Generally speaking, the camera stuff my parents and I buy at swap meets and garage sales is really old and incompatible with any of my Nikon camera gear. I mean, sure, we find awesome old cameras that I like to try out before selling them, but it’s incredibly rare to find something I can actually use as part of my main camera equipment. When it does happen, I’m happier than a dog at Petsmart.
I bought this lens as a $25 package deal with an old manual-focus Vivitar zoom lens (which I sold on eBay for $30), some lens filters, a crappy Sunpak flash, and a couple other little accessories. It’s a Nikon Series E 100mm f/2.8 lens that’s manual-focus only. It earns the distinction of being the only 100mm prime lens that Nikon ever produced; they generally produce 105mm lenses instead. In practical use, there is virtually no difference, but it’s still cool to know I have the only 100mm lens model Nikon ever produced!
Note that this is not a “Nikkor” lens, like most lenses Nikon produces. Nikkor is Nikon’s brand name for their lenses—usually. The E Series lenses produced in the late 70s and early 80s did not bear the Nikkor name because they were made to be a cheaper alternative to “pro” lenses, and the lens construction was not up to the same standards as their professional Nikkor lenses. Optically, the lens is fantastic—they didn’t skimp on the glass or optical construction, but they did make the lens body with a lot of plastic, whereas Nikkor lenses were entirely made of metal at that point. Remember, this was an age where Nikkor lenses were always seen as professional-quality…nowadays, Nikkor lenses are always excellent, but many of them are made of plastic for amateur use. This E Series lens was the start of that trend. Far from cheaply-made, however, it’s still of a higher construction quality than many modern lenses!
I took this lens with me to Yosemite a couple of weeks ago, and it was just fantastic. It’s tiny, light, and sharp. Back before there were autofocus lenses, the manual-focus rings on camera lenses were big and very comfortable to use. And of course, back in those days, manual-focus cameras used viewfinders with split-prism focusing screens—they had a split circle in the middle, with each half showing a portion of the image. When the image was in focus, the two halves would align perfectly. That’s how you knew the image was in correct focus! Nowadays, most modern cameras have a little electronic dot in the viewfinder that lights up when everything is in focus. On my D700, there are also little arrows that point left or right, telling you which direction you need to turn the focus ring for perfect focus.
Aperture is controlled by the aperture ring on the lens itself—you don’t crank a knob on the camera to change the aperture, you have to grab it and turn it the old-fashioned way! Also, you can only set the aperture to whole-stop increments—f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22. No using f/3.5 or f/7.1 here…this is old school! Honestly, this is not really the kind of lens you want to use for capturing action. Kids, pets and sports might be difficult to capture with this lens, since it must be manually focused and doesn’t zoom in and out. But for landscape, nature, and portraiture/studio photography, this 30-year-old lens is a winner!