A used equipment dealer near me has recently got hold of something approaching a set of older Nikon AI and AIS lenses. They have 24, 28, 50, 85 and 135mm types, mainly around 2.8. A 35mm is conspicuously missing, as is something around 100mm, but they do exist (or is there a 105? I can't recall).
These are quite commonly used by ultra-low-budget stuff, frankly because they range from £50 to £150 apiece. I had considered springing for a set of four and using them with (cheaply available) adaptors to Canon EF. They have manual focus and iris and could, presumably, be used with some sort of clamp-on follow focus accessory.
They are presumably terrible - they can't possibly be any good at the price, but it would occasionally be nice to own something. I shot some stuff last year with a Blackmagic 4K camera on if-I-remember-correctly something like these and didn't see anything so wrong with them as to make the results unwatchable. I assume they won't match at all and probably are best considered one or two stops slower than the maximum aperture they actually advertise.
I have a 105mm F2.5 .there is also other versions of it.
They are usually optically quite good lenses, I use them for 4k shooting with gh4, sony fs7 and bmpc4k. You have to stop down one or one and half stop to get rid of chromatic aberrations. Make sure that they are mechanically sound, there is often some play on the focus ring which can make movie use difficult. I have mostly the 2.0 versions which are a bit newer. Make sure they are not e-series stuff which are plastic body lenses and a bit cheaper glass
Yes, optically they are quite nice. There's a bit of chromatic aberration, distortion, veiling glare, and some softness wide open but those actually make for a more interesting image in my opinion. Definitely add a 35mm and a 20mm. The build quality is not quite as nice as Contax or Pentax, the focus ring is not as buttery smooth. As I recall, there is also a 60mm macro that is quite good. You'll probably lose a 1/2 stop at most due to f stop/T stop discrepancy.
If you go the adapter route, have a look at Leitax in Spain. They make hard mount adapters that physically screw onto the back of the lens for a very secure fit. This will eliminate play in the mount, but it won't get rid of any image shift inherent to the lens.
Some of these old lenses are relatively easy to strip down and clean, as long as you have a steady hand (and nerves of steel), so oil on the aperture blades is not necessarily a deal breaker. Soaking the iris assembly in lighter fluid overnight will clean the oil off.
For that kind of money, you could always consider the Asahi Takumar M42 lenses. They date from the late 60s and early 70s. Lovely build quality and images. They focus 'backwards', but then again, so do Nikons. I have a set of them, collected gradually from eBay. i have a 35/2, 50/1.4, 55/1.8, 85/1.9, 105/2.8, 135/2.5, 150/4 and a 200/4. i don't have the 28mm because it's a f3.5, instead I have a Vivitar 28/2.8. A Fotodiox M42 to EF mount adapter is about $15, or $30 if you want the dandelion chip.
I've yet to see a vintage stills lens that focuses where the focus ring says it should, but as long as you reset infinity focus when you rebuild it, you should have no problems. My set cost less than $1000, and with the exception of the 50mm, which is decidedly warm because of thorium elements, they all match pretty well.
I'm not expecting to do so, for the sake of full disclosure.
As to the focus marks, as far as I know more or less all lenses, even at the highest of high ends, are individually characterised for distance marks, in a long room with a projector. This is certainly true of, say, Cooke. Possibly the German stuff, the Schneiders of the world, are machined with sufficiently microscopic tolerances to allow the distance markings and the position of the glass to be held to the appropriate relationship with absolute predictability, but I'm not sure.
Strikes me there's nothing stopping anyone running such a characterisation on any lens, subject to its own mechanical repeatability.
Accurate back focus is actually one of the benefits of the Leitax mounts in my experience. I've used Fotodiox adapters for my Pentax glass and they always end up focusing past infinity. Of course, some lenses were designed that way for various reasons, but my lenses were not. When I put the Leitax mounts on my Contax glass, they all hit infinity focus perfectly at their end stop. I have no financial ties to them by the way, I'm just a happy customer.
I was able to charge $100/day for my small Contax set (35,50,85,135) plus a 24mm Sigma macro thrown in. But I have also brought them on for free when there wasn't the budget.
Oh, well. One man's personal-project toy is another man's longed-for ideal.
Phil, they're not a toy project. I like these lenses a lot, and I wish i could use them more, but the fact is that any project that is small enough to want my stills lenses is also small enough to not want to pay for them.
I have some N-Ai lenses (before they added the little notch), which are really nice. The 35 1.4 did ghost a bit beyond 2. The other great thing is that they're cheap to get professionally serviced, should you decide to have a camera shop do it for you. Their ubiquity means a lot of techs know them.
My one issue is they focus the "wrong" way. And they're not all telecentric. Otherwise they're a great set of lenses to own at a low price of entry. I agree wth Satsuki on the Leitax. Redrock makes a decent bolt-on adapter too.
Edited by Kenny N Suleimanagich, 20 February 2016 - 10:57 PM.
I still often use my Nikons. In face, my E Series 50 F1.8 is one of my favs. I also am lucky enough to have the 60 Macro 2.8. I personally like the E Series, as they are cheap enough not to really worry about; but yes, I do get rates for them on occasion.
The reversed focus is; well, just something you adjust to pretty quickly.
I would only buy the very well working ones, if some of them have oil or mechanical problems just don't buy the problematic ones. These lenses are so common that you can pick them from ebay very easily in great condition and reasonable price, so you can substitute the missing or badly working ones very easily