A set of Nikon Series E Lenses - Fuji X-E1 - Panasonic G6


Four images below - Fuji X-E1 Nikon 100mm f/2.8 Series E lens - 
from raw > Iridient Developer











The third of the series of Nikon Series E I bought on ebay arrived yesterday. The 100mm f/2.8.  Even after only preliminary testing its obvious that this is one of best lenses I've ever used and arguably the best ever when shot wide open. It is, quite simply, a superb lens. Again, like the 28mm f/2.8 its in virtually mint condition. Its also small and light with wonderfully weighted focusing and aperture rings. According to Ken Rockwell, these Series E lenses were not very popular due to suspicion that since a lot of plastic was used in their construction they wouldn't be as robust as all metal lenses. However, the very fact that I am able to use them after 30 years or so, is testament to the inaccuracy of that view.

I will admit, I knew virtually nothing about them until recently and am glad I've remedied that. There was an interesting set of observations from Peter Nadort on Google+ and I'm publishing them here, since they very much match what I'm seeing.


'I still have 3 Nikon lenses and the metabones adapter without the speedbooster on my X-E1. I use it sometimes with the 50mm 1.2 which I bought many years ago. The quality is fantastic. But with all the later stuff from Nikon for me was the warmth of the colours. I've had the 14-24, 24-70, 70-200, but I didn't like the colours. They were for me all the same.
Last year I spoke with a photographer and he said that the answer was that the coatings on the Nikon was changed. This because of the environment. In the old days they used a lot of lead and other terrible stuff for the coatings. Since it was forbidden the colors were all the same. The specific identity from the old lenses before was different.
You can see it when you looked at the front lens and let the sun shine on it. The color was in the old days more green and now it looks red to blue
.'

Certainly these Series E lenses have a 'cooler' rendition than I'm used to, as you'll probably see in the samples above. This can give rise to a much more realistic colour balance. To show what I mean, I've included these four pictures which I shot on my Fuji X-E1 with the 50mm f/1.8.





Unlike images shot on my other cameras and lenses, these show very clearly the colours of early September after a protracted spell of hot weather and no rain. And of course lenses like this were designed before Photoshop for photographers who were shooting on film. In the case of transparencies there was no way to 'fix' the images later. 

These lenses work really well on my X-E1 and also on my Panasonics. Below is an image I shot on my G6 with the 50mm f/1.8 again. I upsized it to 24MP for uploading to a picture library. Take a look at the 100% blowups from that image.





The sharpness and clarity I was able to get from this interpolated file is really very impressive.

Now if these lenses were released now, there would be rave reviews all over the photographic internet. Imagine if they were produced by Panasonic, Olympus, Sony or Fuji. No-one would be surprised if a large price tag was attached to them. But these Series E lenses can be picked up for ridiculous amounts on ebay. No-one it seems wants them. 

To say I'm pleased with firstly discovering these Series E lenses and secondly buying them, is a huge understatement. They are simply wonderful. Small, light, a joy to handle and superb optically. With the focus peaking on the G6 and X-E1, many of my reservations about using manual focus lenses has disappeared and the results speak for themselves. For my G6, and using both my Speed Booster and passive adapters I can now go out with all three and have 35mm approximate equivalents of 39mm f/2, 56mm f/2.8, 71mm f/1.2, 100mm f/1.8, 142mm f/2 and 200mm f/2.8. And when my Nikon > Fuji X Speed Booster eventually arrives I will have 35mm approximate equivalents, using that and my passive adapter for the X-E1, of 30mm f/2, 42mm f/2.8, 53mm f/1.2, 75mm f/1.8, 105mm f/2 and 150mm f/2.8. Not a bad couple of sets to go out with. Add in the fact that the size and weight of these outfits is very back friendly and you can perhaps understand my enthusiasm.

I'm not a great fan of narrow apertures and bokeh as you know, but with these lenses maybe I could become convinced! The bokeh is in fact quite beautiful and all these lenses perform brilliantly wide open. So expect lots of differential focus shots in the future!!

The last thing to mention, yet again, is of course the price. Just under £200 for all three. I've seen nothing better on lenses I've bought costing 4 figures, and when you think about it that's just a nonsense. These lenses show conclusively that lens construction and formulation hasn't got any better and that reputations in terms of lens manufacture mean little. Nikon users know all about the quality of that lens range, but it does seem to be ignored by other manual focus fans. There is always lots of chatter about Leica and Zeiss, but very little about just how good old Nikon Ais and D lenses are. I do go on about it interminably I know, but I have no intention of stopping and apart from anything else, if you like good quality manual focus lenses I could end up saving you a lot of money! So, I'm waiting impatiently for the weather to brighten up so I can get out and use these lenses 'for real'. A real bonus as far as I'm concerned and a great discovery. Now I wonder where I can find a mint Series E 36-72mm?

UPDATE - after writing this I found a 36-72mm zoom on ebay. £35!! I have of course bought it.


 

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