Our readers frequently ask us about the performance of classic Nikkor lenses, some of which were kept from the film days, some inherited and others acquired at an auction or a garage sale. Considering the high cost of modern Nikkor lenses, older lenses can be of great value, especially AF-D and Ai-S manual focus models that could be snatched for 3-4 times less than their modern counterparts. Unfortunately, due to the fact that I never owned those older classics or had any access to them, I have never been able to test and review them. While building our lens database, I realized that it was very difficult to obtain information on older lenses and almost impossible to find product images. So I decided to look at local product listings and auction sites like eBay to find old lenses of good value. Not the hard to find / rare items, but the ones that are commonly found everywhere. Thanks to the gracious support of our readers, I was able to find a few good deals and use some of the money to fund this project.
My current goal is to evaluate these older lenses in my Imatest lab and assess their performance on the high resolution Nikon D800E DSLR, similar to what I have been doing with all other lenses. I know that some older prime lenses can resolve plenty of details on modern DSLRs, so they could be of great use for landscape, architecture and street photographers that do not necessarily care about autofocus capabilities of lenses. The plan is to do resolution tests and provide some other data like chromatic aberrations, distortion and vignetting. For now, I am not planning to do full blown reviews that span multiple pages, since those take long time to write and I am not even half way done with reviewing all current lenses – those are obviously my top priority (by the way, the new Nikkor 18-140mm lens arrived today, so I will start testing it pretty soon).
If you own a classic Nikkor lens that has been gathering dust on your shelf, please contact me. I will gladly accept lens donations (please consider doing that in the name of science!), but if you are looking to sell them, please send product samples and the condition of lenses and I might be able to purchase them at market value, depending on our budget. Another option would be to send lens(es) to me for free evaluation. Basically, I would assess the lens performance in the lab (again, in the name of science!) and send the lens back to you.
Here is a sample Nikkor 55mm f/2.8 Ai-S lens page that has some Imatest data in it. Once we have a good number of these tests done, you will be able to sort lenses by their performance, which is another feature that many of you have been asking for. By the way, this particular lens is still in production today, so it might not be a good representation of our current project (which is to perform tests on discontinued products) – I just could not resist buying it for less than $100.
I believe a lot of people could potentially benefit from this project, so I am excited to share these details with you. Please let me know what you think!