I'm as interested in cheap lenses as I am fascinated by lenses that purport to scrape the ceilings of possiblility.

A VSL blog reader, Stephen Kennedy, kindly sent me a lens. He seemed to understand my attraction to older, less expensive, more mainstream lenses from days gone by. The lens he sent along is a Nikon Series E, 36-72mm f3.5 Ais. It's manual focus only and a short zoom lens and it fits right into the genre of lenses I like to put on the front of my cameras when I head out in the midday sun for a bout of photographing. A terse zoom range, no frills and imbued with very decent performance- especially when used at f5.6 and beyond. 

There are some other Nikon Series E lenses, released in conjunction with the low cost Nikon EM SLR, that show up on the radar screens of old lens aficionados, the most popular being the 100mm f2.8 and the very, very well regarded 75-150mm f3.5. All of them were above average performers but never attained a huge following when new mostly because they represented a move away from Nikon's traditional heavy metal lens construction which always seemed to promise a certain indestructibility. 

I put a 52mm circular polarizer on the lens, attached it to the front of a Nikon D800 and set out to see just how good ( or bad ) this little jewel of a zoom lens could be...

Overall, I found it to be smooth, fairly sharp and well behaved. The one aspect that could be a deal killer for someone looking around for an inexpensive alternative to today's pricier lens fare would be the lens's close focus limitation of 4 feet. It makes casual portraits a bit dicey. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice to see Nikon's late, great Series E lenses getting some appreciation! I owned three copies each of the 75-150mm and 36-72mm between their release in the early '80s and my purchase of a D700 in 2009, when I decided to switch to all autofocus lenses. They were good, reasonably compact lenses except for the dreadful push-pull zoom design then in vogue. After a few years they developed such bad zoom creep it was difficult to maintain a focal length setting while focusing. And yes, the 4' minimum focus on the 36-72mm meant I usually carried a Nikon #0 close-up lens for it. Ironically, the Series E lenses were much better made that today's low-end zooms.


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