#980. Sorry Nikon, I reckon you missed this one, big time.

By Paul Perton | Opinion

Mar 18

Nestled in my cupboard down in the Western Cape is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of Nikon lenses. The 50 f1.4, 28 f2.8 and 105 f2.5 are all pre-AI and years-long favourites. There’s a much loved (and bitch to focus) 500mm f8 mirror and lots more – right across the technology spectrum, up to the point I stopped buying Nikon kit in 2012 or so.


For me, the tragedy is that most of those lenses have never stopped delivering wonderful high quality images. They just don’t get used any more.

My initial migration from Nikon was driven by the mass of their camera bodies. First, I moved to Sony and latterly Fuji, where I remain, deeply content and able to walk the streets without returning home with a hernia. Real time, accurate LiveView is something I love and want to use constantly – on a Nikon it’s as though someone else is using the camera most of the time. All that said, I’m still sad that I have some wonderful glass sitting unused.

The second reason for my move was Nikon’s non-delivery of a mirrorless body. OK, that’s solved now, but it’s way too late for me and still requires largely abandoning my existing investment(s) and buying yet more lenses/adaptors.

TOP’s Mike Johnson recently mentioned Nikon’s Df – a handsome, retro attempt to build a digital FM3a. I’d say they succeeded, but alas the Df was expensive, especially considering that most of the R&D that went into it must have been amortised decades ago. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Df was little more than a raid on the parts bins. Anyway, it’s no more, which is a shame.

Mike continues to lament the non-availability of a simple ILC, especially sans video and I can’t help but wonder whether Nikon’s sliding camera revenues couldn’t be rescued somewhat by a body that boasts an F mount, a competent, modern 24/26mp full frame sensor, IS and works with just about any Nikon lens built before the Z mount migration.

Don’t get greedy with pricing and even if only to protect my lens investment, I’d buy one. If it weren’t stupidly heavy, I’d also use it a lot.

Then it all went wrong.

This post had been intended to be a news catch up. There’s not been much that has caught my eye recently, and this was an ideal departure point. At least until I started digging for images to accompany the post.

One of Lightroom’s few strengths is to create virtual image libraries, built (I’m guessing) around a simple query, which indexes the output from that query. Anyway, I was looking for photographs I’d shot with my 28/50/105 and other AI lenses. Easy to find, just look under the camera body – the EXIF data doesn’t identify the lens, contenting itself with tagging the lens as Manual Lens No CPU.

And there’s my Nikon-saver. Free. I’ve had mine since just after it was launched in 2008 – then it was (and still is) a D700. Arguably the best camera Nikon has ever made and despite being in its teens and its now pathetically small 12mp sensor, I love mine and on the strength of this post alone, promised myself I’ll spend much more time with it.

Every single image included in this post was shot with a D700 and lenses now several decades old. See what I mean?

Used D700s currently fetch between US$350 and US$600 on eBay. Find a good one, with (say) less than 50,000 activations and save your old Nikkors, sanity and bank account.

  • John W says:

    I know all to well of whence you speak Paul. I suffered through the same thing with Canon. My aging and damaged back kept rebelling at the weight of even APS gear but Canon had nothing lighter that would use all my lenses and was actively snubbing mirrorless. Just then Fuji was storming the market with the X-T1. I made the mistake of holding one … instant love. I still have the X-T1 and a bag full of Fuji glass and love it every bit as much as when it was new. Oddly enough, I’ve just finished a series of prints called “Ghost Lake” shot in Deadvlei eight years ago with the old Canon gear. Does anyone care whether they were shot with the latest, hottest gear? Nope.

  • Chris says:

    Congratulations Paul, these are some of the best, most satisfying images I’ve seen on DS. And, another fine example that the equipment doesn’t matter. 🙂

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    This is a great post but I’m sorry, that I can’t sympathise.

    These are lovely images and clearly all you need to do is spend some time at the gym 🙂 (When they’re open again 🙁 )

    The one thing you can be grateful for is that most F mount lenses will still work with most of the latest Nikon bodies including the Z series with an adapter.

    To see how versatile the glass is have a look at https://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/929565/983#15174807 which celebrates the heavy MF Nikon glass on a variety of bodies. More than 139 000 posts and over 8 500 000 views.

    Nikon must have done something right.

  • Bruno says:

    Thanks for sharing Paul. Like you I have a trove of Nikon lenses but unlike you I have invested in the Z7 and it is the best Nikon I have ever had. With their adapter I use all my old lenses without compromise and unlike Fuji X series (which I also use) it can produce full-frame 47 Mp photographs when needed. What can do the most, can do the least… the reciprocal assertion does not work though We can agree to wish that Nikon had been little faster producing both Z6 and Z7… in my opinion, the wait as often with Nikon was worth it but may have cost Nikon a few until-then faithful customers.

  • philberphoto says:

    Paul, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In your case, I can tell whether you are using your Fuji or your Leica, and now your Nikon leads you in yet a different direction. A lovely direction I may add. So go with the flow. Whatever gets you the shot. You are with camera systems the way I am with my lenses, and, as long as you obtain such delicious imagery, more power to your elbow!

  • pascaljappy says:

    Ah, the D700. Big fat pixels. Such a turn on at the time. Couldn’t afford it then but sure lusted afer it.

    • jean pierre guaron says:

      LOL – now that you’ve bought the Hassy, you probably can’t afford the D700 now either, Pascal. I certainly can’t – whatever I have has to feed my lust for gear, till I win Lotto. 🙂

  • jean pierre guaron says:

    We’ve been told for years that we should “invest in glass” and “buy camera bodies”. So now all our money is tied up in glass and the amount left over to pay for camera bodies is a “restricted budget”.

    The promo from the industry is “this is the latest and greatest” – “this will make a cup of coffee for you, while you take the photo” – “6MP – no, 12MP – no, 21MP – no, 36MP – no, 45MP – no, 54MP” – 4k, then 8k – and so on, with everything they could think of.

    Now it’s mirrorless. Why? So you have a bigger hole for the lens, the lens sits further back into the body, the rear almost touching the sensor. But you can still use your old lenses, here’s an adaptor. Which makes no sense to me – if I’m using an adaptor it’s a compromise, and a compromise means something’s missing – besides, the whole point was “better lenses” that have bigger rear elements.

    Weight seems to trouble you Paul – is that why cellphones are so popular for “photography”? – I only worry about weight when I start using the Otus’s, or tele lenses – a nice heavy camera body provides stability and cuts down on camera movement – I found that out nearly 60 years ago, when I bought my Zeiss Contarex (the one people nicknamed the “Cyclops”, because of its exposure sensor above the lens – the one they developed their Planar 50mm lens for, the one that was later scaled up & put on a Hassy, to become the first lens ever to take photos on the moon!)

    But while all this has been going on, I’ve found article after article from pros, suggesting that something around 21MP is the go. Most recently, one extolling the virtues of the D850’s 45MP sensor, but with provisos.

    The provisos were along these lines. Those extra pixels mean you have to take extra care – you need to put your camera on a tripod at all times – the slightest bit of camera shake will show – it’s not as suitable for action shots as a 21MP sensor, for that reason. (That isn’t all of it, but it’s enough for this post).

    Which kind of suggests to me that your D700 might very well have been everything you say! And how much have you spent on camera bodies, since then, to “keep up with the Joneses”? 🙂 Let’s be honest – practically all of us have been affected by GAS at some stage in our photography. But what did that do, for our photography? These photos in your article Paul enlarge up to at least A4, quite happily, and that’s off the images in this article – scaled down images, to give Pascal a reasonable ride, putting the post up on DS. The originals would undoubtedly enlarge far more than that! And the D700 quite obviously took seriously good quality photos! Oops – silly me – that’s bad – it was YOU who took them, not the camera. Cameras are purely mythological.

    • Paul Perton says:

      Aaaah Pete, you missed a couple of things;

      1 The weight issue is a personal problem, but mattered much more when trying to wrangle a seriously overweight bag onto an airliner as hand baggage

      2 The highest res sensor in any camera I own is the 36mp D800, which I now rarely use – see above. Everything else is currently 24mp

      3 No. It wasn’t me. The camera took the photograph; I just had to be there, like driving a car with an automatic gearbox


      • jean pierre guaron says:

        With this lockdown, I took my D500 for a walk this afternoon. Love that camera! Don’t even know what size sensor it has, and don’t care either. I use it a lot for things like pet photography – got some stunning shots of my friend Kathy’s Dachshund today.

        My other main cam – the D850 – has a 45 MP sensor. Practically everyone in this group would know that already. I have found a perfect description of it, recently – which I will quote here sometime soon, when I finally get around to assembling a post for Pascal. At the moment, embryonic ideas are forming in my mind.

        Apart from weight – with airlines, isn’t the main problem the size of hand luggage?

        (Ignoring your denial – cameras might have AI these days, but as far as I am aware none of them are autonomous yet – some passing human has to o all sorts of things with them, to make them take a photo)

  • Alan says:

    Still waiting for my dream camera. A Nikon F3 with a full frame sensor instead of film. No LCD, nothing. Just like a film camera but no film. Maybe the wind lever could charge the battery so it would never need charging. OF course it would still be too heavy so I’ll stick with my little Lumix. Even it seems to accumulate lenses and the bag just keeps getting heavier.

  • Dogman says:

    I bought my first Nikon, a used FTn Photomic, in 1972 or 1973. I used them professionally into the 1990s when I left my photography career. I jumped to Canon for the better autofocus, went to Leica, went digital, added Olympus 4/3 for the lenses and size, Micro 4/3 for…well, I can’t remember. Probably just because. Then a few years ago I went with Fuji because they had the X100 and XPro series bodies with the hybrid viewfinder and a reputation for great lenses. I had learned to really dislike EVFs using Olympus, Panasonic and the XE and XT series Fujis but I loved the OVF and the frame lines in the X100 and XPro bodies. Then last year I decided to try Nikon again. I bought a used D800 and a 60mm Micro-Nikkor for a project and then fell in love with using the camera. Since older digital bodies are pretty cheap these days, I’ve since built up a nice collection of Nikons, including a D700, and a number of lenses. And I must say I prefer using the OVF of the DSLR much more than the EVFs in mirrorless cameras. Shooting outdoors in bright light using an EVF is a study in frustration for me although the EVF is useful in dim light.

    Now I know people complain about the weight of Nikons and other DSLRs but I haven’t found it to be a problem. And you should know I’m 72 years old with arthritis, spinal stenosis and a pretty severe herniated lumbar disc that no spinal surgeon will attempt to repair due to the risks involved in causing instability to my lower spine. Nikons are heavy, sure, but it’s not an insurmountable task for an old fart like me to carry one or two around. I like using them, I like the Raw files they produce and I like how the files respond to simple Lightroom touch-ups. And, yep, there’s a trainload of old lenses that still fit these cameras, all of them showing massive amounts of character that’s often lacking in the newest lens designs. I haven’t forsaken my XPros but I don’t use them as much these days now that I’ve started shooting with the Nikons.

    • jean pierre guaron says:

      I don’t understand all your medical probs, Dogman, but I do get the idea – if you’re only 72, you have YEARS ahead of you yet – I’m nearing 78, so we could chat for hours!

      But I do get your comments on weight. If I can get round with a D850/Otus 55mm, or put my 70-200mm onto it and spend the morning strolling around on a photo walk with the young fry, I don’t get why they groan all the time about the weight of these toys. Maybe you and I ate better food when we were kids?

      • Alan says:

        78?? Who, pray tell, is the young guy in your photo?

        • Paul Perton says:

          No idea. Most of these images were shot while I was compiling InSight: Copenhagen.

          • pascaljappy says:

            I think Alan is referring to Pete’s avatar. I shan’t comment as it’s been a few decades since my hair turned white. But we photographers just aren’t ever photographed by others. I don’t have pics of myself and Pete’s probably the same 😀

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