies are depleted.


Film advocates and Nikon manual focus enthusiasts everywhere — had postponed into the distant future a day which digital photography would sweep them aside — but today the big shoe dropped. It was a moment of historical proportions that would tip the course of the future. It was the day that 35mm would die. It wouldn’t be long now before the great yellow grandfather would take our Kodachrome away. Old school masters were stunned — perhaps more like blind sighted. Nikon’s revelation was discussed in the same somber tones as if our favorite celebrity had just passed away. It didn’t matter if it were James Dean, Elvis Presley, or Michael Jackson. If you were from any other generation but the present — each of us felt just a bit of the same.

… Nikon will continue to produce the manual focus 85mm f/2.8D PC Micro-Nikkor(R).


Only a single specialized tilt-shift lens for commercial product photography had won a temporary reprieve. This lens had proven itself extremely popular as a macro lens, and was the only modern tilt-shift still left in Nikons line up.

With the interests of its customers in mind, Nikon will offer continued post-sale service for products whose production has ceased for a period of 10 (ten) years from Nikon Inc.’s last date of sale.


Ten years? In just ten years all official memories of legacy Nikon Ais, Ai, the Nikon mirror lens, and most Nikon manual focus product would be but distant memories? Scrubbed from Nikon’s list of replacement parts? Nikon had broken the last barrier. A new era was about to start, and we had to jump onto this new train or be left behind. It was the old timers I felt sorry for the most. The ones that had taken that Photoshop course six times — only to quit in frustration at exactly the same place each time. The ones who knew how to work the knobs on their cameras, and roll there own reel of black and white. The same ones with dark developer stains on their fingers, and fixer splash onto their shirt. The ones that came out pie eyed after six hours in the darkroom to proudly show their latest one-of-a-kind production. The big dogs – they were in for the worst. Many would just fade away. There was no place left for them but on the forums, where they could reminisce and wax gloriously to younger audiences about the days when they could practice their lore. Old soldiers, whom if you still look hard today, are but on the cusp of fading away. Vivere disce, cogita mori … or … learn to live but remember death. If the subject of Nikon News, views and tips piques your interest, be sure to come back and visit the Nikon News Hound from time to time. Or bookmark our RSS feed. We’re not a rumor site, but we hope to add valuable, intelligible comment and analysis to new and old Nikon technologies and how they might apply to photographers today.

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August 9, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

Knobby, Knurly, Neither — the three siblings of the nikon manual focus lens family

Nikon Manual Focus Lens

About half a century ago — back in 1959 — Nikon (nee – kon) made history with the introduction of the new Nikon F SLR (single lens reflex). It was the right 35mm film SLR for the right time.  Alongside, it had a complementary series of well engineered lenses. At that time the lens barrel used what was known as a scalloped metal focusing ring. These rugged black metal knurly lens designs lasted into 1974, when Nikon engineers started to replace them with a metal barrel and rubber focusing grip. Aside from offering tactile relief,  these rubber grips had the effect of performing reliably under conditions of heavy perspiration or dampness.

  • 1. Nippon Kogaku (pre-Nikon) 28mm f3.5 — shows the knurly scalloped ridges — or as some call the “hill and dale” design —of most nikon lenses manufactured prior to 1974. The metering prong on this model was factory converted from the original F style — to the Ai (aperture index) style. Note the holes in the prong so they they would allow light to illuminate the ƒ numbers behind it.
  • 2. Nikon Nikkor 50mm f1.8.— shows the knobby rubber waffle grip and diamond cut aperture ring.  Ai, and later Nikon Ais lenses had a meter coupling ledge on the rear of the lens which automatically mated with new cameras . The prong on the front was a legacy artifact that kept these lenses backward compatible with older non Ai compliant cameras.
  • 3. Nikon Nikkor 45mm f2.8 P — chronologically out of order, this lens was introduced in 2001. The focusing barrel is intended as a nostalgic complement that honors the fine traditions of it’s predecessors. The lens barrel is metal, the aperture ring is now plastic, but the numbers and marking are once again engraved.  A hybrid of both the knobby and knurly — this design balanced weight and size for the cameras of the day. The aperture prongs were considered redundant. Instead a computer chip was mated with the mount for coupling with matrix metering technology.
  • 4. Nikon AF Nikkor 35mm f2 — for Nikon news was made when this radical new lens design was first introduced in 1990. Autofocus lenses were designed for both automatic and manual focus cameras. The epoxy graphite like composites and plastic components were necessary to reduce the weight of the lens so that the camera motor would not burn out. The effects of this compromise can be seen as the rubber waffle grip has fallen off and the plastic lip damaged. This model will not suffer the same torque and tension applied to any Nikon manual focus lens with an all metal barrel. The printed numbers and markings are also prone to wear with extensive manual operation.
  • 5. Zeiss ZF 50mm f1.4 — it was back to the future when Zeiss introduced this nostalgic design in 2006. The all metal focusing barrel and metering prong —redundant by Nikon standards — are meant to appeal to those who still respect the look, feel, and operation of a traditional Nikon manual focus lens. In the same spirit of going back to the future, the numbers and marking are engraved onto the lens and the focusing mount was most definitely made knurly — but without scallops.

Optically, each successive generation of a lens was typically much improved. However mechanically, they evolved so design compromises were necessary to balance the customers desire for lighter lenses, standard components, low cost, and new technologies. For those who have a critical preference for manual control of their optics — and there are a variety of reasons why this may be so — there is no better solution than an ergonomically designed barrel and grip. This type of exoskeleton is mandatory for optimum manual performance.

Up until a few years ago, it was not difficult nor relatively expensive to acquire a Nikon manual focus lens.  However a surge of new interest in high quality mechanical designs, manual control, and their inherent compatibility with some models of the Nikon SLR digital camera, is making these lenses much more difficult to find and buy. Especially ones in prime working order. For optimum manual control, Nikon news hound strongly recommends you consider trying some of the vintage Ai and Ais lens barrel designs  — or third party alternatives such as the Zeiss ZF. Knobby or knurly — don’t let the fine opportunity for manual control of your optics slip away.

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