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Friday, 07 January 2011


Like you, I craved one of these fascinating little pancake Nikkors and I eventually shelled out and bought one.

The results were underwhelming to say the least with differing colour fringing either side of centre.

But it was certainly cute as .... and the ideal size for 35mm.

Oh, Walter, that's because you're using it wrong. I guarantee you, you won't see any color fringing if you use it properly.

Get it on an FM3a or even an F100 and put a yellow filter on the front of it and some Plus-X behind it. You'll never be bothered by red-green fringing again, I promise.



Hold on.
I don´t want to steal the thunder from the Triplet, but what I found very interesting is:

Is that ALL the back catalogue of Nikkor Nippon Kogaku lenses?

Just that?

Whoa! Did Mike just say something positive about a Nikon lens? I must need another cup of coffee...


...have to comment on the Carl Zeiss 45mm 2.8 lens as well...when I was using the Contax system, I was reveling in the quality of the Zeiss lenses in their 35mm permutations. The 25mm, 35mm, and 85mm 2.8's I owned were all stunning and a great 35mm compliment to my Hasselblad shooting (altho the 85mm could have focused closer for my taste)...thought I'd pick up the 45mm 2.8 to use as a "walk-around-family snaps" lens. I should have been able to hear it barking from the store shelf! Terrible! All it was, was contrasty, it was never sharp, at any focus point or f/stop! Couldn't believe how bad it was...

I hear the 40mm Pentax M is no great shakes either!

Anyway, read the story on the making of this triplet a while ago, and I'm able to believe that with modern glasses unavailable even 20 years ago, modern aspheric molding and polishing techniques, and virtual hand build construction and assembly, that there might be something going on here!

I had the 45mm Nikkor-P on an FM3A. It was... OK, certainly not horrible, but the combination of a Nikon F and 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor-S (or Pentax MX and 40mm f/2.8 SMC-M) better suited my hands and tastes. The trade-in value of the FM3A and 45mm against a Pentax 645N kit was most gratifying, though.

I'd be interested in trying the Perar. There's something oddly comforting about always being able to carry one's M3 in one's coat pocket when out and about.

Nikon has a compact 50/1.8 AI-S (6 elements, 5 groups) which outperforms the 45/2.8 P, although it's a tad bigger (protrudes 1 inch). I know, boring. But it's a better lens than the 45P. Not to mention dirt cheap. The 50/1.8 E series is more or less the same lens. If anyone wants a more expensive lens with a different focal length, then there's the Voigtlander 40/2 Ultron, also better then the 45P.

OTOH Zeiss has a good 45/2.8 Tessar for Contax.

The Contax 45/2.8 Tessar is a lens worthy of your desire as well. Up until the day I dropped mine -- small size sometimes has its drawbacks! -- it was a very capable performer on my 4/3 and m4/3 bodies and if I ever find another one priced right (they've basically doubled in price over the past few years), I'll happily replace it.

"Nikon has a compact 50/1.8 AI-S (6 elements, 5 groups) which outperforms the 45/2.8 P, although it's a tad bigger (protrudes 1 inch). I know, boring. But it's a better lens than the 45P."

Eh...yuck. Depends on what you mean by "outperforms." Sharper, yes. But I'd take the 45P over the harsh highlights and tizzy bokeh of the 50/1.8 any day.


The Voigtlander 40 mm is small enough for me on the Nikon mount and the optical quality is reasonable. I do wish that newer lens designs on DSLRs would try to minimize rather than maximize bulk.

If you remember the Yashica T4 point'n'shoot camera, it had Zeiss 35/3.5 Tessar that actually was a good lens. When my T4 went belly-up, I jimmied the Tessar out and saved it---for what, I don't yet know---but i've still got it.

The problem with the Nikon 45P is that optically it doesn't have an obvious or easily marketed selling point, and so you have to actually use it to understand its attractions.

It's not fast, it's no sharper than plenty of other 'normal' lenses, it's not cheap. Its small size is a bonus, but attached to a modern Nikon DSLR and compared to any other short fixed-length lens it doesn't reduce the overall portability of the whole package by much in practice. Consequently, it's easy to dismiss as a 'boutique' affectation, and plenty of well-known and lesser-known online pundits (most of whom I suspect have never used it) are quick to do so.

The 45P has been my most used lens by far for around eight or nine years since I got mine and I love the pictures it makes. I've compared it from time to time with most of the usual Nikon 50mm suspects and none of them come close. So how can I try to rationally qualify this opinion? First, there's the obvious, yet underrated:

As Mike has said, compared to any Nikon 50mm, there's no competition in how out-of -focus parts of the image are rendered. The 50s are just ugly.

On a smaller format DSLR, it feels like a really comfortable length for many sorts of pictures. A very human length. It's easy to learn the length and know just what you're going to get from it. You might think the extra 5mm to a 50mm couldn't make much of a difference, but I think it really does.

It has no noticeable distortion. It is very hard to flare or ghost. I expect the clever little dedicated hood and Nikon's super-duper-whatever coating help with that.

It's sharp enough. Maybe boring lab tests or shots of walls say the 50s are sharper. So what? Sharpness seems to be a fetish nowadays. If I want sharp I get out a tripod and the 45P is good enough for any print I'm likely to make.

It's very well made and seems very tough, although I'm not about to test that.

Then there's the less obvious. I think Mike has written in the past about lenses that have "it". Just that certain something that is difficult to articulate but sets them apart and helps to make pictures that just feel good and seem "just so". I may disappear into a haze of subjective pretentious bunk any time now, but for what it's worth, I believe the 45P has a bunch of "it".

I have a multicoated 210mm triplet for my 4x5. It is very good stopped down to f/16 or f/22. It lives on my old Crown Graphic.

I also have Tessar-designed 210mm Xenar and 300mm Nikkor M, and used to own a 450mm Nikkor M. All are very nice lenses. I like Tessars a lot. The only reason I sold the 450mm Nikkor was its size. Photos made with it were very pleasing to me. I like Tessars too.

IIRC, a few years ago a LF soft focus lens was reissued by (if memory serves) Century Precision Optics (a subsidiary of Schneider now, I think). I think one could dial in more or less soft focus. I think it was a Cooke design they were resurrecting. Mode for 4x5 coverage.

And Minolta had a similar type lens that was a 135mm with a second diaphragm that could alter the out of focus characteristics (not soft focus, but I suppose 'variable bokeh'). A lens I'm sure would be right up Mike's alley in principle. They called it Smooth Trans Focus (at least in the US).


Mike, you're right on that Nikon tessar being a future classic. I believe prices are already above what it cost new. I thought it looked really nice and I'm a purist so it really appealed to me. But its price and the price of a FM3A are more than I can do (sad I know, but I'm also on severance pay right now).

It's funny to come across this posting since I actually came here to research what you recommend to develop Tri-X as I have some rolls to process that came out of a Rolleicord with a Xenar lens- another Tessar type. I thought that if I liked the results from the Xenar and wanted something smaller I could get the Nikon or Zeiss 35mm-format version but they just don't want to come down in price. I'll be sticking with my plan to get a gaussian-type pancake in the 45mm focal range that sells for WAY less money.

It's kind of sad that someone who is 33 has to look up what he needs to process film. I came to this hobby late but like I said, I'm a purist, and that means I like manual focus, mechanical cameras and digital just isn't helping me there.

"When my T4 went belly-up, I jimmied the Tessar out and saved it"

Cool! A recycled lens.


"I actually came here to research what you recommend to develop Tri-X"

D-76 1+1. If the rolls are old, you might want to add a little benzotriazole or other antifoggant.


Keith, your Tessar from the T4 can be remounted for Leica by MS. Here is a link, scroll down til you see 'Kyosera 35mm Tessar T-AFD'


Dirk @ Japan Exposures is the sales agent for these conversions.

@Mike, @nextSibling
Yup, the bokeh of most 50mm Nikkors are plain ugly. In fact the 50/1.8 is the ugliest. But for the price of the 45P I decided to get a Rolleiflex with a Tessar instead.

Thanks, Mike. I thought it was D76 1+1 but I couldn't remember where I read that. I had also just re-found it by scanning the downloaded copy of "Lenses and the Light-Tight Box" I bought many moons ago. I know other people will say to try what combination works for me but I have to start somewhere and life is too busy to experiment.

Tessars can be wonderful lenses. I wish there were a way to use my beautiful old Tessar type, S-mount 3.5cm f3.5 W-Nikkor-C on a full frame digital body, but the chances of me loading up the old S2 and shooting film are slim, and it's a cryin' shame that the old lenses might never be used again...

"But for the price of the 45P I decided to get a Rolleiflex with a Tessar instead"

Nirvana, and I don't mean the group. Now if only they still made Verichrome Pan....


Jean-Yves - "There's something oddly comforting about always being able to carry one's M3 in one's coat pocket when out and about."

Haven't seem the 40mm Summicron-C mentioned here. While not a pancake, gives an M3 a reasonably slippery form factor. Some framing compromises of course. Or use it on the CL, where it belongs

Industar-50 f3.5 50mm lenses go for about 15 bucks and are Tessar formula lenses. Anyone tried them?

The Perar's designer claims that with modern glass and coatings, the Tessar's 4th element isn't necessary, and I'm inclined to believe him.

When I first saw the Perar, I got a bad case of the Wants, just because it's so cool. But I already have an older Summicron 35, which is pretty small. No matter how good it is, the Perar would't let me do anything I can't already do. Plus it seemed a little expensive for what it is.

So maturity and common sense won out in the end.


Olympus Trips have Tessar formula lenses!!! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympus_Trip_35

"So maturity and common sense won out in the end."

Ya hate it when that happens. [g]


When I started out in photography my first camera was a Minolta SRT100X with the "budget" lens option - the 45mm f2.

For a budget lens it was amazing - sharp wide open in the middle, sharp all over stopped down to 5.6. I tool some great photos with that outfit. Over the years I've used several different systems, but I always found something was missing.....

I was looking through some of my digital files shot on a 5D Canon - and you know what? It's amazing how many shots I've taken between 42-48mm focal lengths...

Now I know what I've been missing :-)

As for the MS Optical Super Triplet Perar 35mm ƒ/3.5 - I've actually handled one (and used it for a few shots!). A friend of mine bought one - he pulled it out last weekened when we were out shooting. He was using it on his Olympus EP2. Ok - so it's a 70mm, but I tell you what - it's a small, and very sharp 70mm. I did a few shots wide open, and the edges of the frame were sharp..

He hasn't used it on his Leica's yet..but I think it's going to be a great performer...

"I wish there were a way to use my beautiful old Tessar type, S-mount 3.5cm f3.5 W-Nikkor-C on a full frame digital body" -- S to Leica M adapters are available that work with this lens.

I agree about lenses that have 'it'.
I have a weakness for the classic designs, tessars and cookes, doing less with more.
As to the Pancake lenses, they are my very favorites albeit i've only used the current digital versions; 25mm Zuiko for 4/1 and thed 17mm for the m4/3.
They may not be fast, but they are no pain to take with and have image qualities I adore.

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